I Tried an Infrared Fryer to Deep-Fry a Turkey — Here's How It Went

The Big Easy fryer cooks a bird up to 16 pounds without oil, and faster than your oven.

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The Big Easy Infrared Turkey Fryer
Photo: Lowes

Here in Alabama, Thanksgiving means my husband's grandmother's chicken and dressing (similar to this recipe). While it's always a treat, I do miss eating my family's traditional turkey. Because the dressing is so plentiful and filling, no one has room for another huge dish — which means roasting a large turkey for the holiday doesn't exactly make sense for us. But this year, when I heard about a way to cook a smaller turkey to juicy perfection — and with an extra-crispy skin — without turning on my oven or buying gallons of oil, I had to try it.

The Gadget

There are a couple oil-less turkey fryers on the market, but by far the most popular is The Big Easy oil-less turkey fryer, a model made by Char-Broil. Traditionally, a turkey deep fryer cooks a turkey in hot oil that's heated by an external burner. This gadget, on the other hand, uses infrared cooking technology (powered by propane) that's said to create an even heat with no flare-ups.

Char-Broil Big Easy Oil-less Liquid Propane Turkey Fryer

Char-Broil Big Easy Oil-less Liquid Propane Turkey Fryer

The Big Easy is available at numerous retailers, including Williams Sonoma ($159.95), Lowes ($129), and Amazon ($159.99). In addition to the fryer itself, you can pick up useful accompaniments to the gadget such as a cover and a 22-piece accessory kit that makes frying foods other than a whole bird all the easier. Amazon offers these items conveniently bundled in various combinations; you can purchase the fryer, cover, and accessory kit together for just around $200.

Char-Broil Big Easy Oil-less Liquid Propane Turkey Fryer with 22-Piece Accessory Kit and Cover

Char-Broil Big Easy Oil-less Liquid Propane Turkey Fryer with 22-Piece Accessory Kit and Cover

The Method

After assembling the fryer (which took about an hour, start to finish), you must season it. My husband and I did this by rubbing down the shiny metal inside with vegetable oil using a paper towel, then cranked up the heat until it turned dark inside and stopped smoking. Then, we turned off the heat to prep the turkey.

The owner's manual recommends food be at least 40 degrees F before adding it to the fryer, so after thawing our 7-pound turkey breast in the fridge for two days, we let it sit on the counter for about 30 minutes before frying to help it warm up slightly from fridge temperature (38 degrees F).

To add flavor, we injected the turkey with Tony Chachere's Creole-style butter marinade, rubbed it lightly with vegetable oil, and coated it generously in Cajun seasoning. The instructions specify avoiding any seasonings or rubs containing a lot of sugar, as it will burn in the fryer.

Next, it was time to add the turkey to the fryer. We poured a little more marinade into the included flavor infuser stand, then set it inside the wire basket and lowered it down into the fryer. From there, we added the mesh lid to the top and set a timer, then waited to catch a whiff of the delicious smells.

When the turkey was done, reaching a safe temperature (and looking especially delicious with bubbly, seasoned skin), we carefully removed it from the fryer while still inside the basket and let it cool for a few minutes. Then, we used two large forks to transfer the turkey to a platter and covered it with foil to rest for about 20 minutes, as directed in the gadget's instructions.

The Result

Having read multiple reviews like "Hands down, the best turkey I've ever had!" I had high expectations when it was time to eat. Unfortunately, this turkey didn't quite live up to the hype for me. It was moist, but not as juicy as I would have preferred or anticipated, and it was tough to cut clean slices. While it made for a nice meal and leftovers for turkey sandwiches, it didn't leave me ready to incorporate the oil-less turkey fryer into my regular cooking routine. Maybe it's because my husband is a pro at smoking on his pellet grill, which turns out delicious smoky, moist poultry every time — so I'm a little spoiled. That said, this was our first go with the appliance, and I could see this fryer being a really nice tool for someone who doesn't own a pellet grill or a smoker, or who has limited backyard space but still wants a way to cook a whole bird outdoors. All to say, I definitely plan to give it another try, as other reviewers say the results have gotten better as their device became more seasoned, but I wasn't blown away on our Big Easy fryer's maiden voyage.

The Pros

Once we got the infrared turkey fryer assembled and correctly hooked up to the propane tank, it was low-effort, smooth sailing. After seasoning the turkey, we simply placed it over the flavor infuser and lowered the cage with the bird down into the fryer, then ignited the machine with a turn of a knob and let it rip — no additional attention required except to check the temperature of the bird.

Throughout the cooking process, the fryer was quiet and contained, without any visible flames or smoke. This fryer would be safe and easy to use even in a small outdoor area. Not to mention, it's an incredible way to make your turkey outdoors and free up precious oven space in your kitchen. Given that not everyone is a grill-master or has experience at/equipment for smoking meats, and traditional oil-filled turkey fryers can (understandably) be quite intimidating, I'd say this oil-less fryer could be just the right option for many home cooks who are preparing their family's Thanksgiving bird.

Frying a turkey this way was quick and efficient. Roasting turkey in the oven takes about 13 minutes per pound at 350 degrees F, while the instructions for the fryer estimated about 10 minutes per pound. For our 7-pound turkey breast, we first set a timer for 1 hour, and ended up cooking it about 75 minutes to bring it up to 165 degrees F.

I've never deep-fried a turkey the traditional way, but this method felt infinitely safer than using a vat of oil. There was little mess to clean up afterward, too — just wiping out the inside of the fryer. If you've never cooked a whole turkey before, this has to be one of the simplest methods out there, and good for beginners (as long as you have help assembling it).

The compact tray beneath the heating element collects all the drippings, which you can easily (and carefully) remove, pour into a saucepan, and whip up your favorite turkey gravy.

The price point is slightly higher than a turkey fryer that requires oil, but its versatility means you can bust it out for more than Thanksgiving — lending more value. The Char-Broil website has recipes for other meats to cook in The Big Easy, including ham, chicken wings, beer can chicken, roast beef, and prime rib.

The Cons

Though at first it seemed like a relatively simple device, the infrared turkey fryer was frustrating to assemble. The instructions included in the manual are small drawings with no accompanying text, so they were tricky to follow. We ended up screwing on the legs in the wrong spots, only realizing so after the device felt wobbly once standing it upright. It takes two people to build this correctly, and you'll need to be extremely precise when attaching the propane tank.

All pieces on the fryer get hot — really hot. I learned this the hard way when, without thinking, I reached to pull off the lid and nearly burned the fingerprints off my right hand. Be sure to have heat-safe gloves handy (none are included, but should be?) for handling the fryer and attachments.

If you're cooking for a big family, this fryer likely isn't for you — it can only hold a turkey up to 16 pounds, and I think that would be pushing it.

Cooking a stuffed turkey in the infrared fryer is not recommended, as it takes too long to heat the middle to the recommended safe temperature of 165 degrees. (However, the USDA doesn't recommend stuffing a turkey for food safety reasons, anyway.)

The infrared "fried" turkey will never be as moist and juicy as a true deep-fried turkey, or achieve the extra-crispy skin, say reviewers. Overall, the taste was fine and this method made for a pretty turkey, but it was lacking in moisture for me. Plus, I prefer a smoky flavor, and you simply can't get that with this device.


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