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WhiteTrash BBQ -- Real Pit Barbecue from New York City. This is the story of a fire obsessed guy, living in Brooklyn, with a dream of producing award winning, competition busting, real Barbeque. Come live the dream as I compete around the country in the KCBS Championship Barbecue circuit.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

BBQ Equipment: The Big Easy 2

I promised you guys a review of the Big Easy, Charbroil's new infra-red oil-less turkey fryer. I've already told you that this little guy works as advertised. It produces birds that are moist and tender with a crispy skin, all without the use of oil. (Sorry, we didn't get any pictures.)

How does it work? I'll borrow a piece of my buddy Adam's explanation from his excellent website, Men In Aprons..

“We have to understand two things: thermodynamics and frying.

According to thermodynamics there are three ways of heat transfer: convection, conduction, and radiation. Imagine a piece of meat sitting on a hot grill. Convection is the act of air heating and rising and circulating around the grill. Conduction is the direct transfer of heat from the hot grill grate onto the meat. And radiation is the transfer of electromagnetic waves through the space of the grill from off of the diffusers, sides of the grill, or the grill grates themselves.

This act of radiation is the way that infrared cookers work. They transfer radiant energy from radiant conductors directly to the food you are cooking. Since there is little or no convection in this process, the food does not dry out from the circulation of hot air.

And now on to frying. To understand how The Big Easy works and why it is called a fryer, despite the lack of cooking oil, you must understand the act of frying itself. Deep frying food is a way to cook food fast and at a very high temperature. Immersing food into rocket-hot oil attacks the food on all surface areas. It is one-hundred percent conduction cooking. Heat is transferred directly from the oil onto the surface of the food. And since it cooks fast and hot, juices and flavors are sealed in and a nice golden-brown color is created. Perfect.

If you think about The Big Easy, the method and results are the same. The Big Easy heats the meat in the container by using radiant energy, attacking the food on all surfaces areas at a very high temperature. The result is a nicely cooked piece of meat, with juices sealed in and a golden brown exterior.”

In our first cook, my brother and I experienced just that, “a nicely cooked piece of meat, with juices sealed in and a golden brown exterior.” We did two large chickens in just about one hour.

So what’s it like using this beast? Actually cooking on the Big Easy couldn’t be simpler. You season your bird, drop it in the fryer basket and drop the basket into the cooking chamber. (I recommend spraying the fryer basket with Pam prior to cooking. It makes cleanup so much easier)

Putting the Bib Easy together was another issue. While I wouldn’t say it was particularly difficult, the instructions were a bit confusing. The underside of the Big easy contains the gas hoses, the rotating igniter, and a grease trap. It’s a lot to fit in and the pictures were not particularly helpful.

The packaging for shipping was great and the hardware arrived in a great card with all screws and nuts labeled clearly and easy to find. My grease drawer arrived with the flanges bent, even though the box was undamaged. It had to have been packed that way.

So, where is the room for improvement? There’s not much. Charbroil really has done a bang up job here, but there are a few minor things I’d like to see in version 1.1.
  1. Improved assembly directions. They’re not bad, but the pictures don’t really help.
  2. The grease drawer changed to a food safe metal. As shipped, if you plan on using the drippings in gravy or whatever, you need to line the grease drawer with a food safe aluminum pan.
  3. A cookbook or brochure dedicated to the Big Easy. Charbroil ships the Big Easy with their generic recipe brochure that is geared to the grills they make and another pamphlet on how to cook a turkey in the Big Easy. I’m not looking for grilling recipes when I’ve got this cooker out. Show me how to use the Big Easy, not the Tec Grill.
  4. Charbroil needs to pay more attention to what’s put in the box. This isn’t the first time I’ve received an item from Charbroil with a part damaged or missing.
  5. They need to improve the fryer basket. I don't know if they're all like this, or it's just mine, but the horizontal bars are not welded on all the verticals. There doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to where the spot welds are. Some bars are welded to every vertical and on others only in two spots. Also, the horizontal bars are not always straight. I don't know if this is by design, but it seems a bit like they were a bit lazy putting this together.
But, I like this little guy. I will use it often. One of the things that kept me from using my old turkey fryer was the disposal and cost of all that oil. Charbroil has fixed that for me. My old oil based fryer may be finding it’s way to the Salvation Army this year.

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At 11:57 PM, Anonymous JP said...

After deep-frying several turkeys I was excited to see this oil-less turkey fryer. In fact, I had my sister-in-law bring one with her from Brooklyn because they weren't available in Hawaii yet.

The first turkey was a definite success. I did everything I normally do to prepare my bird except buy $30 in peanut oil. The skin came out golden brown and crsipy. The inside was just as juicy as an oil fryer. I'm converted...no need to go back to a deep fryer.

The product I received had updated instructions and it was packed well. Agreed, a few recipes for the product would be helpful.

Overall a great product.

JP - Honolulu, HI

At 7:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 1:02 PM, Blogger John said...

It sounds like you put the mesh lid on while cooking. That is a big no no. The lid causes this problem every time by over heating the interior contrary to manufacturers instructions.Inserting a good quality meat thermometer into the thickest part of the breast is the only way to judge cooking progress. When it hits 160 yank the bird out and tent it with foil for 5-10 minutes, max. Timing in not important. Internal temperature is everything. John, Greenville,Maine

At 4:39 AM, Anonymous Bill said...

Lay off the beer and pay atention to the thermometer my turkeys have been the best ever.

At 6:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Although it is cool, the thing to remember is that this is technically a ROASTER and NOT a FRYER because it uses a dry heat cooking method.

At 5:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I bought my Big Easy at Lowes in the Spring for $70 and it has been the best fryer I've had. I have cooked several turkeys and several chickens and each one has came out wonderful!! I went to a football tailgate for Notre Dame this weekend and fried up 2 chickens that were awesome. Plus it cools down quickly so I don't have to leave it out during the game.

At 4:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I assembled the unit Thanksgiving morning, and at noon, I started roasting a 16 pound bird I had brined overnight. By 2:30 pm the turkey was deep golden brown. The breast and dark meat was juicy. The only part that had anything close to a char were the wing tips that lightly touch the sides. Next time, I'll tie wings down, or crop them even closer. I live in Alaska, and the outside temp was 30 degrees, so I opted to roast the bird in the garage with the door slightly raised. I love the Big Easy, and I plan to roast a 7 bone prime rib in it for Christmas dinner.

At 6:45 AM, Anonymous Kitchen Equipment said...

The fryer sounds like a great product. I especially like the oil-less feature. I look forward to trying this out soon.

At 12:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I bought and used the 3-in-1 Big Easy for the first time last week 11-18-11. I will do a review for two meals I tried to cook. First was a 5-rib Prime Rib Roast. The thermostat provided with unit was way off and by time 130 came only a small part of this 7lb roast was medium rare…rest was well done, with an end darn near crispy. Then I tried a 22 lb turkey which is upper limit for my unit. I tried to get cooking time from various internet sources as company provided none with unit. One was the char-broil community forums.

While it says the cooking time is nearly the same as deep fat frying, I can assure you this is way off. I have fried multiple turkeys in my day and I can assure everyone the deep fat drying is quicker by hours. I attribute this to fact hot grease gets inside the bird, whereas when using the Big Easy oven there is no air circulation inside the bird so the most dense meat (thigh) is last to heat, and from mostly the outside only. I used 10 minutes per lb, dried the bird & raised to room temperature before starting. I do not know how the base unit is, but my unit has a temperature dial running from high-to-low. Who knows where it should be set because there is no easy way to measure the temp inside the oven chamber. You have to buy another higher temp thermometer to stick through the top grate to judge chamber temperature, but you must remove it each time you want to look at the meat thermometer in the bird. Tried to use my Maverick which broadcasts chamber and internal temp, but there is no way to get the line inside without crimping it with the lid or grill grate, or threading it through the grate which is not wise if you want to keep the unit in working order. Otherwise one would have to drill a hole in the lid to pass the probes, and be careful those probe lines don't get placed over the vent holes in the chamber or they will burn the probe line cover off. I think the engineers need to rethink this temp problem or otherwise, why have a temperature knob? I tried to maintain 350 degrees in the chamber at all times for lack of guidance from the manufacturer. When I pulled the bird out it was still raw in the leg joints which I had to cut off and put in house oven, and then return the rest back to the unit to get the leg sockets cooked. Needless to say the meal was delayed quite a long time. Parts of the top of the breast was as dry as a rope when I cut the legs off, and dryer after reinserting to get it fully cooked. But the core of the breast was moist like a deep fried bird.

It is not like I am stupid or don't know what I am doing. I have butchered for a living and know my meats. I have a Weber charcoal grill, a larger Brinkman gas grill, a smaller Kenmore gas grill, a Mr Smoker, a turkey fry/wok unit, and a rolling open fire pit and know how to use them all. I prefer the open wood pit for grilling but can't use it during burn bans here in Texas. My next choice is the Mr. Smoker to grill in, using smaller wood and charcoal mix and setting the fire low in the bottom. My next choice is obviously one of the gas grills, and the choice when guests are over as they produce no smoke. I use the wok for stir fry and light deep frying, or turn to the deep fry bucket when doing large items. Deep frying is my least favorite primarily due to the grease mess and cleanup. If anyone compares the Big Easy as "greaseless frying", they are correct in that the meat can be as crispy and tasty as deep frying. But there should be no comparison by the company or users that the time is nearly as deep fat frying. It isn't! It is comparable to an oven. The Big Easy 3 in 1 is just an outdoor oven that lacks ability to know internal temperature and that is a poor design flaw for the unit. Another flaw is the wood chip holder. I had to pry mine out of the slot twice during the cooking process.
Gary F in Muenster, Texas


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