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WhiteTrashBBQ

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.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Cooking on the Orion Cooker

Way back in February, I picked up an Orion Cooker for an amazingly low price of $37 when the list price was $139. I didn't think too much about why the price was so low, it being February and all. I just figured they were clearing out last year's "summer" inventory. Un-boxing the cooker, I discovered that this was a used cooker. It had a dent and some paint stains on the lid. It really wasn't a problem as some manly bending easily fixed the dent and the paint came off with a quick swipe with a Brillo pad. Shame on Lowes of West Islip, New York for passing this off as new.

I assembled the cooker in less than 5 minutes; all you need to do is attach the four legs and set it up in the backyard for its inaugural run. I placed the drip pan in the bottom of the main cooking chamber and added some maple chips and a little mesquite, making sure to keep them out of the drip pan and close to the exterior walls of the cooker to get that smoky flavor I love.

The more I set this up, the more I was reminded of the traditional Dutch Oven cooking I've played with in the past. Orion claims that their cooker is using a unique process, but I've cooked this way for many a years and it wasn't new to me!

I then added some chicken stock to the drip pan, put in the cooking grate and was ready for the bird. You could try all sorts of liquids to flavor the bird, many people use beer, but I prefer the simple flavor of stock.

I rubbed the turkey with seasoned butter both under and over the skin. The bird is impaled on the same type of "throne" you would use when you are deep frying a turkey and lowered into the cooking chamber. It made me wonder why I need the cooking grate at all. The throne, for lack of a better term, held the turkey above the stock.

I put the lid on and built the fire using Matchlight as directed by the manufacturer of the Orion Cooker. You are directed to use an entire 13.5lb bag of charcoal, reserving 10-12 coals for the top. I found that the charcoal ring didn't hold all that and I was left with about two pounds of charcoal after I filled it up.

I lit the fire, using matches taken from my last visit to Duke's BBQ. I can't remember the last time I used Matchlight, but the smell of lighter fluid was overwhelming. I can't believe people actually use this stuff and expose food to these toxic fumes.

Now there was nothing to do but wait. The Orion manual claims "Remember – Fill it, Fire it and Forget it!" I don't think that's very wise advice. All this open fire needs to be watched carefully. I kept my animals and children in the house while this fire was raging.

The instructions claim that a turkey cooks at an astounding rate of 7 minutes a pound and boy were they right. I got caught up in reading She-Smoke by Julie Reinhardt, review coming soon, and let the turkey cook for 80 minutes.

Taking the cover off led to an interesting dilemma. Where do I put the hot lid? I had to walk to the sidewalk as it's the only place near the yard that's not covered in grass. As you can see, the turkey was a bit over cooked. It was a beautiful shade of copper. Getting the cooked turkey off the throne proved to be very difficult. Next time I'll remember to spray it with PAM prior to using.

So how did the turkey taste? It was moist and very flavorful. I've never seen the meat retract so much on a turkey leg before. I expected it to be tough since it was so compact. I don't know if you can see it in the picture of the breast, but it was very tender and moist, which surprised me as the bird was just short of being overcooked. The skin was pure rubber, odd considering how much butter I put on it, usually this causes it to crisp.

Cleanup of this machine was a real pain in the ass. Getting the now grease covered drip pan out was difficult and cleaning the narrow channel of all the ash was time consuming.

Do I recommend this cooker? For the most part. It cooks exactly as advertised and produces moist tender meat. For what I paid, I'm very happy; for full price - ah, not so much. It uses a great deal of fuel which makes it expensive to operate, compared to smoking a turkey in one of my traditional cookers. I'm also not too thrilled with the exposed fire. Fire safety is an important issue to me and my family. We've been down that road before.

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19 Comments:

At 5:33 AM, Blogger Thom said...

I have never tried this method of cooking. I have a water smoker and have always gone that route. Since I barbecue under a covered patio, I wouldn't like the flame-up. Thanks for sharing!
Thom
BBQing Tips From Deep In The Heart Of Oregon

 
At 12:37 PM, Blogger Chris said...

Great unbiased review, R. I checked our lowes after you got yours and they didn't have any and didn't even know what I was talking about. Now I know why;)

I agree, it sounds a bit like modified dutch oven cooking.

 
At 5:49 AM, Anonymous Dry Rub Recipes said...

In order to cook like this you better be in an empty parking lot just for safety. Nice blog and info, keep up the good work.

 
At 12:09 AM, Blogger Backyard Chef said...

Your reviews keep getting better and better, Robert. Great job.

I'm always impressed with how quickly adapt to each type of new smoker or grill you get.

Keep cooking, buddy!

 
At 6:18 PM, Blogger Barnett said...

I read your review with great interest as I just purchased an Orion on closeout from Home Depot. Great investment for $50 not so great for $140.

I started smoking using a $29 H20 smoker from Sears years ago and suffered with it for about 3 weeks before giving up. I moved on to several other water smokers, some with more success some with less. The one thing I always worried about was the time issue. This is not a worry with the Orion.

My first batch was six racks of ribs. I used regular charcoal and two chimneys to start. When the book says 1 hour and 15 minutes they mean it. The ribs were in for 1 1/2 hours and the racks closest to the wall of the cooker were a bit overdone. The ones towards the center were perfect, moist, smokey from the hickory chips I put inside the cooker with a bit of a smoke ring in the meat.

The second round was a 5lb chicken. I put it on the throne for a timed 1 1/2 hour. When I took it out, it fell apart on the plate while I was looking at it, standing there with my carving knife. Tasted great, but the skin was rubbery as well.

I think with some tweaking of the amount of fuel used, this is a perfectly acceptable cooker for roasts, ribs, and the like, but I don't think I'll be doing fowl on it. However, I will keep it. I have lot's of concrete and stone to put the top on.

 
At 3:33 PM, Blogger jason said...

I have had this cooker for 7 months now and have not had a bad meal on it yet. If you go to the official Orion website, you will be amazed at the community of people who have great ideas.

Turkey and chicken skin can be made crispy by rubbing it with olive oil, however it probably won't ever be the same as in a slow cooker.

Just wait until you make some pulled pork, I have received many praises "best I ever ate"

 
At 4:24 PM, Anonymous Larry said...

Pretty Good review - Honest, but a little dramtic for me...Ive had the cooker for 1 year - cooked salmon it that was great - Alder wood. 2- Turkeys - I dont care for the skins so it didnt bother me. 2 - pork butts - first was 2 smokey and second needed to leaving longer - used a temp probe that went thru the rib post holder screws. Removed on screw and I can get a temp gauge in. Temp was at 190 I should have left it longer. And just did 4 ribs yesterday. I loved the ribs.

Yes, uses a lot of fuel $8.50 a bag. I could have cooked more ribs still had lots of fuel left.

Flame - its like an outside fire pit. Great for beaches or campsites.

I have also used the charcoal after to cook desert in my Dutch Oven. - Havent been able to smoke anything in my dutch oven. So I dont compare it to the dutch oven.

 
At 1:23 PM, Blogger Matt said...

The orion cooker in the photo is the smaller size orion cooker that's why the price is so good. The cheapest I could find the big size cooker was $89 at Home Depot. Bass pro has them at $140. I have 3 of the large size and can do 18 racks of baby backs at a time!!!! To smack your mama goodness!!!! Or 3 20 lbs turkeys for 40 people. I've cooked many meals in the orion and it always comes out GREAT!!!!! Look at You Tube video's about the Orion cooker.

 
At 3:36 AM, Anonymous Rumela said...

These Orion cooker recipe sounds great and looks even better. I am going to make them on my next party. It will be a crowd pleaser. thank you for sharing your post.

 
At 8:52 PM, Anonymous the1percent said...

www.orionoutdoors.com

Go here and you will know why this cooker is amazing. I have been cooking on mine for almost a year and a half. If you like visiting with your guest instead of fussing over adding wood chips or basting your ribs with sauce or waiting 8 hours for delicious pulled pork you will love the Orion. Go to the discussion forum and search for ribs and see the pics. Fall off the bone goodness.

 
At 1:35 PM, Blogger ford4us said...

1percent, What happened to the Orionoutdoors.com forum? It is gone or has moved. ford4us

 
At 6:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bought the Orion cooker at swamp meet for 30 dollars last year. We have used it quite a lot and have enjoyed every meal. I have gone by the timing on the chart that Orion site has and works every time. Maybe a good time to teach your family fire safety or better yet some common sense!

 
At 7:32 AM, Blogger WhiteTrashBBQ said...

Hey Anonymous - FUCK YOU! You dickless bastard.

 
At 7:04 AM, Blogger Amazing Bob said...

I dry my turkey thawed, unwrapped in the fridge for at least a day. also cutting back on the amount of chips seems to reduce the "rubber skin" (try Pecan...yum). I have to tie or wire my turkeys as they fall apart when I attempt to remove. Love the posts.

 
At 6:12 AM, Anonymous aljacket said...

One suggestion, try it without adding fluids to the drip pan. Just add a few wood chips around the edge of the pan.

My father has done turkeys, ribs etc. Never an issue with "rubbery skin".

As a reference, he uses the "full sized" cooker.

 
At 8:02 AM, Anonymous m45auto said...

All my smokers get hot ,but the instant light charcoal does flame up pretty good for 25 minutes or so until the lighter fluid is burned off,and as the other guy said you don't need to put liquid in because it stems the meat with its own juices also if you rub olive oil on outside it does great job-easy off oven cleaner is the ticket for cleaning

 
At 11:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also purchased one several years ago for $31 (at Home Depot). I am addicted to it now! Never had a problem with the flames as I usually use a basket to get them started and add to the ring as needed.

 
At 5:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do like this cooker as a novelty kind of thing. But It does a great job. I start the ring of match light and when the fuel burns off and you can smell the smoke from the inside its time to load. Same 7 minutes a pound on turkey and don't lose track of time or it will be to late..LOL Oh and I just spray grates and drip pan with pan and use no liquid it the drip pan it turkey come out great... Kust my 2 cents worth

 
At 5:34 AM, Anonymous Wise Dusty said...

The new "ORION" forum site is- www.theorioncooker.com

 

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