Equipment: Char-Broil The Big Easy Oil-Less Turkey Fryer
I don't have a big backyard, but if I did, I'd probably consider figuring out a way to cook my holiday bird without wasting oven space, and without the terrible hassle (and frankly mediocre results) of deep-fried turkey. If the Char-Broil Big Easy Oil-Less Turkey Fryer ($99) lived up to its promises, then it might be a great contender for the job.
To call it a "fryer" is more than a bit of a misnomer. Frying has nothing to do with what this thing does. It's an outdoor propane vertical roaster, plain and simple. The question is, would it produce an evenly cooked bird with crisp skin?
To find out, I tested it against both a real deep fried turkey, and a plain roasted turkey.
Out of the box, it requires a bit of assembly, but nothing that your average person with a backyard and a Philips-head screwdriver can't accomplish. Essentially a steel cylinder with a second, smaller aluminum cylinder fitted inside it, it works by heating up the space between the outer cylinder and the inner. The turkey is placed in a basket and lowered into the center.
At this point, the documentation implies some sort of newfangled technology that uses "infrared" heat, which is the equivalent of calling something "queso cheese" or saying "with au jus." All radiative heat is infrared, whether its in your oven, your broiler, or from the sun. Pay no mind to their fancy words. Basically, all they're saying is "this thing gets hot."
And it does. A couple hours later, once the turkey hits around 145-150°F, you're finished. All you have to do is fish it out, let it rest, and carve it. As a cooker, it actually does a fantastic job. Dropping a turkey into a hole is a lot easier than the cumbersome lifting, flipping, and turning acrobatics you've got to perform in a regular oven to get a bird to cook evenly. And being cooked simultaneously from all sides means that every bit of skin crisps up, not just the bits on the top and the sides.
As far as juiciness was concerned, it was on par with the roasted bird, the breast meat easily moister and more tender than that of the fried turkey. Skin was great too—better than the roast, though not quite as cracklingly crisp as the actual deep-fried bird.
Is it worth the investment? If you've got an outdoor shed and your kitchen starts hurting for space around the holidays, then by all means. If you hate unitaskers (though this thing supposedly can be used to slow cook ribs and other roasts), then you'd probably want to pass this one up, as I foresee it collecting dust 364 days out of the year.