I was slightly disappointed that the Turkey Cannon ($25) does not shoot turkeys. What it does, according to the manufacturer, is make beer can chicken on steroids. Instead of shoving a beer can into a turkey and forcing it to stand upright, you can use the Cannon to rest the turkey at an angle. It makes a heck of a lot of sense since most of us don't have an oven (or outdoor grill) that's tall enough to allow a turkey to roast vertically. The Cannon is pretty heavy duty, and it's dishwasher safe.
To test the Cannon, I used a Butterball turkey since I've probably eaten my weight in Butterballs over the years—I know exactly what I should expect. I opted not to brine (even though the cannon came with a brining kit) because I didn't want the brining to affect the testing.
After filling the Cannon with a flavored liquid, I encountered a small hurdle: getting the turkey onto the Cannon. The instructions said that turkeys over 18 pounds might need to be roasted breast-side down. My bird was 17 pounds and still didn't fit comfortably breast-side up, so breast-down it went. As a precaution, I propped up one end of the Cannon to prevent the turkey breast from touching the pan.
Wrestling the turkey onto the cannon wasn't all that difficult once I figured out which way it needed to rest. I stabbed the bird with a thermometer and set it to roast at 325°F.
After an hour in the oven, the turkey looked...uncomfortable.
After two hours, it was getting a nice brown color, but still looked strange.
Roasting at 325°F, the turkey was done in about three hours—faster than conventional roasting, that's for sure.
I thought getting the bird off its perch would be a second hurdle, but it wasn't as difficult as I expected. A spare pair of hands held the cannon in place while I donned protective gloves and wiggled the bird a bit to dislodge it where it was slightly stuck to the cannon. Then it pulled right off.
Since the bird had roasted breast-side down, the breast was pale. I assume the breast would have browned fine on a smaller bird that had been perched upright, or if the Cannon had been used on a grill. In my situation, I could have taken the turkey off the Cannon a bit sooner and let it roast upright for the last part of cooking. But I did none of those things, so it looked like my turkey had a bald spot.
More importantly, though, the turkey was evenly cooked. Since the Cannon cooked the turkey from the inside with steam, doneness was much more consistent than with standard roasting. I've roasted turkeys before that came out fully cooked, judging from the temperature measured in both breast and thigh, but had pink juices in the cavity of the turkey. This had none of that. Even better, the meat was definitely moist. People who have only tried conventionally-roasted turkeys will be totally impressed. And you get all this in less time than it takes to roast a turkey conventionally.
So, is it worth $25 for something you might use once a year? Perhaps not. On the other hand, it can also be used to cook chicken or other poultry (from 4 to 20 pounds according to the site, although larger turkeys might work with some strategic propping), and it can be used in the oven, on the grill, or in the smoker.
I have a couple gadgets that are designed for beer-can style cooking of chickens in the oven, and one problem is that a completely-upright chicken can be a little tall and wobbly. I've tipped more than one over. Cooking it at an angle while still taking advantage of the steam makes much more sense. And unlike the chicken devices that only shoot steam from the open end of the device, this has holes along the sides as well, creating more steam-action inside the bird.
Overall, I'm pleased. Plus, if someone peeks in your oven, you get the joy of seeing the "what the heck is that!?" look on their faces.
About the author: Resident yeast whisperer and bread baking columnist Donna Currie also has a serious gadget habit. When her father-in-law heard about this column, he upgraded the nickname for her kitchen from "gadget world" to "gadget heaven." You can find her on her blog, Cookistry or follow her on Twitter at @dbcurrie.
Disclaimer: Testing samples were provided to Serious Eats.