During certain times of year, many people crave the ultimate in comfort foods – a whole turkey complete with all the fixin’s. In the United States, turkey time is synonymous with late autumn and early winter, specifically the holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Nothing satisfies a craving for turkey better than the juicy, crispy goodness of a deep-fried bird. Or does it?
As much as they love deep-fried turkey, many people are reluctant to prepare it at home. Why? Cleaning up an oily deep fryer and disposing of a large volume of cooking oil that is used only once or twice a year is a hassle, and there are very real dangers from fires, spilled oil, and burns. Others worry about the health risks of consuming meat that has been submerged in hot oil for an hour or more.
Thankfully, there is a safer, less messy, lower calorie alternative that delivers similar fried results. You’ve likely seen advertisements for countertop air fryers, or even experienced one for yourself. Now, meet the household air fryer’s big brother – the oil-less turkey fryer, or turkey air fryer.
What Is a Turkey Air Fryer?
A turkey air fryer, also known as an oil-less turkey fryer, is a large cooking appliance intended for operation out of doors. The turkey air fryer operates on the same general principles as do all air fryers – they use circulating, superheated air to quickly cook food. This leaves the food juicy, tender, and moist on the inside, while providing the exterior with a tantalizing crunch.
There are, of course, several obvious differences between a countertop air fryer and a turkey air fryer. Oil-less turkey fryers are much larger than standard air fryers. This allows them to accommodate turkeys and other large meat items up to 16 pounds. Some turkey air fryers employ propane, rather than electricity, as a power source. The details as to how a turkey air fryer works will be discussed below.
Perhaps the best feature of the oil-less turkey fryer is that its uses are not limited to cooking turkeys. The frying basket can be used to hold virtually any large cut of meat, including whole chickens, wild game, hams, pork or beef roasts, and more. Accessories are available to accommodate vegetables, chicken wings, kabobs, racks of ribs, and even apple pies! The oil-less turkey fryer can easily be used for year-round outdoor cooking, on camping trips or in your own backyard.
Types of Turkey Air Fryers
Turkey air fryers on the market today can be divided into two main types – those powered by propane, and those powered by electricity.
Propane Turkey Air Fryers
Propane oil-less turkey fryers use the same type of portable propane tanks as gas grills and heaters. The propane tank is connected to the fryer by means of a hose. It then powers a burner that heats the air in the body of the air fryer.
Electric Turkey Air Fryers
Electric turkey air fryers employ power from a standard electrical outlet. The electric heating element superheats the air, while double-wall construction holds in the heat and distributes it evenly.
How Does an Oil-Less Turkey Fryer Work?
Propane turkey air fryers, such as the Char-Broil Big Easy Oil-Less Turkey Fryer, use no electricity. To use a propane turkey air fryer, you first connect your fryer to a portable propane tank (the same type as are used with gas grills, available at many home stores and fueling stations) using the attached hose. Then, turn the rotary ignition dial to light the 16,000 BTU fully-enclosed propane burner. Place your thawed and seasoned turkey in the cooking basket, and lower the basket into the fryer. Halfway through the cooking process, apply the mesh lid screen to the fryer to help the outside of the turkey achieve a crisp golden brown.
This style of turkey air fryer has a double-walled design. Infrared heat is captured and circulates between the inner and outer walls, distributing heat evenly. The included meat thermometer allows you to gauge when the turkey is done – the turkey should reach an internal temperature of 165 to 175 degrees Fahrenheit. Generally, you should allow ten minutes of cook time per pound of meat.
When your turkey is done, use heat resistant gloves and the basket lifting tool to remove the cooking basket from the air fryer. Drippings from the turkey will have collected in the removable grease tray. These can be retained and used for making gravies or other dishes.
Electric turkey air fryers operate in much the same way. However, rather than a propane burner, electric fryers employ an electric heating element, powered using a standard electrical outlet.
Because they use no oil, turkey air fryers are much safer than turkey deep fryers. According to the National Fire Protection Association, deep fryer fires cause an average of five deaths, 60 injuries, and the destruction of 900 homes annually. Oil-less turkey fryers have no dangerous hot oil to be spilled, causing fires or burns.
Best Turkey Air Fryers – Top 3 Recommendations
Do you find your mouth watering just reading about air fried turkey? If so, you may be considering adding an oil-less turkey fryer to your outdoor cooking arsenal. Which turkey air fryer is right for you? Consider our top three favorites.
Char-Broil Big Easy Oil-Less Liquid Propane Turkey Fryer
This product is a leader in its market, and one of our favorites. Use it year round to cook a turkey, a brisket, or even an apple pie!
The 16,000 BTU propane burner cooks food fast, and the removable drip tray, designed to accommodate a small, disposable aluminium pan, makes cleanup a breeze. Cool touch handles make safe the necessity of lifting or moving the appliance.
This turkey air fryer is extremely versatile, especially when used with additional accessories. A 22 piece accessory kit is available directly from the manufacturer. This includes an extra basket lifter, four boneless rib hooks, eight “easy out” rib hooks, eight kabob skewers, an easy-load skewer rack, and two leg racks, capable of accommodating up to 12 chicken legs or wings. All accessories are made of steel and are dishwasher safe.
Additionally, a PVC cover is available to protect your Big Easy air fryer. The outside repels water and debris, while the inner brushed knit lining prevents scratches to the fryer’s exterior. A vent in the cover prevents damaging condensation from forming around your fryer.
What Comes Inside the Box?
When you purchase the Big Easy Oil-Less Turkey Fryer, you will receive the fryer itself, a cooking basket, a basket lifting tool, an analog meat thermometer, a mesh lid, drip tray, and quick start cooking guide. A portable propane tank is required for operation but is not included.
The vast majority of Big Easy owners tout its five-star quality. Many are happy with the cost compared to a deep fat turkey fryer, especially the savings of not having to buy oil. Others use this product to get deep-fried flavor without risking the fire and burn hazards of a turkey deep fryer.
Those that are less happy with the product often cite fine flavors but longer than average cooking times. This may be due to a gas regulator issue present in some units, which prevents the damaged unit from reaching optimal temperatures. Other regret that there is only one temperature setting.
Masterbuilt Butterball Oil-Free Electric Turkey Fryer and Roaster
For those who prefer not to use propane tanks, the Masterbuilt Butterball Electric Turkey Fryer is a great option. It utilizes standard electrical outlets – no specialized or high-voltage outlets are required. This fryer also facilitates the use of wood chips and accepts larger turkeys than do other models, up to 18 pounds.
The Masterbuilt Butterball electric turkey fryer has double wall construction to hold in the heat, and can be used with any standard 110 volt outlet or extension cord. An analog temperature dial is located on the power cord, allowing you to adjust your temperature for different food types. Stay-cool handles on the outside of the turkey fryer make it safe to touch, and the double lifter offers added safety when removing the aluminium cooking basket. A Turkey stand keeps your bird in place, and the internal meat thermometer helps you judge when it is cooked just right. A basket holder inside the cooker gives added support to the cooking basket.
The shatter-resistant tempered glass lid is equipped with a stay-cool handle and a convenient lid hook, which allows it to perch on the side of the fryer. The extra-large drip tray will catch all of the turkey drippings for use in gravies or other dishes. Achieve a smokey flavor by placing your favorite wood chips in the wood tray on the back of the unit.
What Comes Inside the Box?
When you buy the Masterbuilt Butterball Electric Turkey Fryer, you will receive the cooker itself, aluminium cooking basket, turkey stand, analog thermometer, drip tray, wood chip box, tempered glass lid, and power cord.
Over half of all users would give the Masterbuilt Butterball Electric Turkey Fryer five out of five stars, and nearly all rave with positive reviews. Many appreciate the price compared to both deep fat and oil-less turkey fryers, especially since there is no need to purchase frying oil or propane.
Those who are less satisfied with the product often cite the inability to cook turkeys larger than 18 pounds, or they complain that the results are not as crispy as a truly deep fried turkey. Other reviewers have suggested rubbing the turkey with olive oil or other cooking oils to accomplish a crispier finish.
Char-Broil The Big Easy Smoker, Roaster, and Grill
If you’re looking for the ultimate all-in-one outdoor cooker, the Big Easy Smoker, Roaster, and Grill may be the backyard toy for you. Perhaps the largest capacity appliance of its kind on the market, you can roast large turkeys, grill steaks, smoke your favorite meats, and more.
Double wall construction and interior cooking basket design retains heat and maximizes airflow for increased efficiency. Heat can be adjusted from 9,000 to 18,000 BTUs. This Big Easy model boasts 180 square inches of grilling space on a stainless steel grate and a 25 pound capacity. The double stacked basket can be used to prepare smaller foods, such as vegetables. Wood chips can be added to the smoker box for additional flavor. The hood is coated in porcelain and the handles are designed to be cool-touch for safety. A protective cover is also available.
What Comes Inside the Box?
When you purchase the Big Easy Smoker, Roaster, and Grill, you will receive the cooker itself, the cooking basket with double stacking capability, removable wood chip smoker box and drip pan. A propane tank is required for use but is not included.
More than 75 percent of Big Easy users would give the product five out of five stars. Commonly cited reasons were ease of assembly, use, and cleanup.
When customers were less than satisfied, they often cited heat-warping of the materials that resulted in the smoker box becoming difficult to remove. Several users suggested that a temperature gauge be included in the hood of future models.
Oil-less turkey fryers are an outstanding alternative to the infamous deep fat turkey fryers. They also represent an inventive cooking option for the avid home chef. Your outdoor cooking options have never been more numerous, and your Thanksgiving dinner has never been so healthy and delicious.
If you’re ready to get roasting with an oil-less turkey fryer, check out Char-Broil’s Big Easy recipe collection for culinary inspiration.