I Tried Char-Broil’s The Big Easy To “Fry” My Turkey: Did It Work?

Use oilless infrared technology to cook a turkey and achieve the same speedy results as traditional frying—and serve healthier meals.

By Jen Karetnick | Updated Nov 30, 2021 12:33 PM

Char Broil Turkey Fryer

Photo: Jen Karetnick

We like big birds and we cannot lie. We also enjoy big steaks, big fish, and even a suckling pig on occasion. But mostly, when we’re cooking in the backyard, my husband and I choose a whole fowl.

What we don’t enjoy is how long it takes on a standard grill or the mess of draining gallons of peanut oil from a traditional turkey fryer. That’s two of the reasons we enjoyed the oilless Char-Broil The Big Easy TRU-Infrared Smoker Roaster & Grill Turkey Fryer.

With a large 1,200-square-inch interior roasting basket that can hold up to a 21-pound turkey, goose, duck, chicken, or any other piece of animal protein up to 25 pounds, this infrared model gave us classic fried bird results in 45 minutes, but we didn’t have to dispose of gallons of oil. We were able to attach it to the propane tank that fuels some of our other backyard cooking equipment with ease, and the temperature control allowed us to adjust the 9,000 to 18,000 BTUs when we needed to pump up the cooking action.

We also appreciated the ability to add flavor via the wood chip smoker box so that we didn’t have to completely rely on marinades, rubs, brinings, or injections. The wood chips or pellets last about 45 minutes, which is about the same time it takes to fry a medium-size turkey. And we loved the grease pan that captures drippings, and it’s easy to empty and clean.

The main drawback of this unit is its depth and breadth. Once it’s built, it’s 23.1 by 23.4 by 36.2 inches and a solid 50 pounds (although online specs state it’s 22.68 pounds, which is confusing). Its heft means that it’s likely going to stay wherever you put it.

While not the most ungainly piece of equipment we’ve ever used, it’s one of the heaviest turkey fryers we tested. And because it doesn’t have wheels, it’s also a less portable one. Sure, it has handles, but that only helps someone who can carry the other end or who is about a foot taller than my 5 feet, 2 inches.

The stainless steel black model we tested doesn’t come with a cover, but there is an option to buy one with a cover, should it be in stock. Keep reading to learn more about this oilless Char-Broil turkey fryer.

Char-Broil Turkey Fryer: At a Glance

Char Broil Turkey Fryer

Photo: Jen Karetnick

Rating: 9/10

PROS

  • Safer than oil-based turkey fryers
  • Healthier without oil
  • Use the grease pan drippings for gravy

CONS

  • Heavy and immovable without wheels
  • No temperature display
  • Needs a cover and cast-iron seasoning treatment

Get the Char-Broil Turkey Fryer at:

What Is the Char-Broil Turkey Fryer?

The Char-Broil The Big Easy TRU-Infrared Smoker Roaster & Grill Turkey Fryer is a turkey fryer that uses infrared technology instead of oil. It’s also a roaster, smoker, and grill with a wood-chip-burning basket and various racks that make this a versatile piece of equipment for a small backyard.

Fueled by propane, the interior holds a whole bone-in bird that’s up to 21 pounds in the basket. There are racks to cook sides like roasted potatoes above the fryer at the same time. A temperature gauge allows the chef to control the heat (250 to 500 degrees) and BTUs (9,000 to 18,000) so that it doesn’t surge or falter. But without numbers on the dial, it’s tough to really tell how hot it’s getting without using both an internal metal meat thermometer (included) and ambient heat thermometers (not included).

Still, the infrared technology makes this a safer choice for turkey frying, as there’s no oil to splash and splatter while the bird is cooking. User error is greatly reduced regarding oil spilling onto the propane flame as well. While you do need to season the main cooking chamber that’s a large drum before first-time use, the lack of prep required and the ease of cleanup are also timesavers.

Char Broil Turkey Fryer

Photo: Jen Karetnick

How Easy Is the Char-Broil Turkey Fryer to Put Together?

My husband and I had the experience of setting up six other turkey fryers before this one. It then took us two attempts and more than an hour—almost 90 minutes—to put this one together. The directions are misleading, vague, and the pictures are hard to follow. If you’re looking for an easy snap-together setup, this unit isn’t it.

Frankly, there are just so many parts—inner liner, outer shell, legs, lid, cooking chamber, smoking tray, roasting basket, hooks to hang racks, half-racks, and shelves, carrying handles, removable grease tray, hose with regulator, smoker box, metal meat thermometer, handles, and more—and not all of them fit together correctly. There was a lot of screwing and unscrewing. While everything was nicely padded and packaged in a huge box, you can’t use it again for storage and there’s no easy way to disassemble it. Once it’s built, it’s built.

Is the Char-Broil Turkey Fryer Easy to Use?

Once you get the unit assembled, it’s logical and almost ridiculously simple to use. The ignition is automatic. The first time, however, it’s important to follow one main direction. We had to season the main cooking chamber, a convex drum with a hole in the middle for drippings, before frying anything in the basket. This is even easier than seasoning a cast-iron pan—all you have to do is dribble some high-smoke-point oil on it and shut the lid while it’s on (follow directions in the Outdoor Cooking Guide).

After the basket is seasoned, drop the basket with your bird into the drum and set the temperature knob, which ranges from 275 to 500 degrees. Although we can’t see the numbers, the actual ambient temperatures seem to be about 75 degrees hotter.

The Outdoor Cooking Guide is a lot less convoluted to follow than the setup manual. Keep in mind that some turkey roasters advise cooking legs up; this one advises legs down. For other birds, you can cook two chickens using the half racks or a duck or Cornish hens back-to-back in the bottom of the basket. Just refer to the Outdoor Cooking Guide, and be sure to look up cooking minutes per pound for your poultry, as all are different. For easy cleanup in the future, line the bottom of the drum with foil. Just don’t cover the hole.

Char Broil Turkey Fryer

Photo: Jen Karetnick

Is the Char-Broil Turkey Fryer Good Quality?

We tested several different kinds of whole birds in the Char-Broil The Big Easy TRU-Infrared Smoker Roaster & Grill Turkey Fryer to see how it worked with the differences regarding fat content, skin thickness, and resulting juiciness in white and dark meat. We found the results consistent and excellent every time, regardless of the type of fowl. The unit has held up beautifully through several rounds of cooking.

The propane flame shoots heat up in the air pockets inside and stains the metal, similar to the way propane darkens the outside of stainless steel burners. Therefore, the main chamber turns dark very quickly, so don’t expect it to be shiny and new after cleaning like stainless steel generally is. This may worry some cooks who use top-quality stainless steel cookware.

The drum, racks, and outside edges of the unit can be cleaned by cooking the residue away for an extra 10 to 15 minutes after the turkey is removed, then brushing the solids away. Soap and water can be used on all the parts, including the grease trap. Just don’t put any of it in the dishwasher.

While the handles say, “I’m portable,” the weight and dimensions say, “You’re not.” It is too large to store in a garage or shed, and dragging it in and out of shelter could have bearing on the durability, as could keeping it out of doors without a cover. The black coating on the grease trap and the outer shell should help repel the elements.

Is the Char-Broil Turkey Fryer Worth the Money?

This is a great unit for beginners and for those who don’t relish the additional calories that frying turkey in oil brings. It’s also helpful for those who want to have the flavor of a hickory- or cedar-infused bird without the labor and time it takes to smoke. Add some wood chips or pellets to the smoker box, which will last for about 45 minutes.

You can also cook other whole fowl in this cylindrical, vertical unit, and they all come out with crisp skins and succulent interiors, regardless of their fat content. The convex cooking drum collects the drippings, and the grease tray underneath collects them for easy cleanup. If you line the grease trap with a foil container, you can use these drippings to make gravy.

The only drawbacks to this unit are the setup, which has so many parts that it is not user-friendly, let alone kind to beginners who have never set up a turkey fryer, and its semi-permanent hard-to-move status is like an ex who wants to remain friends. In other words, it’s not as light or as portable as the manufacturer claims. Closer to 50 pounds than 25, it’s a model that’s going to stay where it’s built rather than go into storage.

This turkey fryer seems to range widely in price. Amazon has the middle-ground price and most of the units in stock at other retailers. While other turkey fryers are generally less expensive, they’re also more dangerous. However, considering that this one can also be used as a grill and a roaster, it can be an excellent investment for enthusiasts with balconies and small backyards.

Char Broil Turkey Fryer

Photo: Jen Karetnick

Is the Char-Broil Turkey Fryer Right for You?

If you have a grill and a smoker already and you’re only looking for a turkey fryer, this might not be the right fryer for you. Even if you don’t utilize the other functions, you might smoke the turkey while it’s frying. However, if you’re purely in it for the healthier oilless option, then this is a great idea.

If you have a balcony or small backyard and can only invest in one machine, then this is the combo that can provide the options in a single unit. However, keep in mind that true smoking enthusiasts may be disappointed with it. While the temperature knob controls the heat to some degree, this is made to be a high-energy type of unit. Even though you can’t see it, the lowest temperature is 25 degrees too high for real smoking, and the ambient temperature really runs about 75 degrees higher. As a hybrid way to flavor a turkey, this is perfectly workable. The wood chips or pellets smoke for 45 minutes or so. But it’s not a true, low-temperature smoker.

In comparison, the Char-Broil The Big Easy TRU-Infrared Oil-Less Turkey Fryer is a smaller and less expensive version of this fryer, which is a smart choice if you have less room to store it. The downside is that it lacks the smoking, roasting, and grilling versatility. The Magma Marine Newport II infrared gas grill is perhaps slightly more portable and less challenging to store with foldable legs. But it’s more expensive and lacks the drop-down method that a vertical turkey fryer requires.

Other vertical grill/smokers include the ​​Weber 731001 Smokey Mountain Cooker 22-Inch Charcoal Smoker, Black and Lighter Cube Bundle, which is more expensive and not infrared, and the Cuisinart COS-244 Vertical 36″ Propane Smoker, which is similar in price and functionality but also not infrared.

Finally, consider your own size and capabilities. When reading the initial specs, the weight says 22.68 pounds. But reading further, it says it’s 50 pounds once constructed. When lifting it, it feels more like 50 to me, because I can’t really haul it around like other turkey fryers.

Where to Buy the Char-Broil Turkey Fryer