Top critical review
Things I wish I'd known
December 10, 2017
(One note: I wanted the 14 lb unit, which is what I received, but what Amazon shows I bought is identified as the 20 lb unit. I expected the 20 lb but bought it because it was much cheaper than the smaller unit. So somehow they sent me the wrong one but it was what I wanted anyway. So that's why there's a discrepancy in my review.)
I’d never do a whole turkey any other way again. The entire bird was evenly cooked, with crisp delicious skin everywhere, and the dark meat was appealing in a way seldom seen.
But here are the things I wish I’d thought of first.
(I have the smaller 14-lb unit, but much of what I have to report can be extrapolated for the larger units.)
You need a pair of protective gloves, which really should go without saying.
Then, stop by your grocery store and price the oil. The small unit uses “just under” 2 gallons of oil. (I had just over a quart of unused left, which I transferred to a canning jar for other use.) Where I live, peanut oil (generally suggested for turkeys but not the cheapest available) goes for $12-16 per gallon. If you store it properly, it can be used again. Do your own research and make your own decisions, but the conclusion that I came to was that if properly cooled, sieved, strained, and refrigerated, I’d get three additional rounds out of it.
The max fill line is stamped in the vat, and is basically invisible, so be sure to have a flashlight on hand. It will also be useful for the black-on-black printing on the drain valve. (Masterbilt, if you are reading this – do something about both of these.)
The oil takes 5 hours to cool after frying, so be sure to schedule that in. I fried a 9.5 pound turkey on a Saturday afternoon, but had no desire to be cleaning up at 9 PM, so let the oil cool overnight.
The unit design includes a drain spout with extender, but the extender is too short to hang over elevated sink lips, so some creativity is required here. I have a small folding table that sits lower than the counter top and worked nicely.
The page that I used as an oil prep/storage reference called for sieving and then running the oil through a cheesecloth. I had cheesecloth on hand but found that sieving twice worked well. The first pass was from the unit through a large bowl-style sieve sitting inside a larger mixing bowl, and the second pass was from the bowl through a smaller, finer mesh handheld sieve into the original oil containers. The mixing bowl I used was lightweight stainless steel with an excellent handle on it, which I think made a huge difference. However, the drain spout has an open/close valve, so you can work in any size batch you want. I did have to remove the lid and tip the unit forward to get most of the last of the oil left, but there was still a good quarter cup for me to sop up with paper towels.
Conveniently, the two gallon jugs with the used peanut oil fit in the bottom door shelf of my refrigerator, which I wasn’t using for much anyway. I’ve marked them with a Sharpie to track usage. You also have to figure out how to dispose of that much (or more, for the larger units) used cooking oil where you live.
That left cleanup. The basket and lifter are not recommended for the dishwasher, but cleaned up easily enough with a soapy sponge. The heating element was a massive pain in the neck to clean, and the all-black interior of the vat made that a special kind of joy.
This is not an undertaking for a small kitchen. The unit will not fit under wall-hung cabinets, and is almost two feet wide. The power cord is intentionally short for safety reasons, and it cannot be used with an extension cord. (The unit will not get enough power.) You also have to be careful not to jostle the cord. It’s a magnetic catch (again for safety reasons) and it doesn’t take much pressure to release. You can just plug it in and everything is fine, but if you aren’t paying attention…
I have a pretty big kitchen, so everything worked out okay, but literally not one of my friends has a kitchen that would work. Even if they have counter space and outlets, there are hanging cabinets.
There is a mild odor of oil. I have three windows and French doors in my kitchen, and am still airing it out the next morning. The person who took care of the lifting (more below) reported later that he stank of oil, and took a shower and changed clothes before dinner. (Presumably if I had not deferred the cleaning, the oil scent wouldn’t have lingered into the next morning, but I did have the windows open all night, in December, to alleviate that.)
Additionally, you must lift the bird straight down into literal boiling oil. The unit is 14” tall and the basket with handle extended and lifter attached is another 21”. That means that you must be able to lift and maneuver the basket (with a turkey in it) using the lifter, all on top of a 32-36” counter.
So: unit, gloves, $30 worth of oil, and a place to store all of the above. Flashlight, mixing bowl, assorted sieves, funnel, possibly cheesecloth, possibly more stuff. Oil disposal. 5 hours to cool, plus at least an hour (closer to two) to drain and clean.
I said I’d never cook a whole turkey any other way, but the reality is that I can do a whole bone-in breast in my oven with less work and less mess. I’ll probably use the fryer a few more times until I’ve used up all the peanut oil, then give it away. It’s a perfectly good device, but it doesn’t fit in my life (or my kitchen).