Thursday, November 21, 2013

Gadgets: The Turkey Canon

I was slightly disappointed that the turkey cannon ($25) does not shoot turkeys. What it is, according to the manufacturer, is beer can chicken on steroids.

Unlike shoving a beer can into a chicken and forcing it to stand upright, this lets the turkey rest at an angle. Which 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. But does it work?

I decided to use 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.

I filled the cannon with a flavored liquid and then encountered the first small hurdle - getting the turkey onto the cannon. The instructions said that turkeys over 18 pounds might need to be roasted breast-side down, but my 17-pound bird didn't fit comfortably breast-side up, so it had to roast breast-down. The turkey breast wasn't quite touching the pan, but it was close, so I propped up one end of the cannon so the turkey for sure couldn't touch the pan. Probably not necessary.

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 degrees.

After an hour in the oven, the turkey looked ... uh ... uncomfortable.

After two hours, it was getting a nice brown color, but still looked strange.

Roasting at 325 degrees, the turkey was done in about 3 hours - faster than conventional roasting, that's for sure.

Second small hurdle was getting the bird off its perch, and 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 upside down, the breast was pale, but I was more interested in how well it had cooked. This cannon can also be used on a grill, and in that case the bottom would have browned just fine. And of course a smaller bird would have perched upright so the breast would have browned. Or, I could have taken it 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 my turkey looks like it has a bald spot.

Since the cannon cooked the turkey from the inside because of the steam, cooking was much more consistent. I've had fully-cooked turkeys, measured in both breast and thigh, that had pink juices in the cavity of the turkey. This had none of that.

The meat was definitely moist - people who have only tried conventionally-roasted turkeys will be totally impressed. And the turkey cooked much faster than it would have otherwise.

So, it's 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 a whole lot more sense. And, unlike the chicken devices that shoot steam from the open end of the device, this has holes along the sides as well, so there's 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.

The product was supplied for the purpose of a review on Serious Eats; this was previously published on Serious Eats.