It’s true, Butterball has done what they have never before allowed – they are endorsing and allowing their great brand name to be associated with, of all things, an indoor electric turkey fryer.  Please, I beg you, don’t stop reading now, just because the idea of frying a turkey may not be appealing to you.  I was in your camp at one time, but no more.

It was back in March of 2009 that I attended the International Home and Housewares Show in Chicago.  One of the highlights for me was attending a luncheon for the purpose of demonstrating a new product with the Butterball name on it. ONLY because of the attachment of that great brand name did I commit to attend.  I am so glad I did.

It was among the best tasting, juiciest, most moist and awesome turkey I had ever eaten.  And, it was NOT at all greasy or oily.  Well, how about that!

I learned all about the company that is making the product, a well-regarded maker of such products called Masterbuilt. Their people were in attendance and also told their story, which was one of patience and determination, for they knew the product was great.  The Butterball brand is sacred, among the best known, best loved and trusted brands in America, and they just didn’t want to screw it up by hooking up with a company, with a product that could in any way tarnish that valued, hallowed name. I don’t blame them at all.

Well, the Butterball folks were charmed, as were we, and the marriage was set.  We also met some of the wonderful Butterball ladies who are the ones YOU and I speak with when we call, millions of us throughout the years, each year throughout November and December, year in and year out.  These brave and talented ladies staff the famous Butterball hotline, their Turkey Talk-Line®, a free service of Butterball that has been around as long as I can recall.  Call them at 1-800-BUTTERBALL (1-800-288-8372), by the way.

The Butterball turkey experts sell more turkeys than anyone and they also know more than anyone else on the subject.  More important, they are trusted by Americans to get the facts out there and to be right. After all, it is their goal to make our turkey dinners the best they can be, hopefully, with a Butterball turkey, but they will help any caller.

So, imagine the pressure of taking on a specific recommended product, something as fraught with peril as a turkey fryer, and allowing the Butterball name to be associated with it.  You just know it has to be a great product even before walking in the door.  And so it was.

This indoor electric turkey fryer is relatively compact and will comfortably sit on your kitchen counter or powered island to cook a wonderful bird up to 14 pounds, enough for at least eight people. The fryer uses only two gallons of (preferred) peanut oil to cook the turkey instead of more at least one gallon more as others do, and because it is electric and not propane- or natural gas-powered, it is safe for this unusual indoor use.  Oh, and it only consumes about 40 cents of electricity!  The turkey will be fully cooked in about 48 minutes.  This is quite incredible.

There is a folding lid with a window for easy viewing as well as a grease filter. There’s a drain valve and removable porcelain coated inner pot for easy cleaning IN THE DISHWASHER, of course.  The outer shell is stainless steel and should retain its good looks for many years to come. Safety features include a thermostat temperature control that prevents overheating as well as a digital timer that helps cook the turkey just right.  I also like that the frying basket can be hooked to the inside top rim to allow draining back into the well for a few minutes before the fried item is removed with the basket.  It’s just not messy, as I had thought it would be.

These are the basics, except for the great price. You will find the Butterball Electric Indoor Turkey Fryer selling for between about $119 and $159, and available from retailers including Academy Sports, Bass Pro Shop, Cabela’s, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Farmer’s Home, Gander Mountain, K-Mart, Kroger, Lowe’s, Menards, Publix, Rural King, Sears, Shop Rite, Sports Authority, SuperValu and Weis Markets. It is also available for purchase at www.masterbuilt.comamazon.com and www.walmart.com.

Avail yourselves of all the great FREE help that Butterball has to offer, as well.  They feature podcasts, recipes that go waaaaay beyond turkey, products and other information of such depth that you just have to check it out. If you screw up your holiday meals, why, you just did not get help to avoid it from Butterball!  Click here to visit Butterball online and then click on that page, at the left near the top to see recipes and ideas, tips & how-tos, and products, plus a section for new cooks and one for kids.  It’s all done to help us get the most from our efforts and to make things as easy and enjoyable as possible.

Remember, this is not a one-trick-pony, either.  The fryer is not just for making turkey!  Here are recipes from Masterbuilt.  You can use this new electric fryer throughout the year because it is an indoor item.  From desserts to tempura, pork chops to fried chicken and on and on and on and on.  You will learn that the oil may be re-used a few times, making it economical to use. You will learn about unique design elements that make this fryer not only easy to use, and not messy to use, but as safe as it gets.

I hope I’ve left you with the desire to investigate further.  I will tell you this:  Though I could have used other means by which to prepare our family turkey this year, I am looking forward to making the family skeptics eat their words, or at least presenting them the best turkey we’ve ever had. I am using this new Butterball Electric Turkey Fryer next week on Thanksgiving here at Gadget Central.  I am always in charge of the turkey and stuffing.  Mrs. Gadget always expertly prepares the rest of the menu items. We are traditionalists as far as what we serve, which will continue this year.  However, after Thanksgiving, I plan on using the Butterball Fryer for many things. I want to explore and have fun and I know the family will be only too glad to come along for that journey.

I hope you will do the same, if not in time for this Thanksgiving, then soon after. There is still time to get one for holiday fun before the end of the year!

December 3, 2009 – UPDATE:

Here is my after-Thanksgiving reality check and update – I am on a short break during my 15-city national High Tech Holidays with Mr. Gadget® tour, so I thought it would be helpful to update you on our Thanksgiving turkey experience using the Butterball Indoor Electric Turkey Fryer.

I followed directions, sort of! I removed the turkey from the fridge more than an hour before it would be ready for its peanut oil dunking.

Next, it was time to get the fryer set up.  I chose to do this on our breakfast room table, off to the side in the kitchen.  Mrs. Gadget was skeptical of having the Fryer in the house, but I persisted.  Assembly was easy and uneventful.  Of particular note is the power cord assembly and its attachment to the fryer.  Smartly, it uses a magnetic attachment to the unit.  This is similar to the way Apple computer laptops connect with their power cords, also by magnetic attachment.  In this way, if there is any reason why the cord should be stressed, it will not take down the fryer (or the computer).  Rather, it simply disconnects and also will not damage the fryer or computer.  In the case of the fryer, the magnetic attraction is not as great as what is required to hold and keep in place the heavy-ish connector if the cord is left to dangle.  So, it became apparent that the gap from fryer to electrical outlet should be supported and blocked off to avoid accidental disconnection.  Also of note is the fact that the cord itself is rather short, just three feet in length.  This follows along with the admonition that the use of an extension cord is NOT recommended.

These issues present some interesting operational considerations.  First, it is noted that, due to the power cord situation, the fryer need be placed within three feet of the electrical outlet.  The reason why an extension cord is not recommended has to do with an electrical loss that can occur over long runs of an extension cord.  In addition, the amount of power, the amps, in particular, is significant.  In simple terms, that’s a lot of juice, and were one to use a common household extension cord, there would be a tremendous amount of heat generated within that cord.  In addition, there would be a loss of power through a longer cord, and particularly one of incorrect type; a loss of the amperes needed to drive that fryer. If the loss is significant enough, then there would not only be high heat to contend with in the cord but also less than required power to heat and maintain the oil at proper frying temp.  As it is, the three-foot electrical cord gets quite warm, though not unsafely so.  I did not have an electrical outlet near the table on which I wanted to fry our turkey.  I had a solution, however, that I do not recommend to others.

I have many tools at my disposal here at Gadget Central.  Among them is an assortment of heavy-duty extension cords, including what are often called “air conditioner” extensions.  These are six-foot very heavy gauge cords needed for not only high-power 12-volt air conditioning units, but also for clothes dryers, ovens and other high-drain items.  I connected this special cord I knew would do as was needed, supported the cord at the fryer to avoid accidental disconnection and proceeded.

I had previously purchased the peanut oil at Costco.  This fryer needs only two gallons for its work, whereas traditional fryers require anywhere from three to five gallons.  This is just a smaller capacity fryer! The peanut oil was relatively expensive as compared with canola oil, but I decided to do as suggested, using the preferred oil for the purpose.

Mrs. Gadget suggested that I put a piece of aluminum foil under the fryer, just in case of calamity, so that is what I did.  Now, I checked the assembly.  (Have a look at the instruction manual.  What follows will make more sense to you with this for reference.)  The heating element is part of a hang-on attachment.  It slides down to securely stay in place on the outside of the fryer, while the heating element itself goes out from the top, over and down into the metal “bucket” into which the oil is poured.  The basket that holds the bird is lowered into the oil and rests in its pre-determined place.

There is a digital timer, powered by its own internal, replaceable battery as part of the heating element assembly.  I used one of the timers built into our oven as my timer instead.

With the magnetic plug secured, I poured in the oil, right up to its maximum fill line, as prescribed. The temp knob was set to its proper spot, the maximum 375º mark.  And now, I waited the predicted 35 minutes for the oil to reach the preset temperature, which would be known when the lighted indicator so advised. The lid remained closed during this warm-up period.

During the warm up, this is the time directions call for bathing the bird in warm water in the sink to bring it to room temp before plunging it in the hot oil.  I uncovered the bird, freeing it from its packaging.  The innards were removed and remaining feathers were extracted.  On birds with a plastic mechanism for tucking the legs into the cavity, this plastic must be removed prior to frying.  Plastics do not go into a deep fryer!  Then, into the sink she went.  I changed the sink water ever few minutes, feeling inside the bird for what could be perceived as room temperature.

That accomplished, I plucked the turkey from the sink and placed it on my cutting board, then dried it as thoroughly as possible, inside and out.  I could see that this turkey was going to require a considerable amount of a roll of paper towels!

Now, it was time to season. Sure, season away, inside and out!  The oil will seal in the seasoning.

Next, it was time to stuff the bird into the basket that would be its vessel by which it would enter the hot oil.  This is one reason directions call for no more than a 14-pound turkey to be cooked in the Butterball fryer.  It was a tight fit, but I did it.

Now, it was time to open the fryer lid and to slowly lower the bird-in-basket into the oil.  Here is where the operation becomes a bit delicate.  Oil and water do not mix, so to avoid splattering, the bird gets dried.  However, it is impossible to get ALL water moisture off the bird.  Safety is key here, so it is recommended by me and seen in video demos to wear strong, long (to the elbow) silicone rubber gloves when lowering the basket into the oil.  I have no such gloves.  Instead I used my Tucker BurnGuard oven mitts made of Nomex with VaporGuard™, which were not the best choice, but were my only option.  I am going to buy those $10 gloves!

As the basket was slowly lowered into the 375º peanut oil, the sizzling started as soon as the flesh (the bird’s, not mine) met the oil, and then some splattering occurred, attributable to the turkey not being as dry as I had thought!  Then came some residual spattering so as to drop little plops of oil on the table, beyond the foil.  Nearby items on the table were splashed with the oil.

I felt nothing through the protective gloves, though they did receive and absorb a bit of the splashed oil.  Now, it was time to set the timer, which, at 4-minutes per pound figured to be 56 minutes. I closed the lid and went on to other duties.  That’s right, about 56 minutes for a 14-pound turkey.

I did not choose to use a meat thermometer to check for doneness once the basket was lifted.  It just looked cooked!  Instructions call for the bird-in-a-basket to rest for 10 minutes above the well using the basket’s built-in side clip, which permits it to rest in this fashion.

Rest time was over, so I brought the basket with bird still inside over to the area where it would be carved.  Once extracted, it was time to carve. I used a traditional long slicing knife and went to work.  If this was not the best turkey ever, it was certainly high on that list, very near its top.  It could have finished frying about three to five minutes sooner, but I am not complaining.

It was moist and tender throughout and the seasoning remained intact. There was not a hint of oiliness or greasiness.  Everyone enjoyed that bird, and the rest of our traditional fare, especially my specialty of traditional bread stuffing/dressing.  Remember, a fried turkey cannot be stuffed, according to everything I have read.  Besides, I cannot imagine that stuffing would not absorb loads of that oil.

The turkey fried up fast and easy, and save for the minor oil splashes when it was lowered into the hot oil, there was no more mess to this point.  All during dinner, the fryer was turned off and the plug was removed.  The lid was open so the oil could cool before draining and cleaning.

I was pleased to have used this fryer instead of the oven.  Frying the turkey meant the oven was available for other duties!

Now, a few hours later, it was time to clean up. The basket washed easily without stuck-on problems.  Emptying the “bucket” of the peanut oil was also easy, though I was without previous practice.  There is a lower corner cover that is removed to reveal the drain spout. Also, this cover stores the cord and the drain spout extension when not in use. I screwed on the spout extension, the end of which turns down.

I was prepared for this, having purchased at the market a 2.5-gallon jug of the least expensive water to be found. Why the jug?  Directions specify that the peanut oil may easily, safely be reused a couple more times, so I did not want to pour nearly two gallons of used oil on top of the fresh and unused three gallons remaining in the original container.

Out went the water and off went the jug’s snap-on spout, leaving it to dry for several hours. I positioned the jug on a chair, with its opening just below the down-turned drain extension.  Fortunately, the fit was just right, from the fryer on the table top to the height of the chair on which the jug rested. I opened the valve and oil started flowing.  As the level neared the bottom of the fry bucket, I could see that the drain hole was not at the lowest level in the bucket.  This meant that I would have to tilt the fryer to allow the remaining oil to escape from the drain.  As I started to do this, I was unable to stop myself in time to prevent a spill. Not, from below, but from the top rim around the bucket.  I had not paid adequate attention to this area and its relevance to clean up and draining, though I knew it was there.  I goofed! I will know better next time.

This rim has several small “wells” into which oil that may splash up against the inside of the lid may go.  The wells prevent oil from getting outside of the fryer.  I should have been more observant!  Now, I had some added cleanup to do, in the spills and from what remained in those wells around the top before I could safely tip the fryer to empty most of the remaining oil.

Even after tipping, some oil remained.  I closed the drain valve and removed the extension.  Now, I removed the lid assembly with its two spring-loaded buttons and into the sink it all went.  Soap and water cleaned it up just fine.  The lid also has a perforated foil “filter” where the lid split is located. This was soaked in warm, soapy water and came out clean.

The heating element assembly came off next.  Only the metal rods may be immersed in water.  These cleaned easily, as well.  Now, free of anything above it, the bucket came out.  This took a bit of elbow grease to clean thoroughly, but it cleaned up fine.  What remained was to sop up what remained of oil residue in that “moat” around the top. Paper towels did this nicely, and with a spritz or two or three of a natural cleaner, the outside was shiny and new again.

Next time, I will try using the dishwasher to clean up the parts that are safely washed there, which does not include the foil filter or the heating elements and controls.  Now, it’s back in its box, in the garage and awaiting the end of the season and this tour, and then CES (the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas) and another round of post-CES travel.  Then, it’s out of the box and more fun with this fryer.

I might also consider a tabletop outside in our back yard as the cooking location.  We have power outlets available and, weather permitting that might be a better, neater choice.

On balance, yes, using the Butterball Indoor Electric Turkey Fryer freed the oven for other uses at this season.  I will have to be more careful when loading it with a large item to avoid splattering. My sense of the entire usage model is that it requires more cleanup than using a covered pan in the oven, but you just can’t beat the overall ease of use and short cooking time this method provides.  A disadvantage to some might be the loss of the ability to stuff the bird.  And then there is all that oil to store and care for, and to ultimately dispose of. I will have to ask neighbors with diesel engine cars if they want it!

Let us also not overlook the issue of storage when not in use.  Yes, this, too, is a genuine concern, as with any new appliance or gadget.  It cannot just be tucked away in a cupboard. The likely place to keep one of these is in a garage or storage locker and then it is not the easiest to unpack and to make ready for use.

As with so many other things in life, there is no free lunch.  You don’t get something for nothing and life is full of compromises and tradeoffs.  I value the tradeoffs here.  There is overall effort to using this over traditional methods, but the flavor and the moistness of the white meat cannot be overlooked.  What do you value?  Easier to cook, shorter cooking time and more cleanup effort on top of a unique and pleasing taste is what it all boils down to here.  The investment is all the more worthwhile if the fryer will be used for more than one or two turkeys each year, and this requires a sea change in one’s lifestyle.

As I wrote earlier, I will look forward to making more goodies in the fryer, whether they be with oil or as a steamer, since it will work equally well in this capacity as it does frying foods.  I hope I can convince my family to try donuts, fried onions, tempura, other meats and so on. I wonder if it would be fun to come up with some of those really decadent and unhealthy concoctions found at state and county fairs – fried butter, fried ice cream, fried candy bars and Twinkies!  Well, I can dream, can’t I? Cleanup from those other treats should be much easier than from making the turkey!

And as of the 2010 season, there is now an XL model, capable of accommodating a turkey up to 20 pounds!

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