Behind the mountains of good-eats, quality leftovers, and familial comradery that defines Thanksgiving, is the quiet workhorse behind it all: the turkey fryer.
The holiday staple that is the classic oil fryer has long reigned as king of Thanksgiving turkey preparation. It's time-efficient method consistently produces a flavor profile unmatched by the traditional oven, and has subsequently won the approval of many cooks and their families.
This guide will seek to inform the casual chef of what to look for in a oil-less fryer when on the market, describe the versatile nature of said fryers and why versatility matters when comparing models, and finally, provide a few reviews of a few of the best oil-free turkey fryers on the market today.
Comparison Chart of the Best Oil-Less Turkey Fryers
Char-Broil The Big Easy TRU-Infrared Smoker Roaster & Grill
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Masterbuilt Butterball Oil-Free Electric Turkey Fryer and Roaster
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Avalon Bay Air Fryer
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Rosewill R-HCO-15001 Infrared Halogen Convection Oven
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Char-Broil Big Easy Oil-less Liquid Propane Turkey Fryer
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Considerations When Buying an Oil-Less Turkey Fryer
There are numerous aspects of oil-less fryers that one needs to consider when comparing any two models.
Due to the unique nature of this type of product, knowledge of traditional fryers won't help when searching for an oil-less model.
The innovative use of radiant heat, air-frying convection heat, or halogen bulb convection heat, creates incredibly versatile, usable, and efficient products that are capable of producing quality results not just with turkey, but a slew of other meats and foods.
Having established the markedly versatile nature of oil-less fryers, let us now discuss the major aspects to consider in product comparison.
The level of versatility in oil-less fryers, while a staple of the genre of fryer itself, largely depends on individual models.
It is well known, and expected, that each of the numerous different fryers on the market will produce a slightly different end product.
Following similar reasoning, it is to be expected that just because one product produces a stellar turkey or chicken, doesn't mean another product will yield the same results.
Size of Fryer
One must strongly consider the size of a model, to ensure that it is proportionate to the amount of meat you are looking to cook, it’s heating method, which directly affects meat quality and cooking time, and its source of power, which adversely affects cook time, can elicit additional expenses, and can ultimately affect food quality.
It should be noted that each fryer has its own positives and negatives. While there may be certain fryers which are critically acclaimed, that's not to say that others won't work well for certain cooks.
Quality and Matching Your Needs
When on the market for any culinary appliance, it is important to consider quality control features like those discussed above.
More importantly, it is crucial to highlight how well a particular model will work with your specific needs. One should always buy the product that best fits their personal needs or culinary dynamic, instead of what is perceived as the “nicest” model on the market.
Are all Oil-Less Fryers Ideal For Turkey?
Due to the incredibly versatile nature of these oil-less fryers, certain models outperform others when cooking different meats.
Although initially marketed for turkey, certain model's preference for versatility renders turkey frying more difficult, or at least significantly more challenging, than frying other meats.
Size is an important factor here, as most oil-less fryers have been marketed towards at-home cooks and have subsequently created a much more compact fryer. The smaller size of many oil-less fryers places a size cap on "fry-able" turkey; usually a maximum of 16 lbs.
Some electric powered models produced for indoor use are even further limited; most indoor models can’t fry a whole turkey at once.
Again, as previously mentioned, it is important to consider what one wants to get from their fryers. If the ability to cook large amounts of meat is what you desire in a fryer, looking at larger, propane based models, would be a smart choice.
While these larger models may be an inconvenience for storage, and may also warrant an uptick in energy consumption/cost to operate, one can fry a significantly larger bird much more efficiently (i.e. you don't have to cut the turkey and fry it in portions.)
It is worth noting that oil-less fryers are significantly lacking in their ability to tackle large frying loads when compared to traditional oil-fryers, and one should be conscious of this when on the market.
Willy's Top Picks - Best Oil-less Turkey Fryers
Review of the Best Oil-Less Turkey Fryers
Let's take a look at some of our top picks for the best oil-less turkey fryers!
User friendly design makes setup, cleanup and operation simple
Radiant heat can get up to 450 degrees, while still remaining safe to use
Claimed to handle up to 25lbs of turkey; some customer claim slightly less
The omission of oil makes this product significantly safer than its oil counterparts
Unmatched ability to fry numerous meats, 180 square inches of grill and a smoke box set this product apart from others
At nearly a 10-minute/lb frying speed, this fryer will take significantly longer than oil-fryers; expect to spend twice the time cooking with this model than with an oil fryer
Most customer complaints have centered around issues with the smoker; many claim lack of smoke flavor profile or complete failure of the smoker
If you're looking for a product that will drastically reduce your reliance on multiple different appliances to grill, roast, and smoke your food, then look no further than this all-in-one product from Char-Broil.
This radiant heat, or infrared, model provides at home chef's with everything they need to impress friends and family in the kitchen.
With the ability to roast, fry, grill, and smoke all contained within one compact patio grill, this all-in-one product can handle it all.
The addition of a grill and smoker truly gives this oil-less fryer its winning edge, but that is not to say it lacks in its frying ability.
Its unmatched versatility, while plenty impressive on its own, is only more impressive considering its ability to produce a crispy, flavorful turkey from even the largest birds.
Furthermore, the product has received showers of praise from critics and customers alike, citing its usability, efficiency, versatility and simplistic design.
Chefs have raved about the quality of meat that the fryer produces, as well as the design features that make setup, cleaning, and storage simple and painless.
This model is one of the best on the market; period. The unparalleled level of versatility, regardless of questionable smoker performance, makes the Big Easy TRU-Infrared Smoker Roaster & Grill by Char-broil a fantastic option for almost any chef.
This all-in-one hybrid will make your house the place to be this Thanksgiving (and every year after, at the request of your well-fed family.)
Use of wood chip box allows for unlimited flavor potential
Considerably lower than other models due to its modest profile
Convenient design makes setup, cleanup, and operation simple
Drip pan aids with cleanup but also allows for reuse of meat drippings
Likely due to its reliance on electricity, this product works slowly, many have said that it can take over 3 hours to cook one 14 lb turkey.
CA Prop 65
This product comes with a warning to all California residents that states that this particular product can expose users to harmful chemicals including carbon monoxide; which, although common, is certainly worth noting. Use caution indoors
As an alternative to the much larger, propane powered all-in-one grill above, this compact, electric turkey fryer by Masterbuilt offers high quality roast with a minimalist design.
Marketed as a healthy alternative to traditional oil-fryers, this compact product seeks to provide a high quality fried meat that is significantly lower in calories, while simultaneously striving to provide a flavor profile that is unmatched by other oil-less fryers.
The inclusion of a wood chip box beautifully illustrates this, as it allows for tremendous variability in terms of flavor combinations and chef specific creativity.
The usable design of this specific model makes operation easy, as it requires nothing more than turning a dial, allowing it to preheat, and putting the food in the roast basket.
The product listing claims that it is capable of cooking up to 18 lbs of meat, though that figure is a bit liberal. 16 lbs is the general size limit for oil-less fryers, so skepticism is warranted for any fryer that claims to be able to cook over 16 lbs.
The Butterball Oil-Free Electric Turkey Fryer and Roaster is a good option for at home cooks looking to purchase an alternative to oil fryers.
However, the use of electricity as its energy source makes the efficiency of this product suffer considerably in comparison to propane powered infrared models, and certainly in comparison to oil based fryers.
This combined with many customers complaints of frying ability, leaves this product struggling to compete with other, well-rounded models.
Nonetheless, the wood chip smoke box, and the general roasting ability of this product are noteworthy, and will certainly provide users with a high quality meat. In sum, this product is a good option to consider, though there are probably better choices on the market.
Best for the Money:
Avalon Bay Air Fryer
This small fryer offers one of the most competitive prices on the market
Incredibly simple set-up and operation is ideal makes it accessible for any cook
Products are consistently crispy on the outside, and juicy on the inside; so long as there is not much product in the basket
Smaller size may limit cooking portion, but it ensures a high quality, crispy product, size online is misleading; this product is larger than an average rice cooker
Air circulation works more efficiently than a convection oven and offers many different ways to cook food; baking set included with fryer
Metal interior has rusted within 6-12 months for many, and the product is listed under CA Prop 65 as using potentially carcinogenic materials
It isn't feasible to fry anything larger than a small/medium chicken, which defeats the purpose of a fryer for many cooks; turkeys would need to be cut into smaller portions
Unlike the fryers mentioned above, this electric fryer by Avalon Bay offers a new alternative to both traditional oil and radiant heat fryers; rapid air circulation.
Similar to convection ovens, these innovative fryers use rapid movement of heated air to thoroughly fry, grill, roast, and bake food. The versatility that is indicative of radiant heat fryers is well matched by the all-in-one air fryer.
This particular model has a capacity of 3.7 quarts, which seems rather small in comparison with other oil-less fryers on the market.
However, the cooking basket on this product has been said to have the potential to fit a small to medium full chicken, or the equivalent of two cornish hens, according to the satisfied reviews of many customers.
Despite the modest size, which, while small, can nonetheless produce high quality, healthy meats, this product has continuously outperformed competing models in customer satisfaction rating.
Capable of reaching up to 400 degrees, this fryer can produce a nice crispy, golden brown fried product out of just about anything you put in it.
Whether it's chicken, beef, potatoes, turkey, or even cake, this air-fryer can handle it.
The Avalon Bay Air Fryer, like many other oil-less fryers, offers a suitable, healthy alternative to traditional oil fryers, not for the want of food flavor or quality.
Its versatility rivals that of the top tier oil-less fryers, and its innovative air-flow technology can outperform the average household convection oven.
However, it's small, inconvenient size makes frying even the smallest of birds a challenge. Its small profile, combined with its questionable use of materials in its construction (rusting metal and carcinogens) is cause for concern among skeptical customers.
This product has been well received by many customers, as is illustrated by its Amazon rating, however, we'd argue that one can find a competing model with a larger capacity and safer materials within the same price range.
With that being said, it is worth noting that this model would do well in a kitchen environment. If smaller meals is what you want to get out of your fryer, this model might just be for you.
You won’t find a cheaper oven/fryer
Big temperature range and convection design yields many cooking styles
Halogen bulbs and convection style heating cooks food quickly and evenly
Two dials, thermostat and a timer, make this product usable for even the newest chefs
Small profile allows this model to sit comfortably on the counter without sacrificing cooking space
The quick, efficient halogen bulbs can tend to dry meat out
Halogen bulbs can burn out quickly, and they cannot be replaced at home
This product is great for general cooking/ frying, but it won’t come close to producing a flavorful, crispy product that would rival a traditional oil fryer
Another smaller alternative to the large propane fueled infrared fryers, is this small infrared, halogen convection oven by Rosewill.
This aesthetically pleasing product can quickly and efficiently produce a healthy, low calorie meal. Its large temperature range and convection oriented design allow this miniature glass oven to slow cook, steam, bake, broil, roast, grill, or fry a variety of meats, veggies, and other foods.
Its 12.6-18 quart cooking basket is considerably larger in size than most other small electric fryers, and can subsequently handle significantly more food.
In fact, this model is plenty big enough to handle a small to medium sized turkey. The use of halogen bulbs makes this product stand out from similar convection based products, as it can yield the same quality of food in a much more time-efficient manner. Some have even gone as far as to say that this model is essentially a fast, oven/microwave hybrid.
Whether that is necessarily a good thing or not, this product is deserving of consideration for those who wish to purchase a powerful counter top fryer/oven.
The Rosewill R-HCO-15001 Infrared Halogen Convection Oven is a good addition to the novice cook’s kitchen.
Its versatility, small yet efficient profile, usability, and low price point make this product an ideal option for someone looking to expand their culinary horizons.
However, for those cooks looking to get a bit higher quality fried turkey, larger, propane based oil-less fryers are the better option.
Nonetheless, this product can fry turkey, and will produce a decent quality final product on a slightly smaller scale than an outdoor, propane fryer. This product will work great for some, it just truly depends on what you want out of your fryer.
This model can easily handle 16 lbs of turkey
Like many infrared fryers, this product can cook a variety of different meats; the additional capacity for racks of ribs does stand out
Offers a flavor profile and meat quality that is undoubtedly the best on the market
Simplistic nature of infrared fryers means even the most inexperienced cook can operate it
Expect roughly 3+ hours for a 16 lb turkey; utilize your empty kitchen for other cooking tasks
A few customers have complained about the inability to adjust propane flame power
Consistently lauded as one of the best alternatives to classic oil frying by critics and chefs alike, the Big Easy Fryer by Char-Broil is easily one of the best products on the market.
Yet another infrared, radiant heat fryer, this model outperforms its adversaries in nearly every category. The voluptuous cooking basket can handle up to 16 lbs of turkey, pork, chicken, or almost any other meat.
The infrared technology used by Char-Broil ensures that your food comes out evenly cooked, with a crispy outside and a juicy, tender inside.
Though plenty capable on its own, the product comes with the addition of a meat thermometer to ensure that your thanksgiving bird has been thoroughly cooked.
Separate accessories can be purchased to further increase this product's versatility, as it can cook ribs and other meats with additional hooks or baskets.
The size, performance, and innovative technology of the Big Easy makes it the exemplary alternative to traditional oil fryers.
The Char-Broil Big Easy is a shining example of what a good oil-less fryer should be. This product does everything right. It produces a high quality, healthy product, can handle large amounts of meat, and is simple to operate.
Its price point tends to be a little higher than some other options on the market, but your investment would be easily justifiable by the quality of the product.
For those looking for a safe, dependable, and quality replacement for a traditional oil fryer, this is a can't miss product. This fryer is sure to be the star of thanksgiving and any other meal you wish to use it.
Purchasing an oil-less alternative to traditional turkey fryers is a fantastic decision for anyone who wishes to drastically improve the healthiness of their fried meats.
These versatile fryers are capable of producing some great tasting turkey, especially if you take advantage of smoke boxes, rubs and brines.
It is important to note that while oil-less fryers are a great alternative to traditional fryers, they will never deliver an exact recreation of the flavor of high calorie, deep fried meat.
What these products do offer is a considerably healthier product, with its own unique flavor profiles, improved safety and usability, and unmatched versatility in terms of its function.
Many of these fryers can effectively replace half of your kitchen. To conclude, it is very important that you look at each model wholistically when on the market.
Remember to compare your own personal needs with what each model can offer, and choose a fryer that most closely fits your culinary dynamic.