Just found yet another use for my turkey burner. Roasting chile peppers! Worked flawlessly and was a heck of a lot easier than a plumber’s torch.
This kind of gas burner is just incredibly useful for anyone who enjoys cooking. It is designed to be able to heat a pot of grease up to the 350°F necessary to deep fry a turkey (which I have never tried). Thus, the burners put out a truly awesome amount of heat!
Note: The Underwriter’s Laboratory will not certify turkey fryers at all. Why? Because people are stupid and need to be protected from themselves when using powerful tools. When frying, it is terribly easy to cause a grease fire. So, fry away from your house and use the nifty good-eats style turkey crane. And have a grease friendly fire extinguisher on hand.
Or just do what I do and don’t actually fry turkeys on it!
You can find the burners at any decent hardware store. If you do, make sure it has a few features (all of which the burner at left has — except the pot):
- Flat Top Surface
- The top of the burner should be flat. This is critical if you want to put something on it that is
burgerbigger than the burner (like a grill). Yes, I was hungry when I wrote this.
- Cast Two-Piece Burner
- The burner, itself, should be two pieces of cast iron held together by a bolt through the middle. The burner will get stuff spilled on it and it will rust or corrode. The two piece design makes it trivial to take it apart for cleaning. A wire brush on an electric drill makes cleaning trivial.
- Adjustable Air Vents
- This is needed to be able to tune the flame. Not just for maximum heat output, but sometimes also for maximum flame height.
- Long hose with valve on or after regulator
- The gas coming out of the tank is relatively high pressure. The burner’s secondary regulator will take care of regulating down to something more reasonable. The valve after or integrated into the regulator is critical because the pressure off the tank, while high, will change considerably as the tank empties. That and it is nearly impossible to make fine adjustments on the high pressure side of the line.
- Stainless Steel Pot
- If you get a kit, try to find one with a stainless steel pot. It will last longer and corrode less than aluminum.
- Stable Design
- Some burners have legs that go straight down or are relatively tall. Stupid. Ideally, you want a three or four legged burner with relatively wide set legs. If three legs, they should spread quite wide for stability (like the one to the left).
OK — so you have the beast of a burner. What can you do with it? I’m sure there is more — comments welcome — but these are just some of the things I have done with mine:
- Crab Boil
- Well, duh!
- The burner does a wonderful job of quickly bringing a large volume of water up to boil.
- Charcoal Lighter
- I like using a chimney starter, but no longer have a consistent source of newspaper to stuff in it. I simply toss the chimney starter on top of the turkey burner and it’ll get the coals up to temp in short order and a lot less smoke.
- Cooking in a Wok
- You can find a really large cast iron wok for less than $30. The turkey burner spits enough BTUs to generate the extreme heat required for proper asian stir fries and the like.
- Seasoning Cast Iron
- Properly seasoning cast iron requires taking a high heat oil up to its smoke point in the pan. This can be dangerous as it is quite easy to go too far and end up with an oil fire. Even if you don’t end up with a fire, it is stinky and using a turkey burner gets the stink out of the house. Which brings me…
- Get the Mess & Stink Out of The House
- A number of open-pan recipes — usually involving frying — will often leave a bit of a funk in the house. Or they just darned messy. The turkey burner works great as a high-heat stove burner. If your pan is too small to fit without fear of falling in, toss a grill on top of the burner, under the pan. Obviously, this works very well for deep or shallow frying.
- Skinning Chile Peppers
- Toss a grill on the burner and fire it up with a nice tall flame that comes through the grill. Roll peppers around in the flame until blackened on the outside, then toss ‘em into a paper bag and fold over the top and let them sit for 10 to 15 minutes. If done right — it isn’t hard — the skins will wipe off with a towel.
I’m sure I’ll discover tons of other uses over the coming years.