For this week’s review I was sent the Orion Cooker from Christian Fitzgerald, President of Orion Outdoors, Inc.
Orion Outdoors is an outdoor consumer products company focused on bringing innovative product solutions to the outdoor living market. Founded in 2004, when they introduced their flagship product the Orion Cooker. Orion Outdoors is based in Atlanta, GA with products sold in over 2500 retail locations across America.
The Orion Cooker is constructed of solid stainless steel. It’s also an outdoor convection cooker that uses 3 cooking processes simultaneously: convection, steam and smoke.
The Orion Cooker has extremely fast cooking times, such as the ones listed on it’s box in the picture below.
After removing all the contents of the box, it took very little time to put the Orion Cooker together.
Below is a picture of the inside of the Orion Cooker with the grates removed.
The Orion Cooker comes with 3 cooking grates which offers 3 levels of cooking space and provides 398 square inches of cooking surface. The picture below shows 2 of the 3 grates installed and the last grate would sit on top of the holders for the 3 rib hangers. All the included attachments are manufactured out of food grade stainless steel.
The 3 rib hangers allow you to cook up to 6 racks of ribs at a time.
Below are 2 pictures of the ash removal door. The ash removal door allows for easier cleanup.
With the Orion Cooker fully assembled it was time to cook some meat.
My family was in the mood for some pulled pork (that’s a shock, lol), so I picked up a 7lb pork butt for the first cook on the Orion Cooker.
Once the water pan was foiled, I placed cherry wood chips around the outside of the water pan against the outer edge of the cooking chamber. This way the wood chips are in close proximity to the burning coals outside which will cause them to smolder. I then installed the grate and placed the pork butt inside the Orion Cooker. I did notice there was more than enough room for another 7lb pork butt.
For most foods you cook on the Orion Cooker you can just foil the water pan because of all the natural moisture that occurs during the convection cooking process. They do, however; recommend using liquids in the water pan when cooking brisket and seafood.
I then paced the lid on the Orion Cooker and filled the lower charcoal ring with a 12.5lb bag of Kingsford Match Light Briquettes. I also made sure to save back 10-12 briquettes to place in the upper charcoal ring on the lid. I know what you are thinking…but wait, that is going to make the meat taste like lighter fluid using those briquettes. Worry not my friends, the completely enclosed cooking chamber of the Orion Cooker separates the flame and smoke of the Match Light Briquettes from the meat inside.
As stated in the Owner’s Manual & Cookbook, it is highly recommended to use the Orion Cooker in a safe cooking area away from buildings, dry leaves, or any combustible materials. You want to also make sure to keep children and pets away from the cooking area as well. This is mainly because of the flames and heat from the Match Light Briquettes at the start of the cook.
Once the charcoal was lit, it was hands off cooking for the remainder of the cook. The reason for this is that the indirect heat from the charcoal creates a constant convection current that circulates within the Orion Cooker and cooks the meat quickly and evenly. If you remove the lid during this process, the convection current will be lost and your cook time will be increased. I also knew from looking at the Owner’s Manual & Cookbook that the cooking time for a 6-7lb butt was approximately 4 1/2 hours.
You can see in the picture below that there really isn’t any kind of smoke ring showing up in the pulled pork. I contribute this to the convection process of cooking the meat. I don’t believe enough smoke penetrates the interior of the meat to create a smoke ring. I also think that’s why the Orion Cooker is called a cooker, rather than a smoker.
I was really impressed with how moist and flavorful the pulled pork tasted. I also contribute that great flavor to one of my favorite rubs I used on the pork butt, Draper’s BBQ A.P. Rub.
Our daughter was also a big fan of the pulled pork. 🙂
Below is a demo video of my pork butt cook on the Orion Cooker.
Next up for the Orion Cooker was a 15lb turkey. The Orion Cooker comes with a poultry stand and lifting handle which holds up to a 24 pound turkey.
I took this cool night shot below of the Orion Cooker while the turkey was cooking for it’s 1hr 45min cook.
Once the recommended cooking time was up, I checked the turkey with my Red (fastest color ever made) Thermapen. It showed the temp around 175 degrees.
Then it was time to take the turkey out of the Orion Cooker and into the house to slice for our yummy meal.
I would have to say this was some of the juiciest turkey that I have eaten in a long time. I could also taste more of the smoke in the turkey since I used apple wood chips and more of them for this cook.
Last but certainly not least, I was eager to cook some slabs of ribs and try out the rib hangers.
I dry rubbed 2 slabs of St. Louis style ribs and then hung them from 2 of the rib hangers for their 1hr 15min cook.
Once the recommended cooking time was up, I spot checked the temp of the ribs with my Thermapen and it showed around 190 degrees. You may ask yourself why would Jay need to check the temp of his ribs….I did this because it was my first time cooking ribs and I also wanted to make sure they were up to proper temp since my 3 year old was eating them as well.
Here is a great blog post by Jesse Black from ThermoWorks on the topic of checking the temp of your ribs: “To temp, or not to temp: Cooking ribs with the Super-Fast Thermapen”
In the picture below you will see some little black trickles of moisture which have caused discoloration on the outside of my Orion Cooker. This is normal due to the heat and ash from the coals on the outside and this will in no way diminish the quality or performance of the Orion Cooker. In fact, the Orion Cooker community considers this a right of passage which many of the owners like to show off when they meet up for Big “O” Cookouts.
The ribs were wonderful and had great flavor. I used cherry wood chips for this cook and I could taste a slight hint of that in the ribs and I also contribute that great flavor to another one of my favorite rubs I used, Socks’ Love Rub Original Seasoning.
I was extremely impressed with how well the Orion Cooker worked. All the food I cooked for my review turned out superb! Plus the cooking times listed in the Owner’s Manual & Cookbook were spot on. I look forward to trying out some of the great recipes listed in the cookbook section of the manual, which were submitted to Orion Outdoors, Inc. by Orion Cooker owners.
I feel this is a great cooker for any backyard griller like myself that doesn’t always want to spend all day cooking food. It’s also great for when you have friends or family over for a cookout or even a Super Bowl Party and want something you can cook a lot of meat on in a fraction of the time.
I could only think of a few things that may be considered negative about the Orion Cooker. The first one is the Orion Cooker consumes large amounts of fuel. I used a full 12.5lb bag of Kingsford Match Light Briquettes for all 3 cooks. I did see in the Owner’s Manual & Cookbook that for smaller cuts of meat or smaller quantities of food, less charcoal can be used. When less charcoal is used, just make sure that the charcoal briquettes in the lower charcoal ring are touching the cooking cylinder.
The second thing is the somewhat lack of smoke that is generated inside the Orion Cooker. I did notice that after adding more wood chips for the turkey and rib cook that the meat had a little more of a smoke flavor present.
The last thing that some may consider a negative is the fact that you can’t easily check the temp of the meat with a thermometer during the cook. I thought this may also be an issue for me, but once I cooked these three different meats it was clear that as long as you follow the cook times listed in the Owner’s Manual & Cookbook your meat should be up to proper temp.
You can find a great deal on the Orion Cooker here.
Make sure to check back next week for another great BBQ Tools & Tech Review!