Orion Cooker

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.

Once the 4 1/2 hours were up, I removed the lid and checked the temp of the pork butt. My Thermapen showed the butt was around 185 degrees, so it was time to pull it with my new Ro-Man Pork Puller.

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.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O7h-wkG8Y88&w=500&h=284]

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.

Final Thoughts

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.

For more information on the Orion Cooker please visit their Facebook & Twitter pages as well as their Website and Forum.

Make sure to check back next week for another great BBQ Tools & Tech Review!

Thanks!
Jay Prince
@Prince_of_Q

BBQ Tools & Tech Reviewer @ BBQSauceReviews.com

Comments

  1. Looks interesting. How much these puppies cost?

    • Thanks for the comment Carlye! You can usually find them online for around $160-$170. I have found them locally for a little less. You can also find out more info on the Orion Cooker website as well.

      Thanks again!

      Jay

  2. Are you limited to using wood chips, or is it possible to use smaller wood chunks? How hard is it to add new wood chips in the case of cooking a larger protein?

    • Thanks for the questions Wayne!

      You pretty much want to use wood chips since they are mainly used to get a smoke flavor in the meat your cooking and not to cook the meat itself. Plus wood chunks wouldn’t fit between the drip/water pan and the inside wall of the cooker. I have also heard of people using wood pellets as well.

      With the Orion Cooker you pretty much place whatever meats you want to cook inside, then put the lid on and light the Match Light Briquettes. Then once the recommended cook time is done your meat should be up to proper temp and ready to go. If you remove the lid during this process, the convection current will be lost and your cook time will be increased.

      Thanks again for the questions Wayne!

      Jay

  3. The Orion cooker is a shiny good looking cooker. I personally know two people that have purchased them. They were fun at first but did not deliver in the smoke department. The meat steams more than smokes. There is no way to control the temperature and they burn through a lot of fuel/charcoal. They both have been put in the back of the garage after several months of use. They are fun looking.

    • Thanks for leaving a comment Chilebrown!

      You can get some smoke flavor from using wood chips, but you have to keep in mind that this is a convection style cooker and not a true smoker.

      Also you really don’t need to worry about controlling the temperature of the Orion Cooker. Just follow the Owner’s Manual & Cookbook and use the amount of Match Light Briquettes that it calls for and cook the meat for the recommended times and you should pretty much have the same results every cook like I have thus far.

      This is also a great product for people like myself that don’t always have the time to devote to an all day cook. You really can’t beat being able to cook a 15lb turkey in 1hr 45mins or a 3-4lb Chicken in 1hr 10mins or even 2 6-7lb Pork Butts in 4 1/2hrs. For me it boils down to getting to spend more time with my family and friends and less time spent watching/tending my cooker. The days I do feel like relaxing outside with a cold one and having that nice long cook time to myself I will use my WSM to cook on. Either way the Orion Cooker produces some pretty great product. Also with its low price its well worth buying in my opinion!

      Thanks again for leaving a comment Chilebrown!

      Jay

  4. I had an Orion and I found it to be a stellar poultry cooker. It does use A LOT of charcoal and takes forever to cool down. Plus, who wants to smell fluid-impregnated coals burning?

    • Thanks for leaving a comment John!

      Yeah, I am not a big fan of that smell either 😉 The good thing is the charcoal is on the outside of the cooker so the chemicals from the Match Light doesn’t compromise the flavor of the meat inside.

      Thanks again John!

      Jay

  5. Great Post! That’s the most unique cooker I’ve ever seen. Thank you so much for the mention in your use of Socks’ Love Rub. Let me know if you need some more 🙂

  6. Kevin Byrd says:

    Awesome review Jay. That turkey look really good and it looks like it would be an awesome and quick way to cook a turkey.

  7. As you get use to using the Orion you will find you can cook with less than 12 lbs of charcoal. The larger size charcoal bricks work better. You will also find you do not necessarily need the more costly Matchlight charcoal if the bricks are soaked well or mixed 50/50 with Matchlight. As far as smoke…most people I know think you have to go light on the wood chips because little smoke escapes. I found this to be true unless you are a heavy smoke fan. I love this cooker. Perfect food every time..that should be their catch phrase!

    • Thanks for the tip Rich! I’ll have to give that a try soon. My family and I really enjoy using the Orion Cooker and it’s a fantastic product too! Thanks for leaving a comment.

      ~Jay

  8. Jim Park says:

    In support of the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life I want to offer pork sliders and snacks. I want to do 6 Boston Butts (2 per rack) in my Orion. Manual says 1 butt for 3 1/2 hrs and 2 butts for 4 1/2 hrs. Any thought about how long it should take to do 6 butts? Any suggestions will be appreciated. Thanks – jp

    • Thanks for leaving a comment Jim! That is a great cause you’re supporting and also very close to my heart! I have never cooked that many butts at once on the Orion Cooker, so I am not really sure on the cooking times for that amount. I would go to the contact page for Orion Cooker at the link below and they should definitely be able to answer that question for you. Sorry I couldn’t be of more help Jim. Good luck to you with that cook at Relay for Life!

      http://www.theorioncooker.com/contact/contact.php

      Thanks again!
      Jay Prince

  9. I’ve been using an Orion for the last 2 years on the prodding from a friend. Oysters and seafood are incredible when smoked with a little white wine in the drip tray. Poultry is unbeatable and
    as tender as you will find. Ribs have a great flavor, and as far as a smoke ring if so desired, I put them on my weber for 10 minutes when I pull them off the Orion. No hassle checking the grill every 15 minutes like a regular BBQ. I did stop at Bed Bath and Beyond and bought a remote thermostat so I can work in the shop as I’m cooking dinner. I just drilled a small hole in the rib of the Orion below the lid, I’m the envy of all my buddies!

  10. I’ve had my Orion for a couple years now. LOVE it! Can’t go wrong. Can cook for a crowd so easy. We are doing a turkey this weekend and I wondered if I added to the cooking time a little bit, do you think I could stuff it? It will be a 12-13 lb turkey.

  11. Linda Dalton says:

    I’ve used the orion cooker numberous times. It cooks extremely well. Especially, if you don’t have dedicated time to baby sit the pit. I use the Jack Daniels wood chips. As a clean up tip, after it has cooled, I spray oven cleaner and hose off. Stubborn spots are lightly scrubed with a soft bristle pad. It’s too easy to cook in this lil unit !!!! Love it….

  12. Steve Brady says:

    I have had the Orion cooker for over two years. I took it out if the box, did a full dry run smoking the chips with no meat, then smoked a 22 lb. turkey later that day to perfection. The Orion cooker acts like a heater when camping, cooks amazingly and qualifies as the 8th wonder if the cooking world. I would not be without one.

  13. I just purchased and Orion and cooked TG 15 pound turkey, worked great. I was also concerned about how much charcoal it used. I substituted 2/3 charcoal capacity for wood(oak), and it worked fine. Get a layer of charcoal (about 2 brickqets deep) started, then put the wood on top of it, was still plenty hot after 1:45 cook time; it burned for at least another hour.

  14. Has anybody smoke a ham?

  15. We love our Orion! To use less charcoal we made a wire ring with hardware cloth that fits inside the place charcoal goes. We use probably less than 1/2 of what we would without the hardware cloth ring we made and yes it cooks exactly the same in the same amount of time!!! We use wood chips for smoke flavor and works great.

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