The good folks at CharBroil UK sent me out their Charbroil Big Easy Cooker to have a play with so I have been putting it through it’s paces over the last couple of weeks so I can let you know what I think. We’ll take a look at what kind of cooker the big easy is, some of the features it includes and then we’ll get down to what I have thought so far.
The Big Easy is sold as a smoker, roaster and grill – kind of a Swiss army cooker! The heat source is provided by a single, circular gas tube burner which runs around the bottom of the cooking chamber. This is adjusted using a single control knob on the front of the cooker. There is an inner skin that fit’s inside the main cooking chamber which provides a baffle from the direct heat of the burner.
Using the CharBroil Big Easy as a Roaster
There are no shelves inside the cooking chamber. Instead, you are provided with a basket insert which holds the food. This includes a removable shelf allowing you to add an extra cooking level. You are also provided with a hook to help you remove the basket from the cooker when it is hot. You are also supplied with rib hooks to allow you to hang ribs from the sides of the basket.
You also get a leave in meat probe in the box to use when you are roasting large cuts of meat.
Using the CharBroil Big Easy as a Grill
The Big Easy can be used as a grill by using the grill grate on top of the cooker. The grill grate features CharBroil’s TRU-Infrared system. This system replaces the gaps in the cooking grate with small holes which reduce the airflow through them and distribute the heat evenly across the entire cooking surface. I have to admit, when I first saw this I thought it was a gimmick and I had my reservations about how effective the big easy would be as a grill. There is quite a distance between the burner at the bottom of the cooker and the grill grates on top, so I didn’t think it would get hot enough, especially with no direct heat.
I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised. The grates get screaming hot, pushing well over 300 degrees C at grill level. That’s hot enough to get a good sear on anything!
Using the CharBroil Big Easy as a Smoker
Adding smoke to the Big Easy is also a simple task, with the built in smoker box. This is placed directly above the gas burner and can be accessed from the side of the cooker. While you are pre-heating the cooker, add in your dry wood chips and by the time it has come up to temperature, the chips will have started to smoke. You can remove the smoker box and add more chips throughout the cook if you want to.
Pro’s and Con’s of the CharBroil Big Easy
As with most gas BBQ’s, it is easy to adjust and maintain a steady temperature with the Big Easy by simply finding the correct setting on the control knob and letting it do it’s thing. If you are a complete beginner, this takes all the stress out of finding the ideal temperature by managing a coal fire.
The built in smoker box works well and it takes very little time to get the smoke rolling. I would recommend using dry wood chips. Although they will burn away faster, it is easy to top up the chips during a cook, unlike some gas BBQ’s which have the smoker box located under the cooking grates.
The Big Easy works great as a grill and it is the perfect size if you are cooking a small amount of food.
The cooker is also compact enough that you can store it easily but with the extra shelf in the basket, you can still cook plenty of food. The cooking chamber can easily hold large cuts of meat and the removable basket makes it simple to get food in and out of the cooker.
There are a few issues with the Big Easy…
The first thing I noticed about it was the lack of a built in thermometer on the hood or side of the unit. For a BBQ designed to smoke, roast and grill, I thought this would have been an essential feature as monitoring and controlling your temperature is key to cooking great BBQ. I resorted to using a wired probe to monitor the temperature inside the cooking chamber, otherwise I would have been cooking blind.
The biggest issue of all is the temperature range. With the burner on it’s lowest setting (and I was using it on a cold 8 degrees C Novembers day), I struggled to keep the temperature below 180-190 degrees C. This isn’t an issue when it comes to roasting or grilling however it is much too high to cook any kind of low and slow BBQ, where 110-120C is the optimum temperature. I think this is mainly due to the burner only having a single control. If it was possible to control the burner in two independent halves, it would make these lower temperatures easier to achieve.
As with most BBQ’s, there are some cold spot issues that you will need to get used to. They are by no means a deal breaker, but you will need to rotate the basket every so often to help your food cook evenly. The cold spot on the Big Easy seems to be just behind the control panel, where there is a small gap in the burner but this is easily overcome by rotating the basket by 90 degrees every so often.
My final thoughts on the CharBroil Big Easy
The Charbroil Big Easy would make a great first BBQ for a beginner as it’s simple to control and add some wood smoke flavour to your food. It’s higher temperature range makes it unsuitable for low and slow cooks but for someone who is just starting out with roasting on their BBQ, it makes things simple. The ability to easily convert it over to a grill and it’s low price point of £299 makes it a good all rounder for beginners.
For those that already have a charcoal smoker or regular gas grill, this probably isn’t going to replace it as it doesn’t provide any new functionality compared to the other grill.
I’m happy to answer any questions you might have on the CharBroil Big Easy, so feel free to leave them in the comments section below. You can find out more about the CharBroil Big Easy and where to buy it on the CharBroil Website.