Orion Cooker – It’s a cooker.

I don’t know where to start with this one. I am proud of myself for waiting 24 hours to post this though, gave me a chance to calm down and catch my breath.
What is an Orion Cooker? It’s a stainless steel rig that cooks your food by convection, the heat source doesn’t see the food. The food is placed inside, on racks or hanging from racks, the match-lite charcoal (manufacturer’s spec) is placed in the tray that surrounds the outside bottom of the cooker and in a little tube pot thing up top. Smoking chips are placed inside between the drip tray and the cooker’s outter wall. Once all that is done, put the lid on and light the charcoal.
For 3 racks of baby back ribs, you do nothing for 1 hour and 10 minutes. Pretty neat, eh?
Since I knew a real wood fire wouldn’t be introduced to the food directly, I had an idea as to what kind of smoked product to expect. It’s really good, juicy, smoky, but lacking the character only a real fire can introduce.
Um, I didn’t get that. I spent nearly 40 bux on 3 slabs, I didn’t get that. What I did get was steamed meat. MmMmmmm, steamed meat. No browning, no smoky flavors, an odd texture and they were over-done. Over-done steamed meat! Oh joy !!! The boys opted for Top Ramen instead. Even a dry rub of 2 kinds of pepper, dried basil, garlic powder and salt produced a very bland product.
After 24 hours of mind numbing reflection and a few conversations, I don’t think I added enough smoking chips and I think I should have pulled the meat at an hour or even 55 minutes. Even so, the looks of a pale rack of pork ribs, all funky with moisture, really turned my stomach upside down. I buried a few ribs in some jarred sauce and it was 100% better, so I tossed them in the trash. Even at 100% better they weren’t worth keeping.
All that aside, it’s an excellent cooker. The damned thing is all stainless steel, built well and built with good thoughts behind it. The screws, washers and nuts are all stainless as well. It went together very easily, every hole matched up and all the threads were perfect.
Considering the briquettes are exposed, small children and pets need to be kept at a safe distance. The instructions say you need about 15 pounds of match-lite, which is about 12 some odd bucks. So, if you’re going to fire this sucker up, fill it up. There’s no damned sense in putting a 3 pound chicken in there. If you have food that flourishes in steamy heat? This cooker just can’t be beat.
I took a handful of pictures of the Orion Cooker and they came out really great. Come for the pictures, leave when the food arrives.
xo, Biggles

18 thoughts on “Orion Cooker – It’s a cooker.

  1. Bummer to hear that you aren’t stoked with your purchase.
    It looks cool!
    I’d suggest other ways to do the ribs (like with black bean sauce) but the charcoal bill is too much for something you can do in the oven and get the same results.
    Sell it!

  2. I had to laugh as it looks like a cousin to the robot from “Lost In Space”!
    Seems like the same concept of La Caja China, which I’ve always wanted, as I love pit-cooked meat (who doesn’t?) – http://www.lacajachina.com/ – But I don’t throw enough large get-togethers to make the cost worth it (And where the heck would I store it?)
    From the Orion website: “the Orion Cooker is unmatched in cooking speed” – Sounds good as a theory, but I guess we know better now…
    Seeing as it doesn’t promote flare-ups, I wonder what would happen if you cook Bacon in there….mmmmmm, Bacon! Fine or Flabby?
    One last thing, Doc – I really do think you should paint a Robot face on the front!

  3. Did you really use Match-Lite charcoal. Was this a red flag?
    This is what I picture. You waited till your Boy’s where asleep because of the guilt and shame of your quest. You jumped in the Hoopty, drove and parked two blocks away from the Mega-Wally-Mart just so your car would not be recognized. You wore a hat and dark shades for a disguise. You picked up the Match-Lite and went to the check out. Your hand shook as you paid cash so there would be no record of your purchase. You explained to the clerk the charcoal was not for you but a homeless person that needed something to stay warm. When you got home you emptied the bag and destroyed the bag. You did not want the garbage man to know. This is what I picture.

  4. My Beloved and I are laughing out loud as we read Chilebrown’s comment! And he says he can’t write well – who does he think he’s kidding? 😀
    Sorry for your disappointment but we respect your various experiments and we long for your own smoky products in between tastings.

  5. Hi!
    Great comments all! Ya know Chile, Zachary was with me went to buy the charcoal and his jaw hit the floor when he saw me pick up not just 1, but 2 bags of match-lite. I had to assure him the charcoal would never see the food, just for heat. I didn’t like it either.
    Tommy, I was thinking the SAME DAMNED THING, which is why I sold my cajachina. I bought back when if you googled caja china, only 2 hits on google showed up! On the plus side, the caja china actually crisped up the skin. And, only recently added features to add smoke to the chamber. I suppose the other reason was that I, as it turned out, couldn’t afford an 80 pound pig.

  6. I kinda had the same experience when I did a turkey. Over cooked, but still moist meat. I did get a smokey flavor in the meat, possibly to much smoke.
    It’s a fuel hog, using an entire bag of charcoal for one cook.
    I may experiment cooking some chicken on it, but finishing them up over a real fire. Get the moisture locked in, then crisp up the skin over wood.
    It could work.
    But could I face the shame of bringing Matchlight to a bbq competition?

  7. Hey BQ,
    I had to buy 2 bags, 7.2 lbs a piece. Oh no, you couldn’t do that, you’d have to repackage it so nobody would know. I figure I just need to get a few more stoves so I can light 15 pounds of charcoal at once, is all.

  8. Do you know what kind of temp you were getting inside that thing? Is there a water pan? Where did the steam come from? Did you pay for that contraption? I wouldn’t have given a dime for it without someone I trust telling me that it worked good.

  9. Hey Scott,
    The internal temp is about 450F and the moisture comes from the meat. There’s no vent, the thing is completely sealed. Yeah.

  10. Yuck!
    I have to agree that these things look well built. I saw one yesterday and thought of you.
    The real giveaway was the “company” that this cooker kept: I saw it in Fry’s Electronics next to the George Forman Grill.

  11. Wow. 450 is not low and slow. At that temp, with the quick cooking time and all that moisture, no wonder they didn’t absorb any smoke. With no way for the moisture to escape, no wonder they didn’t brown too.

  12. Hi Squid!
    Hey Scott,
    Oh, I knew when I bought it there wasn’t going to be any low and slow. I have plenty of rigs for that, not a problem. I’ve done ribs at higher temps, with electric elements and real smoke. It was perfect for larger parties where it wasn’t necessarily about the food, just something good to gnaw on. Thought this might be a good situation since it can do 6 slabs in just over an hour. Too moist!

  13. Dr,
    Products like this are very many and poorly designed.
    I’m a TIG welder by trade (something I learned during my electrical apprenticeship).
    These days I could knock out a brand new cooker if someone gave me some plans.
    Oddly enough, this thing seems to work roughly on the concept of the old Thermette device that was big over here in the 1970’s, it was used to boil water over a small camp fire.
    I could be way wrong too, but all that used charcoal is nothing but a waste IMO

  14. Wow! What a neat gadget.. does it give the food the taste from whatever heat source you use? Like, does the food have a charcoal taste if you use charcoal? While cheap, it gives me the burps for days… No bueno. I think this would be worth it for the grilled texture without the charcoal taste.

  15. I wouldn’t recommend this cooker to my worse enemy. It steams your food and anything you cook costs you at least 12 dollars in match-light briquettes.

  16. Suggestions if you don’t like the results on your racks – sear them in the oven or on a regular gas/charcoal grill after you remove them from the Orion. You could certainly take them off early to do this. I have cooked many many racks of baby back ribs, and they’ve all come out excellent. Make sure you do put the right amount of chips in to your taste. It should get hot enough in there to do more than just steam the meat, but if not charred the way you like, experiment. You save so much time with the Orion, taking 30-40 minutes more to finish them can’t hurt. One thing the Orion accomplishes is the meat next to the bone is extremely tender.
    I’ve cooked rack of lamb that came out just right, medium rare. Batches of chicken and chicken wings were good – I finished some of that on my gas grill. I have had two excellent smoked turkeys cooked by my brother in law in Texas, and I have cooked one just about as good as his myself. Try a really big turkey, injected with whatever you like. You can buy match lite for a little less, you can mix a little regular charcoal with the match lite. This cooker is the best use ever devised for match lite coals. I think I’ve used my electric coal starter too, on regular coal.

  17. Guys — I can’t believe there’s any complaint on the Orion cooker. It has worked fantastic everytime I’ve used it, and the food always comes out moist, flavorful, and very tender. The 25lb turkey always is the best. I use Cajun creole butter injectible marinade, and Texas Seasoning rub. I use a can of beer in the drip pan, and fill the area outside the ring with apple wood chips — works great — follow the directions on times, and you will do good. My guests always appoint me to cook the turkey every year, and rave about the flavor, and tenderness. -Good Luck !! –

  18. If you’re getting “steamed” ribs and they don’t taste smokey enough, then you are not using the cooker properly. I have gotten perfectly fall off the bone tender, extremely flavorful ribs every time (except for the first time I used it without reading the instructions). Not to mention briskets, chickens, butts, tenderloins, turkeys and wings that have all come out spot on and smokey. Nothing has ever been dried out or “steamed”. You can leave the briskets and butts on a little longer to get “burnt ends” too if you like. It’s an amazingly well built cooker for folks who like to smoke, but don’t have 12-24 hours to do so.