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By: Nicole Rayzak
Even in this age of technology with all its unbridled wonders, I’m still constantly amazed at the new things that are being introduced at my workplace and in my own home, and I wonder what else is forthcoming.
I’m beginning to feel inadequate in the face of the torrent of products and services that have been developed and introduced into our life, and which I know nothing or very little about.
Take, for instance, the Orion Convection Cooker, a cooking device that uses indirect heat to produce convection current within the cooking cylinder. It’s actually a fusion of old and natural ways of cooking and the modern way of making things more efficient and effective.
Aside from smoke and steam, it has introduced a new way to faster and more efficient cooking through the use of convection heat transfer power.
I received my own unit of the Orion 101 Convection Cooker as a Christmas surprise from my son. His sister says it’s a gift her older brother gave me to mock her for a set of frying pans she also gave me as a Christmas present. The joke is she thought that a casserole, which she knew I wanted for Christmas, and a frying pan is one and the same thing and her brother never stopped teasing her for that.
I’m not complaining, of course. I’m the designated cook of our household, so everything related to cooking is always part of my wish list for any occasion, including birthdays, from my three grownup kids. While I could not openly express my elation over the Orion 101 Convection Cooker for my daughter’s sake, I’m truly happy to have one and to try it out on one of our Christmas dishes – Oriental Baby Back Ribs.
I bought six slabs of baby back ribs of about 2 lbs per slab and marinated them with my secret oriental spices for 8 hours. I took out my Orion 101 Convection Cooker from the box and set it up in the garden, which took me less than 10 minutes. As an online professional, I checked on YouTube exactly how it works, complete with video demo and all.
So, how else could I possibly fail?
It’s all there; from the moment you light up the charcoal up to the time you’re done with the cooking!
Using the three rib hangers, which can hold two slabs each, which comes with the unit, along with other accessories, I hooked them into slots inside the cooker to make them stand.
I also placed a few hickory chips just around the drip pan for a touch of smoky country smell.
That done, I filled the ring just below the cooker and the top of the cooker with one bag of quick-light charcoals. I wasn’t too sure that was all there is to it – seemed too quick and easy to be real – but there didn’t really seem anything more to be done.
I didn’t want to stay too far from the action though, so I set up a garden table and chair close by where I could set up my laptop to check on email and do some online research.
I was caught up online for about an hour and a half and into two rounds of ice-cold lemonade, but the delicious scent of roasting ribs brought me back to what was really supposed to be the task at hand. I walked over to check on my cooking and saw that it turned exactly as I expected it to be – a brownish, fall off the bone, sweetish, juicy, smoke-flavored kind of baby back ribs.
“It’s worth it, Pops,” my son told me, tapping my shoulder from behind with a smile. He knew I was in the garden trying out his gift, but he did not notice the smoke and smell that most cooking smokers have.
The Orion 101 Convection Cooker is precisely designed and sealed to keep the smoke and steam inside the cooker, without smoking up the house, if not the entire neighborhood.
I haven’t tried it yet, but the manual says you could actually just cook slabs of meat without the marinade, and you’re ready to go.
I think it certainly could, but my oriental instinct wouldn’t just let me do that without adding a bit of salt and pepper, at least.
After all, the entire cooker is locked up on all sides, which means the natural flavor of baby back ribs or any meat you want to be roasted or steamed is embedded, without your needing to turn, flip, and baste the food.
With a handful of hickory chips inside the cooker, you could actually achieve the taste of smoked meat. With that succulent dish, mashed potatoes or rice, and apple sauce or barbecue sauce, you already have a magnificent treat for the family.
Just like any small home equipment, the first thing that you should do to enjoy the optimum benefits of your newly acquired kitchen equipment is to read and understand its instructions. The instructions are simple enough to understand in one reading, but it’s good to have it around for future reference.
If you’re more into video than text, then you could check how it’s done through YouTube. The instructions are all too clear and visual for everyone to understand as I did.
The cookbook that goes with the package provides many recipes and helpful cooking tips. It guides you to determine exactly how much time you need to cook a whole turkey and what ingredients to use in plain, straightforward directions.
Aside from the manual, the stainless steel Orion 101 Convection Cooker comes with the following accessories:
- Poultry stand with lifting handling
- 3 cooking grates
- 3 rib hangers
The poultry stand is big enough to hold a 21-lb turkey cooked in two hours. The cooking grates allow you to cook three layers of fish or pork chop, while the rib hangers can take several pounds of meat for roasting and smoking.
It’s still too early for me to make a similar claim, but a friend who owns this same unit says the Orion 101 Convection Cooker discolors with use, but it’s stainless, doesn’t rust, and doesn’t lose its cooking or smoking capabilities over time. This is well worth my son’s money.
The weight of this unit is about 32 lbs. Not too heavy for any able-bodied adult and could be moved around the house with relative ease, from the kitchen to the garden for occasional barbecue parties.
Its dimension of 21x20x21 inches, about the size of a garden pail, allows it to fit in the trunk of your car in case you decide to take it along with you for fishing or outdoor camping for the thrill and fun of taking your struggling catch from the water straight into your Orion 101 Convection Cooker.
After cleaning up your catch and coating it with a bit of salt or whatever ingredients you may still want to add, you can return to your favorite spot to resume your fishing, then come back 30 minutes later for your fresh, healthy meal with wife and kids. This is great for outdoor bonding and relaxation.
Well, this also means you need to find an adequate space for it inside your house. Just like any home equipment, it’s common sense not to leave it outside the house, exposed to elements, including pesky rodents and squirrels, no matter what the manufacturer claims.
You can find a permanent nook for it inside your kitchen if you want to maximize its usage, or you can simply keep it inside a cabinet for future use.
Aside from space constraints, the use of charcoal could likewise be considered a downside if you intend to use the Orion 101 Convection Cooker on a daily basis, especially for a small family.
With only four of us in the family, I find it unwise to use an entire bag of charcoal per session as this could add up to a substantial expense after a while.
You can maximize its use when you’re preparing food for at least 10 persons.
I intend to use mine only during weekends and for special occasions, such as birthdays, Thanksgiving, picnics, Christmas, Mother’s Day, etc., so I don’t see this much of a problem.
Why not on a Father’s Day, you might ask?
It’s my rest day, that’s why! But I certainly won’t leave out my Orion 101 Convection Cooker during my fishing trips and annual mountain retreats now that I know what it can do even without electricity.
Just recently, I tried it on two pounds each of chicken thighs and pork chops. As usual, I rubbed into both meat a combination of butter, garlic, onion, and secret spices from the East, and placed some apple chips around the drip pan.
Then, I left it to cook as I proceeded to my favorite seat just below the maple tree nearby with my alarm set to one hour. After an hour of online browsing, I was roused by the alarm to check my cooking.
As expected, both chicken and pork were superbly cooked. It was brownish and moist and had the gentle smell of smoked meat.
A neighbor, who is known as a barbecue connoisseur in our neighborhood, was walking by, noticed the smell of my cooking, and decided to stop and check what’s literally cooking.
I offered him a bite of my pork chops to taste. I consider it a compliment when he said he also wants his own unit of the Orion 101 Convection Cooker.
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Pros And Cons
Let’s have a look at the pros and cons of Orion 101 Convection Cooker.
- 100% stainless steel body for extra durability and cleanliness.
- Short cooking times when compared to traditional smokers.
- It comes with a couple of accessories to help you cook more recipes.
- It cooks with steam and smoke, to enrich all your meat with a smoky flavor.
- Easy to follow the instructions manual.
- Easy to use and clean.
- Worth every penny.
- It consumes large amounts of fuel.
- A bit difficult to light it.
Orion Cooker Frequently Asked Questions:
- How much charcoal does it take for average use?
For each use, you need at least a 10lb charcoal bag.
- What is the stainless steel grade?
The Orion cooker comes with 100% 304 solid stainless steel.
- Where is it made?
The Orion Cooker is made in the USA.