Fried Chicken

Review: Vortex

Review – Vortex:

Review – Vortex: I had seen quite a few photos on Twitter of people cooking on the vortex and it looked really interesting, my birthday was coming up so I had dropped hints that I was after one! I have had it for a few years now so it’s been tested enough to warrant a review.

What is it?

A stainless steel dome that goes in your BBQ and holds the lit charcoal to concentrate the heat to a point above it. It feels pretty solid and weighs in at 1KG. 

Size wise, it’s 120mm high and fits most Weber kettles but not the compact. You can use it in Ceramic grills but it’s pretty easy to get them super hot so any hotter might melt iron!

Where can I buy it?

The Vortex is made by a US based company and I haven’t seen it for sale in the UK but Pro Smoke sell their own version of it called the BBQ Fuel Dome.

What can it be used for? 

The Vortex/Fuel dome has multiple uses:

  • Indirect – Low and Slow cooking: Coals around the outside and lit at one end for snake/minion method.
  • Direct – High Heat Searing: Like the afterburner tool, place your food over the top and give it a good sear.
  • Indirect-Direct: High Heat Indirect Cooking: Vortex creates a high heat that is directed upwards then radiates down around the BBQ lid creating an even high heat. This method is meant to give you crispy chicken skin without running the risk of burning the chicken over direct heat.
  • Infrared – Radiant Heat: Lit fuel around the outside of the vortex and meat inside the vortex (such as a whole chicken) to deflect the direct heat but radiates high heat to allow for even cooking.

How to Light it:

I just use my chimney starter and pour the charcoal down the top of the Fuel Dome, no messing about.

Fried Chicken:

I haven’t tried all four of the techniques listed above but the main thing I wanted mine for is Indirect-Direct cooking to get crispy “fried” skin on chicken wings.

For chicken wings you put the dome in the centre of the grill with the thinner end pointing upwards. Pour lit charcoal in, place the grill on top with a lump of smoking wood then line your chicken wings up around the outside edge so the meat is in the indirect heat zone. Put the lid on your grill and rotate it 90 degrees every 10/15 minutes to equally cook and colour all the wings (the heat/smoke is drawn across the grill and out the vent).

The results from chicken wings are unreal, they do taste fried as they have a very crispy skin. Must be a bit healthier as they are essentially air fried!

BBQ84/17: “Fried” Chicken Wings

Similar to the chicken wings but tasting like proper fried chicken. Panko breaded chicken thighs cooked the same way as the wings. I cannot tell you how tasty this was!

Fried Chicken

 

071/18: Buttermilk Fried Chicken

Chicken thighs again but another super tasty dish!

067/18: Kerala Fried Chicken

I also used the Vortex as a wok stand to fry the curry leaves. I have always wanted a high powered gas burner like you see in Oriental restaurants but the Vortex might have delivered a solution.

Vortex wok

Direct – High heat searing:

Another handy use for the Vortex is to use it for high temperature searing of meats such as steaks. You can reverse sear the steaks by initially cooking them indirectly on the edge of the grill away from the heat then move them directly over the Vortex to sear them at the end. The Vortex is brilliant for this and combined with Grill Grates on top of the Vortex you can achieve some really high temperatures to sear meat.

BBQ25/17: British “Old Cow” Rib Eye Steaks

Click here to see all the Vortex cooks to date.

Summary:

The Vortex  / Fuel Dome is a fairly cheap accessory but it’s well made and is worth the money for the “fried” chicken alone! Wings are fantastic when cooked with it but breaded chicken thighs are a game changer on the grill with this. Super crispy skin but the chicken retains it’s moisture and is really juicy. If you want to cook wings or “fried” chicken this will make your food taste a lot better.

The ability to cook over a wok at super high temperatures is good and I need to use that setup for more Chinese dishes. Watch this space!

I have seen people make their own Fuel Domes from dog bowls and various other things. This thing is pretty cheap already but it’s also made from thick stainless steel which you will struggle to find with a dog bowl. If you want something like this I would suggest you buy one and get a quality bit of kit.

The Pro Smoke BBQ Fuel Dome is available here:

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