When Nick Parsons moved to Tulsa a decade ago, he thought a good grill needed to weigh 300 pounds. Then he met the Hasty-Bake.
“I bought one and never looked back,” says the owner of Forge Barbecue Co. and the Tulsa Barbecue School. He was used to offset smokers and big barbecue trailers, but now uses Hasty-Bakes at both his companies. “It doesn’t look like the fanciest rocket ship on the market,” he admits, but the flavor he could get out of it, the ease of use, and the versatility won him over.
If the name Hasty-Bake Charcoal Oven sounds like a newfangled rival to the Easy-Bake Oven, you’ve probably never been to Tulsa. That’s where the innovative grill — easy enough for novices but particularly appealing for outdoor cooking nerds — has been manufactured since 1948, when World War II vet Grant Hastings created the appliance he spent his fighting years dreaming of. The Hasty-Bake allows users to smoke, grill, or even bake all in the same machine (and switch back and forth between them quickly, if you want). It’s a staple of backyards in Oklahoma and a cult favorite for chefs.
To an untrained eye, the Hasty-Bake looks like a standard grill, but a few small and important design details set it apart. The first is the side door with access to its adjustable charcoal tray, which allows the cook to feed the fire without having to touch or move the meat. (It’s also where you can access and pull out the ash pit for easy cleaning.)
The second is that the charcoal tray is vertically mobile, so you can bring it up to right under the meat for a quick sear, and then drop it right down for a very low-temperature smoke. Dean Fearing of Fearing’s in Dallas says he makes his much-requested barbecue chicken by starting with that hot sear, then he lowers the tray, adds wet hickory chips, and smokes it. “It’s the best flavor, period.” Fearing was first turned onto the grills 25 years ago, and now keeps two on-site at his restaurant.
Tulsa native Joel Bien admits he was a bit late to the local company, having just tried one last year. But now it’s joined his arsenal on his food truck Oklahoma Rub, and he’ll run catering events on only two or three Hasty-Bakes. “It’s basically a huge charcoal oven,” he says. “You can do whatever you want with it.”
The grills — which come in various sizes and finishes, but all with the same basic structure and most priced within the $1,000 to $2,000 range — are designed for home use, rather than professional. But that clearly hasn’t stopped chefs from falling in love with them and dragging them into the kitchen. “You don’t have any of the inconveniences of a charcoal grill,” says Parsons, like the long lighting time (the hardwood charcoal lights quickly) or messy clean-up (thanks to the pull-out ash pan and grease drain), making it simple to experiment with. And as every chef is quick to note, Hasty-Bake grills are designed to basically last forever, an important consideration for professional chefs subjecting them to pro-level wear or really anyone forking over money for one.
But they stand up to it: At Tulsa’s much-acclaimed Burn Co. BBQ, Adam Myers, a former Hasty-Bake salesperson, and his partner Robby Corcoran, built an entire kitchen by forgoing a pit or professional smoker in favor of a T-shaped arrangement of more than a dozen of Hasty-Bakes.
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