It is important to first follow the proper setup procedures for the grill when cooking food with rotisserie grilling. (See the article, "Outdoor Grill Preparation" for complete instructions for setting up a charcoal or gas grill.) For the best results when rotisserie grilling a whole turkey, it is important that the rotisserie unit be position away from the heat source. Never place the rotisserie directly over the heat when cooking a whole bird because the exterior of the turkey may become overdone before the interior portions have reached the acceptable level of doneness.
If a turkey isn't too large, it can be grilled using a standard size rotisserie unit that is often included with an outdoor gas grill or with a unit that attaches to a charcoal grill. A 12 to 14 pound bird is often the maximum weight that can be accommodated on a standard unit.
Make sure the turkey is properly trussed. (It is often easiest to attach the bird to the spit prior to trussing because it can be less difficult to handle.) If the turkey is not trussed, the legs and wings will flop about as the spit rotates and it will not be possible to balance the spit correctly. A few simple steps are all that are necessary to properly truss the turkey before it is rotisserie grilled:
- The ends of the legs should be tied together with string (nylon leg clamps also work well).
- A string should be tied around the turkey at the meaty part of the legs to keep them close to the body.
- Another string can be tied around the wings and breast section of the bird to prevent them from flopping about as the rotisserie rotates.
The turkey must be attached properly to the spit assembly. Always refer to the manufacturer's instructions for the correct procedure. Some rotisseries have counterweights that can be adjusted to provide proper balancing of the turkey on the spit. Proper balancing is an important step to ensure that the rotisserie motor is not overworked.
Allow 10 to 15 minutes cooking time per pound, which means that a 14 pound turkey may require 3 to 4 hours of cooking time on the rotisserie, so plan accordingly. Always use a meat thermometer to check for proper doneness. The breast meat must reach an internal temperature of 170ºF and the thigh meat must reach an internal temperature of 180ºF. Although rotisserie grilling is very similar to oven roasting, the process does not heat the interior of the turkey as quickly as oven roasting; therefore, it is important that a turkey intended for rotisserie grilling is not stuffed. The slower cooking time may not kill harmful bacteria (that may be present in the stuffing) as rapidly as with oven roasting. It is also important to remember that a turkey should not be cooked with any cooking method unless it is fully thawed.