Rotisserie Grilling

Providing a meat flavor unlike any other grilling method, rotisserie roasting is thought to be the oldest cooking technique known to man.

Consisting of a spit, a means to rotate the spit and a heat source, rotisserie grilling continues to be a favorite way to grill foods.

Rotisserie roasting is commonly referred to as spit roasting. The term "spit" refers to a device consisting of one or more metal bars on which meat is skewered. After the meat has been skewered, two prongs (or "forks") are screwed tightly on each side of the meat to hold it in place. The spit (by hand or by a mechanical device) rotates constantly at a slow speed. This rotating motion ensures even cooking, and allows the meat to self baste with its own juices. The meat does not grill, it roasts as it cooks and absorbs a smoke flavor while developing a perfectly crisp crust. Most spits can be raised or lowered on the grill to control temperature.

In addition to meat skewers, there are a variety of different baskets available that will allow you to easily hold and roast vegetables, pieces of fish, fryer chickens, and kabobs. These baskets attach to your spit.

Before you begin:

  • Consult the instruction manual you received when you purchased your grill. Follow the directions provided by the manufacturer.
  • If your grill did not include a rotisserie attachment, buy one that is made specifically for your grill type.
  • Check for everything you need: Rotisserie kit, drip pan, clean pliers, oven mitts, and meat thermometer.
  • Follow the indirect grilling method when cooking rotisserie style. Both charcoal and gas grills must be preheated before you begin. Refer to the article titled "Grilling Basics" for details on preheating. Rotisserie is a slow cooking process, preheat grill to high. Grill at a high temperature for the first few minutes to sear, lower to medium/low for remainder of cooking time.

Rotisserie on a Charcoal Grill

When indirect grilling on a charcoal grill, the fire is built to the side of where the food is to be grilled or surrounding the outer edge of the grill. The food is cooked by radiant heat rather than direct heat (as if in an oven). Coals are lit using only one half of the grill or the surrounding outside edge. The method you use depends on the positioning of the rotisserie device. No hot coals should be positioned directly underneath the food - only a drip pan should be placed directly beneath the food (a disposable aluminum pan works well). Due to the extended cooking time, you will need to add additional charcoal every 30-40 minutes.

Rotisserie on a Gas Grill

When Indirect Grilling on a gas grill, the burner below the area where the food will be placed should be turned off after preheating. The coals are then placed to the side and a drip pan is placed directly under the food. Because of the central positioning of the rotisserie, this method will not work. The best option is to set grill burners on a low setting and place a drip pan on the grate directly underneath the rotisserie spit. The drip pan will keep the heat at a safe distance from the meat. If the meat is a large cut and does not rotate freely, clear the center of the lava rock so the drip pan can be placed directly on the lava pan, beneath the grate and rotisserie.

Flavoring Tips:

  • Keep in mind that adding too much flavoring can overpower the natural flavor of the meat.
  • Fill the drip pan with up to 1 inch of water. To add flavor and keep the meat moist, add your favorite juice (i.e.: pineapple for ham), herb, or citrus zest to the drip pan.
  • Place herbs, citrus zest, or flavoring chips directly on the coals. Be sure to soak in water for 30-45 minutes to prevent burning rather than the desired effect of smoking.
  • Pour 1/2 to 1 inch of beer or favorite wine in the drip pan.
  • Use a mixture of olive oil (or melted butter) and your favorite herb for basting fish or poultry.
  • Prepare a mixture of garlic cloves, peanut oil, and your favorite steak sauce. Use as a basting sauce for beef or pork. Apply during last 20-30 minutes of cooking time.

Preparation and Grilling:

  • Apply marinade, rub, or baste to your meat (optional).
  • Boneless roasts and tenderloins must be rolled and tied to create an evenly shaped, compact cylinder. These can be purchased and prepared directly from a butcher.
  • Truss chicken/turkey to hold wings and legs in place.
  • Check size of drip pan. Because the drip pan will prevent flare ups, it is important the pan covers the length of the meat.
  • Pour ½ to 1 inch of water in drip pan to provide moisture.
  • Place one of the two spit prongs (or "forks") on the spit closest to the handle. Secure tightly with pliers to prevent prong from loosening.
  • Skewer meat through center with the spit rod and (if size of meat allows) push into the secured spit fork. For ribs, weave skewer through rib bones.
  • Slide remaining spit prong (or "fork") onto spit. Push prongs into or around meat so it is held firmly. Tighten prong with pliers.
  • The meat should be balanced on the spit to prevent uneven cooking and overworking the rotisserie motor. Check the balance by loosely holding each end of the spit in the palms of your hands. The spit rod can be balanced by moving the meat on the spit or using a tool called a rotisserie counter balance.
  • When spit has been balanced, insert the pointed end of the spit into the rotisserie motor sockets. Start motor, watch the rotation a few times to be sure the spit is balanced and there are no obstructions.
  • The lid must closed and left down to ensure even roasting.
  • Check for doneness with a meat thermometer before removing.
  • Remove spit with oven mitts.

Cooking Time & Safe Temperatures

Rather than using a time chart for doneness, rely on a meat thermometer. A time chart has too many variables to influence doneness. Use the following chart as a guide, but focus on the internal temperature of your meat to prevent food borne illnesses.

Food

Safe Internal Temperature Approximate Cooking Time
Chicken, whole (4 pounds) 180º F 70-75 minutes total
Chicken, breast (3 pounds) 180º F 35-40 minutes total
Chicken, thigh (3 pounds) 180º F 60 minutes total
Game Hen (2 pounds) 180º F 35-40 minutes total
Turkey, whole (10 pounds) 180º F 1 1/2 - 2 1/2 hours total
Pork (roast, chops) 160º F 20 minutes per pound
Spare Ribs 160º F 30 minutes per pound
Beef (roasts, burger, steak) 160º F Medium 15 minutes per pound
Lamb (roasts, leg, chops) 160º F 20 minutes per pound
Veal 160º F 15 minutes per pound
Fish (whole) Until opaque and flakey 20 minutes total

To accurately check temperature, the thermometer must be inserted through the thickest part of the meat and away from any bones since bones conduct heat.

A temperature of 160º F is recommended when a roast has been rolled.

Poultry is generally safe at 160º F, though waiting until it reaches 180º F is recommended.

Fish is safe when the meat flakes easily with a fork and appears opaque all the way through. If unsure by appearance, a temperature of 155º F is recommended.

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