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Rotisserie Grilling Turkey - Cooking Tips

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Rotisserie Grilling Turkey | Rotisserie Review | Turkey Doneness

For general guidelines on rotisserie grilling, see Rotisserie Grilling Basics.

Rotisserie Grilling Turkey

Whole Turkey | Turkey Parts

Rotisserie Grilling a Whole Turkey

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:

  1. The ends of the legs should be tied together with string (nylon leg clamps also work well).

  2. A string should be tied around the turkey at the meaty part of the legs to keep them close to the body.

  3. 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.

Rotisserie Grilling Turkey Parts

Turkey parts may also be cooked with rotisserie grilling when a rotisserie basket is used. It can be difficult to mount parts such as wings or legs onto a traditional spit so the rotisserie basket is an excellent solution to ensure that the rotisserie motor is not overcooked and that the meat is evenly cooked. Some turkey parts, such as large boneless turkey roasts or boneless breasts, may be mounted onto a spit, especially if they have been shaped and tied, but often the best results occur when they are placed into a rotisserie basket.

Smaller turkey parts can be rotisserie grilled with direct heat cooking or indirect heat cooking. Direct heat cooking will provide a more noticeable grilled quality to the meat, but care must be taken to ensure that the exterior does not become charred or overdone before the interior portions of the turkey parts have reached the proper temperature for adequate doneness.

Turkey Rotisserie Grilling Review

Important Points to Remember when Rotisserie Grilling a Whole Turkey

  1. Follow the proper setup procedures for the grill and for the rotisserie unit. See Rotisserie Grilling Basics.

  2. The turkey should not be larger than 14 pounds.

  3. Make sure the turkey is trussed prior to cooking. It may be easiest to truss the bird after it is positioned on the spit.

  4. The turkey must be attached securely to the spit assembly (it must not slip on the spit as the rotisserie rotates).

  5. The turkey must be balanced properly on the rotisserie.

  6. Always use a meat thermometer to check the interior portions of the turkey for proper doneness. The breast meat must reach an internal temperature of 170ºF and the thigh meat must reach an internal temperature of 180ºF.

  7. Remove the turkey from the grill when the internal temperature is 5° below the desired temperature. Allow it to stand, lightly tented, for 15 to 20 minutes. During this time the juices will be redistributed in the meat and the temperature should rise 5° to 10° F, bringing it up to a safe temperature for turkey.

For more information on Turkey, see Meat - Turkey.

Turkey Doneness

As stated before, rather than relying on a cooking time chart or a pop-up gauge inserted into the turkey by the processor, it is always best to use a reliable meat thermometer to determine proper doneness. A time chart does not allow for the many variables that often influence doneness. A chart should be used as a guide only and cannot substitute for the accuracy of a good meat thermometer. To accurately check the temperature of the turkey, the thermometer must be pushed through the thickest part of the meat and away from any bones (bones conduct heat).

The minimum temperature recommended for cooking turkey is 170ºF for the breast meat and 180ºF for the thigh meat. (During the resting period, the temperature of the meat will rise an additional 5ºF to 10ºF). Any stuffing that was cooked inside the turkey must be cooked to a minimum temperature of 165ºF; however, a stuffed bird should not be cooked on a rotisserie. Remember, using a reliable meat thermometer is the only sure method to verify the correct doneness.