How to Make Rotisserie Chicken

Rotisserie chicken
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  • 01 of 12

    What Is Rotisserie Chicken?

    Garlic-Lemon Rotisserie Chicken
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    Rotisserie cooking is a form of roasting, and roasting simply means cooking a food uncovered in an oven or grill. Roasted chicken turns into rotisserie chicken when it is skewered on a spit and rotated over a grill or open fire for more even cooking.

    Rotisserie chicken is not only a popular convenience food from your local deli counter, it's also a great way to cook chicken. Two things not commonly known about rotisserie chicken is that it is best when fresh off the grill—not after spending hours under a warming lamp. Secondly, preparing a rotisserie chicken is quite simple. With a grill (charcoal or gas), a rotisserie kit, and a chicken, you can achieve a much tastier meal at home than available at most grocery stores.

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  • 02 of 12

    What You'll Need

    Digital meat thermometer
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    To make your rotisserie chicken at home, you'll need:

    • Grill 
    • Rotisserie kit for your specific model of grill
    • Fuel for the grill to run for 2 to 3 hours
    • Hot pads or fireproof gloves
    • Reliable meat thermometer
    • Whole chicken
    • One large lemon (or apple, potato, or orange)
    • 1/2 cup olive oil
    • 1/2 cup lemon juice
    • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves
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  • 03 of 12

    Prepare the Chicken

    Raw whole chicken
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    Remove any contents from inside the chicken and cut off any loose skin. To increase tenderness and moisture, we suggest that you brine the chicken before grilling, but this step isn't mandatory. It is also helpful to truss the chicken to hold it together better on the rotisserie.

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  • 04 of 12

    Set Up the Rotisserie

    Rotisserie Setup
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    Setting up a rotisserie is a pretty easy operation that just requires 10 minutes and a screwdriver. Follow the instructions for your grill and kit to make sure everything is stable and set up properly.

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  • 05 of 12

    Prepare the Rotisserie Rod

    Lemon on the Rod
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    The first problem with putting a chicken on the rotisserie is that a chicken is basically hollow. This doesn't give the rotisserie rod much to hold onto and can cause the chicken to come loose and stop spinning. The rotisserie forks are there to hold onto the bird, but we find that placing something in the cavity of the chicken helps to secure it.

    We use a large lemon for this purpose. Just thread the lemon onto the rotisserie rod where the chicken will be. Make sure that you have one fork on the rod on the handle side and place it pointing towards the middle. The lemon will fill up the cavity of the chicken and help hold it in place. As the chicken cooks, it will shrink a little giving it a better hold. If you don't like the lemon flavor on your chicken, you can use an apple, onion, or orange.

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  • 06 of 12

    Secure the Chicken

    Placing Chicken on Rotisserie Rod
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    It is important that you get the chicken secured to the rotisserie rod as well as possible. This is the most challenging step in the process, but if you do it right, you won't have any more trouble with it. Since a chicken has many parts that are loose, you need to secure not just the bird but the legs and the wings. This is why we recommend trussing the chicken first.

    It is easier to stabilize the chicken on a platter or cutting board then run the rod (with the lemon) through the bottom of the chicken and out through the neck. This puts the lemon safely inside. Put the second fork on the rod pointing toward the chicken and bring it through. It might seem like you don't have enough hands for this operation but be patient. You need to make sure that the whole chicken is tight in the forks before proceeding. Press the forks together, gathering up the legs and wings in the forks so that they are held in place. If you have a dangling wing it will flop around and likely burn, so tuck them between the tines of the fork.

    Once you have the bird secured, tighten the screws on the fork. We suggest you roll it around a little to make sure that the legs and wings hold.

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  • 07 of 12

    Set the Counterbalance

    Adjusting Rotisserie Counterbalance
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    Balancing the chicken on the rotisserie makes sure it cooks evenly and doesn't burn out the rotisserie motor. If the rotisserie kit has a counterbalance, then there should be no trouble getting it balanced. If not, there isn't too much you can do about it. Chickens are heavier on the backside than on the breast side.

    To balance the chicken, remove the motor from the bracket and place the rotisserie rod with the chicken on the grill so that it moves freely. The heavy side will drop toward the bottom. Pull the counterbalance straight up and tighten. It won't balance perfectly, but you will offset the weight enough to allow the motor to handle the load easily.

    Now attach the motor and turn it on. Make sure that the chicken stays put on the rod and that it turns easily. Once you have determined that it is stable you can start the grill.

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  • 08 of 12

    Start the Grill

    gas grill on deck
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    Rotisserie chicken is grilled indirectly. This means that the burners directly underneath the chicken are off and that all the heat is being provided by the other burners. If the burners under the chicken are on you will get flare-ups.

    Adjust the heat on your grill until the temperature reaches around 350 F. It is not a good idea to wander away too long. It is best to keep an eye on the chicken for the first few minutes to make sure that everything is going right.

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  • 09 of 12

    Baste the Chicken

    Basting Chicken on a Rotisserie
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    You have probably noticed that we haven't done much to flavor the chicken. Now is the time to start adding flavor by basting the outside of the bird. You can add whatever you like, but we are going to stick with the lemon and a little rosemary.

    A good baste needs to have flavor and oil. The oil (which can be any fat like butter or olive oil) helps to hold in the moisture and browns the surface of the chicken. For this baste you'll need: 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/2 cup lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves. Break up the rosemary leaves a little with a rolling pin to get the oils out. Add them to the olive oil and lemon juice.

    Start basting the chicken after about 20 minutes on the rotisserie. Continue basting every 20 minutes until the chicken is nearly done.

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  • 10 of 12

    Check the Temperature

    Checking the Temperature of a Rotisserie Chicken
    Regarding BBQ Inc.

    At a cooking temperature between 300 F and 350 F, it takes a chicken about 20 to 30 minutes per pound to cook. A 4-pound chicken will take nearly 2 hours. When the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 175 F, it's time to take it off the heat.

    As the chicken cooks, you might notice that it tends to plump up. As the chicken gets close to being done, this plumping goes away. Also, the skin of the chicken will be dark golden brown. These are clues that it is nearly done and time to start checking the temperature.

    To test the internal temperature, use a meat thermometer and take a reading in at least two different places. Test the center of the chicken breast and in the thigh right above the drumstick. These are the densest parts of the chicken and the slowest to cook. When both of these places read above 175 F it is time to take the chicken off the grill.

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  • 11 of 12

    Take the Chicken Off the Grill

    Removing the Chicken from the Grill
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    Once the rotisserie chicken has reached the right temperature, it is time to get it off the grill. Have hot pads or fireproof gloves and a platter or cutting board ready beside the grill. Remember that the metal rod of the rotisserie is going to be about 300 F when you grab it. It is easy to burn yourself, so be careful.

    When taking the rotisserie rod and chicken off the grill, start by turning off the burners and rotisserie motor. We find it is usually easier to lift up and pull off the motor first to get it out of the way. Get a good hold of the rod on both ends and place the chicken on your platter and cutting board. The bird can fall to the ground so keep a good grip on it.

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  • 12 of 12

    Remove the Chicken

    Removing the Rod from the Chicken
    Regarding BBQ Inc.

    Using a hot pad or glove, loosen the screw on the fork opposite from the handle and slide it off. Now the chicken is free to move. Holding the chicken on the platter or cutting board, slowly pull the rod from the chicken. The lemon we put inside will stay with the chicken and you can remove it before carving. Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes to allow the juices to flow back into the meat. Then you can carve and serve the chicken.

    If you have not placed a pan beneath the chicken while cooking, drippings have fallen into your grill without burning off. It is a good idea to light up the middle burner and get it burned off or the next time you use your grill this might cause a flare-up.