Mastering Rotisserie Cooking

Tips for Rotisserie Cooking

Getty Images / MelanieMaya 

Rotisserie cooking doesn't garner any respect. Most grill manufacturers will tell you that you don't need to use a rotisserie because a grill with a lid does the same thing: provides even roasting. The standard view of cooking is to move the heat around the food, not the food around the heat. The following should help clarify these assumptions and show you why this style of cooking is so important.


Rotisserie-cooked meat is generally juicier, self-basted, and slow-roasted. There are a few differences between grilling and rotisserie cooking that you need to be aware of. The first place to start is with the instruction manual for your particular grill; beyond that, remember that while a lot of grilling is done over a hot fire you need a lot less heat for the rotisserie.


Starting with your equipment, you will need a rotisserie attachment for your particular grill. We suggest making sure you get a good one with a powerful motor. There is an increasing number of grills that come with rotisserie attachments and some even have a special rotisserie burner. You can even get an attachment for your charcoal kettle grill that works very well. The rotisserie burner is a nice feature because it automatically sets you up for indirect, even heating.


Moving on to the fire—you do not want a hot fire directly under the food you want to spin. Many items will be large and hence will get very close to the fire. If you are using a charcoal grill, build the fire around the edges so that it overlaps the food by a few inches but has no coals directly underneath. If you are using a gas grill, keep the burners low. Place a drip pan under the food to avoid flare-ups and to keep the direct heat at a safe distance. If you are using charcoal you will probably need to add more burning coals every 30 minutes.


The most important thing to remember in using a rotisserie is balance and security. Place the meat in the middle of the rotisserie skewer and fasten as firmly as you can. If you are cooking poultry, remember to secure the wings and legs in as tightly as possible. If the parts are loose enough for the meat to flop around as it turns, sections can burn and it can throw off the balance for even cooking.

Many rotisserie units have a counterbalance to help you get it just right. We suggest that once you have the food secured to the skewer that you roll the skewer in the palms of your hands to make sure you have a good balance. Try slowly rolling it to see if you have a heavy side. If the spit is unbalanced, you will put stress on the rotisserie motor and will make one side turn slower than the other causing uneven cooking. Adjust until you have a good balance.

As for cooking times, your best bet is a meat thermometer. Cooking charts might be a good guide but differences in wind, air temperature, equipment, etc. will throw these calculations off. The thermometer will tell you when the food is cooked. Best guess just won't cut it.

If you set up your rotisserie so that the top of the item is moving away from you and place the drip pan slightly towards the front of the grill then you will have an easier time scooping up the drippings for basting.