The appeal of meat roasted slowly over a fire never fades. But most of us don’t cook over an open fire anymore. With rotisserie cooking, you can create delicious roasted meats with the flavor that can only come from cooking over open heat. Here are the basics:
Rotisserie cooking is also known as spit roasting—but don’t panic, that’s not what it sounds like! “Spit” refers to a rod that skewers the meat. It’s an old term going back to medieval times, when a boy called a “spit jack” would keep the meat rotating over hot coals. Just think of it as a new tool to use in your outdoor cooking arsenal.
Today, you can use a barbecue grill or a campfire for rotisserie cooking.
Roasting like this means meat cooks slowly and evenly. As the skewers turn, delicious juices run over the surface and the fat drips off. You’ll find meat cooked this way is juicier and more tender than pan-roasted meat, with a tantalizing crispy surface crackling with flavor.
Types of Rotisseries
One type of rotisserie uses a single spit to skewer meat. Two prongs attach to the spit to keep the meat from spinning on the bar. The other type, known as a spit rod assembly, uses two skewers per bar so the meat stays in position. Both types have a mechanism to keep the skewers turning—either run by a hand crank, or motorized so you don’t have to convince someone to serve as spit jack! A rotisserie can have one or more bars—more bars means more cooking space.
Rotisserie cooking uses either direct or indirect heat. With direct heat you place your skewers right over the heat source. This is perfect for smaller pieces of meat, like poultry, or cuts of beef or pork. For very large roasts, or even whole animals, we use indirect heat.
The difference is in the thickness of the meat. Heat will reach the inner portions of a small cut and bring it to a safe temperature while the outer layers crisp and caramelize. If you’re roasting something very big, the outside could overcook or burn long before the inner layers are done. Roasting big cuts farther from the heat cooks the whole piece more evenly.
You may be wondering about small pieces of food, like vegetables, shrimp, or fish. Can these be cooked on a rotisserie, too? Of course! Clamp them into a basket attachment to hold them securely while they cook.
Using Your Rotisserie
Ready to start using your rotisserie to create flavorful, juicy roasted meats? Here’s how:
- Preheat: Preheat your rotisserie before you cook, so heat will begin to radiate into the meat as soon as you put it in. If your recipe doesn’t specify a temperature, let the rotisserie heat up for a good ten to fifteen minutes.
- Prepare: While it’s heating, prepare your meat. Cylindrical cuts of meat will cook most evenly, because all portions will receive equal amounts of heat. A piece of meat that isn’t balanced can stall or catch the rotating mechanism. If you have a piece that’s irregular in shape and you can’t trim it, use your rotisserie basket.
- Cook Away: Fit your spitted meat into the holders at the sides of the grilling assembly. Once it’s in place and cooking, try to resist the urge to peek! Keep the lid closed to ensure faster and more even cooking. It will be hard, but if you position yourself near the grill you’ll be able to smell the delicious aromas escaping from the rotisserie.
If you have a multi-spit rotisserie grill, you can roast different foods at the same time. Chicken, sausages, chops, even corn on the cob! Cooking times will vary, so plan ahead and put the pieces that will need more cooking time in first. Adding foods during the process won’t slow cooking times, as long as you keep the doors closed as much as possible.
And of course, if this is all too much for you, you can always go back to roasting s’mores.
That’s it! Those are the basics of roasting meat using a rotisserie grill. Imagine the crackling skin of a roasted chicken…tender, juicy beef…the snap of the skin of a crisp sausage. What are you going to cook first? Let us know in the comment section below!