A rotisserie is a device for slowly turning meat over a source of heat, allowing the meat to cook slowly and evenly. It consists of a spit (a long sturdy metal spike), some prongs to help affix meat to the spit and a motor to turn the spit.
Rotisseries have existed for centuries. Before they became motorized ones turned over gas or electric grills, they were hand-turned ones over hearths inside the home. See: Non-electrical rotisseries.
A rotisserie rotates at a slow speed over low heat. The meat does not grill. It actually roasts, while absorbing somewhat of a smoky flavour. Because the meat is being turned, it bastes itself, and cooks evenly on all sides.
There are several different generic sizes of rotisseries which will fit almost every gas grill. Most rotisseries are electric powered, but you can also get battery-powered ones. The more powerful the motor, the better.
Test your set up before you turn the heat source on. Check to see that the grill lid will close, and still allow the meat to turn. You may need to remove any upper warming racks. If you have to prop the lid partly open, then you will need to allow for longer cooking times and more fuel usage.
Heat the grill before placing the prepared rotisserie with its meat in place. Keep burners to absolute low on a gas grill. Some gas grills with dedicated rotisserie flames (at the back, say) may advise to heat the grill first with the regular burners, with the rotisserie off, then turn them off, and turn the rotisserie motor and special burner on. On a charcoal barbeque, push the hot coals off to the side (you may need to add more hot coals every half hour to hour.)
Spits for rotisseries often come with adjustable prongs that come in from each end to pin the meat on the spit.
Attach food to the spit away from the grill. Impale the meat being to be cooked on the spit, and slide it up the spit and force it securely into the prongs that are waiting for it at the other end. Then put the other set of prongs on the spit, slide it along the spit until it reaches the meat, press it securely into the meat, and with a hand-turned screw or a screw that requires pliers, secure this set of prongs to the spit itself.
For smaller-sized fowl, you can run the spit through them sideways. For larger ones, run the spit through the neck cavity through to the tail.
If you are doing ribs, weave them through the skewer.
You need to adjust the prongs so that once over the heat source, the meat will be centred over your drip pan. It’s important that the meat be well balanced on the spit, and firmly fastened to it.
Try turning the loaded spit in your hands, to see how the balance is. A bad balance can also put a lot of strain on the motor, shortening its life span, and cause one side of your food item to spend more time over the heat than the other, burning it. You are aiming to have the spit itself be the centre of gravity. Many rotisserie attachments come with a counterweight, particularly useful when the top of a chicken (with its meaty breasts, and to which the legs and wings are secured) is heavier than the bottom. You adjust the counter-weight by first pointing it opposite to the heavy side of the meat, then moving the weight up and down on the rod.
Don’t brush your food item with a barbeque sauce; it will just burn. If you wish, you may use a dry rub, pushing it under any skin or into the meat.
Important items to have on hand when doing rotisserie crooking are kitchen string, an instant-read meat thermometer, oven mitts and a drip pan.
Kitchen string (aka butcher’s string, with no polyester in it) is an essential item when you are cooking fowl, to secure the legs and wings so that they don’t flop about, burn, and destabilize the bird by throwing off the centre of balance. You will probably have to tie them in at least two places: the front to get the wings, and the back to get the legs. Soak the string in water first.
The drip pan stops fat flare ups from happening, and helps to make the heat more indirect. For a drip pan, you can use a disposable tin-foil pan, or fashion one from a sheet or two of tin foil, crimping all the edges and joins. The drip pan needs to be at least a little bigger than what you are roasting. Many advise pouring 1 to 3 cm (½ to 1 inch) of water in the pan to provide steam to help moderate the heat.
Use oven mitts to remove the spit. Being a piece of metal that has been over heat for several hours, it will be very hot.
You can buy electric, indoor counter-top rotisseries that will do up to two chickens at once. Most cook the chicken(s) in around 3 hours. You can also buy baskets to attach to rotisseries to hold small pieces of meat, fish, vegetables, etc.
Rotisserie motors and spits are best stored indoors when not in use to help prevent rust.