How to Use a Gas Grill Rotisserie
Slowly rotating meat over fire is a cooking tradition nearly as old as time itself. We’re just much better at it now than we’ve ever been.
Case in point: BBQ rotisseries. These accessories slowly and steadily spin food so it constantly bastes in its own fat and juices as they render, resulting in a final product that’s incredibly tender. Most rotisseries for gas grills are paired with a rear infrared burner, which sends out direct waves to warm food on the rod, rather than a conventional gas burner that would flare up with every other drip of fat. It’s possible to rotisserie over a regular burner, but it leaves you extremely vulnerable to flare-ups and won’t cook your food half as well as direct, infrared heat.
But it’s not enough to just throw food on your grill rotisserie, turn on the motor, and watch your whole chicken or pork loin pirouette for a few hours. Improperly setting up a rotisserie on your grill can lead to uneven cooks or stripped rotisserie motors, both of which make for bad BBQ.
How to Set up a Grill Rotisserie
In life and in rotisseries, balance is everything. An unbalanced rotisserie rod will be repeatedly pulled out of rhythm as the rotating food suddenly flops to its heaviest side, and that can cause serious damage to the motor and gears. Take it from primitive man — turning a rotisserie rod by hand is no fun (and it’s probably the reason they weren’t too great at entertaining guests, but also helps explain their upper-body strength), so you should keep your rotisserie in tip-top shape.
You’re on your own finding balance in life, but we can at least help you balance the rotisserie for your gas grill:
Start by removing the skewer fork closer to the pointy end of your rod, then spit your food on the rotisserie. Reattach the first fork and secure your food in the center of the rod with both rotisserie forks, making sure they’re deeply inserted into your food. Twist the thumbscrews on each fork to ensure they’re as tight as can be.
Place the rotisserie rod on the bearing points of your grill and pay attention to which side of your food swings to the bottom. Plug in the motor, connect your rod to the motor, and give the spit a few spins to see if a certain part of the food keeps flipping downward. You can also spin the rotisserie by hand to test out the balance if you choose (your caveman ancestors would be honored).
If the rod stays in place once it stops rotating, then your food is balanced and you can begin cooking. If not (this is the more likely scenario because food is usually unevenly shaped), then you’ll need to attach a counterweight to balance the rod.
Leave your rod in the bearings with the heaviest part of the food facing down. Attach your counterweight (which is typically included with rotisserie accessories) to the end of the rod opposite the motor, with the weight pointing straight up.
Balancing the rod may take a bit of trial and error, so set the weight to what looks appropriate and spin the rotisserie again to see if there’s still a heavier end. Adjust the counterweight as needed until the rod consistently stays in place after being rotated.
A balanced rod means it’s time to start cooking! For best results, place a drip pan below the rotisserie rod — this not only prevents fat drippings from getting into the inner parts of your grill, but also gives you a chance to add aromatics to the mix. You can even use wood chips in your gas grill to infuse your skewered food with next-level flavors.
Cooking with a Grill Rotisserie
The average gas grill rotisserie can hold between 10 and 20 pounds, more than enough for a rib roast or a few whole chickens (if you do more than 1 whole bird at once, make sure you place them on the rod facing the same way). We’re particularly fond of the integrated, chain-driven rotisseries commonly found in Luxury and Premium gas grills. They’re hidden and quiet, can handle a good bit of weight with little trouble, and some don’t even require a counterweight!
Whatever you decide to cook on your rotisserie, get it situated in your grill before turning on any burners, especially if it’s the infrared burner. Keep the lid closed for most of the cook, opening only to baste your food every 45 minutes or so. When you attempt to take your food’s temperature with a BBQ thermometer — how else can you really tell when meat is done? — be sure to stop the rotisserie motor before sticking the meat. It’s a cooking accessory, not a carnival game.
Wear high-heat gloves or use towels or oven mitts when removing your grill rotisserie so you don’t burn your hands on the metal rod. To take your meat off the spit rod, dislodge it from the forks and slide 1 of the forks off the rod. At this point, you should be able to just pull the rod out from your food and set it aside while you feast. If you choose to immediately take your food off the rotisserie rather than letting it rest on the spit, you’ll need high-heat gloves or long-handled tongs to remove the piping-hot fork and food.
So, what’ll you be cooking on your gas grill rotisserie? Will you pay tribute to our rotisserie roots and turn a whole duck or pig over the fire, or do you want to try something more delicate like shrimp and veggies in a rotisserie grill basket? How does one of our rotisserie recipes sound? The choice is yours, but it’s a good idea to look for uniformly shaped cuts of meat so they can receive an even cook from the infrared heat. To help your food cook more evenly, truss it with butcher’s twine so it stays compact (don’t use cotton twine because it’ll burn). Now that’s a caveman-approved cooking method!