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The Lost Art of Spit Roasting

The Lost Art of Spit Roasting

Whether you call it rotisserie, open pit or spit roasting, this traditional technique never fails to cook some of the best meat you can have. While this technique has been taking a backseat in these recent years following the evolution of the BBQ industry and all the gadgets that come with it, spit roasting is one of the basic techniques you should master early on.

What is Spit Roasting?

Spit roasting consists of cooking large cuts of meat, fixed on a solid rod, slowly rotating it over a live flame or a fireplace. This is one of the oldest techniques documented in BBQ history. 

The Benefits

There’s a lot to enjoy from spit roasting. If not for the experience itself, the taste will have you coming back for more.

Rotisserie cooking allows you to cook evenly large hunks of meat over a long period of time. It makes it easy to evenly cook these big cuts without worrying about burning or drying out the meat. As it slowly spins, the fat drippings roll down on your meat, continuously basting as it spins. The process yields a succulent flavor on the outer edge of your meat that is specific to this method.

Spit roasting is time-consuming, but almost effortless, provided you have the right equipment. Once your fire is rolling, and the meat is set up, all you have to do is baste with a mop now and then. Although it’s not “set and forget”, it still gives you plenty of time to enjoy your day and bang out your to-do list all at once.

If you like to have people over, I urge you to consider this technique as it brings life to your party, makes it easy to feed a lot of people while having time to entertain them.

The Equipment

Spit roasting can be done with a very short list of equipment.

You’ll need a mechanical turn spit and a rod. That’s the bare minimum!

Of course, these are offered in different shapes and sizes, adapted to all BBQ types, be it for kettles, Kamado Joes, gas grills and outdoor fireplaces.

A good set of silicone gloves and a basting brush are highly recommended to get the most out of your cooks. Keep in mind that you are working with live fire, so things get hot quickly.

With these few accessories, you will be able to elevate your BBQ game in no time.


Mastering the lost art of rotisserie cooking

Mastering this technique boils down to 3 key things, regardless of the fact that you’re running on gas, charcoal or logs. 

First and foremost, you should have little to no flames directly underneath your meat. Working with fire on each side, meaning your cooking with indirect heat, will ensure that you do not dry out your meat and will give more time for your basting juices to seep in the meat as it rotates.

Indirect heat is always recommended when cooking large cuts of meat to ensure even cooking.

If you’re looking for extra crispy skin, crank up the heat only at the end.

Another thing to be mindful of is the “shrink” factor of your meat. Most people will only use the forks on the rod to stabilize their meat. Problem is, your meat will shrink considerably with this technique, thus loosening over time.

Whenever possible, use butcher’s twine to fix your meat as tight as possible all the way through. Forks will only keep the ends from moving but if you’re cooking chicken or piggies, know that the cavities will start wobbling from side to side so try to tighten up the middle parts. You can also stuff the cavities with veggies to stabilize your meat.

Do not overload your rod. Overloading can cause 2 things. It can either slow down the rotisserie motor, which would lead to drier meat, or it can cause the meat to sway if it’s unbalanced. That means that rather than cooking evenly, the unbalanced weight will cause the rod to spend much more time on one side than the other.

A good rotisserie motor should run between 4 and 6 rotations per minute.


Baste or Waste

This is not a step in the process, this is the be-all, end-all. Basting your meat every 30 to 45 minutes to ensure the meat stays juicy and the bark as flavorful as possible. This is where the magic happens.

A good basting mixture should be somewhat salty and fatty. It should not only focus on flavors, but on Umami as well. A good basting recipe is usually composed of beef and chicken stock, lemon juice, rosemary, garlic, apple cider vinegar and butter.


Making the most of it

I beg you not to skip this part. Lay down an aluminum pan directly underneath your meat, in your indirect zone. Make sure you catch all the drippings. These concentrated juices can be mopped back on your meat, or used as a finishing sauce.

Spit Roasting has recently grown to become my new favorite BBQ method as it forces you to take time and enjoy the process, without having you waste an entire day like most low and slow cookouts. With so many classics to be rediscovered such as rotisserie chicken, lamb leg, roasted whole pigs and other, I encourage you to kick back, crack one up and bring new life to the lost art of spit roasting.