A long-time contributor to SeriouslySmoked. Jim has had a lifelong relationship with the art of grilling, passed on from his father and grandfather to him.
Annabelle is an experienced food writer and editor. She focuses on common sense, easy to replicate recipes formulated
to help keep things fresh and exciting while fitting into her day to day life as a wife and mother.
On the surface, a gas grill’s rotisserie attachment is as simple as can be. For the most part, it does all the work for you. The motor turns the spit, and the infrared burner in the back heats whatever you put on it, cooking it perfectly evenly.
Of course, reality is a bit more complex than that. Rotisseries can be really finicky, for one specific reason: it’s hard to balance them.
Most meat is unevenly weighted in some way or another, either on the vertical or horizontal axis; a chicken, for example, is way heavier toward the rear (since that’s where the legs and thickest bones are), so when you put it on the rotisserie it’s going to be very herky jerky.
This is bad for a few reasons. Not only does it result in an unevenly cooked bird (or whatever else you’ve put on there), but it puts undue stress on the motor of the rotisserie. The motor is designed to smoothly turn the spit, evenly and easily. Sudden shifts in weight are going to very rapidly wear the motor out, since it’s not designed to handle a stop and go motion, and the spit isn’t designed to bounce up and down either.
This means that balancing your rotisserie is imperative. Thankfully, most rotisseries come with a set of counterweights, so you won’t need to seek out anything extra to do this with. But the art of counterbalancing your rotisserie to make it even is going to take a bit of trial and error every time you do it.
1. Balancing Your Meat
There are a few things you can do to make things easier for yourself.
The first and simplest is to truss up anything you add to the rotisserie. Keeping things tightly bound with twine is going to keep things from flopping around, and bring the center of gravity closer to the middle on your meat. This is applicable to all types of meat, but it is especially important for poultry, with all the wings and legs and whatnot that can flop around. It’s less important for something like a beef roast, but giving it a more cylindrical shape rather than the tendency they have to be more wedge-like is still good.
The second thing you want to do in rotisserie cooking is make sure your central skewer is running up the exact center of your meat, as best as possible. The smaller skewers can then secure the hold, and then you can tighten the screws in there.
This will give you your first baseline of the weight distribution on the skewer. Slot it into the rotisserie motor, and give it a few turns by hand. If it goes around smoothly: good! Your meat is perfectly balanced.
If this miracle has not graced you (as it likely won’t), you’ll need to make some adjustments.
This is where your counterweights come in.
Place the counterweights on the end of the skewer rod away from the motor. Face the pointy side up; simultaneously make sure the heaviest side of your meat is facing down.
Give it a few more turns by hand, or use the motor if you want. I prefer not to, since if it’s imbalanced that’s going to strain the motor, even over short periods. Better to not risk it and minimize stress.
If the thing turns smoothly, good. If not, adjust the weight’s positioning (sliding it up and down the rod) until it works.
You’ll need to do this every time you want to use your rotisserie, but you’ll start to get the feel of it before too long. Most standard cuts of meat are going to have similar centers of gravity, even if the weights themselves are the same.
2. Other Things to Look Out For
Speaking of weight, by the way, a common mistake people make when using their rotisserie for the first time is overloading it. Most rotisseries are rated for only 10 to 20 lbs. at most. This is more than sufficient for a lot of things.
But if you’re trying to cook a 14 lbs. turkey on a rotisserie only rated for 10 lbs., you’re going to have a bad time. Always be aware of the limitations of your equipment, and avoid the temptation to push them. Motors are a lot more fragile than they seem, and even if it looks like your cook is going well at first, the motor could break down at any moment under excess weight, and then need to be repaired, which can be pricey. Especially if it burns out entirely and needs to be replaced.
Another common mistake people make is turning on the burners too soon. Don’t turn on your burner until everything is ready; trussed up, weighted, and completely ready to cook. Rotisserie is characterized by the MOISTNESS of the meat, and turning on the heat too early, when you’re still fiddling with the meat, is going to lead to a dried out shell of something that could have been great.
You’ll want to leave the lid closed as much as possible, similar to if you were smoking, only opening it up every 45 minutes to an hour to check on the meat and baste it to keep it extra moist.
From there, everything else is straightforward. The rotisserie will do all the work, so all you need to do is wait.
Cooking with a rotisserie takes a lot of up front prep work, but once you get it going it’s a very relaxing way to cook such a tasty meal.
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