There are three excellent reasons for cooking on a spit or rotisserie: uniform cooking,
meats come out juicy and tender, and for those who are health conscious, reduced fat.
For our example, I will use a whole chicken. You will need to prepare the chicken by
removing the stuff from the inside and cutting off any loose skin, as well as the fatty tail.
For the most tender and moist chick, brine the chicken first, however this step is optional.
For brining instructions, go to http://www.thymeforachef.com/resources/grilling_7.html .
Rinse the chicken inside and out, and then pat it dry. Season the inside cavity with your
favorite seasoning or rub.
One common challenge with cooking a chicken on a rotisserie is the shape of the bird – it’s
hollow. The shape of the chicken does not provide the rotisserie anything substantial to
hold on to. If your rotisserie rod did not come equipped with forks, get them if they are
available, and if not, buy a rotisserie that has them. Otherwise, your chicken will not
rotate. Even though the rotisserie forks hold on to the bird, you still need something to fill
the cavity of the chicken to help secure its position and keep it from wobbling around on
I take this opportunity to stuff the bird with things that will season and add flavor to the
bird. I often stuff it with citrus (lemon, lime and orange) and lemon grass. In addition to
stuffing the bird, I always truss my chicken to hold it together while on the rotisserie. This
keeps the legs and wings from flopping around while cooking and prevents them from
It is important that the bird rotate evenly while cooking. Therefore, the chicken must be as
secure to the rotisserie rod as possible. This is somewhat challenging, but when done
right, you will have a perfectly cooked bird. To start, place the chicken on a platter or
cutting board then push the rod with a fork already on the rod (facing away from the
handle) through one end of the chicken and out the other. Make sure you go through as
much of the citrus inside the bird as you can. Skewering the citrus will prevent it from
coming out of the chicken while cooking. Put the second fork on the rod, pointing towards
the chicken bringing it towards the chicken. Center the chicken (and forks) in the middle
of the rotisserie rod and pushing the forks together into the chicken, making sure the
whole chicken is tight in the forks before you proceed. Finally, tighten the screws on the
forks. I use a pair of pliers to make sure they are tight, and they stay tight. Don’t over-
tighten or strip out the threads.
If your rotisserie kit has a counterbalance, you will not have trouble getting the rotisserie
balanced. Balancing the chicken on the rotisserie helps it turns properly, cooks evenly,
and prevents your rotisserie motor from burning out, or at least extends the life of the
motor. If your rotisserie did not come with a balance, there is nothing you can do about it,
because chickens are heavier on the breast-side.
To balance the rotisserie, remove the motor from the bracket and place the rotisserie rod
with the chicken on the grill so it moves freely. The heavy side will drop towards the
bottom. Mount the counter balance straight up then tighten. Attach the motor and turn it
on. Verify the chicken does not move on the rod and that it turns easily. When you know
the chicken is going to stay where you want it and everything is well tightened, you can
start the grill.
Rotisserie chickens are grilled indirectly, meaning the burners directly underneath the
chicken are off and that all the heat is being provided by adjacent burners. If the burners
under the chicken are on you will get flare-ups adversely affecting the flavor of the bird. I
place a disposable aluminum pan/dish beneath the chicken to catch any grease/fat coming
off the chicken. This helps keep your grill cleaner and prevents the fat from collecting in
the bottom of your grill.
Once again, dry the exterior of the bird with a paper towel. This removes surface moisture
that will prevent the skin from becoming crispy. Season lightly with salt, pepper or your
Adjust the heat on your grill to around 350 degrees F.
All good bastes have flavor and oil. The oil helps hold in the moisture and browns the
outside of the chicken. For this recipe I use:
• 1/2 cup olive oil
• 1/2 cup lime juice
• 1½ tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves
• ½ teaspoon fresh thyme
• ½ teaspoon of black pepper
Mince the rosemary and thyme, and then add them to the olive oil pepper and lemon
juice. Baste the chicken after about 20 minutes, allowing the skin to start crisping up, and
every 20 to 25 minutes until the chicken is nearly done. Do not baste during the last 15
minutes to prevent cross-contamination of any basting juices that might be contaminated
with undercooked chicken juices. This also allows the skin more opportunity to crisp-up.
Chicken requires about 25 minutes per pound when cooking between 300 and 350
degrees F. A typical 3.5-pound chicken should take around 90 minutes to cook. When
the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 175 to 180 degrees F, it is fully cooked.
While the bird is cooking, thoroughly wash your cutting board or platter used to prepare
the chicken for cooking. You will need these again when done cooking, and do not want to
contaminate the chicken with uncooked juices!
Using a fast response meat thermometer, test the internal temperature of a chicken in the
center of the chicken breast and in the thigh right above the drumstick. These are the
densest parts of the chicken and the slowest to cook. When both readings are above 175
degrees F, take the chicken off the grill. There will be some “carry-over” cooking.
Turn off the burners and rotisserie motor before attempting to remove the rotisserie. Take
a good hold of the rod on both ends and place the chicken on your cleaned platter and
Using your hot pad or glove, loosen the fork screw on the fork opposite from the handle
and slide off the fork. Now the chicken is free to move. Hold the chicken on the platter or
cutting board while slowly pulling the rod from the chicken. Allow the chicken to “rest” for
at least five minutes before you start carving the chicken. This allows juices to flow back
into the meat. Once this time is up carve the chicken as normal.
Chef David Hall
Rotisserie - Cooking the Perfect Chicken
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