The trick is to smoke the meat and not make the meat smoke
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Rotisserie Grilling - Part 3

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Prior entries have talked about the equipment you’ll need to get started and the steps to get the food ready for the grill. In this final part I’ll share some of the experiences I’ve had cooking food on the rotisserie. This blog entry was not supposed to be a multi-parter. However as I started writing it I realized that while rotisserie grilling is fairly easy to do, there was more to it than I could fit into a single entry.

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The meat is on, centered over the drip pan and the set screws to the spit forks are tight.

In the last entry we left off with the grill fired up, the wood chips (if used) in the smoker drawer) and food ready to go out to the grill, Before you actually bring the spit out to the grill you should probably run out and make one last check that the grill is ready. Check that it has reached temperature. Make sure to allow extra time for cold or windy weather. If it is windy I will sometimes rotate the grill so the infra red burner unit on the back wall is facing the wind direction. Also make sure the motor is connected to an electrical source and is working. Several times I have been rushed and have run out with a spit full of food only to realize I didn’t bring out the extension cord. It is not a great idea to leave the food on the grill with the motor not turning, so it is back to the house with the spit till I round up the extension cord. Also before bringing the food out check the set screws that hold the forks on the spit. If they loosen during the cooking process they can twist off the meat and the meat will stop turning.

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It is important to keep an eye on things. Here the meat has shrunken back in thickness and is almost off the spit forks. If this continued I would have used butcher’s twine to secure the meat to the forks

Once you have the spit on the grill make sure it is over your heat source. Turn on the motor and make sure the motor is spinning in the right direction if you are using a multi-piece spit. In part one I mentioned some universal one-size fits most rotisserie units use a two or three piece spit rod that screws together. Some rotisserie motors change directions each time you turn it on and of. If you have one of these combinations make sure the rotation direction serves to tighten, not loosen the threaded rods. At this point you are good to go and can close the lid and relax for a while. Although many rotisserie cooks consist of simply letting the meat turn until it done, you shouldn’t leave the grill unattended. You should check under the hood ever so often to make sure the forks still have a good grip on the meat. Two things can happen to cause them to lose their grip: 1) The set screws holding it in place loosen up and 2) The meat shrinks as it cooks. I often have to stop and adjust the forks for shrinkage, sometimes more than once. Be sure to wear Oven mitts or BBQ gloves when doing this.

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In this case the meat is beginning to shrink from side to side. I had to keep moving the forks closer together as the cook progressed

While the meat is cooking and we have some time I will speak a bit about the weather. If I know it is going to be really cold I will try to pick a rotisserie roast that requires little or no mopping or basting. By it’s nature a rotisserie roast is self-basting. But sometimes a mop or glaze is is used to flavor the meat. One lamb roast I make, SPIT ROASTED LAMB from BBQ-USA requires the application of a mop or a brine every 15 minutes. This is not a great choice for really cold weather. This is particularly true for a conventional gas grill. While my infra-red rotisserie unit does most of it’s cooking without actually heating the air, the cold air you let in can still slow the cooking down a bit. Also you really shouldn’t leave your mops or glazes out in the cold. While a mop probably won’t freeze it will cool the meat surface way down when you apply it. Glazes will often harden up on their own as the set, so you don’t want to speed up that process by leaving them out in the cold. Also don’t let glazes with butter set in the cold too long the butter will harden back up. A cold mop or glaze will also serve to cool the meat down, extending the cooking time. So when it is below about 65 degrees (18 C) I keep my mops and glazes inside the house.

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The plug for the rotisserie motor and the end of the extension cord have been stashed inside the gas grill and out of the elements

A second weather related concern is wet weather. If I knew it was going to rain I would not plan a rotisserie cook. Now that I have my Ez-Up pop up shelter, wet weather is less of a concern. There were several times that thunderstorms threatened before I had my Ez-Up and we did get some light rain. For those occasions I made a cover out of a large coffee can that covered the rotisserie motor and had some vent holes on the side. I also took care to place the end of the power cord where it plugged into the extension cord inside the grill cabinet out of the rain. Now that I have the EZ-Up this type of thing is no longer a concern. As I mentioned in an earlier entry some rotisseries have a dual power source: batteries and AC. If you lose the lights during a bad storm this would allow you to finish the cook under battery power. Plan B would be to fire up the indoor oven (assuming it was a gas oven).

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My Ez-Up pop up shelter make rotisserie grilling possible in all kinds of weather. It does come down for the winter.

I have found that on my infra-red rotisserie the cooking times tend to be quite a bit longer than what the book calls for. This is where a good instant read thermometer comes in handy. I used to take readings a lot earlier in the cook, but now that I know my times run long I usually start checking the temps a little before the minimum cooking time in the recipe. In the Winter try to minimize the time the lid is up and the amount of temperature checks I do. Even though most of the cooking on my unit is done by the infra red unit heating the meats surface directly, the cold air you let in will cool off the surface of the meat. The heat given back from the warm meat to the outside air will make it take somewhat longer to cook. While you are taking the temperature readings check that the set screws holding the forks haven’t loosened up. By the way this is best done with a pair of pliers or your hands in oven mitts.

A lot of the timing issues you will have are a matter of learning your grill. Keep a temperature log to help you the next time you make this. It may also help for similar sized pieces of meat. Most of the roasts I’ve made tend to have a linear rise and once you start taking readings you are usually able to predict the end time after a few readings. Do allow more time for the cold weather and more mopping. Even though the cook may take longer than expected, the linear nature will allow you to extrapolate the finish time. When it is time to remove the roast from the grill be sure to have some thick oven mitts or grill gloves to grab the spit. The spit on my 6 burner grill is 4 foot (1.25 m) long. With the meat in the middle of this 4 foot (1.25 m) spit, it makes for a tough balancing act. For this reason I usually try to have someone meet me at the door so I don’t have to balance that big load with one hand.

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Notice how moist this lamb roast is as it rests for 10 minutes

Once inside it is a matter of landing the meat on the cutting board and removing the spit rod. Make sure to wear the gloves to do this as the rod is as hot as a branding iron. I usually use a meat fork with the tines straddling the spit rod to hold the meat in place. First I remove the outer fork and then the fork closer to the handle. Next it is time to extract the spit rod. Sometimes it slides right out with no trouble, other times you need to really yanks hard on it. Make sure you have a good grip on it so you don’t heave it across the room while trying to extract the rod. If it looks like trouble, I get a second pair of hands to help. I have a pair of rubber gloves that can be used to grip the meat, or a couple of meat forks. I prefer not to make too many holes in the meat until it has rested.

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Here is another lamb roast partially carved. Once again notice the juicy slices of meat. Rotisserie roasting is relatively easy and the results are typically great

Once the meat is freed from the spit, let it rest the required amount of time before carving. The juices which were drawn close to the surface during the cooking process will settle back into the meat and help keep it moist. Cut into it too early and you waste these juices. I will often use some of this time to locate the strings used to tie the roast together so I can remove them before carving the meat. I also use this time to double check I have turned off the grill and have removed any drip pans. When you finally carve your roast or bird you should be in for a treat. Rotisserie roasts which are self basting tend to be some of the juiciest roasts I have made.

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SOME RELATED LINKS:
Here are the links for the other two parts in this series:
  ROTISSERIE GRILLING - PART 1 Blog Entry
  ROTISSERIE GRILLING - PART 2 Blog Entry


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