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Rotisserie Turkey

Rotisserie Turkey: Recipe and Technique

Rotisserie turkey cooking, also called spit roasting, should ideally be done in an open chamber - in the open air, on an open grill or in an oven with an open door but do check manufacturers recommendations first.

The part of the bird closest to the heat source is heated intensely. As the spit turns, that part moves away giving up heat. The rotisserie process gently heats the interior of the turkey while allowing the juices to distribute evenly around its surface.

If rotisserie turkey is done in a closed unit, the cooking chamber quickly heats up becoming a heated oven.

Although this speeds up the cooking process, the turkey will be cooked more by indirect heat.

The juices will distribute evenly but because the bird is not able to give off as much heat as it turns, but the advantage of gently heating with radiant heat is diminished.

Rotisserie Turkey


If you don't have a rotisserie, you will need obtain one that fits on your specific grill. The Weber Kettle for example, has a special ring available that turns the traditional kettle into a rotisserie by providing attachment points for the spit and rotation mechanism above the surface of the grill.

Because rotisserie set ups vary by model, check the instructions to find out what size and weight of turkey it can handle and to see how it should be set up for safe use. Rotisserie cooking for something as large as a turkey takes an indirect cooking method, so the turkey should be cooked next to, not directly over the heat source.

Preheat the grill before starting the rotisserie.

Do not stuff a turkey which will be cooked on a spit. Place the turkey on the spit. Run the spit through the bird from end to end. Fasten the bird to the spit, at the neck and the tail, using spit forks.

Truss the turkey. For most other cooking methods we don't truss the bird, but trussing is necessary when rotisserie cooking so that it doesn't flop around. Trussing can be done with any standard trussing kit. Or, just use cooking string to tie the legs together and to wrap and tie the wings around the bird so they are constrained.

Because turkeys are heavy, it may also be necessary to use a counterweight on the spit. With rotisserie cooking it is important that the bird turns evenly and does not slip during rotation. So turn on the rotisserie and make sure that it turns easily and the bird is balanced on the spit.

Place a drip pan with water directly under the bird. Some recipes call for other liquids such as beer or wine to be added to the drip tray but these flavors don't really get absorbed.

Rotisserie Turkey Recipe

A rotisserie turkey recipe does not have to be designated only for rotisserie cooking. Preparing the turkey in advance can involve any combination of brining, flavored rubs or marinades.

We like to brine the turkey using the basic wet brine recipe, but substituting one quart of orange juice for one quart of the water.

The Weber's Big Book of Grilling by Jamie Purviance and Sandra S. McRae 2001 lists ingredients for our favorite rotisserie turkey recipe called "Sage, Orange, and Clove Rotisserie Turkey."

For a 12 to 14 pound turkey, start with a rub consisting of:

2 Tablespoons granulated orange peel
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
1 Tablespoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil

Mix in a small bowl, the rub the turkey with the mixture.

You will also need:

2 small oranges washed and dried
6 garlic cloves
12 whole cloves
1 bunch of sage

Pierce the oranges with a knife and insert 6 cloves into each orange. The oranges will be skewered inside of the turkey.

The garlic cloves and the sage will be placed into the turkey cavity just before rotisserie cooking begins.


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