What is a Rotisserie for Grills & Smokers & Why You Need One

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  June 3, 2022

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Rotisserie is a style of roasting where meat is skewered on a spit – a long solid rod used to hold food while it is being cooked over a fire in a fireplace or over a campfire, or roasted in an oven. This method is generally used for cooking large joints of meat or entire animals, such as pigs or turkeys. The rotation cooks the meat evenly in its own juices and allows easy access for continuous self-basting. In medieval and early modern kitchens, the spit was the preferred way of cooking meat in a large household. A servant, preferably a boy, sat near the spit turning the metal rod slowly and cooking the food; he was known as the “spit boy” or “spit jack”. Mechanical turnspits (“roasting jacks”) were later invented, first powered by dogs on treadmills, and then by steam power and mechanical clockwork mechanisms. The spit could also be powered by a turbine mounted in the chimney with a worm transmission for torque and speed conversion. Spits are now usually driven by electric motors. Rotisserie can also refer to a mechanical device used for rotisserie cooking, or to a restaurant specializing in spit-roasted meat. The word comes from French where it first appeared in Paris shops around 1450. Additionally, in restaurants employing the Escoffierian brigade de cuisine, the rotisseur is the chef responsible for all spit-roasted, oven roasted, grilled and in some cases fried foods.

What’s special about a rotisserie?

An interesting fact to note is that humans normally consume 4 – 5 lbs. of food on a daily basis. Some eat even more if the meals are very delicious. The weekends are never complete without smoked or grilled food.

The unique way of grilling food (which is called barbecue in America) was originally invented by the Caribbean natives. So, there is no surprise that smoking and grilling food became one of the most famous American traditions.

Rotisserie, also known as spit-roasting, is a style of roasting where meat is skewered on a spit. It’s a long solid rod used to hold food while it is being cooked over a fire in a fireplace or over a campfire, or roasted in an oven.

The rotisserie is used for cooking large portions of meat. Or, you can cook an entire animal like a chicken, turkey, and pig. 

I’ve gotten quite a taste for it now and opted for a garden kitchen grill with a rotisserie built-in. I started a bit smaller because I wasn’t sure about committing to an expensive smoker. 

You see, the OneGrill Rotisserie attachment is my favorite to use if you don’t want to buy a whole new smoker unit. It’s just easy to install and most people will already have a BBQ in their backyard. Just make sure to check if it fits yours.

And the other, the Weber, it’s just the best you can get for your patio.

The Rotisserie Attachement Revolution

As early as the 1950s the rotisserie has already been added to the charcoal and gas grills by American grill manufacturers. The rotisserie feature was so popular, it’s no wonder most grill manufacturers offered this feature. 

Seeing as how important that feature will become in American homes as national holidays are usually family gathering days also, it was only logical to include it into the design as people will most likely cook whole turkeys during Thanksgiving Day or whole chickens, the pig’s ribs and other large portions of meat.

Also check out our essential smoker tools guide

Today the rotisserie feature can be found on all types of barbecue grills. They are especially common to large commercial grills.

American families benefit from it very much as it is their unofficial go-to cooking material for all of their grilled food recipes.

What can you barbecue on a rotisserie?

Honestly, there are so many recipes to try I don’t even know where to begin. Here are some ideas if you want to try the smoker rotisserie:

1. Whole chicken – there’s nothing like a rotisserie chicken to enjoy with the whole family. The meat is succulent and juicy with a crispy skin exterior. 

2. Prime rib – it tastes even better on the rotisserie than oven-cooked.

3. Ribs – you can rotisserie about 2 babyback ribs per spit. It’s a great alternative to grilling the ribs. 

4. Turkey – if you want another poultry alternative to chicken, turkey is a tasty option. 

5. Fruit – you can rotisserie pineapples, peaches, and any kind of fruit or veggie.

What is the advantage of rotisserie-cooked meat?

Some people claim that you don’t need a rotisserie because a good grill can give the same effect. However, this is not quite true. The truth is that rotisserie-grilled food is slow-roasted, which means it is juicier and self-basted. It makes chicken have that tasty succulent meat that’s tender yet well-cooked through. 

Basically, there is one major difference between regular grilling and rotisserie cooking.

When you grill on a regular grill, you cook on high heat, whereas when you rotisserie, you need a lot less heat. 

What is a rotisserie basket and how do you use it?

If you’ve heard of a rotisserie basket, you’re likely confused. It’s not the classic spit you’re thinking of. Instead it is a basket that works and cooks similarly to the spit. It is used for cooking foods like chicken wings, fries, and vegetables. You can use it to cook all the foods that are small enough that they fall through the grill grates. But by placing them in the basket, you can cook them well. 

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Lakeside Smokers is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with BBQ Smoking (& Japanese food!) at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.