How we tested
Spit-firing your food can seem like a daunting, if not utterly primitive, cooking technique. Adding a component to your grill that impales meat—be it Cornish game hens, leg of lamb, or (space-permitting) a whole turkey—on a metal shaft and rotates it slowly and continuously speaks little to the modern mind in terms of convenience or culinary innovation. Whether or not this method took its cue from cavemen stick-skewering meat over a fire, there was no denying the flavor benefits of superior air circulation and natural self-basting when we tasted our Cornish hens grilled on a triad of rotisseries.
Some new high-end grills come with built-in rotisseries, and a select few brands sell erroneously-tagged “universal” rotisseries; these attachments, which claim to fit “most large grills,” were immediately disqualified for fitting none of the three brands of grills stocked in the test kitchen. That being the case, we opted to furnish our top-rated gas and charcoal appliances with rotisserie attachments made by their manufacturers. Both box-style grills came rotisserie-ready with rod-cradling divots in their sides and pairs of strategically placed holes for the motor’s mounting brackets. Assembling these attachments required little more than a close read of the directions and 15 minutes of tinkering with parts. The rotisserie designed for our kettle grill was almost assembly-free.
Telltale distinctions among the three models, though relatively minor, were evident once the hens were roasting. Our winner won top honors with its crank-adjustable coal tray and the rotisserie’s four (rather than two) meat-stabilizing prongs; the cooking time was cut by about 10 minutes, and the added space between the birds allowed the hot air to circulate and render the fat in the skin completely for a crisper texture. Any of these rotisseries would be worthwhile investments; what other grilling technique permits enough walk-away time to make a salad?