Rotisserie chicken is one of my all-time favorite chicken recipes, especially for summer cookouts. But it can be a little tricky to cook without burning. After many tries, I’ve finally learned how to grill perfect rotisserie chicken, and it’s definitely become part of my dinner recipe rotation.
Now that it’s summer and the grill is ready to be used, one of my favorite dishes to make is rotisserie chicken.
It’s easier than it looks (once you get the hang of it) and tastes delicious…even better than store-bought rotisserie chickens in my opinion.
And grilling means there’s no extra heat in the kitchen and no pans to be washed…always a bonus in my books!
The trick is getting the chicken to be cooked all the way through without burning the skin.
There are 2 main problems I’ve had making rotisserie chicken in the past:
- the chicken stops rotating for some reason so one side of the bird is burned while the other side isn’t cooked
- the fat from the skin drips onto the burners causing flare-ups that burn the chicken
We had many unintentionally “blackened” chickens at my house until I learned these tips to grilling perfect rotisserie chicken. Keep reading to find out what they are!
Rotisserie Chicken Supplies
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First, you will need to have a grill with a rotisserie. If your grill didn’t come with a rotisserie attachment, you may be able to add one.
Look for grooves in the sides of your grill where the rotisserie rod can fit in.
If your grill has some, you’re in luck. You can either find a rotisserie attachment that is specially designed for your grill, or buy a universal rotisserie attachment* that fits most grills. Just make sure that the shaft is long enough to cover the length of your grill.
You’ll also need a large pot with a lid (for brining), and potentially a pair of pliers.
Prepare The Grill
Before we start cooking, we need to set up the grill to work with the rotisserie.
The first step is to remove the grilling racks from the area where the chicken will be cooking.
This may not be absolutely necessary depending on your grill. But on mine, the chicken sometimes hits the grates which stops it from rotating…and you end up with that scenario where one side is over cooked and the other side is under cooked. This is perfect rotisserie chicken tip #1.
Next you need to figure out where the chicken should go on the rotisserie spit.
You want to be able to cook the chicken over a burner that is turned OFF. This is the secret rotisserie tip that prevents flare-ups.
Put the spit into the rotisserie motor.
Then mark the position on the spit where the edge of the first fork will go. This should be on the opposite side of the burner that will be turned off to where the rotisserie motor is.
Make sure that your mark isn’t too close to the side of the grill, or it may prevent the chicken from turning (another tip for making perfect rotisserie chicken).
Then position the first fork at the location that you marked and tighten the screw. Make sure that the tines are facing toward the open end of the spit, not the end where the handle is.
If you want to be extra-sure that your fork is in the right place, test it out on the grill before you add the chicken. It’s quite annoying to get the chicken all the way on the spit only to find out that it’s not in the right position.
Brine The Chicken
While brining the chicken isn’t absolutely necessary, it does improve the flavor and helps to prevent the bird from drying out.
It’s an easy process of adding salt, sugar, lemon juice and thyme to water. Then letting the chicken soak in it (in the refrigerator) to absorb the flavors.
The longer you leave it in the brine, the more flavor it absorbs. I usually let the chicken soak for 3 to 4 hours.
Since the chicken breast is the part that dries out the most, put the chicken into the brine breast side down (wings should be up). That makes sure it is fully covered.
Prepare The Chicken
Once the chicken has finished brining, it’s time to prepare it for cooking.
Before you start the chicken, get the grill warmed up by turning on at least 2 burners to high and closing the lid.
Remove the chicken from the brine.
Sprinkle pepper outside and inside the chicken. If you did not brine the bird, sprinkle salt outside and inside as well.
Put some thyme and minced garlic in the cavity of the chicken.
Lay the chicken down with the breast side up (wings down).
Tuck the wings behind the back of the chicken.
Run the rotisserie spit through the back of the chicken (the end with the wings) so that it fits tightly within the fork tines.
Add the second rotisserie fork to the front of the chicken and push it in as far as you can. Getting the chicken held on tightly is important. Otherwise it won’t turn and you’ll end up burning it. (That’s rotisserie tip #4).
Make sure that the ends of the drumsticks are caught inside the fork tines. This prevents them from flopping around while the chicken is turning.
You can also tie the drumsticks around the spit, but since I never seem to have string available, this is the method I use.
Tighten the screws on the forks as tight as you can (I usually use a pair of needle nose pliers).
Rotisserie chicken tip #5: If the screws aren’t really tight, they’ll come lose with the heat of the grill and the chicken won’t turn…and by now you know what happens then. You’ll end up with burnt chicken.
Grill the Chicken
Now we’re on to the fun part…grilling the chicken!
Stick the free end of the rotisserie spit into the rotisserie motor on the grill.
Turn OFF the burner that the chicken is over. As I mentioned above, this is very important to prevent flare-ups and keep it from burning! The other side should still be on high. (Rotisserie tip #2 repeated in case you missed it the first time).
Click the button on the side of the motor to start the rotisserie turning motion and close the lid on the grill.
After about 20 minutes, check to make sure that the skin is not burning. If it is turn the lit burner down to medium heat.
Cook for 1½ – 2 hours or until a meat thermometer reads 165° F.
Remove the chicken from the grill and let it sit for about 10 minutes before serving.
Be very careful when removing the chicken from the spit since the spit will be very hot. If you used pliers to tighten the screws on the forks, you’ll need them to get the screws undone as well.
Carve and serve your perfect rotisserie chicken!
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How To Grill Rotisserie Chicken
- 4 pound whole chicken
- ¾ cup salt
- ¾ cup sugar
- 2 lemons
- 5 or 6 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 Tablespoon of dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 5 or 6 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 Tablespoon of dried thyme
Brine the Chicken
- Add salt and sugar to the large pot.
- Juice the lemons into the pot and throw in the lemons.
- Add 1 gallon of water to the pot.
- Stir to dissolve the salt and sugar
- Add the chicken with the breast side down (wings should be up).
- If the chicken is not completely submerged, add enough water to cover the chicken.
- Put a lid on the pot and refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours.
Prepare the Chicken
- Remove the chicken from the brine and pat the chicken dry.
- Sprinkle the pepper outside and inside the chicken. Note: If you did not brine the chicken, sprinkle salt inside and outside the chicken as well.
- Put the thyme and garlic in the cavity of the chicken.
- Lay the chicken down with the breast side up (wings down).
- Tuck the wings behind the back of the chicken.
- Run the rotisserie spit through the back of the chicken (the end with the wings) so that it fits tightly within the fork tines.
- Add the second fork to the front of the chicken. Make sure that the ends of the drumsticks are caught inside the fork tines, and that the chicken is held tight.
- Tighten the screws on the forks as tight as you can.
Put The Chicken On The Grill
- Get the grill warmed up by turning at least 2 of the burners to high, and close the lid. Let it heat for about 15 minutes.
- Stick the free end of the rotisserie spit into the rotisserie motor on the grill.
- Turn off the burner that the chicken is over. This is very important to prevent it from burning! The other burner should still be on high.
- Start the rotisserie motor so that the spit is turning.
- Close the lid on the grill.
- After about 20 minutes, check to make sure that the skin is not burning. If it is turn the lit burner down to medium heat.
- Cook for 1½ – 2 hours or until a meat thermometer reads 165° F.
- Remove the chicken from the grill and let it sit for about 10 minutes before serving.
Nutrition values are estimates only, using online calculators. Please verify using your own data.
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This post was originally published on June 23, 2016 but was updated with new content on January 20, 2024.