How to Make Rotisserie Chicken on a Charcoal Grill

Juicy rotisserie-style chicken cooked over charcoal and perfectly paired with tasty homemade gravy.
Rotisserie Chicken

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This is a fool proof way of creating mouth-watering rotisserie chicken.

As the chicken slowly rotates it bastes in all of the juices. The smell that comes off a rotisserie bird is pretty hard to beat but if you don’t have a rotisserie you can still make this recipe on a regular grill and it will taste almost as good.

You can’t serve roast chicken without homemade gravy so I’ll also share my simple method for making tasty gravy.

Cooking a whole rotisserie chicken over charcoal

It seems lately the trend is to spatchcock chicken every time you cook them.

There is a time and place for doing that (especially if you are running late), it really doesn’t take that much longer to cook a chicken whole over charcoal.

That’s where my favorite add-on for the Weber Kettle comes in to play.

uncooked whole chicken on a metal tray
Cooking the whole chicken on a rotisserie is easy and convenient

For every 2.2lbs of chicken, it will take around 45 minutes to cook over medium heat charcoal. The good thing about rotisserie cooking, if you want to cook two birds at once, it doesn’t affect the cooking time. The 45 minutes per every 2.2 pounds is per bird, not in total.

The other added benefit is as the bird spins, it is basting itself in all of the juices. The smell that comes off a rotisserie bird is pretty hard to beat.

Season, smoke and spin, you really cannot make it any easier than that.

We have a full video of this recipe if you prefer to watch how everything is done.

What you need to cook a rotisserie chicken

Most good grills have rotisserie attachments you can purchase as optional addons.

You could also consider a dedicated rotisserie but that will be overkill for most people.

Items you’ll need:

Try and buy the best quality chicken you can afford.

Tying the bird up, why and how?

Let’s start with the why. 

A chicken is not a fat piece of meat and therefore will not cook evenly. This is another reason a lot of people will only cook a chicken if it has been spatchcocked.

That is removing the spine and opening up the chicken so that it lays flatter while cooking.

uncooked whole chicken on a rotisserie
Tied up chicken cooks more evenly

By tying the bird up, we can bring the smaller parts of the bird closer to the main body, like the wings and legs.

This creates one large piece of meat that will cook a lot more evenly and as the wings and legs are not hanging outwards on their own, they will not burn up.

Now onto the how.

I like to anchor my butcher’s twine around the breast meat, it is the largest piece of meat on the bird and by bringing the twine around the top and down to the bottom and tying it off.

From there you can secure the wings by holding them close to the breast meat and tying the legs together and bringing them closer to the breast meat.

uncooked whole chicken tied with a butcher's twine on a rotisserie
Use thick butcher’s twine and secure the wings and the legs close to the chicken’s breast

With all of the chicken secured and nice and snug, it will now cook a lot more evenly and it tends to take the stress out of what part will be cooked first.

Be sure to use a thick twine.

I know a lot of supermarkets sell what they call cooking twine but rest assured it is nothing like what your butcher uses.

I’d be inclined to go ask your local butcher where to source some, you may just be surprised and they will give you some, I know this as my local butcher did exactly that.

Setting up your grill for rotisserie cooking

While we are cooking with charcoal, chicken still lends best to a medium heat.

Although when I’m cooking a rotisserie chicken and people ask about my setup, I do loosely state I’m cooking “over” charcoal. When in fact I am not cooking directly over the charcoal at all.

Chicken has a lot of fat under its skin, as this renders down throughout any cook it is only going to fall one way, down.

So by placing charcoal directly under the chicken, we would be constantly fighting fat flare-ups, and although a little fat smoke is nice for flavor, full on fat fires that create soot are not a good flavor profile.

Well not unless you like chewing on charcoal. If that is the case, knock yourself out and go burn your chicken.

 lump charcoal inside weber kettle
Place the heat source slightly to the side of the chicken to avoid fat flare ups

By sticking with a medium heat and having the fuel source off to the side, the bird gets more than enough heat to cook it and more than enough of a smoky hit to help give it an extra boost in flavor.

Then by placing a pan directly under the chicken, we can catch all of the fat to help aid in clean up, or in our case, to make some of the most delicious gravy you will ever sample.

rotisserie chicken on weber kettle
Place a pan underneath the chicken to catch all the juices

By cooking at this medium heat set up, we not only end up with a juicier chicken, we can also use the rough calculation of every 2.2 lbs is going to take 45 minutes to cook through.

Although I’ll always stress to use an instant-read thermometer to check the final temp before consumption of any poultry. You should be aiming for a minimum of 165°F internal temperature for chicken.

There is no such thing as medium cooked in chicken, so always check the temperatures. 

Make sure that the chicken reached the safe internal temperature of 165°F

When chicken is cooked to temp and you need to hold it for a while, the old foil over it and a couple of towels to lock in the heat always works quite well.

The foil itself adds no heat holding ability, it is purely there to stop the chicken making a mess of your towels. If you don’t believe me, when removing hot foil off any tray that has been cooking, yes it is hot to touch but take it off the heat source and it effectively has lost all heat within seconds.

Selecting the best smoking wood to pair with chicken

You’ll find most fruit and nut varieties of smoking wood will complement poultry across the board.

The heavy smoking woods like Hickory and Mesquite I’d steer clear of as they do tend to overpower the taste of chicken. So much so, that you are left with a strong aftertaste.

Smoke should be another element to your flavor profile, not the only thing you can taste.

The right seasoning for chicken

So many herbs and spices work so well with chicken.

Rosemary, lemon and garlic would be my absolute favorites, paired with salt and pepper. I feel this combination brings out so much flavor that not a lot more is really needed.

uncooked whole chicken on a rotisserie seasoned with herbs
Experiment with spice combinations to achieve different flavors

In saying that, you can start adding spice into the mix and go to a more Mediterranean style of cook, or ramp up the heat and go to Jamaican Jerk style cooking.

Then the curry based flavors of India and Sri Lanka.

It really is a protein that can be flavored so many ways, so my best advice is to start experimenting.

Gravy is the best side dish

There is one thing gravy can do, it can rescue you. Yes it’s true, it can literally help you out of a tight jam.

Imagine you spend all day cooking a big turkey, or some lovely roast pork or beef. Maybe you overcooked your vegetables, the roast potatoes were a little too crunchy. Or maybe you didn’t follow this chicken recipe and you overcooked the bird and dried it out a little.

water, onions and chicken stock in a pan
Turn pan juices from the chicken into the most flavorful gravy

Smother them all in some homemade gravy and all will be forgotten. As every mouthful is scooped up and then drenched in this caramel-colored goodness. No one will be worried about anything else apart from trying to get the recipe out of you.

The fact is that it is simple, pan juices with water and chopped onions. Then add some stock and wine and reduce. Combine melted butter and flour to thicken it up, taste and season accordingly. Strain and serve.

rotisserie chicken and a sauce boat with gravy on a wooden board
Even if you’ve dried out a bird, a homemade gravy can rescue the situation

It is one of the simplest things to make and you can literally change the flavor profile by adding some extra herbs while simmering.

Just remember to quietly thank me in your head every time you use it.

Serving suggestions

Rotisserie chicken is so versatile, steamed or roasted vegetables are the perfect pairing.

sliced chicken on a wooden board
Sliced chicken can be paired with roasted vegetables or used in a salad

Cut the chicken into pieces, add a salad and bottle of bubbly for the perfect champagne breakfast for two.

slices of chicken on a bread roll with gravy
Rotisserie chicken slathered in gravy and served on a bread roll makes a scrumptious sandwich

Or, grab a soft bread roll, put some sliced chicken in it and slather it in gravy and you’ll be in heaven.

Rotisserie Chicken

Rotisserie Chicken with Gravy

Juicy rotisserie-style chicken cooked over charcoal and perfectly paired with tasty homemade gravy.
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Course: Main Course
Cuisine: French
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Resting Time:: 10 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
Servings: 6
Calories: 487kcal
Author: Dean “Schuey” Schumann

Ingredients

  • 4.5 lb whole chicken

Chicken Seasoning:

  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp black pepper finely ground
  • 2 tsp lemon zest only
  • 2 tsp dried rosemary
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp olive oil

Gravy:

  • 2 onions peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2-3 cups hot water
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp AP flour
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Tie the bird up using butcher's twine. Making sure to secure the wings and legs to the body. This allows the bird to cook more evenly.
  • Put the bird on the rotisserie skewer and position in the middle.
  • Lightly oil the whole chicken and then give an even coating of the seasoning.
  • Prep the gravy by peeling the onions and roughly chopping them. Place them in a heatproof tray.
  • Get the rotisserie ready by lighting the charcoal in a chimney starter. Once ashed over, place it to the side of the charcoal grate and add the pan with the onions to the middle of the charcoal grate. Add 2 cups of hot water and place the smoking wood chunks on the lit charcoal.
  • Once the smoke has settled from the thick white to a barely visible blue, it’s time to put the bird on.
  • Once the internal of the bird is reading 165°F, it’s time to come off the heat.
  • Remove from the skewer and cover with foil and a couple of old towels and leave it to rest.
  • Time to make the gravy: transfer the onions and fat dripping to the saucepan and bring to a simmer.
  • Add some chicken stock and wine and bring to the simmer again, lower the heat and allow the gravy to reduce by about a third.
  • Melt the butter in another saucepan, add the flour and whisk together. Once you have a nutty colored mixture, add this to the gravy and whisk it to thicken.
  • Taste the gravy and season as needed with salt and pepper, strain and serve.

To Serve:

  • With steamed or roasted vegetables.
  • On to some soft rolls, slathered in gravy and enjoyed with a cold beer.

Video

Nutrition

Calories: 487kcal | Carbohydrates: 10g | Protein: 33g | Fat: 31g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 135mg | Sodium: 1235mg | Potassium: 501mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 353IU | Vitamin C: 6mg | Calcium: 40mg | Iron: 2mg

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