Rotisserie chickens from supermarkets and delis are a welcome break from daily dinner preparation. They always taste so much better than the chicken roasted or grilled at home. Why are rotisserie chickens so juicy?
Rotisserie chickens are juicy because they are slow-cooked over direct heat, rotating so that their juices are constantly basting the meat. In addition, storebought chickens are injected with spicy brine to add moisture. Rest your rotisserie chicken after cooking to ensure juiciness.
Grabbing a few sides or shredding a rotisserie chicken for tacos makes a meal a pleasure. It’s great to replicate the deliciousness of a storebought rotisserie chicken at home on the grill or barbecue. So what are the secrets of a juicy rotisserie chicken?
Direct Heat Makes Rotisserie Chickens Juicy
The first reason that rotisserie chickens are so much juicier than oven-roasted chickens is that they are slow-cooked over a direct flame.
A rotisserie and regular oven cook food differently. A rotisserie uses direct heat: in other words, the chicken is directly next to the heat source.
Direct heat causes the caramelization or browning of the chicken through the Maillard reaction, resulting in that super crispy skin on rotisserie chickens.
This chemical reaction turns grilled meat brown and gives it that delicious barbequed flavor. The Malliard reaction only starts once the chicken reaches 248⁰F (120⁰C) and kicks in, creating the complex tastiness between 280 and 330⁰F (140-165⁰C).
Oven roasting, on the other hand, is dry heat cooking. The chicken cooks via the heated air in the confined space of the oven.
Continuous Basting Makes Rotisserie Chickens Juicy
Another reason rotisserie chicken is juicy and moist is that the rotation of the spit cooks the chicken evenly and in its own juices through constant basting.
As the chicken turns, the juice drips into the cavity and trickles over the outside of the chicken. This basting keeps it moist and tender.
If you have a series of chickens on a commercial rotisserie, their juices will be dripped down onto each other, creating a delicious self-basting.
A single-chicken rotisserie spit also allows access to all sides of the chicken for continuous basting by the griller. You can baste the chicken or add flavor by squeezing lemon juice onto the chicken.
Roasting a chicken in the oven means that the juices drip down into the roasting pan – they can flavor the potatoes and gravy, but not the chicken.
Slow Cooking Makes Rotisserie Chickens Juicy
Cooking a chicken on a rotisserie takes much longer than roasting a chicken – three or more hours compared to an hour.
Alternatively, put your chicken on your home rotisserie on high for about an hour and 20 minutes. This shorter cooking period allows the back and breast sides to cook evenly.
An oven-roast chicken, by comparison, seldom cooks evenly – the breast usually cooks faster and ends up dry.
Brining Makes Rotisserie Chickens Juicy
Commercially produced rotisserie chickens are often juicy through a brining process, usually a wet brining. Backyard grilling enthusiasts can either wet brine or dry brine their home rotisserie chickens.
Rotisserie chickens you purchase at the store have likely been plumped or injected with saline solution. This salty water can increase the weight of a chicken by 15 to 18% – check the ingredients label of the next chicken you buy, and you will see water on the list.
Brining does make for juicier chicken and a lip-smacking salty flavor. Supermarket brand chickens can contain up to 460 mg of sodium (salt) per three-ounce serving, one-fifth of an adult’s daily allowance.
Brines often contain spice and spice extracts, like garlic powder, paprika, and black pepper.
Commercial brines also include food additives and preservatives to improve the chicken’s flavor, texture, and appearance. Some ingredients included in commercial brines are:
- modified potato and tapioca starch
- yeast extract
That said, some of those ingredients are not the best for you, and when you cook your rotisserie chicken, you can control what ingredients you put in the brine.
Resting Makes Rotisserie Chickens Juicy
If you buy a rotisserie chicken ready cooked, it has rested for quite a while before you carve it, which is why it’s so juicy.
We’re always advised to rest meat or chicken after cooking. However, most of us don’t want to wait for 10 or 20 minutes and start carving immediately.
Resting a rotisserie chicken allows the meat to retain the juices rather than spill out over the carving board, as home cooks often find.
Making A Juicy Rotisserie Chicken At Home
If you have a rotisserie kit or attachment for your barbecue, you can make delicious, juicy rotisserie chicken in your backyard. Once the rotisserie is set up, you’ll find it’s the easiest way to cook on your barbecue.
Your homemade chicken will be tastier than any storebought bird because you can choose the best quality chicken without plumping artificial ingredients and saturated fats.
Step 1: Wet Brine
Home brines mean soaking meat in a saltwater mixture rather than injecting the chicken.
- Mix a gallon of cold water with ¾ cup of kosher salt and ½ cup of brown sugar. Stir until the dry ingredients have dissolved.
- Submerge your giblet-free, washed chicken in the brine and refrigerate for six to eight hours.
- Take your chicken out of the brine. Rinse it thoroughly and dry with paper towels.
Step 2: Dry Brine/Rub
You can choose to skip the wet brine and use a rub to season your chicken instead.
- Make sure your chicken is as dry as possible, inside and outside on the skin.
- Rub the bird with salt and place it in the refrigerator uncovered overnight. This dry brine will dry out the skin to make it crisp during cooking and keep the meat juicy.
- Take the chicken out 30 minutes before cooking to allow it to come to room temperature.
- Make a dry seasoning rub for your chicken. You’ll be cooking the chicken for a few hours, so you can be pretty aggressive with seasoning. Use spices like fennel seed and red pepper flakes for an intense flavor. Let the bird sit for 30 minutes to allow the spices to infuse.
Step 3: Stuff The Chicken
You’re not going to stuff the chicken with dressing, just some flavor.
- Stuff a couple of lemon halves and sprigs of herbs into the chicken’s cavity.
Step 4: Truss The Chicken
Trussing means tying the chicken up to seal the cavity and ensure even cooking.
- Using butcher’s twine, tie the bird’s legs together, creating a tight package that will cook evenly and trap flavor inside.
Step 5: Prepare The Grill
- Remove the grill plates from the grill.
- Replace the grill plates with a shallow roasting pan to catch the chicken’s juices and avoid flare-ups.
- Set the barbecue to medium to high heat, and preheat to 375⁰F (190⁰C).
Step 6: Secure The Chicken To The Spit
- Skewer or securely clamp the chicken between the spit forks.
- Turn on the rotisserie motor.
Step 7: Baste And Grill
- Baste the chicken with a barbecue sauce if you choose.
- Repeat the basting with sauce and/or dripping every 20 to 30 minutes for one to three hours.
- The chicken will be ready when a digital probe cooking thermometer reads 165⁰F (74⁰C) when inserted into the breast and the thigh of the chicken.
- The skin should be golden.
Step 8: Rest The Chicken
- Remove the chicken from the spit.
- Rest the chicken at room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes.
Step 9: Carve And Serve
- Carve, serve and enjoy your juicy rotisserie chicken.
The rotating motion of a rotisserie spit directly cooks the chicken over a flame, ensuring that it is evenly cooked and constantly basted. Along with slow cooking and brining, this cooking method ensures that a rotisserie chicken remains juicy.
Resting your chicken before carving allows the moisture to stay in the chicken.
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