The secrets to a spit

What's the key to cooking a great beast on a spit?

Richard Gunner

Illustration by Lauren Haire

What’s the key to cooking a great beast on a spit?

Cooking a successful spit-roast is one of the most rewarding things any backyard barbecue master can accomplish. That said, it’s not for the faint-hearted, time-poor or disorganised.

My first tip would be to get a friend to help, so they can assist with the lifting and other general chores. For a first-timer, go with lamb (pigs can be more of a challenge with crackling). You can feed two people per kilogram of whole lamb you buy.

Assuming you’re hiring the spit, make sure you see the motor running and learn how all the fittings clamp together before taking it home. Buy good charcoal that burns hot: Mallee or gidgee and other hardwoods are the go; I’d avoid mangrove and cheaper charcoals.

Since the lamb is the hero, don’t skimp here – buy the best quality you can afford. Light your fire at least 30 minutes before you intend to start cooking. It will take five to six hours to cook your lamb – so plan ahead. Put more charcoal at the front of the lamb; you want the shoulder to be the most cooked part of the beast. About 30 to 45 minutes before the lamb is done you should see bubbles form on the surface. The lamb should be a deep brown colour at the end of the cook.

Stay calm and enjoy it.

Feeling inspired? Try our recipe for a spit-roast porchetta with salsa verde.

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