The Slowcook at Spydog Farm The Slowcook at Spydog Farm

Chicken On The Spit

June 11th, 2009 · 4 Comments · Posted in dinner

Chicken turning over hot coals

Chicken turning over hot coals

It may sound terribly hokey, but one of my favorite kitchen gadgets isn’t in the kitchen at all. It’s out on the deck: The spit roaster attachment on my Weber grill.

It’s really just a sleave that extends the grill upward with a fitting on one side for a small motor and a groove on the other to hold the spit (a long metal skewer) on the other. We’ve turned every imaginable cut of meat to a perfectly browned doneness on this device–prime rib, lamb shoulder, rack of pork loin, turkey, leg of lamb.

Tonight it was chicken. Easy enough. But I found something new at Whole Foods, a free-range chicken from a company called Shenandoah Valley Family Farms. Of course the name drew me right in since we are only a couple hours drive from the Shenandoah Valley. According to the packaging, these chickens come from “small flocks raised on small farms” somewhere in the vicinity of Dayton, Virginia. “Our chickens are allowed to range freely. They have pasture and shaded areas to rest in; they are able to forage on green greass with plenty of fresh air, clean water and sunshine.”

I’m impressed by the use of a semi-colon. That’s not something you see on food packaging every day. It also sounds like exactly the kind of poultry farming we try to support. So I bought one of these birds, stuffed it with heaps of rosemary and sage from the garden, tied it simply to hold its shape and put it on the spit over coals I had fired in the charcoal chimney.

You may be able to see in the photo how a drip pan is centrally positioned under the chicken, while the hot coals are laid around the sides. Allow the spit to turn with the cover on and vents fully opened.

About one hour and twenty minutes later we had as fine a chicken as we’ve ever tasted. There really is no comparison between a factory chicken and one that’s had a chance to forage outdoors.

Spit-roasted chicken with asparagus and shaved Parmesan

Spit-roasted chicken with asparagus and shaved Parmesan

The chicken is done when a leg moves rather freely in the joint. Allow to rest 10 minutes before carving. Some steamed asparagus dressed with olive oil and shaved parmesan was all this bird needed to be called dinner.

Leave a Comment

Please note: Your comment may have to wait for approval to be published to ensure that we don't accidentally publish "spam". We thank you for understanding.


  • Susan Hagen

    I live next door to Dayton! I’ll have to see if they sell at our local farmers’ market. I’ve been getting local free-range eggs there that are simply the best I’ve ever tasted. I asked the vendor why and he said it’s because they roam loose eating greens and bugs.

  • Ed Bruske

    Susan, you are lucky to have free-range chickens so close by. Shenandoah Valley Family Farms sounds like a co-op arrangement, or a small company that’s drawing chickens from several farms. I don’t even know if it’s a farm itself, or just a processing facility. If you should pay them a visit, please let us know.

  • foodperson

    I love, love, love chicken roasted this way. The smokey flavor is divine. I don’t have a spit, but get similar, although perhaps slightly less perfect, results by roasting a chicken on the Weber with indirect heat. I’ve always put coals on one side and chicken on the other, but I’ll have to try your way of putting the chicken in the middle and coals around it. In any case YUM! (And I’m lucky; I CAN by pastured chickens at my farmers market and food coop.)

  • Ed Bruske

    Janet, I am totally with you on the indirect roasting method. Because of the convection action inside the Weber, I don’t know if it’s necessary to have coals on both sides. But once you put a drip pan in there, there’s not much room for coals, so it just makes sense to use both sides of the grill. In fact, there comes a point when one chimney-load of coals isn’t quite enough to finish off the bird, so I fire up some more and drop those at the ends of the drip pans, meaning I then have hot coals completely circling the bottom of the grill. However it works, there’s no topping the chicken that comes out of there–especially when you use a happy bird that’s been raised outside, the way nature intended.