Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About
Spit-roasting—impaling meat on a metal or wood spike and turning it continuously near the radiating heat source—is best suited to large, bulky cuts, including roasts and whole animals. It exposes the meat surface to browning temperatures, but it does so both evenly and intermittently. Each area receives an intense, browning blast of infrared radiation, but only for a few seconds. During the many seconds when it faces away from the heat, the hot surface gives up much of its heat to the air, so only a fraction of each blast penetrates into the meat, and the interior therefore cooks through relatively gently. In addition, the constant rotation causes the juices to cling to and travel around the meat surface, basting and coating it with proteins and sugars for the browning reactions.