How to Build a Spit Rotisserie

Written by helen harvey
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How to Build a Spit Rotisserie
Chicken is a popular choice to cook on a rotisserie. (roast chicken image by Vladislav Gajic from

With an appropriately sized rotisserie, meats from the size of a chicken to a whole hog can be cooked on a spit over an open fire facilitated by gas, charcoal or wood. Rotisserie cooking is a flavourful and relatively healthy means of cooking and can make an enjoyable social event. With adequate tools, building a rotisserie should be within the capabilities of the handy amateur and achievable in a few hours.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • 55-gallon metal drum
  • 10 metal bars, 0.5 inch diameter
  • Metal brackets
  • Cutting wheel
  • Welding torch
  • Hacksaw
  • Metal file
  • Pot holder
  • Insulation tape

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  1. 1

    Clean the interior and exterior of your drum thoroughly. You must remove all traces of any chemicals or fuels it previously contained, if you are to avoid combustion during the build project or problems on its inaugural rotisserie session. Use dish detergent and hot water and rinse the drum out repeatedly.

  2. 2

    Cut your metal drum in half lengthwise, using a cutting wheel, and file down any rough edges. You will now have two pieces that each measure approximately two feet wide and three feet long. While food will never be in contact with the drum itself, burn off any residue deposits by lighting some wood in the drum half you will use and letting it burn out. Empty the ashes and, once the drum half has cooled down, scrub the interior with dish detergent and hot water to ensure that they are completely clean.

  3. 3

    Build the frame for your rotisserie. One half of your drum will sit in this frame. Take two metal bars that are two inches shorter than the length of the drum and two metal bars that are two inches shorter than the width of the drum. File the ends of the bars to remove any sharp pieces. Lay these on the ground so that they form a rectangle, with the end of each bar overlapping another bar. Weld the pieces together with a welding torch. If you have a bench vice, you may find it easier to clamp each piece into position before welding it.

    Determine how tall you want your rotisserie frame to be and cut four metal bars to that length using your cutting wheel or a hacksaw. These will be the legs of the frame. A standard countertop is 36 inches and this would be a good height for your rotisserie drum to sit at. Use a bench vice to bend each piece to a 45 degree angle one inch from one end. Weld the angled ends of your legs to the four corners of the frame.

  4. 4

    Place one drum half into the frame you have constructed and weld the drum into place. Check that this structure is sturdy. Fill with wood blocks and leave for 24 hours to see that it can withstand the weight of the fuel you will burn. While it is full, the structure should not move when you apply any pressure to it. If it does, you need to weld it more securely. It must hold heavy fuel materials which will become very hot. If it collapses when in use it could cause serious injury.

  5. 5

    Cut two metal bars to a length of three feet each. These will be the poles that hold your spit above the fire drum. Weld a pole to the middle of each end of the drum.

  6. 6

    Take two pieces of metal, approximately six inches in length and two inches wide, and bend them in your vice to create hooks. Weld one hook approximately six inches from the top of each pole. These will be the holders that your spit sit in. You could also use small metal brackets purchased from a home improvement store.

  7. 7

    Make an elongated shaft with a sharp prong at one end for spearing foods and an insulated "L" shaped crank handle at the other for turning the spit. Use a steel rod at least 0.5 inches in diameter and 12 inches longer than the drum, so that it sits safely in the holders. Use your grinder and file to sharpen one end to a pencil point-like sharpness by shaving metal away. Bend the other end into a right angle in your vice to create a crank handle. Tape a heat-resistant pot holder around the handle with insulation tape to make the crank handle safe to touch when hot.

Tips and warnings

  • You can purchase a motorised spit for approximately £32 from professional kitchen suppliers.
  • Your welding must be sturdy to minimise the risk of an accident.
  • Position the rotisserie on even ground well away from any property that could be damaged if a fire were to burn out of control or hot embers and sparks were to be carried by the wind.

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