Hooded Spit as a Charcoal Oven | Users Guide
Table of Contents
Preparing a feast for a large group is a culinary adventure that demands precision, planning, and a touch of barbecue magic. In this guide, we'll walk you through the art of cooking roast meats on a charcoal hooded BBQ (it is a hooded spit with the motor and skewer removed), ensuring your gathering becomes an unforgettable gastronomic experience. Following Australian food safety standards, we'll cover everything from food preparation to serving temperatures, ensuring your barbecue journey is as safe as it is delicious.
This guide will address catering for large groups but can be adapted for small to medium gatherings. We will address temperature requirements (for Australian standards), hygeine, and serving suggestions. Although at small to medium personal functions, you don't necessarily (and probably won't) be checking temperaures every step along the way, it is still good practice to follow most of these steps, so your friends and family get beautiful cooked meat, without the dreaded gastro and food sickness!
Meat Selection for Charcoal Spit Oven
Start with the foundation of any great barbecue – premium-quality meats. Visit a reputable butcher for cuts like lamb, beef, or pork suitable for roasting. Here in QLD, we tend to get all ours from the local Super Butcher, but any butcher will work. Just make sure they are someone you can talk to, ask questions, and is willing to work with you to make good suggestions based on quality and price.
Lamb is eally expensive for us currently, so we went with two wagyu roast rump pieces, each about 7 kg. Alongside this we got two full pork legs, deboned and rolled (also both 7 kg each). If you can get a butcher to do this it will make it cheaper and provide a really good cut of meat, with a good amount of fat you can season and crackle. We also got 15 kg of chicken breast but if thigh is cheaper get that instead. If you can, always get chicken with skin on.
In general you should avoid skinless meat like chicken breast or thighs, but the client wanted it. We will address shortly how to cook it if thats the case. In the next two sections we outline what cuts of meat should be used and what are best to avoid, if possible.
Best Meats for Slow Cooking in a Charcoal Oven
Opt for cuts that contain more connective tissue and fat, making them better suited for long, slow cooking methods. These cuts break down over time, resulting in tender and flavorful dishes. Examples of suitable cuts for extended oven cooking include:
Pork Shoulder or Boston Butt:
- Excellent for slow-roasting or braising, resulting in pulled pork or flavorful roasts.
Beef Chuck or Brisket:
- Ideal for slow cooking methods like braising or roasting, producing tender and flavorful results.
- Just take into consideration, brisket requires a lot of prep time. You have to remove quite a lot of fat (while leaving a layer behind, don't fully remove it) and takes longer in general to cook. Big briskets can be 9+ hours!
Chicken Thighs or Drumsticks:
- Bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs or drumsticks are better choices for long cooking times, as they retain moisture and flavor.
Lamb Shoulder or Shanks:
- These cuts contain more collagen, which breaks down during slow cooking, resulting in tender and succulent meat.
Meats to Avoid for Slow Cooking in a Charcoal Oven
When cooking meats for an extended period, such as over 5 hours in an oven, it's essential to choose cuts that can withstand long cooking times without becoming dry or tough. Slow cooking, braising, or smoking can be suitable methods for these cuts. Here are some meats that are generally best to avoid cooking for extended periods in an oven:
Lean Cuts of Pork or Beef:
- Lean cuts like pork loin or tenderloin, and beef sirloin or tenderloin, are best cooked quickly. Extended oven times can result in dry and overcooked meat.
Boneless, Skinless Poultry Breasts:
- Chicken or turkey breasts without skin and bone are lean and can easily dry out during prolonged cooking. Opt for bone-in, skin-on cuts for better moisture retention.
- Delicate fish varieties, such as sole or tilapia, are not suitable for long oven cooking. They are best when cooked quickly to preserve their tenderness and flavor.
Ground Meat Patties:
- Patties made from ground meats like beef or turkey can dry out during extended cooking. Choose thicker cuts or use ground meat in recipes that require shorter cooking times.
Tender Cuts of Lamb:
- Similar to beef, lamb cuts like loin or tenderloin are naturally tender and can become dry when cooked for an extended period. Choose cuts suitable for slow cooking, such as lamb shanks or shoulder.
- Thin cuts of veal, like scallopini, are best suited for quick cooking methods. Slow cooking can make them tough.
Pre-cooked or Smoked Meats:
- Meats that are already cooked or smoked, such as pre-cooked sausages or smoked ham, can become overcooked and lose their desired texture when reheated for extended periods.
Preparing Meats for a Charcoal Oven | Seasoning and Marinating
Preparing your meats before a slow cook is one of the most important things you can do. The first step is to dry the meat with a paper towel or disposable cloth to remove as much moisture as possible. Typically, seasoning meat cuts and/or marinating them should be done the night before but if you can't, at least try to do it a few hours before so it can sit in the fridge before cooking.
For the wagyu and pork cuts we used the same seasoning: 1 part salt to 0.2 parts pepper. We also coated the meat with olive oil before applying the seasoning (you don't have to do this with the pork if you don't want). You can also use prepared rubs, and other herbs and spices to suit.
Alternatively, you can use marinades. Coat the meat in any of your favourite marinades, place into a freezer or zip lock bag, and put it in the fridge (preferably the night before). Alternatively, you can put the meat into a freezer bag or zip lock bag and pour in premade marinades before massaging it into the meat within the bag.
In our case, we seasoned the large meats and bag marinated the chicken breast. We did this the night before. Our chicken breast was skinless, so we used plenty of marinade, massaged it in, and let it sit for 15 hours.
Preparing the Charcoal
With the charcoal oven in place and ready to go the first thing we did was prepare the charcoal. To do this we used a chimney. You don't always have to do this but its the easiest, hassle free way of getting a good amount of charcoal started. In the 1200 hooded spit we used, we prepared an initial amount of 5-7 kg of charcoal. If you don't have a hood, start 4-5 small piles in the charoal pan in the spit/hooded BBQ and get all the piles going at one time.
The steps to follow are:
- Get 2-4 pieces of fire starter (camphor or the likes) set up in a small area.
- Place the charcoal all the way to the top of the chimney or build charcoal TP's above the fire starters.
- Place the chimney over the fire starters (ignore if using the pile in charcoal pan method)
- Start the fire starters
The charcoal will take 30-45 minutes to be fully ready, so get this started before you are ready to cook. Forgetting this step could mean setting your cook time back almost an hour, which could be detrimental if cooking for a set serving time.
Starting the Cook | Charcoal BBQ Oven
If catering for a group professionally (as a business) you nee to check temperatures adn keep a log every step of the way. At this point you check the temperature of each meat straight from the fridge, or the eski/chillibin, right before you place it into the alfoil trays and onto the grill.
The large meat cuts are placed into the aluminium foil trays. You can add diced onion and a small amunt of water or stock at this point. You only want enough water/stock to cover 0.5 - 1 cm of the pan. It will capture all the fat that comes out and reduce down to produce an incredible gravy or juice to soak the meat in.
The chicken is just pured directly from the bag into the alfoil tray. The chicken will only need 1-2 hours to cook (it took us 2 hours but we had 5 kg of chicken per alfoil tray, you will probably need less).
Put the hood down.
Ideal Temperatures for the Whole Cook
- Initially, the termperature of the charcoal BBQ with the hood down should reach 200 ºC for the first 30 - 50 minutes, especially if you are cooking pork. This will get the surface hot and help with the pork crackle. If you don't have pork, or don't want to worry about the crackle, you want to reach 175 ºC instead (160-180 ºC can also be used depending on time constraints). This temperature will cook a 7 kg pork and wagyu in 5-6 hours.
- Maintain the temperature at 160 ºC to 180 ºC. This is easily done by lifting the hood to let heat out. If you have an adjustable hood, even better. We set ours at the lowest height untill the temperature dropped to 160 ºC and then closed it again. We didn't have to do this often, as the temperature stays surprisingly steady. This is due to the fact that we used Gidgee QLD Charcoal which produces good heat output and a long steady burn time.
- If you are catering professionally, check the temperatures adn record the log every hour or so.
- After about an hour it is probably a good idea to get another 4-6 kg of charcoal in the chimney ready to go, or if not usign a chimney, add some fresh charcoal along the already burning stuff. Use heat gloves if doing this. Do not place the charcoal directly ontop of already lit charcoal or it will smoke. Place it next to it and let it catch.
- Monitor the temperature and add the chimney charcoal if required. You will know because the temperature will start decreasing rather than heating up and requiring the hood to be opened.
- Beef and lamb: 63°C (medium-rare) to 71°C (medium).
- Pork: 71°C for optimal safety.
- Chicken: 74°C for thighs and wings, 79°C for breasts.
- It is important to note, that if cooking professionaly for a catering service, all meat should reach 71 ºC before being removed. Still aim for the higher temperatures for the thighs and breasts.
- Once the chicken is at temperature, remove it, cut it, and put it into the heated serving trays (if catering). the chicken is always cooked last as it only needs a few hours. If service is not ready, leave the chicken on the heat, with the hood up to keep it hot. Serve the chicken at the last minute.
Resting the meat and Serving Temperatures
- Once the roast meats at temperature remove the meats and let them rest for 20 minutes. Cover the meats with alfoil during the resting period. To do this just cover the whole alfoil tray with alfoil sheet. Check the temperature every few minutes to make sure the internal meat is always above 60 ºC, especially if catering.
- After the meat has rested, slice and serve. We tend to slice the meat into the gravy/juice in the bottom of the alfoil tray. This moistens the meat. Place it all into heated serving trays once it is all cut and pour the remaining juice/gravy over the top.
- If catering, you will have to check the temperature of the meat in the heated serving trays. It needs to stay above 60 ºC the entire time.
Smoking and Flavor Enhancement
For additional flavour, you can place smoking wood chips directly on the charcoal during the cook. simply place wood chips in water for 30 minutes before placing directly on the charcoal. Choose any flavoured wood you like but you can't go wrong with Hickory and Apple wood. If you are cooking pork, maple wood is a time proven classic.
Food Safety Considerations
- Practice good hand hygiene; wash hands thoroughly before and after handling raw meat.
- Use separate cutting boards and utensils for raw and cooked meats.
- Keep perishable foods refrigerated until it's time to cook.
- For catering we kept the thermometers and all utensils in steralising liquid when not in use. We had two fresh water containers to rinse the sanitiser off before use.
- For catering, never cross contaminate. Keep a set of every utensil for the exclusive type of meat. On our cook we had 3x of everything - Pork, Beef, and Chicken.
- For catering, we took regular temperatures ang kept a log for each meat.
In conclusion, mastering the art of cooking roast meats on a charcoal hooded BBQ requires careful preparation, attention to detail, and adherence to Australian food safety standards. From selecting the right cuts of meat to monitoring temperatures and ensuring proper hygiene, this guide has provided essential insights for creating a memorable and safe culinary experience. Whether you're catering for a large gathering or hosting a small personal function, the principles outlined here will guide you through the process, resulting in perfectly cooked meats that delight your guests.
If you are interested in other uses and the history of cooking on Hooded spits, including an indepth guide to cooking a whole pig on a spit, check out our ultimate guide to rotisseries!
FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
Q1: What meats are best for slow cooking in a charcoal oven?
A1: Opt for cuts with more connective tissue and fat, such as Pork Shoulder or Boston Butt, Beef Chuck or Brisket, Chicken Thighs or Drumsticks, and Lamb Shoulder or Shanks.
Q2: Which meats should be avoided for slow cooking in a charcoal oven?
A2: Lean cuts like pork loin or tenderloin, boneless, skinless poultry breasts, delicate fish varieties, ground meat patties, tender cuts of lamb, veal scallopini, and pre-cooked or smoked meats are best avoided for extended oven cooking.
Q3: How should meats be prepared before slow cooking?
A3: Dry the meat, season or marinate it the night before if possible, and ensure it is at the right temperature before placing it into the oven.
Q4: What is the ideal temperature for the charcoal BBQ during the cook?
A4: Initially, reach 200 ºC for the first 30-50 minutes (especially for pork) and then maintain the temperature at 160 ºC to 180 ºC, adjusting the hood as needed. Check the internal temperatures for different meats regularly.
Q5: How long should the meats rest after cooking?
A5: Let the meats rest for 20 minutes, covering them with foil. Ensure the internal temperature remains above 60 ºC, especially when catering.
Q6: Any tips for enhancing flavor during the cook?
A6: Consider placing smoking wood chips directly on the charcoal for additional flavor. Soak wood chips in water for 30 minutes before use. Popular choices include Hickory, Apple, and Maple wood for pork.
Q7: What food safety measures should be followed?
A7: Practice good hand hygiene, use separate cutting boards for raw and cooked meats, keep perishable foods refrigerated until cooking, and avoid cross-contamination. Regularly check temperatures, keep utensils sanitized, and maintain a log when catering.
Always prioritize food safety, and enjoy the delightful results of your charcoal hooded BBQ cooking adventure!