For larger cuts of meat, rotisserie roasts, whole chickens or turkeys, up to suckling pigs and lambs, the grill grate is not well suited. Such large pieces of meat are cooked on a spit over the grill. However, it must be constantly rotated so that the meat can be evenly cooked and crispy from all sides without burning. Finding a volunteer among the guests to turn the crank is not always easy, as everyone has a good idea of the expected activity. Large pieces of meat can take hours to cook. The solution in our modern world is electric motors, which are also available for different types of grills. The right choice for one of the suitable grill motors depends on several factors, such as whether the grill is even suitable for retrofitting with a grill motor.
Differences in Grill Motors?
Grill motors have different capacities, with the power needing to be adapted to the weight of the meat. Those who only want to rotate kebab skewers or grill chickens on a spit can get by with smaller or less powerful grill motors than if roasting a suckling pig. Therefore, there are usually specifications for each grill motor indicating how much weight they can rotate. This may be indicated as maximum motor load, grill weight, or similar. The wattage only indicates the power consumption of the electric motor, and it is logical that motors with higher power consumption are also more powerful. However, this changes when the grill motor works with a gear transmission. Then, motors with less power are also able to handle heavier weights. Relying solely on wattage can therefore be misleading.
Grill motors are available at very different prices, which usually reflect the design, materials used (plastic or metal), and quality. The rotation speed can also vary among models, with some models allowing for speed control.
Because electric motors require power, there are also differences in the required power supply. There are models for battery operation, which offer the advantage of independence. For example, someone who wants to go into the countryside without an available power source only needs batteries for the “automatic grill spit.” Here, it is worth mentioning the advantage that accordingly, no cables can serve as tripping hazards. However, beyond a certain power level, batteries become impractical as they respond to higher power demands with faster discharge. Constantly needing to replenish batteries is not only annoying but also expensive. Therefore, stronger grill motors are equipped with a 230-volt power connection. Additionally, most of them also offer the option to connect a 12-volt car battery. Car batteries cannot be compared to ordinary flashlight batteries. They can provide the required power for hours but are very heavy. Those who drive to the countryside for grilling always have a car battery or a 12-volt electrical system with them. However, it should be ensured that the battery is still intact or has its full capacity. It would be embarrassing if the car didn’t start after grilling, especially since vehicles with automatic transmissions cannot even be started by pushing. Newer grill motors are equipped with lithium-ion batteries. Due to the higher capacity of these batteries, they can also drive electric motors that, for example, rotate 15 kg of grill weight. Additionally, they have the advantage of being rechargeable compared to batteries. One hour of fast charging is sufficient for approximately 6 hours of grilling. This makes grilling fun less expensive.
Imbalance Leads to Uneven Grilling Results
As mentioned earlier, there are grill motors where the electric motor directly rotates the spit (direct drive). Balancing meat, for example, a turkey, on a grill spit is difficult. Imbalance is practically unavoidable due to the different shapes of the meat, which also affects the rotation. Different rotation speeds will occur. If the center of gravity of the meat is rotated upward, the speed will slow down, only to accelerate during the downward movement. Grill motors that exert force through a gear transmission (gears) are much more resistant to influences on the rotation speed. Alternatively, balancing with weights can be recommended, as the uneven rotation exposes the “slow” sides of the meat to heat longer than the “fast” sides. Uneven grilling results would be the consequence. Severe imbalances can wear out the electric motor faster.
To guide you through the maze of model variety sensibly, we, the Grill Expert Team, provide you with some tips so that you can make a good choice.
Quality or Affordability
Everyone hopes to get good quality for little money. However, it is logical that, for example, better materials also mean higher costs for the manufacturer. Thus, in the lower price segment starting from 15 euros, housings and gears are made of plastic, and they can only move around 1.5 kg of grill weight. Their rotation speed is between 2-6 times per minute. Batteries are used as the power source. For light grill dishes and occasional use, such as camping, the advantage here lies in the low price. With increasing price, there is also a transition from plastic housings and plastic gears to metal in the middle to upper price segments. Rotation speeds per minute range from 2 to 20 and are often adjustable. The load capacity of the motors sometimes exceeds 50 kg of grill weight. Although such high weights are rarely reached when grilling, since even a suckling pig weighs between 15 and 20 kg, the more robust design of the grill motors can handle imbalances better, and the service life also benefits from it compared to when a grill motor is constantly operated at the limit. The stronger variants of the grill motors are equipped with a power connection for electricity and sometimes also with 12-volt connections for the car’s electrical system.
Advantages of Grill Motors
Many larger cuts of meat cannot simply be prepared on the grill and require a rotating spit. For those who don’t want to manually turn the spit for hours, a grill motor provides real relief. Through electric rotation, meat is evenly cooked from all sides, without burnt spots. The fat no longer drips down but is constantly distributed over the meat due to the rotation. Small, inexpensive grill motors are suitable for kebab skewers and light grill dishes up to 1.5 kg. Stronger models can rotate whole suckling pigs and can handle over 50 kg, depending on the design. Now, the grill owner can actively participate in the grilling party without having to crank the spit all the time.