Whole Lamb on the Spit

Every year, Auckland’s Design Centre celebrates with a barbecue in the park. We are lucky to have native bush reserves not far from our back doorstep and its a great opportunity to get amongst the totara trees and keruru, a huge native New Zealand pigeon, rumored to be delicious but illegal to hunt. Luckily, Roger and David from our on site cafe had sorted us out with an even more appealing option. A whole lamb, to be slow roasted on the spit on our biggest DCS grill.

I was ably assisted by a couple of my Brazilian colleagues – barbecue mercenary’s to whom cooking meat is as sacred as football. We loaded up a borrowed van with the lamb, a 48 inch beast of a grill, a full gas bottle and scores of aromatics, garlic, rosemary, lemon, salt and olive oil. We went out as a scout party a couple of hours before the rest of the barbecue volunteers arrived.

Our process was this: truss the lamb onto the spit with stainless steel wire “reassigned” from the work shop. We had rubbed the lamb with salt the night before to give it time to diffuse into the meat so a rub with halved lemons helped to clear excess salt and impart flavor. We filled the cavity with extra lemon halves, rosemary, bread and beer, then sewed it shut with more wire. We then slit the skin and inserted cloves of garlic in a 4 inch diamond pattern and rubbed the whole carcass with oil.

Now for the moment of truth, would it fit on the grill? It was a 23kg carcass and it was right at the limit of size for the massive grill, but we had advanced advice from the designers in our Dunedin office that we should be right and we were, with a bit more trussing. With the burners set on low and the motor peacefully rotating our future dinner we made up a baste with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and minced garlic. Then there was little else to do but kick back, chat and be mesmerized – watching a rotisserie is a bit like watching a campfire. We did make time later in the evening for the adult version of the bouncy castle, the mechanical bull!

Five hours after starting, she was done. The meat was fork tender and the skin was crispy and delicious. The only thing I would change would be how often we basted. Every time we basted, the water from the lemon juice cooled the outside of the meat until it had all evaporated, keeping everything moist but limiting crust development. We had basted her every 30 minutes but next time I would probably push that out to 45 because the meat was incredibly juicy, but it would be better if there was a bit more dry, crispy crust to go with the the juicy meat.

If you have never rotisseried before, I can definitely recommend it, something about watching a whole animal turn on a spit is so rewarding in a primal caveman kind of way. Thanks to all the barbecue volunteers and organizers and also the kind department that lent us the grill, its not often you can roast a whole lamb on a domestic barbecue!


  1. I concur with Andrew that it was mesmerising watching it cook and that it tasted delicious. Lots of preparation but less work than being on a BBQ for the rest of the chicken/beef/patties/corn fritters. Tremendous occasion!

  2. I’m looking forward to the next one already. Menu suggestions are absolutely welcome. The DCS grill is such an awesome product for going where no outdoor grill has gone before!

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