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I will be having a graduation party for my twin daughters in june and i want to cook some large beef roasts on the spit. Although i have cooked plenty of beef briskets, prime rib, and sirloin roasts, I have never cooked for 150 people, except for a few pig roasts.

What I'm trying to find out is 1) what would be the best cut of beef and 2) what type of wood and/or charcoal should I use. My biggest concern is the meat drying out. And if possible maybe you can give me a few cooking tips.

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One way to help prevent spit roasts from drying out is to add a layer of fat on the outside ... I saw this done for a venison spit roast with some sort of pork fat on one of the River Cottage cooking shows. –  Allison Feb 11 '11 at 7:28

3 Answers 3

I guess this is a late reply, but just joined. I've been getting chuck roasts with some fat marble in it, about 2-3 inches thick at Public or Walmart. They are easy to cook and lower in price than a brisket too. As far as the meat drying out, always add a pan of water in your cooking area and also you could lay sliced salt pork over top of your meat and it won't dry out.

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This is a public site for questions and answers. If you post your tips here, you'll help everybody who sees this page. If you leave an e-mail, you'll only help the one person who writes you an e-mail (or alternatively, you will find yourself spammed with questions). If you have to say something about the topic, please do it in the answer, we would be happy for that. –  rumtscho Jul 23 '12 at 13:13
    
On an unrelated note, I didn't understand about the "pan of water", are you suggesting that steaming the meat prevents drying out? If yes, this goes against all food science I have read and all meat cooking experience I have made. –  rumtscho Jul 23 '12 at 13:14

Let's look at your options...

Brisket - the gold standard of BBQ beef. Becomes very tender when cooked low and slow. An inexpensive cut of meat (if you know the right places) Cons: Very small window between undercooked (to tenderness) and dried out. Only fat is in the fat cap, meaning that you lose lots of rendered drippings every time the meat is turned. Not very spit-friendly.

Rib Roast - Good marbling throughout. Not much connective tissue to break down in the meat. Cooks relatively quickly, even at lower temps. Delicious. Cons: If you have to cook to a more "done" temperature depending on your audience, the meat could become tough and dry.

Eye of Round - Cheap. Fits on a rotisserie stake perfectly. Cooks evenly throughout. Cons: even a good round roast has a more dry, tough texture.

Chuck - Tender and flavorful. Very forgiving. Excellent for low/slow cooking. Lots of marbling throughout the meat to keep it moist during cooking. Cons: Falls apart when cooked properly, meaning it would be difficult to keep it on a spit. Best served as pulled beef, which may not be what you're seeking.

Sirloin - Juicy, full of beefy flavor. Lean. Cons: it is easy to turn out a piece of sirloin that is like shoe leather.

Tenderloin - Tender, and tasty. Forgives cooking beyond medium if done properly. Cons: Very expensive.

Beef back ribs - Tender, good fat content. Good for slow cooking. Cons: can be difficult to serve/eat.

I don't really know what I'd pick here. I'd almost certainly eliminate brisket, eye of round, and sirloin, for various reasons, if I'm sticking to spit-cooking. I'd be on the fence with chuck -- you'd have to come up with some kind of cage-type mechanism to keep the chuck roast(s) together. So I'd lean toward rib roasts or tenderloins. Both are pricey, but they are worth it. Only problem is, if you have people who insist upon medium-well or greater meat, you'll have to figure out what to do. Maybe cook to medium and sear off chunks for the people who want theirs more cooked?

Another intriguing option might be beef back ribs. I saw an episode of Primal Grill with Steven Raichlen where he made giant beef ribs on an open fire, Argentinian style. He put the ribs on big stakes and pounded them into the ground next to the fire, turning them around every so often.

As far as wood goes, I'd suggest oak and/or hickory. Personally, I like those with beef. Perhaps the best strategy would be to build a fire with charcoal, just some regular briquettes (no Match Light!!!). Then continuously feed some wood logs to the fire during the cooking process. The smoke flavor you impart will not be as profound as it would be in a smoker, but that may be appropriate to your audience.

I'd suggest getting small cuts of each of the meats, put them all on the same spit, and give it a test in your backyard. Whatever you don't like, toss it into some stew or chili. Through trial and error, you can get your fire method right, and get some good meat in the process. Win-win!

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I have done this with pig and sheep. For a nice fat pig in its skin you don't have to worry :) But for a sheep you take the caul fat that lines the abdominal cavity and wrap it around the outside of the carcass. As it turns the fat melts slowly and keeps the meat moist (basting?) Of course you want low heat, no flames, and we usually pour beer over the meat if it is getting too hot.

As for which cut, I imagine that brisket would be nice because of the rich flavor and marbled fat. Nothing else comes to mind, but why not try a nice one-year-old lamb?

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