Make Your Own Portable Campfire Rotisserie
A portable spit or rotisserie is not a new idea, though there are issues with the options currently on offer. Those that include their own firebox and stand are not particularly compact, and those designed for use over a campfire are typically very expensive for what they are.
The steps below show how to build a compact, battery operated campfire rotisserie using off-the-shelf components and a few tools.
What you’ll need
- Gasmate GRT2 Battery Powered Rotisserie Kit, available from Bunnings.
- Coghlan’s Camp Fork Rest, available from eBay and Amazon. I got mine for $10 on eBay, but they’re harder to come by in Australia now.
- M5 or 3/16″ Flat Washers
- M5 or 3/16″ Large Flat Washers and/or 1/4″ Mudguard Washers, available from Bunnings for AUD4
- M5 or 3/16″ Spring Washers
- M5 15-20mm Round Head Screws
- M5 Nuts
- M5 Threaded Inserts (aka Rivnuts or Nutserts) and the tool to insert them, or additional M5 Nuts
- Small Round file (if using threaded inserts)
The Gasmate rotisserie kit comes with brackets designed to be screwed to the sides of a hooded BBQ. Instead, we’ll adapt these brackets to hook into the Coghlan’s Fork Rests using screws and an assortment of washers which work as anchor points. The Fork Rests are then pushed into the ground either side of the campfire, with the spit suspended between them.
This basic design can be adapted to work with other stakes if the Coghlan’s Fork Rests prove difficult to come by. The advantage of the Fork Rests is that they offer the ability to adjust the height of the rotisserie, though in practice it is not so easy to adjust things once you’ve started cooking, so some sort of straight stake that you could drive into the ground to the desired depth would do just as well, once you work out how to attach the brackets.
There are two brackets which need to be modified – what I’ll refer to as the Motor Bracket, and the Handle Bracket. In both cases, one anchor point sits in the valley of the fork-rest (at your chosen height), and another anchor point rests against the upright of the fork rest to stabilise it. The Fork Rest should be cinched between the bracket and the large/mudguard washer, and held firm by the spring washer.
This design uses Threaded Inserts, also known as Rivnuts or Nutserts. These aren’t essential, but they’re more secure than nuts, particularly where the bracket’s have cut-out notches for the screws instead of holes. A basic kit with the tool and a variety of inserts is available on eBay, and once you’ve got one you’ll find heaps of uses for it.
From the head of the screw the order of components should be:
- Spring washer
- Large Flat Washer and/or Mudguard Washer
- Spacers – any combination of M5 flat washers and M5 nuts to create a snug fit around the Fork holder.
- Rotisserie Bracket
- Nut (if you’re not using a threaded insert)
The examples below were assembled from using washers and nuts I had in my shed, so yours may look a little different.
The motor bracket requires two anchor points to connect to the fork rest. The bracket sits at a slight angle, and the top-heavy weight of the motor box helps keep the bracket in place during operation.
The lower anchor point is mounted in one arm of the T-shaped hole, close to the bottom of the bracket.
The upper anchor point is mounted at the outer edge of the top side notch, on the opposite side to the offset of the lower anchor point. It is important that the lower anchor point be offset to the opposite side to the upper one.
If you’re using threaded inserts, you may need to file out the hole and the notch with a small round file, until the inserts fit.
This was actually the first component I modified when making mine. As you’ll see in the photos, I used the threaded inserts themselves as the spacers, rather than washers and nuts.. This involved filing them down until they were the right depth for the fork rest, which was time consuming. I don’t recommend this approach, and I’ll eventually I’ll flip the bracket around and add nuts and washers as spacers..
The Handle Bracket is smaller than the Motor Bracket , and offers less surface area to stabilise itself against the fork rest. For added security I added a third threaded insert on the opposite side to act as a post, without washers or screws. This probably isn’t necessary.
The lower anchor point is placed in the second-lowest centre hole in the bracket. It’s an oval hole, and the anchor point should be placed at the bottom edge of it.
The upper anchor point is placed in the top side notch. It doesn’t matter which side.
Again, you may need to file out the hole and the notch with a small round file, until the inserts fit.
If you do decide to add the 3rd threaded insert, this should be on the opposite edge to the top anchor point, and it should be inserted from the opposite side of the bracket to the other two inserts, so it protrudes on the Fork Rest side.
Attach the brackets to the Fork Rests as shown, both at the same height.
A campfire is going to throw off more radiant heat in all directions than a gas BBQ normally would. For that reason, always use the full length of the spit, and place the meat closer to the handle end. The handle will get hot, but it won’t burn or melt (so far so good), and batteries tend to explode if they get too hot. Set up the rotisserie beside the camp-fire, and shovel coals under the meat as required.
The Fork Holders have a certain amount of flex to them. Adjust the guide at the handle end of the spit so that the Fork Holders are forced apart slightly. The tension between them will keep the end of the spit securely in the motor unit.
Does it work?
On the first weekend I tested this we roasted beef and pork (pictured above) over two nights. The results were good enough that just about everyone there wanted to know where they could get their own campfire rotisserie. So yes, I’d say it works.