Fans of Costco know that there are plenty of clever and delicious ways to enjoy the popular and super convenient rotisserie chicken. You might also be aware of a few trivia facts related to the popular bird, regarding the affordable and steady price ($4.99 for those who don't know) or where you can find it (FYI: in the back of the store). However, you might not have realized one important thing about this chicken: It has a shockingly short shelf life.
"They time stamp the rotisserie chicken so that it's only on the shelf for two hours because it doesn't taste as good after two hours," David Schwartz, who wrote The Joy of Costco: A Treasure Hunt from A to Z with his wife Susan, told Insider. The self-proclaimed superfans of the warehouse club spent seven years stopping by more than 200 different Costco locations around the world to find out as much as they could about the brand.
As for the rotisserie chicken, David explained that after the 2-hour period is over, the birds are taken off the shelf and repurposed for other ready-to-eat Costco items. That's right, it's not thrown away but is simply added to other dishes, like soups or salads.
If you're wondering how Costco employees know how long the chicken has been on the shelf, as David mentioned, they time-stamp them all and then keep an eye on which ones need to be removed when their two-hour limit has passed. As his wife Susan noted, "They do the right thing when no one's looking. They just are decent. And that's just a great thing."
Indeed, any perishable food—such as dairy, cut fruit, some vegetables, meat, seafood, and cooked leftovers—shouldn't be left out for more than two hours, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. If the temperature in the room (or wherever you might be such as your kitchen or a grocery store) is over 90° F, then that time goes down to one hour.
So while Costco may be removing and replacing chicken after two hours to preserve the taste that customers expect, they may also be aware of the fact that this will keep it fresh and safe to serve.
If you pick up a rotisserie chicken, you might wonder how long you have to use it before it goes bad. Well, if you pop it in the fridge within two hours of purchase, the cooked chicken will be fine for up to three or four days, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. Of course, if you love Costco's rotisserie chicken, then it probably won't last that long before it's all gobbled up.