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I Tried 3 Grocery Store Rotisserie Chickens & One Bird Rules the Roost

Cheap, spit-roasted whole chickens are supermarket marvels, but which store cooks the best bird?
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There's nothing like a good rotisserie chicken. It's the perfect meal when you don't know what to serve for dinner—or when you don't feel like cooking. When it's made properly, a rotisserie is flavorful and juicy, and whether you're feeding fans of dark meat or white meat, everyone is satisfied. If you're getting one just for yourself, it's so easy to keep in the fridge and turn into lunches or dinners for a few days. No roasting required!

I personally love to pick up a rotisserie chicken at least once a week. I'll serve it with salad and a baguette and voilà! Dinner is taken care of. My other favorite thing to do with rotisserie chicken is to use it in recipes. There's nothing better than weekday green enchiladas and when you use rotisserie in the recipe, you cut your cooking time in half and end up with an impressive, totally delicious meal.

When it comes to rotisserie chickens, not all of them are the same. To try and find the very best bird, I sought out chickens from three popular grocery stores and compared them in terms of freshness, flavor, seasoning, and price. To keep things fair, I sampled each chicken without adding any sauces, additional seasonings, or toppings. The results of my rotisserie chicken taste test showed that there was one clear winner when it came to this chicken dinner. Read on to see which rotisserie will go into my weeknight rotation and which one you might want to avoid.

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Sam's Club Seasoned Rotisserie Chicken

sam's club rotisserie chicken
Photos: Ronnie Koenig / Art: Jené Luciani Sena
Per Serving (3 oz): 140 cal, 7 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 430 mg sodium, 0 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 19 g protein

Priced at $4.98, the rotisserie chicken I picked up at Sam's Club was cheapest of the three I tried, albeit just by a penny. It was also the scrawniest!

The look: This chicken looked unevenly cooked, with burnt wings that appeared blackened. All of the chickens available looked like this, so it wasn't that I picked the odd bird. Cutting into this chicken, I hit bone right away—there just wasn't a lot of meat on it.

The taste: Although this rotisserie said on the label that it was seasoned, it had a very bland taste. Perhaps some salt and pepper would have improved it, but I was here to try the chicken as-is. The meat was dry, not juicy. I would not buy this chicken again.

Rating: 2/10

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Whole Foods Rotisserie Chicken

whole foods rotisserie chicken
Photos: Ronnie Koenig / Art: Jené Luciani Sena
Per Serving (3 oz): 390 cal, 22 g fat (6 g saturated fat), 810 mg sodium, 0 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 44 g protein

The classic rotisserie chicken at Whole Foods Market was the priciest of the three at $9.99—nearly double the cost of the other two. Notably, it also came in a plastic bag, not in the traditional plastic bubble packaging that normally contain the chickens. I think that being sealed in this bag caused the chicken to get overly steamed.

The look: When I took it out of its packaging and put it on a plate, my son asked why it had a bag on it. "That's the skin," I told him. Admittedly, the skin was very baggy looking, which was a bit unappetizing. The bird was also still trussed, with string holding its legs together. Unfortunately, that didn't seem to help in cooking this bird to perfection.

The taste: While the meat was certainly edible, it was bland and flavorless. Since the bird looked well-seasoned, with visible seasoning on the skin, I was expecting more. I might toss this chicken into my enchilada recipe, but on its own it was a no-go.

Rating: 4/10

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Costco Kirkland Signature Rotisserie Chicken

costco kirkland rotisserie chicken
Photos: Ronnie Koenig / Art: Jené Luciani Sena
Per Serving (3 oz): 140 cal, 7 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 460 mg sodium, 0.5 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0.5 g sugar), 19 g protein

Costco rotisserie chickens are very popular and for good reason. The price is a big part of the allure. The whole bird costs just $4.99 and that rate has not budged in well over a decade. Costco reportedly also takes pains to ensure its chickens stay fresh. According to the new book The Joy of Costco, the fresh-roasted birds are displayed on the shelf for just two hours. If no one buys them within that timeframe, they're removed and the meat is repurposed into tacos, chicken salad, and other dishes.

The look: I'm not a regular Costco shopper, so I wasn't sure what to expect when I picked up this chicken. But the big, golden, juicy bird looked like an oven stuffer when I got it out of its packaging.

The taste: This bird had a ton of meat on it and it was all perfectly seasoned and best of all, juicy but without being overly greasy. This is the kind of chicken that if you left it out on the counter, everyone would be pulling pieces off of it and going back for seconds—yes, it was that good! My only possible criticism is that the reason this rotisserie tastes so good is probably due to lots of salt, which isn't the healthiest, but it still resulted in one tasty chicken.

When it comes to a chicken that will work great in any recipe and can also stand on its own, Costco's Kirkland brand is the clear winner.


Ronnie Koenig
Ronnie Koenig has written about food, drink, travel and culture for The New York Times, TODAY, The Atlantic and many others. Read more about Ronnie