Closeup of a man slicing into a rotisserie chicken leg

Budget Bites: Supermarket Rotisserie Chickens to the Rescue

If you are time-starved but not ready to give up home-cooked meals just because life can be chaotic, you need to embrace these two little words: rotisserie chicken. Not exactly take out, not completely home cooked, think of a rotisserie chicken as your ace in the hole, a kitchen assistant with an extra pair of hands to help you get delicious, inexpensive, home-cooked meals on the table in a flash.

Closeup of a man slicing into a rotisserie chicken leg

Nowadays, nearly every grocery store, supermarket, and warehouse club offer fully roasted, hot, and ready-to-go rotisserie chickens for as low as $5. In fact, rotisserie chickens are so readily available that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has issued safety guidelines for selecting and storing a fully cooked rotisserie chicken.

Chicken flavors

While some stores are now offering a variety of flavors (barbecue, lemon herb and so on), try to stick with the standard plain-seasoned rotisserie chicken. Depending on how you use the bird, you will add flavorings and seasonings yourself.

Buying and storing

You want a chicken that is hot when you buy it. Bacteria become active between 40 F and 140 F., so it should be above that range when you pick it up. It should feel hot to the touch. Either eat or refrigerate the chicken within two hours.

Buy two

There are several variables to consider for how long a rotisserie chicken will last, safely. The USDA recommends eating rotisserie chicken within three to four days of purchase. If you keep it in the freezer, it will last 2-6 months. The best way to extend the shelf life of rotisserie chicken is to vacuum seal it. This will keep it fresh for up to 2 years. So pick up two chickens, and you’ll have enough meat for several meals plus one to freeze.

 

rotisserie chickens on a spit in a tore

Easy Prep

The first thing you should do when getting the chickens home is to get all the meat off the bones. All you need here is a feel for where the bones are.

Place the chicken on a cutting board, breast side up, and pull out your sharp chef’s knife or poultry shears. Cut off the wings, cut off the legs. Now cut off the thighs. Using your fingers, start pulling all the meat from the bones (it will pull off easily as the meat will be tender and juicy).

Lay all the white meat on one side of a platter, the dark on the other. Set aside the bones, carcass, and skin on another plate.

Cut the larger pieces of breast meat into chunks or shred them, depending on how you use the chicken.

Place all the bones, skin and carcass pieces into a container or zip-type bag and freeze. These will be the basis for great chicken stock or soup later.

Portion

Set aside the amount of chicken meat you will need for the next 4 days. If there is more than you need, divide it into zip-type bags and either refrigerate or freeze.

Take a few minutes to clean up, making sure you use a good disinfectant on your cutting board and other surfaces.

 

 

There! In just 10 minutes, you have the main ingredient for wonderful chicken sandwiches, salads, stir fry and just about any recipe that calls for cooked chicken.

 

How to reheat

Reheating a rotisserie chicken in the oven is a no-brainer, especially if you cannot consume the whole thing in one meal. However, doing that is quite another subject, especially if you want it as fresh, moist, and delicious as it was when you picked it up.

  • Preheat the oven to 400 F.
  • Place the rotisserie chicken in a deep baking dish with high sides
  • Add a bit of chicken stock to the baking dish—about 1/4-inch in the baking dish. If you don’t have chicken stock or broth, substitute water.
  • Place the baking dish in the preheated oven.
  • Reheat until the liquid is bubbling and the chicken is warmed all the way through.

This method will keep the chicken moist while reheating—as opposed to a microwave or reheating without the added liquid, both of which would dry out the rotisserie chicken.

●  READ POST: How to Use Up Every Last Bit of a Supermarket Rotisserie Chicken (with Recipes!)

Safe thawing

USDA recommends three ways to thaw rotisserie chicken that has been frozen.

  • in the refrigerator,
  • in cold water, or
  • in the microwave

Never thaw chicken on the counter or in other locations. It’s best to plan ahead for slow, safe thawing in the refrigerator. Boneless chicken breasts, bone-in parts, and whole chickens may take 1 to 2 days or longer to thaw. Once the raw chicken thaws, it can be kept in the refrigerator for another day or two before cooking. During this time, if chicken thawed in the refrigerator is not used, it can safely be refrozen without cooking it first.

Chicken may be thawed in cold water in its airtight packaging or in a leak-proof bag. Submerge the bird or cut-up parts in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes to be sure it stays cold. A whole (3- to 4-pound) broiler-fryer or package of parts should thaw in 2 to 3 hours. A 1-pound package of boneless breasts will thaw in an hour or less. Cook immediately after thawing.

Chicken that was thawed in the microwave should be cooked immediately after thawing because some areas of the food may become warm and begin to cook during microwaving. Holding partially cooked food is not recommended because any bacteria present wouldn’t have been destroyed. Foods defrosted in the microwave or cold water should be cooked before refreezing.

Do not cook frozen chicken in a slow cooker or in the microwave; thaw it before cooking. However, chicken can be cooked from the frozen state in the oven or on the stove. The cooking time may be about 50 percent longer. Ensure the chicken is cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165°F as measured with a food thermometer.

 

*Ready-Prepared Chicken: When purchasing fully cooked rotisserie or fast food chicken, be sure it is hot at the time of purchase. Use it within 2 hours, cut it into several pieces, and refrigerate in shallow, covered containers. Eat within 3 to 4 days, either cold or reheated to 165 °F (73.9 °C). It is safe to freeze ready-prepared chicken. For best quality, flavor, and texture, use it within four months.

Updated 12-3-22


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10 replies
  1. CHERYL MILLER says:

    I get three to four meals for the two of us from a rotisserie chicken. I get mashed potatoes and gravy for 2-3 meals and then use the rest to make chicken and dumplings. Pretty cheap meals from one chicken.

    Reply
  2. Linda Pries says:

    The only problem I have with a whole chicken is what to do with all the white meat. Everyone here wants dark meat. I prefer to stick with buying chicken leg quarters.

    Reply
  3. Serenity says:

    I’ve been buying whole chickens when they are on sale and making my own rotisserie chickens in the instant pot. You just shove some seasoning in the cavity and cook them for about an hour. I’m not too concerned about the crispy outside but you can crisp it in the oven if you want. I use it for a lot of the things you listed above and I use the broth for soup or as chicken broth for another instant pot recipe. If you not too short on time, this is really an easy way to always have chicken on hand for things and a good way to make sure you use all the chicken.

    Reply
  4. Karen Fellenstein says:

    After I haven eaten my first meal from the chicken, I remove all the remaining meat for another meal. I then put the carcass into a crockpot cooking bag, then I add, celery, onion, carrotts and seasonings to make chicken stock, I just use a twist tie to secure the bag closed until I am ready to cook the stock. Keep it refrigerated until the next day, put it in the slow cooker and add about 3-4 cups of water. Cook on low about 6 hours. I strain the liquid from the vegetables and bones. I then put the stock in cupcake tins and freeze. When I need stock for a recipe, I just use as many of the frozen cups as needed. They are usually about 1/4 cup.

    and bones

    Reply
  5. Teri Thomsen says:

    Mary,
    You can MAKE Rotisserie Chicken in your CROCK POT using aluminum foil !!
    Make 4 or 5 loose balls of aluminum foil and place in bottom of crock pot.
    Clean chicken inside and out. Spray with olive oil spray.
    Sprinkle generously inside and out with your favorite seasoned salt.
    Put chicken back-side down in crock pot (on top of foil balls).
    Cook on high 4-6 hours. ENJOY !!

    Reply
    • Teri Thomsen says:

      Forgot — you can put 4 or 5 potatoes washed, forked and wrapped in foil in the bottom of the crock pot instead of the foil balls, but increase time to 6 hours

      Reply
      • Cathy says:

        Teri, I’ve been making my rotisserie chicken this way for years and it’s wonderful (with and without the potatoes). A friend says it’s “to die for” and she’s right! So delish I could eat the whole chicken. 🙂

    • Pat says:

      Why go through the work and expense of doing it youself, when you can get a 3 pound chicken, already cooked for $5? These days, a whole chicken is way more than that.

      Reply
      • Mary Hunt says:

        So right, Teri. Costco is holding firm at $4.99 even though it costs them more than that to make their rotisserie chickens available. I just checked my local supermarket and the cheapest on sale whole chicken is $1.49/lb … avg size is 4 lbs. Reg Price is $1.99/lb, so about $8 for a whole uncooked chicken.

  6. Bonnie says:

    I usually buy the whole rotisserie chicken, and get several meals from it. This time, I bought the package of rotisserie chicken meat from Costco. It was more expensive than the whole chicken, but I divided it into 2 cup packs which is enough for a meal for the 2 of us, and got 6 packages (12 servings), so it was pretty economical, and no waste.

    Reply

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