If you’re fresh out of ideas (let alone desire) to make one more home-cooked meal, but even the thought of another take-out or curbside pickup leaves you cold during these days of uncertainty and angst—I invite you to embrace these two words: rotisserie chickens.
Not exactly take-out, not completely home-cooked, think of a well-seasoned, perfectly cooked rotisserie chicken as your ace in the hole; a kitchen assistant with an extra pair of hands to help you get delicious, home-cooked meals on the table in a flash.
These days, nearly every grocery store or supermarket—even warehouse clubs—offer fully roasted, hot, and ready-to-go rotisserie chickens for around $5. In fact, rotisserie chickens are so readily available, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has issued safety guidelines for selecting and storing* them.
Today, I want to give you basic guidelines for what to do with a rotisserie chicken as soon as you get home.
While some stores are now offering a variety of flavors (barbecue, lemon herb, and so on), try to stick with a plain bird. You will be adding flavorings and seasonings yourself depending on how you end up using the bird.
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, refrigerate, or freeze the chicken within two hours.
The USDA recommends consuming rotisserie chickens within three to four days of purchase*. Pick up two chickens and you’ll have enough meat for several meals plus plenty to freeze for later.
The first thing you should do when getting the chicken home is to get all the meat off the bones. All you need here is a feel for where the bones are. Put 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 (if you haven’t already eaten all of it while you did that pulling thing), the dark meat on the other. Put the bones, carcass, and skin on another plate.
For the larger pieces of breast meat, either cut into chunks or shred, depending on how you will be using them. 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.
● READ POST: Chicken Labeling: Prepare to Be Surprised
Set aside the amount you will need for right now. 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 (the USDA recommends 1 teaspoon liquid bleach to 1 quart of water in a spray bottle as an effective kitchen disinfectant).
How to reheat
Reheating a rotisserie chicken in the oven is a no-brainer, especially if you are unable to 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, 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.
Whether you buy a whole raw chicken to prepare from scratch or a hot rotisserie chicken from the deli counter, you are looking at three meals from that one bird.
How to roast a raw whole chicken:
- Preheat oven to 450 F.
- In the meantime, remove everything from the cavity and rinse it inside and out. Dry with paper towels or clean cloth. Season well with salt and pepper. Place half a piece of celery and half of a whole onion inside the cavity. Set the chicken breast-side-up in a baking dish or roasting pan.
- Put the chicken into the oven and reduce to 400 F. Set a timer for 1 hour and do not open the oven door.
- After an hour, check if the chicken is done by inserting an instant-read thermometer in the thickest part of its breast. The internal temperature should be 165° for the chicken to be done safely. If you’re under, put it back in to cook for another 5 minutes and check it again.
- Remove from the oven and allow the bird rest for about 15 minutes.
- Carve and enjoy.
Chicken soup made from the carcass of the bird.
*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 or 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 4 months. —USDA Food Safety Information
First published: 10-17-14; Revised, expanded, updated 6-5-20