Why You Shouldn't Buy the Whole Roasted Chicken From Costco
I consider myself a generally reasonable, open-minded person. I don’t typically feel compelled to push my beliefs onto others, or assert that my personal philosophies and ways of doing things are the best/most right/only ones. What works for me may or may not be a good fit for someone else’s life, and that’s dandy.
But there are a few issues that, for whatever reason, it feels so pressingly important to me that I make other people understand my enthusiastic opinion about the matter should it arise… I don’t experience this urge when it comes to matters of religion, or even clam chowder, but the the major things I will always and forever adamantly preach my gospel of (because I do genuinely believe they have the power to make anyone’s life better) include:
- The power of good hydration
- The miracle that is Fiber One Cereal
- The elation that accompanies roasting a whole chicken
Obviously, we’re gonna talk about the chicken one today. (However, if you ever have doubts about hydration or breakfast cereal, please reach out.) This, my friends, is the reason you shouldn’t buy the whole rotisserie chicken from Costco—not because there’s anything wrong with that already-cooked chicken, but because the whole chicken you roast at home is So. Much. Better. Not having a Costco membership myself, I can’t completely relate, but I know people are passionate about these ready, roasted chickens, strategically priced at $4.99. This Facebook page dedicated solely to the Costco rotisserie chicken has over 9,500 likes, for crying out loud.
Look, I get it, they’re cheap and convenient, but here’s why, 9 times out of 10, buying a whole raw chicken and doing the deed yourself is the way to go:
It’s seriously not that much more expensive or difficult.
Sure, being able to buy a whole bird you don’t have to cook for 5 bucks is a nice perk of the annual membership fee you pay to shop at a store that displays its inventory on wooden pallets, but when I buy a whole chicken (I typically go with Springer Mountain Farms, because these chickens are delicious) at my local supermarket, it will cost me around $6 and some change (never over $7). And it’s a larger chicken than what’s rotating on a spit in the deli. So, in terms of price and quality of your chicken, you’re not exactly saving by going with rotisserie.
Where you’re really getting “a value” with the rotisserie chicken is the time/effort you do not have to spend cooking it. But can I just say, the time/effort required to roast your own chicken is minimal at worst. And if you can swing it, man, is it worthwhile in terms of the final product. There’s no extensive prep required here—simply unwrap your chicken, dab it with paper towels, generously salt and pepper it, stuff it with a quartered lemon and other aromatics if you want, and throw it into a 425° oven to roast to perfection.
Two words: Crispy Skin.
Anyone who relies solely on the purchased rotisserie chicken may know the thrill of making chicken salad as soon as they arrive home from grocery shopping, but they will never know the unadulterated joy of truly crispy roasted chicken skin. For their sake, I sincerely hope ignorance is bliss, because if they knew what they were missing out on… what a heartbreaking existence. Plain and simple, you’re just not going to find a rotisserie chicken with the kind of skin that drives you to deliver a naked bird to the dinner table after treating it as your own personal appetizer. And it’s not complicated to achieve this level of crave-worthy crispiness at home.
As demonstrated in the video above, the the secret to getting super-crisp skin when roasting a chicken is getting it as dry as possible before going into the hot oven. And yes, that means skipping rubbing the chicken with oil or butter. Chicken skin naturally contains fat, you don’t have to worry about that, but what you do want to worry about is patting the chicken down all over with paper towels, making sure the skin is as dry as possible. Any moisture left on the bird is going to contribute to creating steam in the oven, which works against your mission for perfect golden crispness. In fact, that’s why we only place aromatics (like citrus fruit, thyme, and garlic) inside the cavity of the chicken… more on that below.
Also, moister, more delicious meat.
A purchased rotisserie chicken is perfectly fine (and savvy) as a shortcut for a number of quick and easy meals—like tacos or quesadillas for the kiddos, creamy chicken salad, a speedy soup, etc.—but there’s no doubt that when compared to a chicken you effortlessly roasted at home, the Costco chicken is going to seem sorta shriveled and lifeless. That, of course, is not its fault… you’d look shriveled too if you’d been hanging out all afternoon under a heat lamp. But the tender, succulent flesh of your own roasted chicken—trust me, it’s out of this world.
As noted above, placing citrus wedges, garlic, and fresh herbs in the cavity of your bird (as opposed to surrounding it in a pan) infuses the meat of the bird with flavor as these ingredients release their aromas and keeps any steam that these ingredients create when heated within the body of the chicken. This keeps the moisture away from the skin (encouraging crispiness) and close to the flesh—just where it needs to be.
Overall, it’s a beautiful experience.
Here’s how I look at it: A whole rotisserie chicken bought from the deli is an ingredient, a whole chicken roasted at home is a mouthwatering meal. The ceremony and satisfaction of roasting a whole chicken, aromas of it’s savory goodness filling your home, is something everyone should experience. And considering that such a euphoric sensation comes at a fairly low cost and is actually close to impossible to mess up—in fact, forget “messing it up,” it’s close to impossible not to nail this classic dish— there’s no reason you shouldn’t experience it every week or so. All of which is to say, in a pinch, there’s nothing wrong with leaning on the convenience of a inexpensive rotisserie chicken; but when you can, treat yourself to the homemade version.
Once cooked, I love to snack on the skin before slicing the chicken up to serve. Oh, and remember how we didn’t add oil or butter to the chicken when prepping it? Well you can break it out here. Like Thomas Keller suggests, I love enjoying my freshly roasted chicken simply with softened butter (and the pan drippings) and a fresh green salad. And then, as with your deli rotisserie chicken, the possibilities are endless for the leftover meat once picked from the bone. If you feel like embracing your domestic DIY magnificence even further, once you’ve cleaned that carcass of every scrap of usable meat, toss it in the stock pot with whatever veggie trimmings you have on hand plus enough water to cover, and boil up a batch of rich chicken stock.
And if you’re still not convinced that choosing to roast a whole raw chicken over buying its already-cooked counterpart is the light and the truth and the way… please don’t tell me. I don’t think I’m ready to test the limits of my tolerance when it comes to whole chickens.