Truth: A grocery-store rotisserie bird is the fastest (and cheapest) way to shortcut your chicken dinner. Choose wisely, and it might be even better than the chicken you make from scratch. Here’s a cheat sheet to picking the perfect rotisserie chicken every single time.
1. Grab the heaviest bird
At most grocery stores, rotisserie chickens continue to slowly cook under heat lamps until you plop one into your shopping cart. The freshest birds are the heaviest because the juices haven’t been baked out yet.
2. Plump > shriveled
Looks matter, people. Go for the prettiest bird you can find—think plump with taut skin. If it looks like a deflated balloon (gross), that means all the juice has been cooked out of the meat.
3. Don’t let the lemon-herb flavor tempt you
The fancier the flavor, the classier the chicken, right? Not so fast. These marinades are usually made with artificial ingredients, and if you’re looking to include this chicken in another recipe, the flavors might clash. We wouldn’t want all of your grand plans to be ruined (we know you’ve been eyeing our Chicken Gnocchi Soup).
4. Venture beyond Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s
We love you, WF and TJ’s, but international grocery stores often have really strong rotisserie chicken game. Yep, we’re talking about that tiny store on the corner you’ve driven past a million times. Give it a shot.
5. Buy chicken that’s made daily
Scope out the store. If you see birds cooking on a rotisserie in plain sight, that’s a great sign—this usually means they’re replaced frequently. But if all you spot is a heat table, don’t hesitate to ask the person behind the counter if birds are prepared and replaced daily.