How Rotisserie Chicken Became So Popular

published Nov 1, 2012
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Rotisserie chickens—skewered birds roasted in rotating rows and sold everywhere from grocery stores to member-only club stores—are immensely popular, if you didn’t already know. In 2010 six hundred million rotisserie chickens were sold in the U.S. What is the secret to this bird?

A recent article in The Washington Post shared a few interesting tidbits into how the rotisserie chicken is made:

1. First of all, almost all rotisserie chickens are treated with some kind of water or salt solution, otherwise they can’t survive the heated display shelf.

2. The list of ingredients used in a rotisserie chicken include yeast extract, oleoresin, sodium tripolyphosphate and other “natural flavorings,” most of which go towards giving the chicken that crisp, golden skin.

3. To get a little backstory on how rotisserie chickens come to be, consider Costco, which sold 50 million rotisserie chickens last year:

Costco uses a single producer, Pilgrim’s Pride, which marinates via injection, trusses and packs 10 birds to a case. The chickens look like pale, plump ghosts as they get threaded onto long rods that fit in ultra-modern, digital-display Inferno 4000 rotisserie ovens. A film of moving water on the oven floor transports dripping grease to a holding tank, to be collected for recycling. It takes 90 minutes to cook a full load of 32 or so; after an hour, it starts to “smell like Costco chicken,” says Tom Borkowski, a deli manager who just transferred from the Woodmore Towne Centre store to one closer to his home in Northern Virginia. Temperature is closely monitored…Unsold birds get pulled after two hours to be chilled, then incorporated into Costco’s rotisserie chicken soup, chicken Alfredo, chicken wraps and chicken Caesar salads.

In supposed contrast to Costco, grocery store chain Wegman’s sells birds made without added phosphates or chemical solutions. They then “cook them to a temperature of 165 degrees [a USDA safety standard] and are careful not to overcook them.”

Do you buy rotisserie chickens, or do you always roast your own chicken? Do you buy it, but only if it’s sustainably-raised and free of extra hormones and chemicals? Does it seem slightly wrong to only pay $4.99 for a chicken? Or is it an all-around great deal? Share your thoughts.

→ Read More: Rotisserie Chicken, Here To Stay at The Washington Post