Rotisserie chicken: What’s the trade off?

In my last three articles about rotisserie chicken I explored both the good and the bad points of a rotisserie chicken.

The goods: it’s quick and ready-to-eat; if you’re a careful shopper the price is fairly reasonable; it is definitely cheaper than a restaurant meal!

The bads: nutritionally they are high in sodium; some chickens are not as large as they appear and you’re not getting the same value for a small chicken. Boneless chicken breasts could yield more meat per pound and may be less expensive when purchased on sale.

So does this mean you should never eat a rotisserie chicken again?

Couple options: someday when you’re not hungry or in a hurry, check the nutrition label and sodium content on rotisserie chicken at several different stores, glance at the net weights to compare to the price. This way, when you do want to buy one you’ll make good decisions on the size and sodium content and you can avoid those with the highest amount of sodium.

Also, remember chicken isn’t the only thing on the menu, too. Can you offset the amount of sodium by serving it with other foods that are very low sodium such as a plain baked or microwaved potato (24 mg. of sodium) and steamed-in-a-bag green beans (0 mg)?

On the other hand, how does it compare to a frozen dinner? A comparable baked chicken breast frozen dinner with mashed potatoes has 760 mg. of sodium.
Careful shopping and menu planning can include rotisserie chicken as part of your family’s meal plan.

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS
Professor Emeritus,
The Ohio State UniversityRoasted Chicken Photo

A tale of two chickens: cost comparison

After the meat man at a box store revealed that the raw weight of their rotisserie chickens was always greater than 4.82 pounds, I purchased a seasoned rotisserie chicken ($4.99). I also bought a 5 pound raw whole fryer chicken ($.99/pound) from which I removed some fat and the giblets (about 5 ounces). My goal: to determine if already cooked chicken was “a good deal”.

I roasted the raw chicken @ 20 minutes a pound (1 hour and 40 minutes) seasoned with fresh herbs. After cooking this chicken weighed 3.16 pounds. The rotisserie chicken package listed the net weight as 3 pounds, but my scale showed closer to 3.5 pounds.

When deciding if a rotisserie chicken is a good deal, remember that you only get about half the net weight in edible meat. When disassembled (no skin, bones or giblets) both chickens had almost the same amount of meat with slightly more rotisserie chicken. In this example, the price of the cooked chicken meat alone was about $2.75 per pound. In another section of the same store I found cooked chicken breast meat for salads or fajitas @ $4.99 a pound. In this situation pound for pound the rotisserie chicken was (cost-wise) a “good deal.”

All rotisserie chickens are not created equal. The price and weights of a roasted chicken can vary greatly from store to store. Another consideration: added ingredients or seasonings. More on that in my next blog post: “Is it simply a roast chicken?”

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS
Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

Seduced by a chicken

Who hasn’t been seduced by the golden brown ready-to-eat rotisserie chicken? No matter how enticing, I’ve often wondered if this was a good deal—both nutritionally and financially. So I did some investigating and experimenting to satisfy my curiosity. Here is what I learned:

  • these chickens are usually sold by the “piece” not by the pound—it may look like you’re getting the same amount, but the starting weights (and the net weights) of rotisserie chickens vary. Learn the sizes for the chickens in your local stores or ask at the counter. You can also ask your kids to pick out the biggest one!
  • costs also vary from store-to-store and doesn’t appear based on the size of the chicken. Prices I found ranged from $4.29 to $7.99 each.
  • one chicken usually feeds 4-6 people. On the average, a 3 pound roasted chicken should yield 1 ½ to 1 ¾ pounds of boneless meat or about 50%.
  • seasonings and added ingredients on rotisserie chicken also vary from store to store.
  • the nutritional basics of protein, fat, calories and cholesterol in a rotisserie chicken are similar to a home-roasted chicken. The major difference, however, is in the sodium content in a rotisserie chicken.

When you’re hungry (and don’t have 2 hours to roast a chicken) a rotisserie chicken dinner, along with a plain baked potato and salad can be a better choice than eating out. And you can use the bones to make a great broth for soup. If your store lists the sodium content of the chicken you can determine if this is a good choice.

It is easy to make your own roasted chicken. In upcoming articles (5 total) we will explore the costs of cooked chicken and how to make your own.

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS
Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University