In re: Roasted chicken, at Costco?

“The rotisserie chicken that you want to run in and buy is right at the front in Sam’s Club,” she said. “In Costco, they’re at the back, so you have to go past the books and clothes and the bakery. You walk in to buy a chicken and you walk out with a $150 power washer for your driveway.” (‘Merchandising masters: Costco continues to clobber competition‘ -Puget Sound Business Journal)

Americans will buy some 800 million rotisserie chickens this year. That number’s been growing at a torrid pace of 7 to 8 percent a year since the late 1990s, after a long lull, according to the National Chicken Council, a trade group. We now buy almost as many roasted and rotisserie chickens as whole raw chickens to cook ourselves…In tasting close to 50… chickens, The Chronicle Food staff found only six that lived up to the fantasy — Lola’s and Cafe Rouge, both in Berkeley; Gira Polli and Il Pollaio, both in San Francisco’s North Beach (Gira Polli is also in Mill Valley); Mistral Rotisserie Provencale in San Francisco’s Ferry Building; and Costco.” (‘A toast to the roast‘ – The SF Chronicle)

Costco? Did I read that right? So you may have heard about the Costco rotisserie chicken. For some reason the chicken has mythical status, both for its price and for the taste, apparently Julia Child was a fan (possibly a myth) but either way I set out to see what this was all about. I had known before hand that they go through a pretty large number of these birds at Costco and that some folks come only for that.  If you’ve never been to a warehouse club, there are somethings to expect: large carts, constant checking at every stage of your membership card or your  receipt (entrance, checkout and leaving), and of course the now cliche large tubs of mayo.  Anyway, I entered the Columbus Costco, which is at Gemini Place, one 1/4 of an exit past Polaris Place (yeah  I think the names are weird too) and there it is, the large box of Costco and its wonders.  Anyway, back to the chicken, I had also known before from reading that Costco’s roasted chicken was injected with a lot of salt water, a pseudo-brine you could say, along with some other chemicals to retain moisture. (“Costco’s chicken also gets a good dose of salt through the injection of a solution containing salt and sodium phosphate plus binders that trap moisture in the meat. Although many consumers frown on the injection method,” SF Chronicle) Anyways the result? Well on first observation it was a large bird (as I had heard) and it would be hard to complain that you didn’t get the $4.99 considering its easily four hefty servings of chicken.

Being a lover of beautifully roasted chicken skin I quickly turned my attention to that and was pretty disappointed. The skin tasted heavily of salt and burned/heavily caramelized flavors. The generic flavorings of the Giant Eagle chicken, which also reeks of too much salt on the skin was better I thought. So disappointed on that front I continued to the meat. The meat was generally really moist and tender, quite good, except again the salt level was so high you needed to drink quite a bit of water. Some of the suggestions on food boards was to use the chicken for chicken salads or to cut it with something. Indeed having the chicken w/ some bread or a bite of salad worked nicely. This message string at Chowhound (a food message board) gets into the chicken there among other things, but touches on this. Overall I’d buy another one, but I know I can do better myself, even if it means paying more for a nice un-roasted bird at the North Market (a free range bird though I find tends to have a bit more flavor in the meat and makes me feel a tad better about the life of the chicken, although I am not gonna kid myself and think that free range means growing up on the set of Babe the pig)

Sliced Costco rotisserie chicken with a simple salad

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16 Responses

  1. What is it about that burned taste? You’d think someone would complain about it. I am a bit of a salt fiend, so the salt in the meat made me happy, i’ll admit. I thought it was a good price considering I got a total of 6 meals out of the bird (for one person); but it’s true: I can definitely roast a better bird. The problem is I’m too impatient sometimes. Because if I roast a bird, I’m going to want to make side dishes to toss in the after-roasting schmaltz…

    Now those potstickers at Costco? YUM.

  2. I get mine from a neighborhood Whole Foods. Not as good as Boston Market. Can’t beat the price though.

  3. The label on the outside plastic container says no added hormones
    or steroids. Does this mean there are hormones and steroids before
    they roast it?

  4. Does this bird have steroids and hormones like most mass produced
    chickens?

  5. Federal regulations prohibit hormones and steroids in chicken, so anyone claiming they are doing wonderful things by not adding them is basically saying they aren’t breaking the law. That doesn’t mean they aren’t doing all kinds of other crazy things to their chickens and treating them horribly. Good chicken (chicken w/ flavor that is) needs a longer life then mass produced birds and they need to eat things they find, rather then just corn (see my rants on corn elsewhere). So yeah, steroid free, but so is everywhere else.

    see one persons response on all of this from costco here:

    http://jacksonheights11372.blogspot.com/2009/04/healthy-pre-cooked-chickens-nearby.html

  6. Watch Food, Inc. Although costco says they are raised on over 2,000 farms in environmentally-controlled houses, this is the same method shown in this film and it is horrible!!! I love costco rotisserie chicken but I will not buy them anymore after viewing Food, Inc. Local and free range is the only way to go to keep your family healthy.

  7. Does anyone notice how the chicken kinda never goes bad? It can last for weeks and still look and taste as good as it was from the first day. But chicken at Trader Joes barely lasts for a week before growing mold and such. I wonder do they spray stuff on it like they do with mcdonalds food…

  8. I love Costco chicken, and yes the salty skin, it’s the best with steamed white rice (like the salty meat with the rice is yum!) an a nice salad.

  9. Does anyone know if MSG is in the chicken?
    A friend swears there is

  10. You can’t beat the price and taste of Costco’s chicken. If you don’t like it don’t buy it Raise your own chickens if you want true organic quality. Hey, that’s what we used to do and yes these hens do survive from eating around rather than feeding them.

    btw… the truth, who researches EVERTHING they eat? Face reality people!!!!!!!!!

  11. Joel, I research everything I eat. It’s not that very difficult. Try googling animal slaughter, you’ll find a lot of interesting stuff which hopefully will make you think what you put in your body. I am facing reality and the reality is this: animals are raised and slaughtered in horrible conditions. I am also changing this reality by voting for better conditions for all the living creaters and I am voting with my money.

  12. Why is it that the color of some parts of the Costco chicken is a light red or pink not white like roasted chicken bought elsewhere? The product appears to be fully cooked.

  13. ferdzp,

    For 4 lbs chicken(or 64 oz), the total sodium content is
    64 oz x 460 mg
    ———-
    3 oz
    = 9,813 mg salt
    or 9.8 gm salt
    Therefore: to much sodium
    which 4 times the daily allowable limit for sodium

    only 4lbs one chicken you buy and not really cooked inside
    sometimes when you ref. become dry no more moist.

    Now i found a great solution please email me if you need more info.
    regarding the roasted chicken.

  14. COSCO chicken’s are extremely greasy which leads me to believe they were raised quickly on grain in an overcrowded building with no light. You can’t hide a the truth of a humanly raised bird.

  15. OMG!!! the cooked chicken at COSTCO has so much sugar its incredible!! read the label! and have you not noticed the fatty chickens? and they defenitley use some chemicals to keeps their chicken lasting loger & fresh!!
    I’ve had independent’s, L’obblaws & Metro– all much better

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