“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