And while most consumers will simply pick up a cooked rotisserie from whatever grocery store they usually frequent, we wanted to see which chicken stood out from the crowd.
The logistics of this taste test were a bit more complicated than the others we’ve done. First, many grocery chains are regional, so in addition to several national brands, we sampled major chains in the Washington area.
While variations abound, including pepper, lemon, roast, and herbs, we’ve opted for the most traditional and simplest version each store has to offer.
There was potential for variety: How fresh was the chicken? How long did it take to get them to our office, where we did the test? We aimed to standardize things as best we could, arranging pick-ups by several employees around the same time (yes, there was a spreadsheet) and bagging the chickens when they arrived, a process we hoped would better mimic the shopper’s experience with them. It’s interesting to note that freshness didn’t matter – one of our colleagues waited while the grocery store attendant pulled chicken from the oven, and that bird is still at the bottom of our list.
Even before we lifted the fork, we discovered that not all roast chicken is created equal. There’s a huge variation in size – our samples ranged from 4lbs 5oz (Costco) to a small 1lb 10oz Food Lion (below, we list the weight as we measured it, not as shown on the package). Prices vary widely as well, as do the nutritional factors, which all grocery stores provide. People who are watching their salt intake may want to take note of sodium amounts in particular. In some cases, it was difficult to determine the nutritional information, a process that required inquiring at the deli or even calling customer service. And in one case, it was not found. The overall performance of these birds was similar across the map – we had a clear winner, a clear loser, and a very murky middle ground.
How to use roast chicken as a shortcut to an easy weeknight dinner
To judge the range, we asked eight tasters to sample each, making sure they tried white and dark meat and some skin, and give each one a score from 1 to 10, taking into account flavour, texture and general appeal – meaning they each had a distinct flavour. . Possibility of obtaining a high score of 80.
So what is the rotisserie that rules the roost?
The texture was a huge (and unanimous) hit with our tasters. “Melly,” “mushy,” “patty,” and “chalky” were among the unappetizing adjectives attributed to this participant, who scored low in this feather sweepstakes. There was little to no flavour, either, with one describing it as “nothing yellow pleasant” and another likening it to baby food with a “slight metallic taste”. This prompted some outright sarcasm: “I accidentally said ‘I hate this’ while swallowing,” said one taster.
($7.99 / 1 pound, 9 ounces / $5.11 per pound)
Nutrition information per serving (4 oz): Calories: 190; Total Fat: 14 g; saturated fat: 4 g; cholesterol: 70 mg; sodium: 420 mg; carbohydrates: 0 g; dietary fiber: 0 g; sugar: 0 g; Protein: 17 g
9. Lemongrass is a whole food
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Your news feed is likely filled with reports of massive droughts. This chicken, which many tasters have found to be very dehydrated, may find itself at home on the evening news lately. Another lamented: “Another day, another dry chicken breast.” They also criticized it for its lack of seasoning, with one describing it as “tragically bland”.
($9.99 / 2 pounds, 8 ounces / $4 per pound)
Nutrition information per serving (3 oz): Calories: 180; Total Fat: 12 g; saturated fat: 3.5 g; cholesterol: 60 mg; sodium: 160 mg; carbohydrates: 0 g; dietary fiber: 0 g; sugar: 0 g; Protein: 15 grams
Some people have found this to be another dry specimen (“like the surface of Tatooine,” in the words of one Star Wars fan). He was the baby of the group by size. But at least one of the tasters found it more appealing than he originally thought: “It looked very sad but actually it didn’t taste bad.” Some wanted more spice than this to make it a stronger contender. Is salt really that expensive? one wondered.
($6.99 / 1 pound, 9 ounces / $4.47 per pound)
Nutrition information per serving (3 oz): Calories: 160; Total Fat: 11 g; saturated fat: 3 g; cholesterol: 55 mg; sodium: 360 mg; carbohydrates: 0 g; dietary fiber: 0 g; sugar: 0 g; Protein: 14 g
7. Kirkland Seasoned (Costco)
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This is the rotisserie chicken to beat—the membership club’s rotisserie poultry has earned it cult status, keeping its price low as a loss leader (Costco is subsidizing the $4.99 price tag to entice shoppers to buy bulk protein bars and tube socks) and attracting them. worshipers along the way. It’s far and away from the fattest group. Our tasters weren’t unanimous on this one, with one declaring it her favorite (“Not too salty, the dark flesh has some flavour”), others finding it inoffensive (“Nondescript but solid”) and the couple were definitely not a fan (“String” on In the words of two tasters). However, if you’re looking for heft and value, this might be the chicken you’re looking for.
($4.99 / 4 pounds, 2 ounces / $1.21 per pound)
Nutrition information per serving (3 oz): Calories: 140; Total Fat: 7 g; saturated fat: 2.5 g; cholesterol: 55 mg; sodium: 460 mg; carbohydrates: 0 g; dietary fiber: 0 g; sugar: 0 g; Protein: 19 g
6. Traditional Signature Cafe (Safeway)
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Tasters detected a welcome hint of herbal spice here, but this sample only approaches halfway territory. “Good flavor but overall not at all memorable,” said one. “He would be good on something saucy or cheesy,” another whispered praise. The skin seems to pull the grades down, though unimpressed tasters call it “flabby,” “rubber,” and “a little sticky.”
($7.99/1 pound, 12 ounces/4.57 pounds)
Nutrition information per serving (3 oz): Calories: 160; total fat: 9 g; saturated fat: 3 g; cholesterol: 100 mg; sodium: 250 mg; carbohydrates: 0 g; dietary fiber: 0 g; sugar: 0 g; Protein: 20 g
Many tasters liked the salt level, with a few singling out the dark meat for praise (“rich, juicy flavour”). But some found the salinity a bit overpowering, with one describing it as a “lick of salt” and another lamenting that she immediately sent him off to get a mouthful of water. Some thought it was a bit over the top, but this was another thing that people thought could be used in the right context. One said, “Acceptable for many uses, not ordinary.”
($9.99 / 2 pounds, 11 ounces / $3.72 a pound)
Nutrition information per serving (3 oz): Calories: 180; total fat: 9 g; saturated fat: 2.5 g; cholesterol: 95 mg; sodium: 440 mg; carbohydrates: 0 g; dietary fiber: 0 g; sugar: 0 g; Protein: 20 g
4. Seasoned Member Mark (Sam’s Club)
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The tender size and harmless flavor and texture made this chicken a top tier, even if it didn’t win much plaudits. It’s like the kind of music played in your dentist’s waiting room, seemingly picked by an algorithm so that most ears don’t object. Someone said, “I wouldn’t be offended if someone offered me this.” “There is nothing about him that makes me angry,” was another echo of his charm. “The brisket is moist, nicely browned on the skin, not overly salted,” said one fan.
($4.98 / 3 pounds, 4 ounces / $1.53 per pound)
Nutrition information per serving (3 oz): Calories: 140; Total Fat: 7 g; saturated fat: 2.5 g; cholesterol: 75 mg; sodium: 430 mg; carbohydrates: 0 g; dietary fiber: 0 g; sugar: 0 g; Protein: 19 g
3. (Tie) Wellesley Farms (PJ Club Wholesale)
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This bird immediately caught the eye, as our photographer identified it as the most attractive of the bunch. “Beautiful roast color,” said one, though another said the interior didn’t live up to the packaging promise: “The flavor of the brisket didn’t match the appearance.” However, the muted spice didn’t bother our more salt-averse tasters. (“I prefer the skew this way,” said one.) Many found the brisket a little dry, but others found the moisture level to be “decent” and “just fine.”
($4.99 / 3 pounds, 3 ounces / $1.57 per pound)
Nutrition information per serving (3 oz): Calories: 180; Total Fat: 11 g; saturated fat: 3 g; cholesterol: 80 mg; sodium: 320 mg; carbohydrates: 0 g; dietary fiber: 0 g; sugar: 0 g; Protein: 19 g
3. (Tie) Farmers Market sprouts out of season
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Salt with a side of chicken? This was voted the saltiest bird, though tasters were divided on whether that was a good thing. “This has all the salt that was missing from the others,” according to one. Most thought the meat was relatively moist, a characteristic some speculated might have been caused by being pumped full of brine. Some tasters found stark differences between the dark and white meats, the latter being saltier and unexpectedly a slightly better texture.
($9.99/1lb, 14 oz/5.33lb)
Nutrition information per serving (4 oz): Calories: 170; Total Fat: 11 g; saturated fat: 3 g; cholesterol: 70 mg; sodium: 420 mg; carbohydrates: 0 g; dietary fiber: 0 g; sugar: 0 g; Protein: 18 g
2. Nature’s Classic (Giant) Promise
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Two of the tasters detected a pleasant smoky smell in this guy’s flavor palette, though another taster only recorded a vague “odd aftertaste.” She received high marks for her attractive appearance. “An even bronzer, back from a Mediterranean beach vacation, for sure,” according to a fan. Another said: “Nice golden color.” Our critics mostly agreed that the juiciness factor distinguishes dark and white meats, with a number describing it as “moist and tender”.
($6.99 / 2 pounds, 11 ounces / $2.60 per pound)
Nutrition information not available
To be fair, this bird had such a large wing that the ‘traditional’ type of big brand, on examination, was clearly much more mature than the others. Noticeable pieces of rosemary and other herbs splattered on his skin and permeated the flesh. Many tasters dug the black pepper flavors that were dominant (“Oh my God, pepper!” was a typical quote). However, one noted that aggressive spice may limit its versatility – “may take over”, one thought. They were also higher in calories and fat than all the others we sampled, which might have helped add some flavour. However, overall, it wins points for having evenly moist dark and white meat and the dominant poultry flavor (at least in this group of chickens, far fetched), as well as that herb garden. One commented, “It actually tastes like chicken cooked by someone who loves to eat roast chicken.”
($6.97/3 pounds, 1 ounce/2.28 dollars per pound)
Nutrition information per serving (3 oz): Calories: 250; Total Fat: 19 g; saturated fat: 6 g; cholesterol: 85 mg; sodium: 250 mg; carbohydrates: 0 g; dietary fiber: 0 g; sugar: 0 g; Protein: 19 g