The Dark Secret Behind Grocery Store Rotisserie Chicken

How can rotisserie chicken be so cheap? If you've been suspecting fowl play, you might be right.

Chicken is what's for dinnerShutterstock / Matt Gardner
Shutterstock / Matt Gardner

It’s one of the oldest bits of kitchen advice in the books: If you want to save money, skip convenience foods and cook from scratch. This is true for a batch of brownies (39 cents for homemade but more than $2 for a boxed mix) and cut fruit (a pineapple is only $2.75 per pound vs. $4.28 if it’s precut), and especially for ready-to-eat meals, which tend to cost nearly twice as much as the ingredients you need to make them. But there’s one food where this rule doesn’t apply: rotisserie chicken.

(Psst…want to incorporate one into dinner tonight? We know 33 ways!)

That’s right: In most grocery stores, the average whole, raw chicken is actually more expensive than its spit-roasted equivalent. Savings aside, it seems to be a much better deal for any busy shopper to invest in a finished dinner—one that doesn’t need to be cleaned, stuffed, seasoned and roasted at home. So why are rotisserie chickens so inexpensive?

Well, it turns out there’s a secret behind your preroasted poultry. According to an article published by the California educational television channel KCET, the golden, juicy rotisserie chickens in grocery stores are often the unsold raw chickens that are about to expire. By selling them at a lower price, grocery stores make less money than they would on raw birds, but way more money than they would if they tossed the chickens out. We’ve rounded up the best rotisserie chicken available at the grocery store.

Repurposing unsold products is pretty common in grocery stores. Supermarket consultants have admitted that vegetables and meat are often thrown into premade salads or deli items to minimize waste. Even rotisserie chickens that don’t sell are chopped up and thrown into creamy chicken salad!

So, that’s the secret. Does this cost-effective move brighten your day or ruffle your feathers?

Emma B. Kumer
Emma interned for Taste of Home in 2017 and then continued freelancing there during college. Post college, she worked with Reader’s Digest as a digital visual assistant full time before becoming a motion designer at The Washington Post. There, she continues honing her craft of digital storytelling on social media platforms. She’s also been a tutorial writer for Adobe and a freelance music video animator. Outside of work, Emma loves running marathons, attending concerts and creative writing.