Costco rotisserie chicken

Erin Kuschner / Cheapism

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Costco is known for selling plenty of cult status items that fans can’t get enough of. But the big box retailer’s rotisserie chicken is in a category of its own. The inflation-proof food (Costco hasn’t raised the price in years) is a staple item for home cooks who use it as an ingredient in countless meals. It’s also been the subject of recent controversy, with complaints on Reddit threads about a chemical taste. The rotisserie chicken is such an important part of Costco’s offerings that it even has its own processing facility. We broke down all the essential facts you need to know about Costco’s rotisserie chicken.

1. The Price of Costco’s Rotisserie Chicken Isn’t Changing

Costco’s rotisserie chicken might just be one of the few items in the country that was never hit by inflation. The big box store’s famed bang-for-your-buck item has cost $4.99 since 2009. In fact, you can sometimes find the chicken for even less than that; according to some Reddit users, they’ve seen the birds priced at $4.83 and under. There’s a logical reason for that pricing discrepancy: If the chicken is under three pounds, which is the standard Costco size bird, it’s considered underweight and will be listed for less.

But why has the price of Costco's rotisserie chicken stayed the same for so many years when pretty much everything else hasn’t? In fact, the chicken should cost $8.31 by current standards. It's a business ploy — Costco keeps the prices low on certain products, such as its chicken, to drive membership and sales. They're not losing money on the chicken if customers continue to grab it for dinner and buy other items while they're at Costco. 

2. There’s a Plant Dedicated Entirely to Costco’s Rotisserie Chicken

Costco has a plant in Nebraska devoted to processing its rotisserie chicken. The plant opened in 2019, costing the retailer $450 million and giving Costco control of the entire chicken supply line, from production to processing to selling. This ultimately helps control the cost of the chicken. It even gives Costco control to make decisions about the grain the chickens eat and the types of eggs hatched.

Costco rotisserie chickenPhoto credit: Erin Kuschner / Cheapism

3. You Can Make Countless Meals From Costco’s Rotisserie Chicken

That $4.99, three-pound chicken can get you through a lot of dinners for the week, saving you time and money. There are countless quick, creative recipes that use the chicken, but some favorites include chicken fried rice that’s even better than takeout (trust us, we’ve tried it and it really is). Another good recipe is one-pot cheesy chicken with broccoli and rice, which involves throwing all the ingredients — even uncooked rice — into one pot, making dinner super simple and super fast for a busy weeknight. Some classic ideas include using the rotisserie chicken in a chicken noodle soup, a barbecued chicken sandwich, or for a chicken pot pie.

4. Costco Has Faced Backlash Over the Taste of Its Rotisserie Chicken

The price is right, but is the roast chicken wrong? Costco’s rotisserie chicken has been subject to Reddit thread chatter saying it tastes like it has a distinct chemical flavor. Commenters on the site described the flavor of the roasted chicken as “soapy”, and one celebrity chef said in the past that the chicken is “inedible.”  Hundreds of commenters agreed with the Reddit thread, with some claiming that the chicken tasted like its plastic packaging and that it had a chlorine-like flavor.

Of course, a roasted chicken should taste tender and flavorful, so what’s going on with the Costco version? One theory suggests that phosphates, which are a food additive used in the preservation process of the chicken, are to blame. Some consumers may notice the phosphates and be sensitive to them in the same way some people are sensitive to cilantro.

5. Costco Once Faced a Lawsuit Over Its Rotisserie Chicken

Costco rotisserie chickens have been a store staple for decades. But that didn’t stop two Costco shareholders from suing the box store in 2022. Their lawsuit alleged that the chickens used are bred so large they are unable to stand, which causes them to slowly die of hunger, injury, and illness. The suit states that the company's practices violate livestock welfare laws in both Nebraska and Iowa, where the chickens are raised and manufactured.  

6. Redditors Think It's The Best-Tasting Rotisserie Chicken 

Despite some controversies about its taste and production, budget-conscious Redditors call it the best rotisserie chicken out there. Cooked fresh on site, the chicken remains a fast and easy meal that can last multiple days, and costs less than smaller rotisserie chickens from other stores. But more importantly, commenters love the juicy flavor. (Redditors are also fans of Costco's catering options, including its massive party platters.)

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Costco still have $5 rotisserie chicken?

Costco has been carrying its famed rotisserie chicken in stores since 1994. The cost has remained just $4.99 for decades, and the retailer has no plans to raise the price. The company's theory is that the low price keeps customers coming back and buying other items while they grab a chicken for dinner.

How long do Costco rotisserie chickens last? 

The USDA recommends consuming cooked chicken within three to four days. That's nearly long enough for a workweek full of dinners. Be sure to keep the chicken in its container or in a Ziploc bag in the fridge. And if that chicken has been sitting out on the counter at room temperature for an extended period of time? You'll have to toss it.  

Is Costco’s rotisserie chicken healthy?

Chicken is a cheap and convenient way to get low-fat protein into your diet, and it's also a useful ingredient in numerous recipes. But keep in mind that Costco's chicken is injected with a saline solution for flavor, which gives it a fair amount of sodium. It has 460 mg of sodium per 3-ounce serving. That’s considered one-fifth of the maximum amount of sodium adults should consume in a day.

However, the rotisserie chicken label says it has no MSG, hormones, artificially-derived colors and flavors, and gluten.

The Bottom Line

Who knew a juicy roast chicken could be both controversial and beloved? That’s what you get with Costco's rotisserie chicken. At an affordable $4.99, the juicy chicken has been a draw at the big box retailer for approximately 20 years, and there are no plans for it to go anywhere. It's versatile in numerous recipes, and is important enough to Costco that there's an entire plant devoted to manufacturing the dish. As for the taste? Redditors either love it or hate it — be your own judge.

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