I tried 3 store-bought rotisserie chickens, and Costco's famous bird couldn't compare to the best one

I tried 3 store-bought rotisserie chickens, and Costco's famous bird couldn't compare to the best one
  • I compared three rotisserie chickens from Costco, Safeway, and Whole Foods.

  • The chicken from Whole Foods was dry and not juicy at all so I wasn't impressed with it.

  • Safeway's rotisserie chicken was my favorite because it was simply delicious and perfectly tender.

Buying a hot, juicy rotisserie chicken is almost always a good idea because it's relatively healthy, usually cheap, and convenient for when you don't want to cook.

I tried three rotisserie chickens — one each from Costco, Whole Foods, and Safeway — to find out which bird tasted the best.

I took samples from the leg, breast, and thigh for the most thorough comparison.

I started with the 3-pound behemoth from Costco.

Large whole rotisserie chicken in a black container on a white table
This rotisserie chicken was enormous.Chelsea Davis

The sheer size of this rotisserie chicken was pretty astounding compared with that of the other birds. That said, Costco's 3-pound bird was quite a steal at only $5.

Costco's rotisserie chicken is also the best deal out of the bunch.

The affordable chicken is such a huge hit with customers that, in 2015, Costco's chief financial advisor, Rich Galanti, reportedly said the company was willing to lose $30 million to $40 million a year in gross margin on the birds by selling them for about $5.

But I was skeptical of some of the ingredients.

A Costco rotisserie chicken sits on a white table with Kirkland label in front
The label said there were no added hormones or steroids in the Costco chicken.Chelsea Davis

The other chickens I tried had just a few recognizable ingredients like salt, pepper, and herbs, but this one listed things I hadn't heard of, like sodium phosphate and modified food starch.

But according to Mashed, sodium phosphate is an additive that helps keep meat moist and maintains freshness, and modified food starch is typically used for thickening, stabilizing, or emulsifying.

After a quick internet search, I learned these birds are injected with a special saline solution to add flavor, which can also explain the presence of those ingredients.

That said, the chicken tasted pretty good.

The writer holds a piece of leg meat from Costco rotisserie chicken
The meat itself was tender and tasty.Chelsea Davis

Putting aside my skepticism about the ingredients in the Costco chicken, the meat was seasoned well.

The leg wasn't all that moist and was a little on the dry side, but it was still good. The thigh, which is always my favorite part of the chicken, was juicy and tender.

The breast wasn't as juicy and moist, but it was still satisfying considering this part of the chicken tends to be drier. It was dense and had a good mouthfeel.

There was something weird going on with the skin.

The writer holds a piece of chicken breast with a layer of fat underneath skin
I noticed a second layer of what appeared to be fat on the Costco chicken.Chelsea Davis

Though the golden-brown exterior of the chicken was tasty, there seemed to be a second layer of skin on the bird. I'm not sure what this was, but it didn't taste very good.

This layer between the golden-brown layer and the actual meat was almost like a fat deposit and was incredibly off-putting.

The other two chickens didn't have this whitish layer on them. Maybe I just got a dud — I haven't seen other people talking about this issue before — but, still, this layer of skin made the eating experience less enjoyable.

Overall, the Costco bird was tasty but not quite right.

The writer holds a piece of Costco chicken breast meat; The writer holds a clump of Costco chicken thigh meat
Costco's chicken was OK, but the price was unbeatable.Chelsea Davis

The meat itself, particularly the thigh, was moist but in an oily, overly wet kind of way. This chicken also leaked more extra juices to the bottom of the container than any of the other birds.

Price-wise, the Costco chicken will never be beaten. Taste- and texture-wise, however, it wasn't the best rotisserie chicken I've had. Its flavor seemed unnatural.

Still, I'd eat it again in a pinch.

I tried the Whole Foods chicken next.

A rotisserie chicken sits in a bag with clear and green plastic. The legs of the chicken are tied together
This was such a sad chicken.Chelsea Davis

There was honestly nothing all that appealing about the $11 Whole Foods rotisserie chicken other than the fact it was made with simple ingredients.

First off, it came in a bag with no juices, and it looked shriveled.

I was glad to see the chicken was made with recognizable ingredients.

Rotisserie chicken in a clear and green plastic bag with Whole Foods label on outside and visible ingredient list
I knew what each ingredient listed on the Whole Foods chicken was.Chelsea Davis

According to the label, this Whole Foods bird was raised without antibiotics or added hormones, and the ingredients were clear: organic chicken, pepper, and salt.

There weren't many things I liked about this chicken, however.

The writer holds a piece of Whole Foods chicken breast meat; The writer holds a chicken thigh with seasoning on it
Whole Foods' chicken was mediocre at best.Chelsea Davis

The chicken was dry, and even the dark meat tasted overcooked. At least the skin was crisp and the seasoning, just salt and pepper, was appropriate and satisfying.

That said, for the price I would've expected a higher-quality bird.

This was a sad, overcooked chicken that lacked moisture, but it did taste as if it was probably good for me.

Finally, I moved on to Safeway's chicken.

A rotisserie chicken sits in a black container on a white counter
Safeway's rotisserie chicken had a balanced flavor.Chelsea Davis

This chicken was delicious. It was better than both Costco's and Whole Foods' chickens.

This bird was moderately priced at $9 and a manageable size for a rotisserie chicken at under 2 pounds. The ingredients made sense: chicken rubbed with salt, paprika, sugar, turmeric, onion and garlic powder, and natural smoke flavor.

The meat was juicy and tender throughout the bird.

The meat was slightly oily and very juicy.

The writer holds a piece of Safeway chicken breast; The writer holds a piece of Safeway chicken thigh
The meat on Safeway's chicken was moist.Chelsea Davis

The meat was juicy, moist, and ever so oily. It tasted good, and the skin's seasoning was by far my favorite of the three chickens'. I also liked the slight smokiness and the sweetness combined with the moderately salty meat.

The dark meat was super moist and not stringy, and the thigh pulled apart the way it should — not in strings or globs as with the Costco chicken.

The breast meat was moist and had the tender density I'd expect from this part of the chicken.

Overall, Safeway's chicken was my favorite.

Three rotisserie chickens lined up on a white table. The right most chicken has a red arrow and "Winner" text pointing to it
Safeway's rotisserie chicken had the best skin, texture, and taste.Chelsea Davis

If I want another rotisserie chicken, I'm going to Safeway. The skin was so tasty that I ended up wrapping pieces of it around my chicken bites. I also grew up eating this rotisserie chicken, and now it makes sense why.

The dark meat was tender and moist, without the strange wetness that was present in some parts of the Costco bird. I liked that I could recognize each ingredient on the list for the Safeway bird as well.

The meat has the texture a chicken should have — not stringy or spongy — with dark meat that's appropriately dense and tender.

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