Is Rotisserie Chicken Healthy?

February 17, 2019   13 Comments

Is rotisserie chicken healthy? You would think the answer would be easy but nothing in processed food is simple.

Is Rotisserie Chicken Healthy?

The first time I encountered rotisserie chicken was when I was lucky enough to visit France during a semester abroad in college. I was walking down a Parisian street when I smelled something heavenly. Inside of a butcher, there was this beautiful case of chickens spinning and roasting behind a glass barrier. Yum!

I would purchase a chicken, a baguette, and some fruit and call it a meal. For a college student away from home this was comfort food at its best.

I don’t remember buying rotisserie chickens in the USA until much later in my life. They showed up in supermarkets and they seem like a great way to eat a chicken. Hey, you don’t have to cook it and it is simply chicken, right?

No, it usually isn’t just a chicken with salt and pepper rubbed on. As you can see, this Big Y chicken has sugar and sodium phosphate added. How much? They don’t tell you! When I asked at the counter, they did not have any nutrition facts for this chicken.

It is your best guess how much salt is added but usually it is too much for me to define this chicken as an unequivocal healthy choice.

Is it better than deep fried chicken? Absolutely. Is it better than your at home roasted chicken? Probably not. You aren’t going to add sugar or “flavoring” (whatever that may be).

Here are some short summaries of the rotisserie chickens that I have reviewed over the years.

Walmart Rotisserie Chicken

One thing that I like about Walmart’s chickens is that they put the nutrition facts on the bird. Check out my Walmart Rotisserie Chicken Review for all the gory details.

But, that means that we can rule it out as a truly healthy choice as it has 690 milligrams of sodium for just 3 ounces of chickens. That is about 1/2 your daily allowance of sodium!!

I’m not sure why they add so much salt unless they are trying to preserve it for longer before they cook it. My guess is that these would show up frozen to the store so you wouldn’t have to use salt as a preservative but what do I know?

I wouldn’t choose Walmart’s chicken unless they come out with a low sodium option - which they might.

Costco Rotisserie Chicken

This is really the best known rotisserie chicken because Costco sells these babies for $4.99. Supposedly they lose a ton of money on them but make it up by all the other things you buy when you come to pick up your chicken.

In my post about Costco Rotisserie Chicken, I reveal that this chicken has 460 mg of sodium for 3 ounces which is much better than Walmart’s chicken.

You never, ever find a bird on the hot table that has been there for very long so I like the Costco bird from a freshness perspective.

I do buy these whenever I go to Costco and eat the breast meat without the skin. It is pretty good for a quick meal.

Whole Foods Rotisserie Chicken

I love to hate Whole Foods because I find it to be so expensive and somehow snobbish. BUT, they have organic rotisserie chickens WITHOUT SALT ADDED. See my Whole Foods rotisserie chicken post.

Yes, Whole Foods wins for healthiest rotisserie chickens if you can find the “no salt added version”. Unfortunately Whole Foods - American’s Healthiest Grocery Store doesn’t have nutritional information on their birds. But, I am trusting that the “no salt or flavorings added” bird is just a chicken on a stick.

Do you think rotisserie chicken is healthy? Which ones do you buy and eat? Thanks for sharing!!

Other posts you might like:

Costco Rotisserie Chicken

Costco Rotisserie Chicken

Costco rotisserie chicken is a huge hit. It seems that no one leaves the store without it....

Rotisserie Chicken Review

Is Rotisserie Chicken a Good Choice?

This is my mug shot of a rotisserie chicken. As you can see, I didn’t shoot its best side.

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Are Costco and Sam's Club different, or essentially the same?

I used to think that rotisserie chicken was a healthy option, but the thing that concerns me the most - aside from the salt, sugar and “flavourings” added - is the fact that they are sitting in plastic on a hot table. I get that there is a good-grade plastic that’s deemed “safe,” it is not desirable, to me, to have this plastic baking with a chicken inside. Do we put plastic in our ovens? Isn’t there a move away from putting food-grade plastic in microwaves? I’m not sure why we all buy into this and the plastic factor is rarely mentioned in relation to rotisserie chicken at grocery stores but it makes me lose my appetite when I see them.

Even in your description of buying the chicken in France, the chicken was on a rotisserie behind a glass case. Not encased in plastic under hot lights or a warmer.

I haven’t purchased a rotisserie chicken at a grocery store in years, and I will take the time to roast my own. I get that time is sometimes a factor so I usually prepare an organic roast chicken (or two) on the weekend - Costco sells uncooked organic chicken in twos - and save one, which I put in the fridge in a glass container or in aluminum - to be enjoyed later in the week.

If you have one nearby, Wegman's has a plain rotisserie chicken with 280 mg of sodium in a 3 ounce serving. Also, in the CT and New York area Stew Leonard has a no salt added version.

I buy my rotisserie chickens at Stop and Shop. They told me they get Perdue chickens and immediately put them on to cook. They are delicious. If I want a raw chicken it is no longer possible to buy a 3, 31/2 lb. chicken in the store. I spoke to the mgr. and he said I can buy an uncooked chicken from the rotisserie dept. which I occasionally do. The 5 and 6 lbs chickens are just too big. No one can answer why the smaller chickens are no longer available. At one time that was the norm.

Every once in awhile I treat myself to one of these birds. I keep the carcass for broth - just cover with water and toss in some carrots, onion, celery and that ever popular foursome parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.

I always thought if I took all the skin off eating this type of chicken would be healthy. From what I have read here, taking the skin off doesn't seem to matter. Am I understanding correctly that it is still loaded with salt and sugar even if I remove the skin?

I absolutely love the chickens in my grocery store from the deli. Everything you buy that is prepared from someone else is going to be loaded with salt and sugar and junk we just don’t need. But why deny yourself? They are good and already done for you!

@patticake1 - I don't have a Sam's Club near me so I haven't been able to take a look. Check for an ingredient label and/or a nutritional facts label to see. Great question!

@Lynn - I wouldn't worry about sugar as much as salt. The brining of the bird means that the chicken - not just the skin - has salt infused throughout.

Thanks for your question!

I believe the reason these birds have so much sodium is because they are brined in salt water. Since I don't eat them very often, I don't worry about the extra sodium.

I still buy mine at Sams Club. Too convenient to not. Remove the skin. I eat only the breast meat. It's zero points on WW. Works for me!

Lisa if your readers live near an Ingles mine has rotisserie chicken. 4 oz equals:

130 cals
270 mg sodium
0 sugar for the plain version

It does have the 15% solution of water, salt and sodium phosphates though. Sometimes they’ve been sitting a while when I get there but it’s a small town with 4 grocery stores so I suppose that’s to be expected. However, when I’m in a rush that chicken and a bag of steamed veggies is much better for me than the $5 hot and ready.

I like to buy the Greenwise Rotiserie chicken in the Publix deli. It seems to have less salt than others, but they don't always have the Greenwise available. Not sure if it states the nutrition value.

What year was this article written? Sodium isn’t even bad. This myth has been disproven over and over again... it’s like when people said cholesterol and saturated fat were bad back in the 80s? This article needs to be updated.

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