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Are Rotisserie Chickens a Bargain?

Grocery stores are selling a lot of rotisserie chicken from their delis. You walk in and see them immediately, or smell them, all hot and spiced and cooked just right and ready to take home for dinner. Getting one already cooked saves you time in the kitchen, especially if you aren’t confident about cooking a whole chicken. And they are often the same price as the whole chickens you see at the meat counter. How can they do that? And why?

In most stores, the cooked chickens aren’t any cheaper. They just look cheaper. The per-chicken price favors the deli counter, but the per-pound price favors the refrigerator case.

A lot of chicken went into the previous sentences—14 to be exact, one rotisserie, one from the refrigerator case, from seven separate groceries in California, ranging from Costco to Whole Foods to a Middle Eastern market. After being prepared and cooked, the refrigerated chicken almost always weighs significantly more than the rotisserie option.

Our investigation into the rotisserie chicken industry reveals that it’s not as cheap as people believe. But it is a gift to the lazy and rushed.

Pricenomics breaks down the history and process of selling grocery store rotisserie chicken, and the results of their experiment, in which the staff supposedly consumed 14 baked chickens. Read the article and the results, but be warned that you may find yourself craving a hot spiced whole chicken before you finish. -via Digg

(Image credit: Joe Schneid)

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But it is important to know how much you're paying for that convenience. I've seen things like sliced apples and packaged broccoli & cauliflower combos in grocery stores go for several dollars extra. For some people, it might be actually worth paying a couple dollars for 15 seconds of slicing or picking up multiple things, but for most, I would expect that to be too much. Cooking a chicken can be a lot more effort than slicing an apple. But it still can be as easy as a couple minutes to throw a bunch of veggies and a chicken in a slow cooker and getting a couple meals worth out, including sides (which tend to have far more mark up in grocery store delis than the chicken).
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Chickens lose some of their weight during the cooking process. Raw chickens are packaged in brine plus fat breaks down and drips away, price per pound is not going to be an accurate comparison between raw vs cooked. Bone size makes a difference in chicken weight vs meat available per carcass too. I have purchased chickens from the refrigerator case that had very big bones but the same a amount of meat as smaller, cheaper bird.
In my area, food prices are pretty low, but a raw whole chicken usually runs between $5.99-$7.00. It is cheaper to buy the pre-cooked chicken. I don't though because I almost never need the meat right away. So it would be extra work after a evening of grocery shopping to break down the bird to freeze the meat and prepare the bones for stock (the main reason to get a whole bird vs a package of just thighs or just breasts.) It's more convenient for me to just cook it on another day.
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I buy rotisserie chickens at warehouse stores. As the article indicates, they're actually less expensive there per pound than raw chickens (using Costco as an example). But the article fails to mention other benefits that have value.
The raw chicken has to be cooked, which requires energy (gas or electric). So does the washing of the cooking equipment.
The cooked chicken saves time in preparation and cleanup, and time has value. The time it takes me to prepare a chicken is worth so much more than the cost of the chicken it's laughable.
The purchaser knows that the cooked chicken will turn out properly, because it has. This cannot be guaranteed for raw chicken. A ruined chicken is a 100% waste of time and money.
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