A store-bought rotisserie chicken is the city dweller’s answer to the TV dinner. Picked up on the walk home from the subway, it’s a fast and affordable option for getting a seemingly “home cooked” meal on the table in record time.
But with so many options available, the question becomes, which bird reigns supreme? There are many variables to consider, from the seasonings (herbs vs. spice rubs) to the time of day the chicken comes out of the oven (some places cook several batches throughout the day while others do one batch) to the actual size and weight of the bird.
Our tactic was to try a cross section of the options available in Park Slope and we enlisted the help of several Park Slope foodies and a few children.
While there was a marked difference in quality among the six chickens we tried, one issue that transcended all was dryness, particularly in the breast meat. One taster pointed out that white meat cooks faster than the dark meat and as a result dries out faster. It’s clearly a tough hurdle to tackle because every chicken, even our favorites, battled the dryness issue; yet some with greater aplomb.
The added bonus to a rotisserie chicken is that you can probably get another meal out of it by picking the meat off the bones for chicken salad* and by saving the carcass for chicken stock (store in the freezer until you have 2-3 carcasses, which will yield roughly 3-4 quarts of stock).
The Winner: Los Pollitos II ($7.90; 2 lb, 2 oz) This was the only bird that came already cut into pieces, which detracted from a “grand” apperance, but in fact made it much easier to serve and eat. Nice even dark caramel color and plump. Very well seasoned with crispy skin. Nice chicken flavor, moist and tender, though the breast meat was a little dry. BONUS: Served with two small plastic containers of home made tomatillo-avocado salsa which was amazing and masked any dry bites. 148 Fifth Ave. between Degraw and Douglass, 718-623-9152
First Runner Up: Russo’s ($6.99; 3 lb, 6 oz) Gorgeous. Very plump with even color and nice dark caramelized skin. Well seasoned with a nice rosemary/herb flavor that penetrated the meat. White meat was a little dry and the skin was a tad rubbery. Served with two small plastic containers of Italian salad dressing; which was a bit perplexing. Bonus: For $14.99 the chicken can be purchased with a pound of prepared vegetables and a pound of mashed potatoes. Now that’s a meal deal. 363 7th Ave., 718-369-2874
Second Runner Up: El Gran Castillo de Jagua ($7.55, 1 lb, 13 oz) A mixed jury. One taster loved the “charred” skin that gave it a “bbq vibe,” while another felt it was “unforgiveably dry.” While the breast meat was indeed on the dry side, overall everyone agreed that it had good flavor and was well seasoned; one taster even detected a “salsa verde” flavor. 345 Flatbush Ave. at Park Place, 718-622-8700
Honorable Mention: Union Market ($10.29, 2 lb, 7 oz) Nice and even color from the Adobe spice rub and perfectly plump. A real looker (left). Good chicken flavor but the skin was a little rubbery and again, the breast meat was a bit dry. One taster noted the meat had an unpleasant “graininess.” 754 Union Street between 12th and 13th streets, 718-499-4026
Key Food ($5.99; 1 lb, 6 oz) This bird looked a little sad; it was on the small side, had uneven color and even looked dry (the meat was pulling away from the bones on the drumbsticks – a red flag for dryness). And dry it was. The wings were “obliterated” commented one taster. NB: Apparently all Key Foods are operated differently, so not all Key Foods chickens are equal. 369 Flatbush Avenue between Park Place and Sterling, 718-789-3007
C-Town ($5.99; 2 lb) The runt of the litter. Skinny in appearance with flabby, greasy skin. Upon first bite, each taster agreed that it was “gross” and one deemed it “inedible.” One person detected an unpleasant “chemical” flavor. The obvious loser. 329 Ninth Street between Fifth and Sixth aves., 718-965-9765
Leftover Rotisserie Chicken Salad
2 tablespoons mayonaise
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ cups meat picked off of bones of a store-bought rotisserie chicken, skin discarded
1 rib celery, cut into small dice
2 teaspoons chopped chives or green onions or shallots
A few tablespoons of freshly chopped herbs like parsely, cilantro, mint, basil, tarragon (any will do)
Salt and Pepper
In a bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar and olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Fold in the chicken, celery, chives and herbs. Taste and season again as needed. Serve on toasted bread, crackers or on a bed of lettuce.