Recycle That Rotisserie Chicken

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A couple weeks ago, I wrote about food waste and what it costs us. Not only in our
pocket books but also environmentally. As I was working on that column, I came across a series of food waste columns written by colleagues at the University of Florida Extension. One that really caught my eye was on 10 ways to recycle a rotisserie chicken.

If you have a busy lifestyle (and most of us do) you probably frequently grab a rotisserie chicken. These ready-to-eat chickens give you that homecooked feeling and satisfaction without the work. The National Chicken Council estimates that more than 950 million rotisserie chickens are purchased each year. That’s almost three chickens per person!

Some of the wholesale chain stores offer rotisserie chicken at a special price and/or
local grocery stores may have it on sale. They can be budget-friendly—but be sure to do some comparison shopping.

Not all rotisserie chickens are created equal. When comparing price be sure to look at the size of the chickens. Some places start with heavier chickens than others. Compare the starting weights—this will let you know you’re getting more meat for your money.

But, the question of the day: is rotisserie chicken a healthy choice?

Yes, it is nutritious, and high in protein. The nutritional breakdown depends on a few
things: which part you eat (white or dark meat) and whether or not you eat the skin.
Chicken is a great source of vitamins and minerals, like niacin, selenium, riboflavin,
vitamin B12, phosphorus, and zinc. A three-ounce portion of rotisserie chicken breast contains approximately 160 calories and 25 grams of protein. Because they’re oven-roasted, they’re much healthier than some other take-out chicken options, such as fast-food fried chicken.

The one thing you do need to pay attention to when buying a rotisserie chicken is the sodium content. This can vary depending on how the chicken is prepared. Sometimes the chicken is brined or soaked in or injected with a saline (salt) solution before it is cooked, so it is juicier. Other chickens may be coated in a rub or seasoning that contains a high amount of salt. These seasonings impart flavors such as lemon butter, herb, teriyaki or barbecue.

It is tough to know how much sodium is in the chicken. Many stores provide nutrition labels on their rotisserie chicken. You may want to compare how much sodium is in a serving. If there is no nutrition label, it is good to watch for words like saline solution or brined on the label. Based on the type of seasoning, a 3-ounce serving can range from 170 to 550 mg of sodium. (Note: plain chicken has about 65 mg of sodium).

Think of rotisserie chicken as a convenience food with multiple meal options. Eating the chicken straight from the store is an extremely convenient meal. But you also can use the leftover chicken pieces —or as the folks from Florida say—recycle that chicken. It is so easy you may want to buy two and use the second chicken in any recipe calling for cooked chicken.

A couple of tips for chicken recycling: If you’re saving the meat for another meal or
recipe, debone while it is still warm. Refrigerate this meat a soon as possible. This meat can be stored in the refrigerator for up to seven days if your refrigerator is at 41 degrees or lower. This chicken can also be frozen in recipe-sized packs for quick use later. Frozen cooked chicken has best quality if used within three to four months.

Don’t throw away the bones. I use all of the bits in the container including drippings and skin. These can be cooked with some onions, celery and spices to make broth. You can then turn this into an easy soup. You may not need to add salt to the soup due to the sodium added by the store.

No wasted food here. Here is a recipe using a rotisserie chicken to make chili!

Sources: University of Wyoming Extension; University of Florida Extension

Syracuse is a Family and Consumer Science team member and can be reached at N.C. Cooperative Extension, Brunswick County Center 910-253-2610 or by email at