Store-Bought Rotisserie Chicken: An Economic Analysis

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costco_chickenCostco’s $4.99 rotisserie chicken is about as famous as their $1.50 hot dog and soda combo. It’s cheap, but is it a good value? Priceonomics went out and did an real-world experiment using store-bought rotisserie chicken. You may have noticed that the rotisserie chickens are often smaller than the raw whole chickens you can buy in the same store.

To test out whether rotisserie chickens are still a bargain after you account for their size and reduced water weight, we ran an experiment. We visited seven supermarkets and bought a rotisserie chicken and a raw chicken from each. After draining each rotisserie chicken of the fluid that collects in the container, we weighed them. Then we cooked the raw chickens […] and weighed them.

Here are the results from Priceonomics:


At Costco and Smart & Final, the rotisserie chickens are actually cheaper than cooking it yourself. At other grocery chains, on a per pound basis you can save money cooking it yourself. You can save even more by stocking up when there is a sale. Whole chickens go for $0.99 or less per pound pretty regularly in my experience.

This analysis tried to focus on the numbers, but there are other factors to consider. Time is a big one – If you don’t like to spend your time cooking, you may prefer the rotisserie. Control is another – if you prefer to buy organic, avoid any “enhanced” flavorings and additives, or otherwise customize your chicken, you may still prefer to cooking yourself.

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  1. Also, the source and quality of the cooked chicken is questionable.

    • I agree. Have you seen the size of a Costco chicken? They are unusually large and fatty. What those chickens eat or are injected with to get that way should be of concern.

  2. This analysis also presumes you can replicate the store-rotisserie flavor at home. I don’t have a rotisserie in my kitchen.

  3. I’ve seen various lists about things that are good bargains and things that aren’t good bargains at Costco, and the rotisserie chicken consistently shows up on the ‘bargain’ list, so this definitely is in line. We’re planning a Costco trip next week and my wife already has one on the list 🙂

  4. I read this yesterday and thought it was very informative. I don’t do rotisserie chicken much, nor do I do whole chickens much either. Doesn’t surprise me that Costco would have rotisserie chickens cheaper, but I don’t live near one and only go every so often. So not exactly convenient to grab one for dinner during the week. Perhaps I should stock up when there and then freeze them for later use?

  5. Their graphic needs updating. The “Savings from home cooking” column should show a positive number if the store-bought is less expensive. If someone told me I could save -$0.15, I would expect it to cost me more.

  6. I love Costco’s rotisserie. The only time I get the local grocery store rotisserie is when I fall to plan ahead for dinner and convenience kicks in.

  7. Independent of the marginal cost of your time, the best deal is home-cooked with an Albertson’s chicken, right? I think that’s less than Costco’s rotisserie price per pound.

    Costco is an incredible value though, especially if you consider time a factor. You can feed a family of four for under $10 and have leftovers for the dog!

  8. This analysis isn’t factoring the cost of an annual Costco membership, either.

    There is also the convenience/cost related to proximity to a Costco. They don’t have as many locations as a traditional grocer. That being said, I’m probably getting into too many details for this.

    • So, if you have the Costco credit card and purchase their gas, you can not only get the cheapest gas in most cities, but receive a rebate that will cover the cost of your membership just on gas alone. Add in other purchases and the rebate will easily exceed the membership cost.

  9. Don Quixote says

    We used to get the rotisserie chicken every time we went to Costco, but stopped because it ended up mostly going to waste. It’s big and kinda dry and not very tasty. The Whole Foods chicken is well-proportioned for a small family and tastes much better to me.

    • I guess it’s all a matter of personal preference. I’ve tried the whole foods rotisserie chicken a few times (my in-laws but it), and have never been impressed. My favorite by far is Costco’s.

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