Fast Facts About National Rotisserie Chicken Day


Ah, the rotisserie chicken. If you’re not in the mood to cook and you want something healthier than a pizza, the humble rotisserie chicken is one of your best choices. But did you know it has its own day?

That’s right — on June 2, the dish that put Boston Market on the radar and made your Wednesday night dinners that much easier gets its moment in the spotlight. And it deserves it. Here are some fast facts about the rotisserie chicken that you may not have known.

Fact 1: Costco sells 50 million rotisserie chickens a year.

That’s right, 50 with six zeroes after it. I suppose you can count on Costco — a chain in which I wouldn’t be surprised to see two Hyundais bubble-wrapped together for sale — to do rotisserie chicken in bulk. And they manage to do it all through a single provider, too — a company called Pilgrim’s Pride. According to The Washington Post, they marinate the birds, truss them up and pack them 10 to a case. That’s when the magic begins.

“The chickens look like pale, plump ghosts as they get threaded onto long rods that fit in ultra-modern, digital-display Inferno 4000 rotisserie ovens,” The Post reports.

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“A film of moving water on the oven floor transports dripping grease to a holding tank, to be collected for recycling. It takes 90 minutes to cook a full load of 32 or so; after an hour, it starts to ‘smell like Costco chicken,’ says Tom Borkowski, a deli manager who just transferred from the Woodmore Towne Centre store to one closer to his home in Northern Virginia. Temperature is closely monitored.”

Fact 2: That long skewer is called a “spit” and the process of rotating skewered meat over a heating source to cook it is called “spit-roasting.”

Kind of a gross fact, given the other meaning of the word “spit,” but at least now you know.

Fact 3: Rotisserie cooking — or spit-roasting — has been around a lot longer than Costco or Boston Market.

In fact, during the medieval period, it was actually the preferred method of cooking meat. Servants, often young boys, would turn the meat over a fire before a method for mechanically turning it without human power was invented. Not the best job in the manor, I must say.

Steam, clockwork-style mechanisms and even — not making this up, people — dogs on treadmills were used before electrical power could do the trick. There was actually a short, squat dog breed (now extinct) called the turnspit that was bred specifically for the task.

“Turnspit dogs were viewed as kitchen utensils, as pieces of machinery rather than as dogs,” Jan Bondeson, author of a book on canine curiosities, told NPR. “The roar of the fire. The clanking of the spit. The patter from the little dog’s feet. The wheels were put up quite high on the wall, far from the fire in order for the dogs not to overheat and faint.” Thankfully, by the time Boston Market came around in the 1980s, electricity was able to do the job fine and Snowy could just lounge around the house waiting around to bark at the UPS guy.

Fact 4: The term rotisserie originates from the French.

You probably could have sussed that one out on your own, but you probably couldn’t have guessed that it goes back over 560 years. The term first began popping up in shops in Paris around 1450. In fact, there’s even a position called the rotisseur in the hierarchical system of kitchen management developed by chef Georges Auguste Escoffier who is responsible for all rotisserie meats, including the chicken.

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Fact 5: There are some dirty little secrets about that rotisserie chicken you get from the supermarket.

For instance, it might not weigh as much as it says on the package. In a 2012 study by The Washington Post, they “found more than one discrepancy between printed and actual weights” in a study of 14 different supermarkets, although how many discrepancies and how large they are will remain a secret.

There’s also the fact that most birds won’t make it to market (or, well, supermarket) without being pumped full of some sort of solution or preservatives, usually water- or salt-based. Sometimes there are other chemical preservatives used, as well. If you want to avoid that, perhaps try Wegmans; a spokesman for the chain said that their stock of birds “is not pumped — no phosphates or chemical solutions” are utilized to preserve the chickens.

Fact 6: Unsold chickens find their way into other parts of the supermarket food chain.

At Wegmans, if a bird isn’t sold after three hours, it’s “blast-chilled overnight and used in the store’s Rotisserie Chicken Noodle Soup.” At Costco, the chicken is pulled after only two hours and is incorporated in the store’s “rotisserie chicken soup, chicken Alfredo, chicken wraps and chicken Caesar salads.”

If you buy one and you have some leftovers, you might want to consider doing something similar instead of just reheating the bird. Because of the saltwater infusion and the cooking method give the chicken its distinctive texture, that’s going to fade if you just microwave it. Perhaps incorporating it in a stir-fry or pasta dish might yield somewhat better mileage for you than just throwing it back in the microwave for reheating.

Fact 7: The rotisserie chicken has spread all over the world.

In Peru, for example, the bird actually disrupted the restaurant industry when it was introduced back in the 1950s by Swiss farmer Roger Schuler, who started a rotisserie chicken establishment called Granja Azul (Blue Farm).

“The fame of his new business devastated other eating establishments,” chef Alberto Coraza Taco writes. “At the time the custom was to eat with lots of decorum and all utensils; restaurants were a place of luxury. The growth of a rural eatery where people could eat with their hands weakened the attraction of the restaurants of Lima. At the farm, no one would criticize you if you wanted to get every last sliver of meet from the smallest bone of the chicken. And, if you wanted more you could have it without worrying about additional costs.”

And, for my money, the best rotisserie chicken I’ve ever had was at a little shop down an alleyway in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Food vlogger Mark Weins visited it, and — well, see for yourself.

And it’s even better than it appears on camera. The other stuff is pretty delicious, too.

So, as you think about ordering a calzone from the local pizzeria again, give the rotisserie chicken a second thought. Yes, it may not be as good as the one in Thailand (oh, if only I could head back there), but it’s still a darn good choice.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture