David Chang Has Serious Opinions On Costco's Rotisserie Chicken

There are plenty of merits to store-bought rotisserie chicken. According to The Wall Street Journal, the golden-brown birds began turning hungry heads in the '90s. And to this day, they remain a popular hot food item in many supermarkets. 

Rotisserie chickens are affordable, especially at Costco. CNN reports that Costco's rotisserie chickens could still be purchased for $4.99 in 2022, a strategy that defied inflation and helped keep shoppers shopping. Rotisserie chickens are also convenient — they're already cooked, hot, and ready to eat. Just add sides, and you'll have a family dinner. The mouthwatering aroma and moist, tender meat are hard to turn down.

While numerous grocery stores offer rotisserie chickens, Costco has become all but synonymous with them, selling 106 million in 2021 (per CNN). The outlet adds that Costco invested in a $450 million poultry facility, opened in 2019, to produce its supply of chickens. Costco's rotisserie chicken has a Facebook fan page with nearly 20,000 loyal members; perhaps it's Costco's signature chicken-cooking method that contributes to its wide appeal. The store's chickens are also gluten-free and weigh in at a hefty three pounds, providing plenty of rotisserie chicken leftovers. But despite the popular consensus, Momofuku founder David Chang isn't impressed.

'They're not good'

On his podcast "The Dave Chang Show," celebrity chef and restaurateur David Chang shared strong words about Costco's rotisserie chicken. "I think the Costco chicken is the worst rotisserie chicken ... They're not good. They're not seasoned," Chang said (via Insider). 

He also called the chicken "inedible" when it's cold, due to the "nitrates and all the crap they pump into the chicken." To Chang, tasting good cold is a necessary characteristic of leftover chicken. (Surely, his thoughts have ruffled more than a few foodies' feathers.)

Still, Chang isn't alone in his distaste. CNN Business reports that in 2022, Costco was sued by two shareholders for allegedly breaking animal welfare laws. "Costco illegally neglects and abandons its chickens," the lawsuit claimed (via CNN). And in 2021, The New York Times published a piece titled "The Ugly Secrets Behind the Costco Chicken." Costco, for its part, told Insider in 2021 that the company promotes humane treatment and ethical processing and will continue to audit its facilities and improve the welfare of its chickens.

DIY rotisserie chicken

If you're worried about animal welfare when you're grocery shopping, third-party certification labels, such as Certified Humane or Certified Animal Welfare Approved, can help consumers learn how their chickens were raised. You can also buy free-range and pastured chickens from local farmers. 

Buying a fresh chicken means you can roast it at home, too. Check out Bobby Flay's simple rendition that grills the birds with a rotisserie rod, or Food Network's butter-milked brined rotisserie chicken. You can even use a toaster oven — some models even come with rotisserie accessories — or a rotisserie oven.

Whether you buy ready-made rotisserie chickens or roast them at home, there are many rotisserie chicken recipes you can make from the versatile bird. You'll get both white and dark meat that can be packed in a picnic lunch or made into chicken salad. The carcass can be made into homemade chicken soup or bone broth. Then there's rotisserie chicken ramen from the cookbook of Lucky Peach (via Eat Your Books) — a food journal that David Chang co-founded. Evidently, there's a rotisserie chicken out there for everyone if you know where to look.