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Where to find the best rotisserie chicken in Tampa Bay. An ode to the most adaptable food item.

National Rotisserie Chicken Day is June 2. We price-shopped for you. How will you celebrate?
Lucky's Market cook Dylan Canady unloads rotisserie chickens onto a display at the Lucky's Market in St. Petersburg on 6765 22nd Avenue N. The rotisserie chickens normally run for $6.99 but are priced down to $5 on Wednesdays. ELIZABETH DJINIS  |   Times
Lucky's Market cook Dylan Canady unloads rotisserie chickens onto a display at the Lucky's Market in St. Petersburg on 6765 22nd Avenue N. The rotisserie chickens normally run for $6.99 but are priced down to $5 on Wednesdays. ELIZABETH DJINIS | Times
Published May 31, 2019
Updated May 31, 2019

If there’s one thing Americans love, it’s rotisserie chicken. The numbers don’t lie.

In 2017, the Wall Street Journal reported that Americans bought 625 million rotisserie chickens at local supermarkets. That’s about 1.7 million chickens per day.

For many American families, or young professionals like me, rotisserie chicken is a staple. It’s healthy, it’s relatively inexpensive, it makes for a few meals and, most importantly, it goes with anything. Served plain? Good. On a sandwich? Definitely. Pair with a salad and avocado? You won’t be disappointed.

Good thing America has invented a holiday for us to celebrate this glorious food. That’s National Rotisserie Chicken Day, June 2, for the uninitiated.

And if you prefer your rotisserie chicken in a home-cooked meal, look no further than this list of five great rotisserie chicken recipes compiled by our food editor. My personal favorite: an edamame rice bowl that pairs your favorite fruits and veggies—carrots, avocados, cauliflower—with some protein-rich chicken.

But before you make those, you’ll need to know where to get the best chicken. We’ve got the answers.

Publix

An Original Oven-Roasted Chicken from Publix. CHRIS URSO   |   Times
An Original Oven-Roasted Chicken from Publix. CHRIS URSO | Times

Price: $7.39 for most chickens in most stores

Ah, the Florida old reliable. Rotisserie chicken at Publix is a classic and, best of all, it comes in a variety of flavors. Try the mojo chicken, the lemon pepper or the maple bourbon for different tastes.

In 2014, Publix’s rotisserie chicken also made news when a Florida woman discovered that they were, ahem, under-selling their chickens. The popular grocery chain promised a “two pounds minimum” chicken, but Janet Feldman found a chicken that fell under that weight requirement. She weighed the chicken on the store’s scale, brought it to the register and received a free dinner, per the “Publix Promise.”

To really prove a point, Feldman drove to nearby Publix stores and racked up 47 free chickens by the end of her spree. And then, she went to the media.

(A point: The grocery giant’s spokesperson said at the time that they had stopped the practice of selling underweight chickens following Feldman’s experience.)

Lucky’s Market

Rotisserie chickens from Lucky's Market are pictured on May, 29, 2019, at the store on 6765 22nd Ave. N in St. Petersburg. The chickens cost $6.99 regularly but only $5 on Wednesdays. ELIZABETH DJINIS | Times
Rotisserie chickens from Lucky's Market are pictured on May, 29, 2019, at the store on 6765 22nd Ave. N in St. Petersburg. The chickens cost $6.99 regularly but only $5 on Wednesdays. ELIZABETH DJINIS | Times

Price: $6.99 every day except for Wednesday, when the store runs a special $5 deal.

When Lucky’s Market runs its Wednesday $5 deal on rotisserie chickens, the St. Petersburg store at 22nd Avenue N generally sees 200 chickens fly off the shelves in a day, said Lucky’s cook Dylan Canady.

On a Wednesday afternoon this week, at about 2:30 p.m., the store had already temporarily run out of rotisserie chickens. One customer looked almost panic-stricken as he asked someone at the meat counter: “Do you know how many are left?”

As Canady began to unload more chickens, another woman pulled one off his cart before he could place it on the heated storage space.

The store offers rotisserie chickens of three different types: regular, barbecue and citrus peppercorn, though they do not have the last two every day, Canady said.

Which type is Canady’s personal favorite?

Here’s the rub: He doesn’t eat meat.

Whole Foods

A rotisserie chicken from Whole Foods is pictured. Photo provided by Whole Foods Market.
A rotisserie chicken from Whole Foods is pictured. Photo provided by Whole Foods Market.

Price: generally $7.99 for regular chicken, $9.99 for organic.

There’s a reason why Whole Foods is still referred to as “whole paycheck” in many circles.

Whole Foods and Fresh Market are tied for most expensive rotisserie chicken meals. One writer even paid $15 for her Whole Foods rotisserie chicken in San Francisco and said it was worth it. (Not sure I would agree.)

The grocery store chain actually lowered their rotisserie chicken prices after they were purchased by Amazon. A top Whole Foods executive told Eater that rotisserie chicken is one of the chain’s 20 top-selling items.

Fresh Market

A roasted chicken pictured at Fresh Market in St. Petersburg in the 2900 block of Fourth Street N. Their chickens run at $7.99 generally, though the store sometimes runs $5 promotions. ELIZABETH DJINIS | Times
A roasted chicken pictured at Fresh Market in St. Petersburg in the 2900 block of Fourth Street N. Their chickens run at $7.99 generally, though the store sometimes runs $5 promotions. ELIZABETH DJINIS | Times

Price: $7.99

Fresh Market’s chicken doesn’t fall in the typical rotisserie chicken category. The store calls the chicken roasted rather than rotisserie, since it is not twisted on a spit, according to one store employee.

The specialty grocery store offers varieties of chicken, like lemon rosemary, white wine herb and butter garlic thyme. Much of the chicken that doesn’t get a home goes straight to the market’s chicken salad, an employee said.

At $7.99, Fresh Market is on the higher end of the costs we’ve analyzed, falling almost a dollar more than Lucky’s and about three dollars more than Costco and Sam’s Club. Of course, those two stores require memberships to shop there.

Costco

A butcher spreads out rotisserie-roasted chicken at Costco in Mountain View, Calif. Associated Press (2008)
A butcher spreads out rotisserie-roasted chicken at Costco in Mountain View, Calif. Associated Press (2008)

Price: $4.99

If you like Costco’s rotisserie chicken, you’re clearly not the only one. The wholesale conglomerate sells an average of about 157,000 chickens a day, according to a Reader’s Digest article.

The company has kept their chicken prices consistent despite remaining one of the lowest-cost chickens on the market. The cheap chickens bring more people into the store, which in turn gets them exposed to more products, a marketing strategy for the company.

The chickens also have a special ingredient: a saline solution injection. Reader’s Digest reports that each chicken contains 460 milligrams of sodium. So if they taste salty, now you know why.

To shop at Costco, you must be a Costco member. The lowest tier of Costco membership, a Gold Star, costs $60 a year.

Sam’s Club

A rotisserie chicken rack is pictured at Sam's Club in Pinellas County on May 30, 2019. BOYZELL HOSEY | Times
A rotisserie chicken rack is pictured at Sam's Club in Pinellas County on May 30, 2019. BOYZELL HOSEY | Times

Price: $4.98, according to Sam’s Club’s website

Here’s what I can tell you about Sam’s Club’s birds: They’re the cheapest option on this whole list.

(Note: Walmart also sells its chickens for the same price. The two are owned by the same company, though Walmart shoppers do not need a membership to shop there.)

Loyal Sam’s Club customers enjoy a chicken that is the definition of “just right:" moist and never dried out, at least according to Times photo editor Boyzell Hosey.

Customers can see the chickens roast and twist on a display, as well as watch the timer next to the chickens to see when another group will come out, Hosey said. They often run out quickly.

A basic Sam’s Club membership, which is required to shop there, costs $45 a year.

An Original Oven-Roasted Chicken from Publix. CHRIS URSO   |   Times
An Original Oven-Roasted Chicken from Publix. CHRIS URSO | Times

Boyzell Hosey, Times deputy editor, photography, contributed to this report.