Rotisserie chicken is one of my favorite things to buy at the grocery store. I love the crispy-on-the-outside, juicy-on-the-inside, super savory result of slowly rotating a whole chicken over heat…and until I update my grill, I’m leaving that to the pros.
But what really draws me to the birds under that heat lamp is the fact that, with rotisserie chicken, I’m getting a great deal on an already-prepared whole animal. And when you buy the whole animal, you get this amazing power over the future of that food. There’s no waiting for an innovative company to come along and upcycle the under-appreciated parts of the chicken into something desirable. You get to ensure that all the resources that went into preparing that bird for your kitchen achieve their maximum potential for nutrition, creativity, and enjoyment.
Here are some tips for using every bit of your rotisserie chicken (or any other whole bird) from the food-waste experts at ReGrained:
While for some, a piece of chicken without skin is like a cupcake without frosting (whoever said you can’t mix your food metaphors?), others prefer their chicken in the nude. If you’ve been avoiding the skin for health reasons, fear not: the fat in chicken skin is mostly the good-for-you, unsaturated kind. If it’s more of a textural thing, you might want to try making your chicken skin extra crispy, even potato-chippy, by removing it and pan frying or roasting it on a baking sheet. You’ll get chicken cracklins or chicharrones (as fun to say as they are to eat!). Try serving them as chips with your usual dips. Substitute them for bacon in sandwiches! Or add them to soups and salads for a pop of flavor.
Rotisserie chicken makes a great entree on its own, but often a whole chicken is too much for one meal. This is a good thing because the leftovers are where the party really starts!
- Chicken salad. Combine leftover rotisserie chicken with mayo, Dijon, and whatever herbs you have on hand. (For something a bit different, try mayo and curry powder.) Add a squeeze of lemon or a splash of vinegar, season with salt and pepper, and optionally chop in some nuts, fruit (grapes or apples work well), and veggies.
- Salad with chicken. Chicken makes a great protein addition to your lunch bowl.
- Sandwiches. Add BBQ sauce or pesto to shredded rotisserie chicken for a crowd-pleasing and easy sandwich stuffer.
- Quesadillas, enchiladas, tacos, nachos… You pretty much always have cheese and veggies, right? Keep tortillas in your freezer and beans in your pantry to reach for when you have extra chicken on hand, and you’re set.
- Soups and curries. Whether you’re heating up a can or making it from scratch, a bit of rotisserie chicken can turn a simple soup into a satisfying main course.
- Fried rice. Get a little oil sizzling in a pan, add leftover rice and veggies, and as it heats up, throw in rotisserie chicken and maybe an egg or two. Season with soy sauce, fish sauce, sesame oil, and/or green onions.
- Pasta and pizza. As a topper, rotisserie chicken is so easy to add because it’s already cooked and goes great with any number of sauces.
Be a food-waste hero and use the bones, fat, and any leftover bits from the chicken to make a chicken stock. You’ll be doing good and eating well: homemade stock is simply on another level from what you can buy in the store. You can drink it on its own to cure what ails ya, and you can add it to soups, sauces, grains, beans, and veggies for restaurant-worthy flavor. If you make a big pot and freeze most of it, you won’t have to worry about not having chicken stock on hand the next time you need it for a recipe.
If you’ve never made a stock, it might seem intimidating, but it’s actually very no-nonsense and flexible. Start with a big pot, and add the chicken carcass plus odds and ends (scrape out that little black tray it came in!). Then, fill the pot with cold water until it’s covering the bones with a few inches to spare. Bring it to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer, put a lid on the pot, and let it go for around 4-6 hours.
Add vegetables and spices during the final hour of cooking. You’ll want a big helping of dried herbs (parsley, thyme, and bay leaves are traditional), salt, and whole peppercorns. Chop up carrots, celery, and onions, but don’t worry if you’re missing any of these. Really, any aromatic flavors you enjoy can work well in a stock: some other common additions are smashed garlic, rosemary, and leeks.
Continue to simmer the stock with the vegetables and spices for one hour, then strain it through a fine mesh sieve to get a clear broth. Let it cool, and store in the fridge for a week or the freezer for 6 months.
Thanks to Ridhima Phukan and Paige Dunn-Rankin for contributions to this article.