If you're fresh out of ideas (let alone desire) to make one more home-cooked meal, but even the thought of another take-out or curbside pickup leaves you cold during these days of uncertainty and angst, I invite you to embrace these two words: rotisserie chicken.
Not exactly take-out, not completely home-cooked, think of a well-seasoned, perfectly cooked rotisserie chicken as your ace in the hole — a kitchen assistant with an extra pair of hands to help you get delicious, home-cooked meals on the table in a flash.
These days, nearly every grocery store or supermarket — even warehouse clubs — offer fully roasted, hot and ready-to-go rotisserie chickens for around $5. In fact, rotisserie chickens are so readily available, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has issued safety guidelines for selecting and storing them. See below for safe handling information.
Today, I want to give you basic guidelines for what to do with a rotisserie chicken as soon as you get home.
While some stores are now offering a variety of flavors (barbecue, lemon herb and so on), try to stick with a plain bird. You will be adding flavorings and seasonings yourself, depending on how you end up using the bird.
BUYING AND STORING
You want a chicken that is hot when you buy it. Bacteria become active between 40 F and 140 F, so it should be above that range when you pick it up. It should feel hot to the touch. Eat, refrigerate or freeze the chicken within two hours.
The USDA recommends consuming rotisserie chickens within three to four days of purchase. Pick up two chickens, and you'll have enough meat for several meals, plus plenty to freeze for later.
The first thing you should do when getting the chicken home is to get all the meat off the bones. All you need here is a feel for where the bones are. Put the chicken on a cutting board — breast side up — and pull out your sharp chef's knife or poultry shears.
Cut off the wings, and cut off the legs. Now cut off the thighs. Using your fingers, start pulling all the meat from the bones (it will pull off easily, as the meat will be tender and juicy). Lay all the white meat on one side of a platter (if you haven't already eaten all of it while you did that pulling thing) and the dark meat on the other. Put the bones, carcass and skin on another plate.
For the larger pieces of breast meat, either cut into chunks or shred, depending on how you will be using them. Place all the bones, skin and carcass pieces into a container or zip-type bag, and freeze. These will be the base for great chicken stock or soup later.
HOW TO REHEAT
Reheating a rotisserie chicken in the oven is a no-brainer, especially if you are unable to consume the whole thing in one meal. However, doing that is quite another subject, especially if you want it as fresh, moist and delicious as it was when you picked it up.
— Preheat the oven to 400 F.
— Place the rotisserie chicken in a deep baking dish with high sides.
— Add a bit of chicken stock to the baking dish — about 1/4-inch in the baking dish. If you don't have chicken stock, substitute water.
— Place the baking dish in the preheated oven.
— Reheat until the liquid is bubbling and the chicken is warmed all the way through.
This method will keep the chicken moist while reheating — as opposed to a microwave or reheating without the added liquid, both of which would dry out the rotisserie chicken.
When purchasing fully cooked rotisserie or fast food chicken, be sure it is hot at the time of purchase. Use it within two hours, or cut it into several pieces and refrigerate in shallow, covered containers. Eat within three to four days, either cold or reheated to 165 F (73.9 C). It is safe to freeze ready-prepared chicken. For best quality, flavor and texture, use it within four months. — USDA Food Safety Information
Would you like more information? Go to EverydayCheapskate.com for links and resources for recommended products and services in this column. Mary invites questions, comments and tips at EverydayCheapskate.com, "Ask Mary." This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a lifestyle blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."
Photo credit: chefkeem at Pixabay