The Big Problem Costco Shoppers Are Currently Having With Their Rotisserie Chickens

While non-members may balk at the idea of forking over a hefty fee just to shop, Costco fans – and their name is legion – find it a small price to pay for the privilege. Not only can Costco take you quite literally from cradle (with their bulk packs of diapers) to grave (in a reasonably-priced coffin), but might be the very best place to make sure the entire neighborhood has enough olive oil to survive the zombie apocalypse (brains aglio e olio, yummers). Still, we have a sneaking suspicion that one reason members keep renewing year after year is because of the food court's tasty bargains and, better yet, those oh-so-versatile and inexpensive Costco rotisserie chickens.

Sadly, there appears to be trouble in food shoppers' paradise. Not only could a controversially-priced new Costco sandwich hint at possible food court price hikes to come, but now shoppers may suspect that there are quality control issues with the rotisserie chicken. A recent Reddit thread brings up the fact that some of the budget-friendly birds have been tasting a bit "off" recently, and the comments section not only corroborates this but supplies a number of different theories as to what lies behind this issue.

Some Costco rotisserie chickens seem to have a chemical taste

The original poster notes that several Costco rotisserie chickens they purchased over the past few weeks have had a "chemical" flavor, which is something they say they never noticed before. Another person feels that their recently-purchased Costco chicken had a "soapy" taste. They admit that this made them fearful that they'd contracted Covid as this virus has been known to affect the taste buds of those it infects. (Interestingly, a report by ABC Chicago and a description mentioned in the journal Foods suggest the virus could cause some people to think water or coffee smells like bleach.) A few would-be wits suggested that the chicken itself may have had Covid, or perhaps the bird flu.

Apparently, this isn't the first time there have been complaints about Costco chicken quality. A Reddit thread from 2022 also brought up the fact that certain rotisserie chickens purchased at the big-box store had a chemical taste, with one commenter speculating that this may be a byproduct of antibiotics used to treat the chickens. Others wondered whether the affected chickens might have been washed with chlorinated water. However,  while cleaning birds with a water-chlorine mix is a highly common and cost-saving practice used in the U.S. to eliminate potentially dangerous bacteria, we've found no evidence confirming that it affects the meat's flavor.

Some alleged that Costco chicken quality varies from supplier to supplier

While no one seems to know for sure what's causing these off-flavors, one of the Redditors pointed out, the chicken's seasoned skin tastes as it usually does, but the meat itself had a funny flavor. Allegedly, that could suggest the issue lies with the supplier rather than anything that's happening in Costco's stores. As it so happens, Costco does source its chickens from more than one supplier and some Redditors who say they work at Costco feel that certain suppliers are better than others.

The birds from one particular supplier (we're naming no names here, as Reddit threads aren't exactly hard evidence) are said to vary in size. This might mean that they don't all cook the same, as larger birds might be underdone and/or smaller ones dried out if they are all cooked for the same time at the same temperature. Different vendors might also feed their birds different types of food, something that could also affect the flavor, as could the fact that some suppliers may use a water-cooling method (perhaps the source of the chlorine taste, according to some), while others rely on air chilling, instead.

Those commenters who detected a whiff of ammonia in their chicken, however, noted that this tends to be a sign that food has gone bad. While we can't confirm the smell or the reason for it, ammonia is one of the main gases released as food spoils.

There are plenty of alternatives to Costco's rotisserie chicken

Well, whatever is causing the problem, Costco had better figure it out soon. Otherwise, it may start losing members to Sam's Club, where the rotisserie chicken costs a penny less and, according to some Redditors, has a much better flavor, as well. If you don't mind spending a few bucks more, though, you have plenty of grocery store rotisserie chicken options, most of which come with no membership fee attached.

Walmart's rotisserie chicken is budget-priced and possibly serviceable, particularly if you plan to re-purpose it in chicken pot pies, tacos, or enchiladas, while rotisserie chickens from Whole Foods are pricey, but at least the birds are free-range. (According to a 2021 New York Times expose, Costco's chicken isn't exactly cruelty-free.) Kroger rotisserie chickens have an almost orange chicken-like flavor, so they're perfect for fans of this Panda Express specialty, while David Chang (no Costco rotisserie chicken fan) endorses the ones from Sprouts Farmers Market, instead. If you're looking for the most budget-priced option of all, though, bear in mind that it's ridiculously easy to roast your own chicken at home, even if it doesn't get to spin around on a spit as it cooks.