How Costco Inspired Samin Nosrat's Famous Buttermilk Chicken

It's hard to beat chicken. It may be the single most purchased protein for the majority of carnivorous families. Rotisserie chickens, specifically, are a grocery list mainstay. They are endlessly customizable, super reliable, and incredibly economical. Samin Nosrat – the celebrated chef, host, and food writer – credits Costco's rotisserie chicken with being a very early inspiration for her cherished buttermilk chicken, the simple, 3-ingredient recipe that produces one of the most incredible roasted chickens imaginable.

In a Twitter post, Samin says that she has "been obsessed with rotisserie chickens for basically [her] entire life" and that it "started with grocery store/Costco chickens as a kid, then as a cook loved working the spit over a wood fire, which is where I made my first buttermilk chicken!" Her recipe calls for marinating a whole chicken in buttermilk and salt for up to 24 hours before roasting in the oven, resulting in a lush, intensely flavorful chicken that is absolutely delectable (via Salt Fat Acid Heat). Of course, her iconic buttermilk chicken recipe doesn't call for cooking it "over a wood fire," but the high-heat cooking is certainly reminiscent of that style. 

How is rotisserie chicken produced?

Rotisserie chickens may seem amazing across the board, and while they are delicious, some of the ways in which they're produced are rather problematic. Samin references this in a follow-up tweet about the "ethics of cheap chicken," which she calls "so awful." These remarks came in reply to a TASTE piece by Cathy Erway that does a deep-dive into the grocery store stalwart and bridges the gap between "cheap" rotisserie chicken and the homey, deeply satisfying roasted whole chicken that would be fit to serve at a holiday meal. 

Erway notes that Costco, which was founded in 1983 and has 785 locations throughout the US, offers a $4.99 rotisserie chicken. She also notes that many rotisserie chickens are injected with spices or seasonings, which is obviously not a usual occurrence in home-cooked roasted chickens. Some rotisserie chickens also have additional additives such as food dye or preservatives. 

Andrew Gunther, the executive director of A Greener World, stated that cheap rotisserie chicken like Costco's is "still chicken, but it's not been outdoors, and it's going to have been grown as quickly as it can be by a contract farmer who has absolutely no rights." Moreover, many processing plants are not operating under safe conditions, especially during COVID. Gunther also said that "there is no such thing as cheap food – there is a consequence. Something has been compromised to give you that product."  Of course, you could buy a whole chicken and some buttermilk and make Samin's recipe instead.