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Grocery Store Roasted Chicken - Who has the best?

  • j

QFC, Costco, Metropolitan Market, Whole Foods.
Who do you think has the best roasted chicken?
Prices range from $5.99 to $9.99.
Is there really any difference?
Your opinion?

Metropolitan Market
1908 Queen Anne Ave N, Seattle, WA

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  1. Costco - even if they didn't have the lowest price I would choose their bird. I find the MM one very dry - husband complains when I bring one home.

    1. Costco best bird for the price all others are small and usually dry

      1. Not a grocery store, and out of the price range at $16 for a whole bird, but the take-out section of Seatown Snack Bar does the best whole roast chicken to go I've ever had. It's easier to justify the price if you pick up between 5 and 7pm when a couple of sides are included for the same price.

        Their other roast meats by the pound are also excellent.

          1. Costco..... but that Seatown Snack Bar idea is pretty cool.

            1. Another vote for Costco. For grocery-store fried chicken, Albertson's all the way. So much tastier than Safeway or Fred Meyer's.

              1. Coscto is definitely the best deal. They are like twice the size of normal stores. It's actually cheaper to buy a rotisserie bird than a raw one from them.

                1. Do any of these stores sell roasted organic or at least free range chicken?

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: andrewtree

                    Good question. My current vote is for Costco as the chickens are so cheap and plump, but for raw chicken I usually buy organic so wouldn't mind paying extra if they provided an organic/free range rotisserie option.

                    1. re: gemsquash

                      That was my first thought when everyone starting saying how big and cheap Costco chickens are--to me, that sounds like the worst kind of factory farmed chicken. No thanks.
                      I also wonder about additives--I've always been told grocery store rotisserie chickens are pumped full of sugar and other junk. When I buy a roasted chicken from PCC, it tastes noticably different than regular store chickens--it tastes like, well, chicken. PCC uses the free range Rocky chickens.

                      I thought last time I bought a roasted chicken from Whole Foods it said it was a free range Rocky, too.

                  2. It looks like Costco is getting the most votes.
                    Since there is some interest in this chicken topic I'm going to ask each place exactly what kind of chicken they use.
                    When I was in Whole Foods the other day, I asked the checker if there was any difference between their $10 chicken and QFC's $6 chicken. Evidently I hit a hot button because he started telling me about non MGO, free range, etc. Then he said he didn't know as much as the guy bagging the groceries who piped up with a few more details and said there was a woman who knew much more than he did. So he took me over to their class room and motioned for the woman to come out, (she had been teaching a class) and she started into the details of the chicken and then asked the guy to take me over to the service desk where they gave me their short booklet about the "5 Step" grading system they use.
                    Bottom line, they are really into it. Although Whole Foods gets a lot of flak about being expensive I've always been able to shop frugally there and this reaction to my chicken question was excellent.
                    PS What's a 5 step program for a chicken? Does the chicken have to apologize and accept a higher power?
                    But I think the bottom line for us investigative types is this: The chicken display had a notice that they used Draper Valley chickens.
                    If anyone is interested in helping out let's do this: Let's find out if the stores will tell us what kind of chicken they use, if it is brined, free range, organic, Draper Valley or whatever, and report back.

                    Speaking about chicken but a little off topic, I love Mawadda and my wife gets the chicken there which is big chunks of white meat. It is is tastiest and juiciest I've ever had. I wonder how they make it.

                    Squawk at ya' later.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: JayDK

                      As a QFC employee, I can tell you that they use Draper Valley chickens, and that there is a "natural" option. By natural, I believe they mean that it is antibiotic free, not quite organic, and probably not free-range, and that it has not been given the usual seasoning mixture. The seasoning mixture, btw is not anywhere near resembling natural or organic.

                      And to answer your other question, it is not brined.

                      1. re: JayDK

                        I wanted to like the WF chickens, but they are tiny and very dry and very expensive. I'd rather roast my own.

                      2. I haven't tasted a Costco chicken in a few years, but I always thought they tasted nasty. I agree with Christy319's concerns that Costo's plump cheap bird probably comes from the worst factory farm. And contain lots of additives. I don't want to eat that.
                        I suspect a Kroger rostisserie chicken would have the same issue.

                        I understand people buy stored-cooked chickens for the convenience. You can "roast" one in a crockpot so easily. I buy frozen whole chickens from Stokesberry Farms. Put the frozen bird in the crockpot. Add very little water to the pot. If you add too much water, the chicken will stew instead of roast. I add no seasonings, not even salt. Cook on low overnight, if the chicken is frozen. Less time if the bird is already thawed. The slow-cook process will yield a rich stock and very tasty meat..

                        1. The hear a bit of ignorance in what makes a good chicken. Sugar, salt, and water make a brine, something very appropriate for rotisserie chicken. Calling out sugar as an additive sounds goofy. I'm all for an organic source, but regardless of the source of the meat, if its not cooked proper its going to be dried out and nasty. Costco seems to have the cooking dialed, unlike whole paycheck and metro.

                          For the record, here is what the label states on a costco chicken, all found with a few clicks of mouse, so I don't have to assume anything. o.0

                          "No preservatives, no MSG, gluten-free, no artificial flavorings or colors.
                          Contains chicken, water, seasonings (salt, sodium phosphate, modified food starch, potato dextrin, carrageenan, sugar, dextrose, spice extracts)."

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: brianv78

                            One of my coworkers has informed me that he has done a decent amount of research on carrageenan and the common guns (carob bean and locust etc.). He said that carrageenan is incredibly bad for the human body and has been shown to cause cancer.

                            Granted, I have not looked into these claims myself, so I can't really speak to the legitimacy of it. Either way, I'm not sure why it would EVER be used on a chicken, or what purpose it could possibly serve. As far as I'm concerned, chicken meat does not need any emulsifiers or thickening agents.

                            1. re: brianv78

                              You only need salt and water to make a brine. Spices are fine but lots of us don't want sugar in our chicken. I'm not sure why that seems strange--it's CHICKEN. No sugar needed.

                            2. Back at ya with news from the West Seattle QFC deli guy who said their chickens are Draper Valley just like the meat department sells except without the insides. They season with a marinade about 5 minutes before they start cooking them.
                              So now we have Whole Foods with their Draper Valley at 9.99 and QFC with their Draper Valley at 5.99.
                              I haven't had the Whole Foods so I can't say which I like better.
                              Anyone know who's chicken Costco uses?
                              Maybe Monday I'll call Draper Valley and see where it goes.

                              14 Replies
                                1. re: JayDK

                                  Teknotic said that Draper Valley has a natural chicken option, and that that is what WF uses. The way he/she explained it, it sounds to me like QFC doesn't use the "natural" Draper Valley. So that's why there is a price difference.

                                  I'm usually pretty suspicious when I just see "natural" attached to meat--it's usually a meaningless term. I will ask WF more about their roast chickens--I've read that their CEO is vegan, and very particular about the meat the store sells. Apparently he'd rather not sell meat at all but knows the WF wouldn't make it as a vegan store. So, I've always trusted their meat, but we'll see what they say in this case.

                                  1. re: christy319

                                    Actually, we do sell a 'natural' chicken. I'm not sure how natural it really is. But it is more expensive than the other chickens

                                  2. re: JayDK

                                    Draper Valley's website says their chickens are all free range, given access to the outdoors/sun/etc, raised by family farmers, etc. I had no idea! I'd always avoided their stuff.

                                    1. re: christy319

                                      The 'our products' page of the Draper Valley website I looked at shows two chicken brands, Draper Valley - 'Humanely raised in spacious housing with natural light and ventilation', and Ranger - 'Free Range with access to the outdoors'.
                                      My assumption is that the Ranger is their premium brand and is indeed free range, but where did it say that the Draper Valley brand are free range, from the description I take it they are reared indoors?

                                      1. re: andrewtree

                                        The only requirement for a chicken to be labeled "Access to outdoors" is that there is a door somewhere. Even if the there are so many chickens stuffed into the building that most of them can't get to the door, or the "outdoor" space is only 2 square feet, they can still label it that way. Draper Valley sells so many chickens to so many people that somehow I can't imagine they raise their chickens in anything but factory farming conditions.

                                        1. re: Teknotic

                                          andrewtree, it's at the bottom of this page:

                                          Here's the quote:
                                          The chickens at Draper Valley Farms are raised without the use of antibiotics and raised with excellent poultry husbandry practices. Chickens are grown in spacious housing with plenty of natural sunlight and fresh air and have sufficient room to move about the entire house. They are Free-Range, given outdoor access which helps contribute to a stress-free living environment.

                                          Teknotic, I definitely share your skepticism about these kind of claims. I would be very interested if anyone had any insider info. I know there ARE humane meat producers--I used to work at PCC and I knew much more about the industry then, but I'm not up on who does a great job anymore.

                                          1. re: christy319

                                            As I was reading this thread, I started to chuckle because it reminded me of a recent episode of Portlandia. If you haven't seen Portlandia, it's a new sketch comedy show with Fred Armisen (SNL) that satires the attitudes/lifestyles of Portlanders...

                                            It the first episode, there is a skit called "Is it local?" A couple go into a Portland restaurant, but before ordering chicken, they proceed to ask the server endless details about it.

                                            Woman: "Could you tell us about the chicken"
                                            Server: "The chicken is a heritage breed, woodland raised chicken, that's been fed a diet of sheep's milk and hazelnuts"

                                            The skit continues as the couple asks how big an area the chicken can roam, is it Oregon Tilth Organic or merely USDA Organic? are the hazelnuts also local? Even after getting a fact sheet - which includes the name of this individual chicken and picture of him at the farm - the couple feels compelled to visit the farm to see first hand before they can order it.

                                            It sounds a lot like the questions being asked here. We've already queried the local stores; who is going to volunteer to go out to Draper and see the conditions for themselves? :)


                                            1. re: thomco

                                              Not about chicken, but salmon, and filmed at Ponti Seafood. Way before Portlandia, was Almost Live from the late 80's and 90's.


                                                1. re: Bethwick

                                                  Further proof that Portland just copies Seattle all the time.

                                                2. re: thomco

                                                  Oh, totally. Even as I was typing my questions I was laughing, thinking of this skit. I LOVE this show.

                                                  1. re: thomco

                                                    Thanks for the laugh Thomco! Dang funny!

                                                    "The chicken you'll be enjoying tonight...his name was Colin..."

                                                    1. re: thomco

                                                      I'm tempted. Who knows where they're located?

                                          2. I like Haggen the best, but I'm up north. Of the ones you mentioned, I'd go QFC, but I'd try to figure out when they get them out of the roaster, and take one home that hasn't been sitting in the case long.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: wallyz

                                              The corporate office decides the cooking schedule and it's the same every day. If you ask the deli people, they can tell you what time they usually come out of the oven. The cook-to list is sometimes followed a little bit ahead or behind schedule depending on business that day. They are allowed to sit in the case for up to four hours before they must be pulled.

                                            2. Squawk!
                                              Good job on the inside info regarding QFC chickens.
                                              Their spice mix seems like it certainly is highly "engineered."
                                              I suspect the grocery store roasted chicken is a highly competitive business because, who goes to the store and just buys a chicken?
                                              Draper Valley vs. Foster Farms?
                                              Maybe they both have PR departments who might care to comment.
                                              Squawk on!

                                              1. I have to vote for Sam's club. (Some of you won't like the response, I know.) I've tried Costco and our local grocery store chicken. When I have another Sam's bird, I notice the difference.

                                                1. Back at cha' with some chicken news.

                                                  Talked to the "grow out" guy at Draper Valley this afternoon and he informs me that they indeed have 3 chickens.

                                                  One is organic and that's not in play for this discussion, but the other two have the same feed, etc. the only difference is one has access to the outdoors and one doesn't.

                                                  So WF and Metro use the free range, (their store people tell me) and I haven't asked QFC but at the 5.99 price point they probably use the regular.

                                                  We just got a vote for Sam's Club. What's the lowdown on that bird?

                                                  I used to keep chickens back in the hippy days when I lived in Missouri. They are nice but their eating habits are termed, "coprophagic" which is kinda gross. But hey, they're chickens.

                                                  The funny thing about this is that Draper Valley, etc. makes a big deal out of the fact that their chickens aren't fed any animal byproducts.

                                                  Those free range chickens being coprophagic eat animal byproducts!

                                                  3 Replies
                                                    1. re: twodales

                                                      Wow! Just finished reading the review. It made me want one. I'm gonna get one soon. I'm not a member but I'll see what happens if I show up and ask for a guest pass.

                                                      This review is so good you wonder if it's a PR plant. Not that anyone on TV would rig things for a few extra bucks! (That's a joke if this message is being monitored by big brother's big chicken.)

                                                    2. re: JayDK

                                                      Oh, well there's the insider info I was asking for in my post above! Thanks. I'm still confused, though--my husband loves their drummettes for making wings, and I only see one kind of Draper Valley raw chicken at the store (well, at Ballard Market anyway). Are there stores that carry all 3 kinds of Draper Valley?

                                                    3. For small and local try out Leschi Market. They roast & smoke chickens, turkeys, hams, prime rib. They also make some amazing sausages (the lamb is amazing). Looks like a mini mart but the butcher in back is like 3rd generation and they have lots of free range organic options. Very cool.


                                                        1. Try the herb balsamic roast chicken at View Ridge PCC: $10.00. The best ever! the aroma: I can hardly keep my hands off it in the car!

                                                          1. Best value, flavor and juiciness I would pick Costco.

                                                            Of course, a homemade roasted chicken is better, but the when you buy the chicken, make the brine and spend the time to roast. I'm willing to go the Costco route, especially when we're coming home after soccer.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: dave_c

                                                              Got to go with Sam's, as they have a much more chickeny flavor than the Costco, priced the same, way better than the chains.

                                                            2. While I realize the question was for roasted grocery store chicken, without a doubt the best chicken I have ever bought and made at my home for my family is Smart Chicken. I've been able to find them at the Town & Country and TOP Foods stores. They are air-chilled, certified humane and have a wonderful flavor and texture. Simply the best chicken I have ever had. My family thinks I'm a much better cook when I make it. Cheers.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: chowhound52

                                                                It looks like these can be found in Chicago. Thanks for the heads up!

                                                              2. Was near a Sam's Club the other day and got a free one day pass to try the chicken.
                                                                It seemed to have an odd taste, almost as if it was cured with chicken bouillon cubes. Fatty as well. I'm going back to QFC.