Keeping a rotisserie chicken SAFELY warm for a few hours


I was looking this info up for myself; thought it was worth posting here.

What to do when you’ve bought a whole roasted chicken, still warm, but dinner doesn’t start for an hour or more? Even putting it in a low oven is going to dry it out — and they usually don’t start out all that great. Putting it in the fridge requires more oven time to warm it back up, which will also dry it out. But is it safe to leave them out?

Here’s what I found on a forum thread:

Original question: Dinner is about 1.5 hours away. The chicken was warm when I purchased it.

Normally, I buy earlier in the day and just stick it in the fridge. This time, though, it seems that it would be better to try to keep it warm. I keep picturing it lingering too long in the “bacteria growth” temp zone considering it won’t be in the fridge very long before I pull it out to start reheating.

Is my thinking off? If it’s okay to keep it warm, what’s the best temp for the oven?

Answer 1: I just leave mine on the counter until dinnertime. Then I cut it into quarters, stick it on a cookie sheet and reheat in the oven at 350 F. I’ve been doing this for years and we’re all still kicking.

Answer 2: It will be fine. It needs to sit out for a minimum of 2+ hours before you have to worry about getting sick.

Answer 3: Actually, you have 4 hours in the “temperature danger zone” from 40° to 140°F. If your store keeps the chicken at or above 140°, you have 4 hours after it is removed from the heater before it is considered unsafe. These are the numbers I was taught at culinary school and have followed without issue since.

Reply from original poster: Thank you all very much! Dinner was delicious! 

And a professional chef on another forum says:

Remember that the temperature danger zone is 40 to 140 F. When you buy a rotisserie chicken, it is being held at a higher temperature than that and they package them as such that they try to keep them warm for a decent amount of time. Then after that, once it drops to 140, it takes time for all those little buggies to grow, get married, and reproduce. The government states [the safe zone is] 4 hours to pass through the temperature danger zone. Add that to the 45-1 hour that it will take the bird to drop to 140, if left in packaging and considering the ambient room temp., and you have a considerable time before it becomes a microbe bomb. Of course, I probably wouldn’t try to stretch it that long but 1-2 hours, following government safety standards, should be more than safe.

So, I tried it. I kept two rotisserie chickens in a tote bag on the counter, with a folded dishtowel below (to prevent heatsink from my granite countertop; if you have wood or laminate counters, no need for this). I also took one of those big flat insulated foil-looking bags and folded it over the top of the closed chicken packages, then clothes-pinned the top of the tote bag shut. It sat for about an hour and a half before dinner.

Result? The temperature was a bit on the lukewarm side. It would have been better with a bit of oven time, I think. Although the breast was dry, and oven time would have made this worse. Maybe oven time sealed up with some extra chicken broth.
As for intestinal problems, that was three days ago, and we’re all good here!

Reheating rotisserie chicken

I later found this info on a forum comment on Chowhound:

Buy a Costco rotisserie chicken, the paler the better. Chill overnight.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a rectangular baking pan place sliced carrots, whole garlic cloves (still in their “sleeves”), and very thinly sliced potatoes; drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper: put in the oven for 10 minutes.

Place COLD chicken atop vegetables and drizzle the chicken drippings from the bottom of the container over the chicken and vegetables; place in oven and cook until the chicken is crisp on the outside, about 25 minutes.

The chicken will be crisp on the outside and moist inside. The garlic will be roasted and is delicious spread onto bread slices. The vegetables will have been infused with the chicken drippings.

I tried this method, with a few changes. I cut the chicken up into two whole-leg sections (thigh and drumstick still attached), and the breast as one whole section. (I discarded the wings because they were overcooked, and put the rest of bones in the freezer for future chicken stock.) I put the legs and breast over sliced carrots (didn’t have the other items on hand). Because it was in smaller pieces, it didn’t need nearly as much time. The skin crisped up nicely and the dark meat was pretty good, but the breast was dry.

I think it’s probably impossible to get moist breast meat from a rotisserie chicken unless you eat it fresh out of the oven at the store. But you can still use this meat for recipes that bring some moisture to the party: chicken enchiladas or mayo-based chicken salad (have you tried my orange-cranberry chicken salad?), for example.

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photo credit: terren in Virginia via photopin cc


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    1. According to the food laws you could keep it in there for 7 days, as long as the temp doesn’t go below 135F , in a real world we don’t do that because the chicken will dry out, you could leave it in the warmer all day and if it doesn’t sell and you want to use it the next day you must cool it properly and store in fridge or freezer, bring down temp from 140F to 70F in 2 hours and to 40F in 4 hrs to prevent any food contamination.

  1. Here is what I am going to try.
    Preheat oven to 180 – turn it off. Set Bagged Chicken in the oven for 3 hours and then eat dinner.

  2. food “laws” are largely nonsense; restaurants and supermarkets rarely adhere to the laws properly, and very few people get sick from prepared food. *most* people don’t cook food at home to the proper temperatures. Food lasts for weeks past the Sell by date in many cases.

    I’ve left rotisserie chickens out all day and nibbled without worrying about food safety. Raw food is a bit different because you don’t know how it’s been handled or how much time it’s spent at improper temp.

    People have been eating cold pizza the next day off of their coffee tables since there’s been pizza and coffee tables. It takes a lot more than 4 hours for cooked food to become dangerous.

    1. Let’s start with pizza. Unless there is meat on it, sure, bacteria can grow, but not the way it will in warm meat.
      Just because you’ve done something doesn’t make it safe.
      When you DO get food poisoning, it can be pretty nasty and ruin a good few days, so why risk it?

  3. I removed the chicken from the plastic container and placed it in an oven safe dish breast down and covered it with foil. That way the juices that come from the fat on the back will baste the breast. Heated my oven to 200 deg and turned it off and placed the dish in the oven. I’ll bring internal temp up to 140 before serving. We always cook our turkey breast down, white meat is always juicy.

  4. We get our rotisserie chicken early morning and put it in my dutch oven with several cups of water. Then I add small potatoes all around it and cover. I put it in the oven on 225 and leave it for hours. We have a late afternoon lunch or early dinner and it is ready when we are and delicious. The water creates steam that makes the chicken so tender that it falls off the bone. An extra benefit is I have stock all ready for my leftover potatoes and chicken for soup the next day.

  5. Plan ahead:
    Put a ice chest in your car before heading to Costco.
    (This can be a cheep Styrofoam cooler.)
    Place the packaged chicken into the ice chest as soon as you get to the car. Cover with a towle is you want.
    ( your can a a meat thermometer if you are worried.)
    Avoid opening the cooler until you are ready to eat.
    A bonus is that you can keppt the cooler out of the way instead of on the counter.

  6. I had a rotisserie chicken in oven at 170 degrees & forgot it until the next morning. Thermometer said it was 130 internally. Is it contaminated?

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