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.
Reheating rotisserie chicken
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.