In summer, the last place you want to be is in the kitchen! But by midseason, you can get pretty tired of sandwich suppers and takeout. So, I'll let you in on a summertime secret of mine: I often buy a rotisserie chicken and use it as a starter for an easy dinner recipe.
You can pick up a whole roasted or rotisserie chicken at supermarkets for around $7 (which is about what it would cost you to buy it raw, by the way). You can get ready-to-go chickens at most supermarket chains, big club stores like Costco, and local BBQ restaurants as well as chains like Boston Market.
Just take one home, invest about five minutes to pull the meat away from the skin and bones, and then the sky's the limit! You're already halfway to a bunch of healthy and quick dishes.
Before you get started on my cool and easy rotisserie chicken recipes (below), here are six rules of thumb for buying and cooking with rotisserie or roasted chickens:
1. Know what you're getting. One rotisserie chicken will give you about 4 cups of shredded chicken, both white and dark meat (no skin). The typical chicken translates into about 12 ounces of light meat and 8 ounces of dark meat (no skin), which gives you a total of:
- 1,037 calories
- 166 g protein
- 0 g carbohydrate
- 34 g fat
- 10.4 g saturated fat
- 13.7 g monounsaturated fat
- 8.2 g polyunsaturated fat
- 505 mg cholesterol
- 0 g fiber
- 451 mg sodium (unless some sodium is added to season the chicken before roasting)
- 30% calories from fat
2. Once you find a good source for rotisserie chickens, learn the best time to buy them. You want the chicken to be fresh, not standing under the lamps for a while. And you want to make sure you have plenty to choose from. You don't want get there at 6:15 p.m. only to find out that the last chicken has been snatched up and they stopped making them at 6 p.m.
3. Get it home safely. To make sure chicken juices don't leak out of the container and onto other food in your shopping cart or grocery bag, bag your bird in a plastic bag (or two). If the chicken comes in a plastic carrier, make sure the lid is positioned properly on the base and that it is snapped completely shut.
Once you get your chicken home, if it's too hot to touch, keep the top off the container and give it about 10 minutes to cool down. Then take off your rings, wash your hands well, and shred the chicken from the bones (you can also chop it if you want bigger pieces for your recipe). Store the shredded chicken immediately in a covered container in the refrigerator until needed.
If you don't want to shred it just yet, let your chicken cool uncovered for 10-15 minutes, then cover it and place it in the refrigerator for shredding at a more convenient time.
4. If you aren't going to shred it right away, let the chicken cool, then put it immediately in the refrigerator to avoid keeping it at room temperature too long.
5. You can buy your rotisserie chicken on the weekend, then shred and freeze it for use later in the week. Just pop the container of frozen shredded chicken into your refrigerator in the morning when you leave for work. It should be mostly thawed by the time you get home.
6. You can use shredded rotisserie chicken in all sorts of recipes. It works as filling for soft tacos, enchiladas, or quesadillas. It can also be a featured ingredient in a pasta or rice dish, a casserole, or in a dinner salad, soup, or sandwich.
Cool and Easy Rotisserie Chicken Recipes
Here are recipes for some of my favorite ways to serve chicken in the summer. I've used just the breast to keep the calorie count as low as possible, but you could choose to use the dark meat as well.
Chicken Cobb Salad
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic members: Journal as 2 cups side salad green + 1 serving lean meat without added fat + 1 tsp oil
9 cups shredded romaine lettuce (or 4 1/2 cups shredded iceberg mixed with 4 1/2 cups shredded romaine lettuce)
2 1/2 cups shredded (skinless) roasted chicken breast (about 12 ounces)
3 hard-boiled egg whites, chopped
3 fresh tomatoes, chopped
6 tablespoons blue cheese, crumbled
4 slices crisp-cooked turkey bacon, crumbled
1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and diced
1/3 cup chopped green onions (the white and part of the green)
3/4 cup lite ranch-style salad dressing
- Distribute shredded lettuce into 6 individual salad plates or bowls. Arrange the chicken, chopped egg white, tomatoes, blue cheese, turkey bacon bits, avocado, and green onion on top of the lettuce, each in its own row.
- Drizzle about 1/8 cup of dressing over each salad and serve.
Yield: 6 servings
Per serving: 324 calories, 25 g protein, 13 g carbohydrate, 18 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 5 g monounsaturated fat, 5 g polyunsaturated fat, 67 mg cholesterol, 3.5 g fiber, 622 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 52%.
Fruity & Nutty Chicken Salad
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic members: Journal as 1 cup "entrÃ©e salad with meat, poultry and light dressing" OR 1 cup "hearty stew" OR 1 serving lean meat with 1 tsp fat maximum + 1 portion fresh fruit
3 cups diced boneless, roasted chicken breast
1/2 cup finely diced celery
1/3 cup chopped green onions (the white and part of the green)
1 firm apple, sliced and diced
1/3 cup dried cranberries or cherries
1 cup seedless green or red grapes, cut in half
1/2 cup toasted pecan pieces
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
5 tablespoons light mayonnaise
1/2 tablespoons fat-free sour cream
- Add chicken, celery, green onion, apple, dried cranberries or cherries, grapes, and pecans to large serving bowl and toss.
- Add pepper, curry powder, mayonnaise, and sour cream to small bowl and whisk together until smooth. Spoon over chicken mixture and toss together to blend well.
- You can serve this salad immediately, or you can cover the salad, chill in the refrigerator, and serve the next day.
Yield: 8 servings
Per serving: 232 calories, 18 g protein, 18 g carbohydrate, 9 g fat, 1.6 g saturated fat, 45 mg cholesterol, 2 g fiber, 128 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 38%.
Chicken Pesto Pine Nut Skillet Pizza
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic members: Journal 1 small serving as 1 portion frozen dinner light OR 1 sandwich "sandwich and burger lean meat" OR 1 cup "hearty stew" + 2 ounces low-fat cheese
2 multigrain flour tortillas
1 tablespoon pesto sauce
1/2 cup shredded roasted chicken breast, skinless
2 slices part-skim mozzarella (2 ounces), each broken into about 4 pieces
1 tablespoon toasted pine nuts
- Add a flour tortilla to a large, nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat. Spread pesto on top of the tortilla, then top with chicken and then cheese and pine nuts.
- Place the second tortilla on top. Once the bottom tortilla is nicely browned, carefully flip the pizza over to brown the other tortilla. This will take a minute or two more.
- Remove pizza to a plate and cut pizza into 8 wedges.
Yield: 1 large serving (or two small servings)
Per serving: 570 calories, 45 g protein, 48 g carbohydrate, 21 g fat, 9 g saturated fat, 5 g monounsaturated fat, 6 g polyunsaturated fat, 78 mg cholesterol, 11 g fiber, 1300 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 33%.
Chicken Pasta Salad with Simple Sun-Dried Tomato Dressing
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic members: Journal as 1/4 cup starchy foods and legumes without fat + 1 serving lean meat without added fat OR 1 cup entrÃ©e salad with meat, poultry and light dressing
4 cups cooked and cooled whole wheat or whole grain blend pasta (like Barilla Plus Penne)
2 cups shredded roasted chicken breast (no skin), cooled
1/4 cup finely chopped sweet onion or green onions
1 1/2 cups sugar snap peas, cut in half
1/4 cup light mayonnaise
1/4 cup fat-free sour cream
1 tablespoon low-fat milk or fat-free half-and-half
2 tablespoons chopped sun-dried tomatoes, drained (use the type bottled in olive oil)
Black pepper to taste
- Add cooked pasta, chicken, onions, and sugar snap peas to large serving bowl and toss to mix.
- Add light mayonnaise, fat-free sour cream, low-fat milk or fat-free half-and-half, and chopped sun dried tomatoes to a small bowl or 2-cup measure and stir with fork to blend well into a dressing. Drizzle over the pasta mixture and toss to blend everything.
- Serve immediately, or cover and keep in refrigerator until ready to serve.
Yield: 4 servings
Per serving: 232 calories, 25 g protein, 13 g carbohydrate, 8 g fat, 1.8 g saturated fat, 60 mg cholesterol, 3.5 g fiber, 184 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 32%.