How to Handle and Carve a Rotisserie Chicken

Carving a chicken with friends and family.

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There is no better way to get dinner ready fast than to bring a rotisserie chicken home from the store. Present a rotisserie chicken whole and hot on the dinner table with some rice or skinny mashed potatoes and vegetables and dinner is done. Or, serve your rotisserie chicken cold with bagged salad greens and low-fat dressing. You can also slice, chop, dice, or shred it to make fillings and toppings for a variety of dishes such as enchiladas.

Overall, grabbing a chicken at the market is a win for the busy cook. There are a few things to keep in mind once you bring it home.

Safe Handling

Like any other cooked poultry, there are rules to follow when handling and storing the meat:

  • Be sure the chicken is actually hot if you choose one from the heated section, or cold if you pick one up from the refrigerated section. Bacteria grow at temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  • Make your rotisserie chicken the last item on your grocery list. Avoid letting it sit in your cart where it will lose freshness while you do the rest of your shopping. More importantly, bring the chicken straight home.
  • Eat or refrigerate it within 2 hours, or within 1 hour on a particularly hot day.


If you choose to refrigerate a hot rotisserie chicken once you bring it home, remove the meat and store it in a shallow container so it can cool quickly. When the chicken pieces are cool, cover the container or put the meat into sealable plastic bags until you’re ready to use the chicken. Use within 4 days or freeze the chicken pieces for up to 4 months.


The average rotisserie chicken yields about 3 to 3 1/2 cups of meat, 2/3 of which will be white meat. To keep your meals low fat, remove the skin. By all means, enjoy the leg and thigh meat—it’s still relatively lean and nutritious, too.


Cutting up a small chicken is similar to carving a turkey. Follow these steps for a clean carve and to ensure you get the most meat off of the bone:

  1. Place the chicken, breast-side up, on a clean cutting board and cut any twine that’s holding the legs together.
  2. Hold the chicken in place with a meat fork. Gently pull one leg away from the breast and cut where it joins the bird. You should be able to cut clean through. Repeat with the other leg.
  3. For each leg, separate the thigh and the drumstick by cutting through the joint.
  4. Hold the wing tip and gently pull it away from the body until you can fit the knife easily between the wing and the breast. Cut where the two join.
  5. If you want to slice your rotisserie chicken, remove the breast from each side in its entirety, feeling for where the meat joins the bones. Place on a cutting board and slice. Or you can carve the breast while still on the bird, starting on the outside and working your way to the center. 
  6. Once you have made the basic cuts, shredding, chopping, or dicing the meat is up to you, depending on what you want to do with it. Sometimes using your fingers is the most efficient way to shred or create chunks of meat, or you can use two forks to pull the meat apart.
Article Sources
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  1. "Danger Zone" (40F - 140F). U.S. Department of Agriculture