Q: I have had some bad experiences with rotisserie-type chickens. I've been buying them for years, yet the last one was very slimy and had the consistency of crunchy plastic meat. It was thoroughly cooked. I have run up against this in my own purchase of whole raw chickens which I roasted myself. What is it with these kinds of outcomes? What causes that plastic type of feel to the meat when eaten? I hope you might be able to shed some light on this for me.
—Noreen Becker, Romeoville, Ill.
A: Crunchy, plastic meat? Wow. I have had some lousy birds in my time — smelly, stale, stringy. And sometimes, as when I over-marinated chicken breasts in mango juice and yogurt, the problem was my fault. But I've never encountered what you have described — nor have the National Chicken Council, a trade association based in Washington, D.C., nor Chef Jon Ashton with Parade Publications.
Bill Roenigk, the council's vice president, thinks some of these problems, like sliminess, could be due to the chicken being old or improper storage. That shouldn't affect both the store-cooked chicken and the birds you cook at home. It should be a problem for one and the other.
As we brainstormed we threw out all sorts of possible problems, from heating the rotisserie chicken up in its plastic container (don't) to not removing the plastic bag of giblets from the bird's cavity (do) when you roast your own.
Perhaps the thing you should do is switch where you buy rotisserie chickens — see if the problem occurs again. Ditto for the chickens you cook at home; switch brands, markets, whatever.
Ashton has sometimes encountered "sticky" chicken caused by excess fluid inside the package wrappings.
"I always make sure to give the chicken a jolly good washing and I always like to brine a whole chicken. Sometimes, if poultry has a strong smell to it, I will mix the juice of two lemons with eight cups of water and leave it to soak for 20-40 minutes," he said.
Do save all packaging from the chicken, whether rotisserie or raw, so that if you get a slimy or plastic-tasting chicken again you can contact the store and have them investigate. At the very least, you should get a refund for your purchase if you are not satisfied.
I know this is not a very definitive answer to your question but let's get it out there to readers. Maybe one of them can help.
Do you have a question about food or drink? E-mail Bill Daley at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Snail mail inquiries should be sent to: Bill Daley, Chicago Tribune, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago 60611. Twitter @billdaley.