Q. Do you have any suggestions for using the prepared rotisserie chicken available at most supermarkets?

A. Absolutely. The key for quick and good-for-you cooking is to identify convenience foods that can be used for healthful meal preparations.

Fortunately, rotisserie chickens are a simple, readily available solution. Most of us don't have to travel far to find a roast chicken; they can be found everywhere from carry-out shops and casual dining establishments to small grocery stores and huge food warehouses.

According to the National Chicken Council, Americans will buy more than 800 million chickens this year, a number that's been growing at a rapid pace of 7 to 8 percent a year since last the late 1990s. We now buy almost as many rotisserie chickens as whole raw chickens to cook ourselves.

In addition to being convenient and delicious, rotisserie chicken is an excellent source of protein, and low in fat and calories when the skin is removed. You don't have to serve it as is; juicy, succulent rotisserie chickens are amazingly versatile, folding easily into almost any dish, including salads, pasta, or rice preparations, sandwiches, soups, and casseroles.

Simply pull the meat off the bones, and then combine with other fresh and healthful ingredients to create a tasty meal. These cooked birds are a true timesaver when a super-quick weeknight supper is in order.

Here are a few tips for creating quick, healthful meals using rotisserie chicken:

  • If there's a choice, opt for plain instead of flavored. Although most of the flavoring is concentrated on the skin, it does perfume the meat and accumulated juices, and can alter the overall flavor of your recipe.
  • Look for a large, full-breasted chicken. It has more meat, and is less likely to dry out under a heat lamp or in a hot box.
  • Remove the skin and pull the chicken from the bone as soon as you get home. It is easier to separate meat from bone while warm, and allows you to start your recipe without delay. Shred or cube the excess meat and refrigerate or freeze in cup-size portions for future use. By keeping out only what you need, you'll also avoid the temptation to over eat.
  • Reheat the already cooked meat slowly and on low heat to avoid cooking the meat any further.
  • For quick and economical stock, place the chicken bones in a large pot, along with black peppercorns, chopped garlic and whole vegetables such as onion, carrot, and celery (or their respective scraps). Barely cover with water, and then bring to a simmer. In just 30 minutes, you'll have a pot of stock that tastes like its been simmering for hours. Any fat in the broth will congeal at the top and can be easily strained off.
  • Keep small containers of stock in your freezer so that it's ready at a moment's notice. For perfectly measured, small amounts for cooking, freeze the stock in ice cube trays, then transfer the cubes to a plastic freezer bag.

For more on rotisserie chicken, including recipes, see: