This was stimulated by a discussion of supermarket rotisserie chicken on the L.A. board:
Chino Wayne's First Theory Of Supermarket Chicken goes like this:
"Prepared chicken, particularly fried chicken as rendered by the supermarket has the potential to exceed in flavor and overall quality the best franchised fried chicken by an order of magnitude similar to the differences in points on the Richter Scale."
This theory is based upon field work performed in the mid-1980's at the Von's in Palms, (Los Angeles), California and more recently at the Ralphs Service Deli in Chino Hills, California. Upon repeated scientific testing, including making the author and various members of the author's family research subjects, this theory was formulated and proven.
The scientific principals behind why supermarket fried chicken is markedly better than franchise fried chicken are two-fold: 1) Superior raw materials, 2) small batch production. Invariably franchise fried chicken purveyors utilize portion controlled, precisely weighed and measured chicken components that are engineered to fit 12 pieces in a box smaller than a shoe box. Whereas supermarkets use the same chicken as those plump pieces found under shrink wrap, nestled in foam containers in the meat department, chicken pieces that have been selected for their plumpy, well fed eye appeal. As the franchise fried chicken purveyors' goal is maximum output during peak noon time and evening dining hours, they will produce large batches of "product" using multiple broasters, running continuously (and only Harlan Sanders and Dave Thomas know what the batter is made out of, and they are both dead). In the boutique fried chicken operation of a supermarket, generally a few small batches of chicken are turned out of a single broaster during a given business day, by Service Deli staff who have evolved as fine practioners of the art of working slow and methodical.
The above differences, however, do not guarantee a hungry fried chicken fancier a better experience at the supermarket unless the following strategy for fried chicken acquisition is employed:
1. Scout out the Service Deli at different times of day, note at what times there is typically a lot of chicken under the heat lamp in the hot food case, and what times the chicken supply diminishes. On these scouting trips make small, but tactical purhases of various sliced meats or cheeses that might appeal to you, and use these opportunities to chat with and become friendly with the Service Deli staff.
2. Arrive at the Service Deli counter at a time when experience has shown there will be little fried chicken left in the hot case. Insure that you arrive at the Service Deli before you have done any of your other food shopping.
3. If another supermarket patron arrives at the Service Deli at about the same time as you, and they are interested in acquiring fried chicken, allow them to be helped first. By all means encourage them to have their order filled before yours, even if it results in their acquiring most if not all of the remaining fried chicken that has been sitting under the heat lamp for the last 120 minutes.
4. When your turn comes, order at least 16 pieces, if not more, of fried chicken. It usually helps to order some extras of say legs and breasts, to round out the order to about 24 pieces. (Invariably this quantity of fried chicken will cost considerably less at the supermarket than at the franchise fried chicken joint.) Most likely the Service Deli staff member will inform you that there will be a 15 or 20 minute wait, because they are going to have to fry a new batch of chicken. If you hear those words, you have struck the Motherlode! Immediately respond with, "Of course I'll do some shopping and stop by here for the chicken when it is ready, take your time".
This stratgey will result in the Service Deli staff member custom cooking your fried chicken, and even if you don't get back to the Service Deli counter immediately after the chicken has come out of the broaster, they will have your juicy, plump, flavoful fried chicken packaged, reserved and ready for you, and the next schmoe who comes along looking for fried chicken will get what ever leavings you did not want, likely dried out under the heat lamps.