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The Rise (And Apparent Fall) Of The Costco Food Court Chicken Bake

Costco chicken bakes at food court beneath pizza
Costco chicken bakes at food court beneath pizza - Fang Zheng/Getty Images

While members adore the warehouse retail store for its many great bulk products, Costco's food court also has plenty of fans. In between its wildly popular pizza and affordably priced hot dogs sits the chicken bake, which consists of cheese, bacon, chicken, and Caesar dressing all conveniently placed within a cheese-topped dough sheath. Along with other food court items, many shoppers enjoy a hearty chicken bake after a long day traversing the aisles. A fan-favorite for decades, the crisp-yet-tender poultry pocket "is essentially a Costco exclusive," according to Slate. In the mid-aughts, some customers felt that the chicken bake was "an essential part of the Costco experience." However, it seems that something may be amiss, as newer fans of the bulk retailer on Reddit have some harsh words about the dish.

In a thread regarding the least appealing food court offerings at the chain, some Redditors were quick to decry the chicken bake (Costco's roast beef sandwich, meanwhile, received the most vitriol). According to one person, "Just had a bake and it was not very good," while another stated, "The quality of the chicken bake definitely changed. It's definitely drier." So, what happened to take a once heralded menu item and turn it into something that makes a worst-of Costco food court list? The answer appears to be in how the dish is prepared.

Read more: All The Benefits Of A Costco Membership

A Change May Explain The Decline In Quality

A pre-pandemic Costco chicken bake in foil
A pre-pandemic Costco chicken bake in foil - OmNomDomz/X, formerly known as Twitter

At one point in Costco's history, chicken bakes were put together by staff within the food court, but times have changed. These days, the bakes supposedly arrive at Costco frozen, which means that staff only have to heat and serve them when a customer has a hunger that only a chicken bake can fulfill. This is the most likely explanation for customer complaints regarding the quality of the chicken bakes, and some Costco members attribute the change to the pandemic.

As one person stated on Reddit, "The quality dropped during the rougher parts of the pandemic, and we've never been able to go back to that." The store did remove chicken bakes from its menu for a time, but the item eventually made its return, albeit with a different flavor than customers were used to. Even though the worst of the pandemic appears to be in the rear view, there's no indication that Costco will return to the old chicken bake recipe or cooking method.

Is It Possible To Elevate The Chicken Bake To Its Former Glory?

Costco food court menu
Costco food court menu - Eric Broder Van Dyke/Shutterstock

While there's little you can do about Costco's food court practices when it comes to the chicken bake, there may be a way to enhance the once beloved menu item. A popular food court hack involves ordering both the chicken bake and a hot dog, then doing a little DIY food prep to create a brand-new dish. Start by removing both ends of the chicken bake, which you can conveniently do with your teeth. Next, take the hot dog from its bun and place it inside the chicken bake. The bread of the chicken bake takes the place of the bun, and you have double the meat inside.

Pairing chicken with a hot dog is a strange combination, and it appears that the Costco menu hack has people divided according to a Reddit thread. While the original poster dubbed the dish "a 10/10," others were not as generous. As stated by one person, "I tried it, you all oversold it," while another said, "Tried this and it was disgustingly salty." One self-professed Costco employee even said the puzzling combo made them "sick to my stomach." Based on these sentiments, the glory days of Costco's now infamous chicken bake may be firmly in the past.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.