Cornell Chicken BBQ

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I really do not consider myself a food nerd, but any recipe that has origins in Upstate New York will always intrigue me. I have been testing and trying recipes and dishes that have ties to Upstate New York. And while I don’t usually like to play favorites this one ranks pretty high on my list of Upstate comfort foods I love.

Cornell chicken is probably the best-known version of chicken barbecue in Upstate New York, served at nearly every fireman’s chicken barbecue fundraiser with a side of salt potatoes. The scent of the vinegar based marinade and the warm, smokey charcoal BBQ billowing in the air on a summer day is truly a scent of summer, I am sure many Upstate New Yorkers are familiar with and have a hard time resisting.

The original Cornell chicken recipe and cooking technique PDF via Cornell Ecommons


Cornell Chicken BBQ

Cornell Chicken BBQ

Yield: 4
Prep Time: 1 day
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 day 45 minutes


  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon table salt
  • 1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 broiler chickens cut into quarters


  1. Whisk egg in a medium bowl until well beaten. Slowly add in the oil until fully blended. Then whisk in the vinegar, salt, poultry seasoning, and ground black pepper. Set aside about 1/3 of the sauce to use for basting while grilling. Place chicken in a large Ziploc bag, and coat with sauce. Seal, and marinate in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
  2. When ready to cook:
  3. Preheat the grill to a medium temperature, about 275 degrees F preferably over charcoal.
  4. Arrange the coated chicken on the preheated grill. Cook (covered) for 40 to 45 minutes or until cooked through, basting with the reserved sauce after 20 minutes. Cook until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F.


The original recipe calls for a whopping 3 tablespoons of salt, this is just way too much salt for me and my family, so I have scaled it back to 1 tablespoon.

The Original Recipe which uses a barbecue pit, can easily be adapted to a regular home grill, either charcoal or gas, but charcoal you give you that distinct barbecue flavor. The original recipe was actually developed to by Dr.  Robert Baker, a  Cornell University professor (who also invented chicken nuggets) to help poultry producers sell more and younger birds, thus maximizing profits.  The marinade recipe he created, produces an exceptionally crispy chicken with  moist and flavorful meat. So without further ado here is my adaptation of a classic Upstate dish.

So without further ado here is my adaptation of a classic Upstate dish. I have closely followed the original recipe, but have scaled back the amount of salt in the marinade, to better suit my family’s needs.

References : Robert Baker Invented Chicken Nuggets, Turkey Burgers, and Cornell BBQ Robert C. Baker, Wikipedia

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  1. I grew up in the Finger lakes and took this bbq chicken for granted. I moved away then moved back here from NYC to raise my daughter and I knew I was home when the smell of a fire dept bbq came in thru my car window. Dr. Baker’s chicken might just be my favorite food, period. (As long as there are Hinerwadels salt potatoes on the side)

  2. That’s the marinade
    Dr Bakers real secret was shared with neighbors and friends
    It’s three eggs 1/2 c oil 1/4c vinegar the rest is same in bowl 2-4hrs fridge then top rack in bbq baste baste baste
    It’s thicker and better my parents knew him it was the neighborhood secret
    And bettterrr

  3. HI, Jennifer – I used to live in the CNY area and have family there still. Sauder’s is one of my favorites!

    I remember the village fire department chicken bbq fundraisers like they were yesterday – can’t wait to try this.

    One question, though – have you found there to be any significant difference in marinating the cuts for a day as opposed to just basting at the grill?

    Absolutely love the site – like a walk down the path of my younger years.

    1. @T E, The basting is important for most flavor. also we would put cooked halve in big kettle and pour the sauce over them cover and let sit on grill until served this add to the flavor and kept moist not drying out the chicken

  4. My family on Keuka Lake always made this recipe on a grill homemade from cinderblocks . It was a treat all summer long. Now I make it for my family in NC because it’s such a great recipe! Thank you Dr. Baker for many wonderful meals…..

  5. Ahhhhh …….. sure brings back memories of Cornell Veterinary College Physiology lab picnics back in the ’60s. Wow, how can it be so long ago when we had such great family picnics at a couple area state parks near Ithaca, NY! Everyone had a great time .. no alcohol & no cell phones … just lots of games for kids & adults with some who went swimming … & oh, the good dish-to-pass homemade food & esp. that great chicken that some of the men were ALWAYS in charge of preparing. Now what few of us are left who were adults then are in our 80s & some nearly 90, but the Cornell BBQ sauce lives on for future generations, thanks to those who share it.

  6. What time and temp would you suggest for oven cooking this recipe? How often should the chicken be turned and basted? Would you suggest putting the chicken on a rack for crispness?

    Thank you.

  7. Have you ever tried to make this in the oven? Would you think that cooking in the oven at 350 for about an hour would work?
    By the way I grew up in albany until I went away to college. I have lived in Los Angeles since 1959 and the weather is terrific..not the taxes though. I go back to Albany every few years for high school reunions and also to visit my mother and father’s graves. Tammy

    1. Tammy! I have cooked this is the oven and it is just as good, in my opinion, I am sure the hardcore bbq-ers would disagree though 🙂 I have only been to California once, and we actually stayed in LA, and had a great time, there was so much to see and do!