Cornell Chicken: The Way-Western New Yorker’s BBQ Chicken!

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If you are in “upstate” New York (not THAT upstate, but the real far upstate otherwise known as Western New York, so upstate that it’s got Buffalo in it), and you see a sign for BBQ chicken, the taste will not be anything remotely like what you would find down south, or in a jar of barbecue sauce. Western New Yorkers are so serious about their BBQ Chicken that I will never forget (or let anyone else forget!) that once, there was a 100th anniversary of Jell-O parade in LeRoy New York, and there was a GIANT grill on wheels with BBQ chicken cooking on it IN THE PARADE! We all couldn’t help but follow it to its final destination, and eat up the chicken in Styrofoam take-out containers accompanied by coleslaw and baked beans.

This recipe is called Cornell Chicken because it was developed a long time ago by someone at Cornell University, which is in the southern most part of this region of New York. I got it from my mother-in-law, and she got it from some thing she always calls “home-bureau,” which was a ladies’ get-together that taught them all to cook.  It’s really good! My husband likes to request it once a summer, at least, because it tastes so much like home.

Cornell Chicken on the Grill


  • 1 chicken or similar parts with skin
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbs. salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons poultry seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 egg


1: Cut up the chicken and put it on the grill. You can parboil it a little first if you want.

2: In a bowl, with a whisk or electric mixer, beat the egg; add the oil and beat again.

3: Add all the other stuff and stir it up.

4: Brush on the chicken with a pastry brush.

Don’t burn it too much. That’s what I always do!

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10 Responses to Cornell Chicken: The Way-Western New Yorker’s BBQ Chicken!

  1. Karla June 27, 2011 at 9:59 am #

    Sounds fabulous! I used to live in the “other” upstate NY – Ticonderoga, near the VT border and about 90 miles from Canada. This sounds quite familiar and I am eager to try it.

  2. Ellen June 27, 2011 at 10:01 am #

    This is the best way to BBQ chicken ever! I lived in Buffalo for several years and could never get enough, so I now make my own. BUT, in Western NY we marinated the chicken overnight in the vinegar/oliveoil mixture so that the flavor really permeates the chicken (a big plus for those of us who don’t eat the skin!).

  3. Donna in Delaware June 27, 2011 at 12:38 pm #

    Sounds good. I’ll give it a try. Use to travel that way sometimes and use to live in Canada, but never had the chicken. Thanks.

  4. Deb Graner June 27, 2011 at 2:02 pm #

    Wish you had a print or share button! Love the recipe! TX!
    I did recommend on FB.

  5. Barbara in Chicago June 28, 2011 at 1:31 pm #

    The recipe came from, Robert Baker, a professor in the Ag School at Cornell University, in 1950. It is still used all over upstate NY at firehouse and church fundraisers, where hundreds of half chickens are cooked over wood fires on huge grates set into cinder block fire pits. It is absolutely the most delicious chicken in the whole world!

  6. Billie Jo in Upstate NY July 4, 2011 at 1:09 pm #

    This is the only way to BBQ Chicken!

  7. Sonny Honsickle July 5, 2011 at 5:19 pm #

    Your husband has great taste in chicken– and women! Thanks for sharing this sweet little secret of summer.

  8. Deb Graner July 5, 2011 at 8:32 pm #

    I made this for July 4th. I mixed-up the order when making the “sauce”, & marinated the chicken in a bit of it after par-boiling. It was delicious, and reminded me of “broasted” chicken. I always wondered how broasted chicken got it’s flavor. Thanks for a great & different way to BBQ my chicken!

  9. Kim June 10, 2014 at 8:58 pm #

    I am from Ithaca and every summer my Gramps would BBQ chicken. There would be a big 5 gallon bucket marinading in the outdoor shed in Cornell Sauce. He would marinade for 1 day before putting on well burned down coals to cook pretty slow…mopping with extra marinade the whole time!!! Sooo delicious!

  10. Luann beck March 24, 2015 at 12:18 pm #

    Moved to Tonawanda New York in 1972 I remember on the Fourth of July and different summer holidays the firemen there would have a barbecue you could smell it for miles and you should you wouldn’t wouldn’t forget when you smell that smell you knew what it was and you were going by your chicken from them for fundraisers that they had I have continued to make this recipe only thing different I didn’t use Apple cider vinegar I used white vinegar this chicken is the best chicken you will ever put in your mouth I promise you try there’s this recipe

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