Cornell Chicken Marinade Recipe

cornell chicken marinade recipe

In central NY there is a popular grilled chicken that is often shared at different functions put on by volunteer fire departments, local fairs, etc. And once the familiar smell of Cornell Chicken hits the air, the locals know they are in for a treat as the chicken is cooked over an open pit and basted with this delicious sauce.

This Cornell chicken marinade recipe is so simple, with just a few ingredients that you probably have on hand, yet it creates chicken that is so tangy and delicious that everyone comes back for more. Some call it a white barbecue marinade, although it has little in common with traditional tomato based BBQ sauce.

cornell chicken marinade recipe

Cornell Chicken Marinade Origins

Cornell Chicken was created by the late Dr. Bob Baker, a food science professor at Cornell University. This recipe makes a lot (up to 10 chicken halves), which makes it great for large picnics and potlucks. If you prefer not to cook chicken halves then just use any chicken parts that you like such as thighs or drumsticks.  Bone in chicken breast is tasty as well but I don’t recommend  boneless skinless chicken (although you could). Marinating and grilling the chicken on the bone makes a moist, tastier chicken, and of course, the crispy skin is a real treat!

Thighs and drumsticks are tasty, cheap, and a great way to feed a crowd.  For an economical backyard BBQ you could supply the chicken and low cost beverages like iced tea and have friends and family bring a dish to pass. I always look for chicken on sale and stock up.

Chef John Cornell Chicken Video

One of my favorite food bloggers online is Chef John from Food WishesI love this video where he shares Dr. Baker’s Cornell Chicken recipe and shows just how easy it is to make. He marinated his chicken for about an hour and a half but I like it marinated overnight, turning at least once.  Chef John even updated his blog later and said that he has tried this recipe again and prefers a longer marinating time.

I have included the complete Cornell Chicken recipe beneath this video.

We love this recipe as is but you may be nervous about using so much salt. Keep in mind that this recipe makes a lot of marinade. However, if you are concerned about it being too salty or need to cut back due dietary restrictions you can reduce the amount of salt and still get great results.

Dr. Baker’s Cornell University Chicken Recipe

Makes Enough for about 8-10 chicken halves or about 12 pounds of bone in chicken drumsticks, thighs, etc.

  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon poultry seasoning (I use McCormick Poultry Seasoning)


Put all ingredients in a blender and mix until well blended. If you don’t have a blender you could use a hand mixer or even a whisk. Just make sure mixture is well emulsified.

Marinade chicken in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours, turning at least once. Remove chicken from marinade and reserve extra. Slowly grill chicken turning often, while basting with reserved marinade (discard any marinade left after cooking since it has been in contact with the raw chicken).

Cooking times will vary but you want to cook your chicken to at least 165 degrees to make sure it is done. Be sure to watch Chef John’s video above for his grilling tips.

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Grilled Chicken is a Great Choice for Picnics and Potlucks

This weekend I found thighs and drumsticks on sale for 79 cents a pound so I bought three huge packs (14 drumsticks and 20 thighs) for less than $10. And since all the guests bring a dish (or two) to pass, this is more than enough chicken to feed around 15 – 20 people.

I figure some of the big eaters may eat two or three pieces while other adults and kids will eat just one. I also find that when you have a nice variety of food, or even another economical meat like hot dogs, guests take less of everything just because there is so much food to choose from! That’s what I love about potlucks. You get to spend time with family and friends, play games, enjoy great food and still stay within your food budget!

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