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Cornell Chicken Barbecue

This famous barbecue marinade and sauce was developed in the 1940s by Dr. Robert Baker, professor emeritus of Poultry Science and Food Science at Cornell University and creator of chicken nuggets.
Servings 10 chicken leg quarters


  • 10 chicken leg quarters or whole legs


  • 1 egg
  • ½ c cooking oil
  • 1 c cider or cane vinegar
  • 1 t salt
  • ½ t dried marjoram
  • ¼ t ground nutmeg
  • ¼ t ground white pepper
  • ¼ t rosemary
  • ¼ t sage
  • ¼ t thyme


  • In a medium bowl, whisk egg until beaten. Slowly whisk in the oil until fully blended. Whisk in vinegar, salt, and spices. Set aside some of the marinade to use for basting while grilling.
  • In a shallow dish, place chicken and coat with the remaining marinade. Cover and marinate in the fridge for at least 4 hours, up to 24 hours if a more tangy taste is preferred.
  • Arrange chicken skin-side up on grill and grill over hot charcoal. Flip chicken frequently, basting with the reserved marinade—basting should be light at first, more heavily toward the end of the cooking period. Continue to grill until skin is well-browned.
  • Transfer chicken to a platter—do not cover—and let rest 5 minutes before serving.


* Cornell Chicken Barbecue is traditionally served with salt potatoes (small potatoes boiled, skins on, in heavily salted water, then put in a melted butter bath). Other suitable accompaniments include tossed green salad, cole slaw, potato salad, macaroni salad, boiled or grilled sweet corn, and rolls. Round up the meal with a White Zinfandel or a Chardonnay. For dessert, serve apple pie, with ice cream on the side.
* Hot sauce, like Tabasco or Red Devil, is the traditional condiment for Cornell Chicken Barbecue, but I like it just as it is, sans any condiment.
* Traditional Cornell Chicken Barbecue uses a half chicken, usually a broiler. I like to use leg quarters—a cut that includes a thigh, a drumstick, and a part of the back, generally containing a little less than a quarter of the meat on the chicken. Alternatively, turkey or pork may be used.
* Marinade ingredients may be combined, all together, in a blender; blend for a few seconds. Store leftover marinade in a glass jar in the fridge. Use within two weeks.
* Adjust amount of ingredients or eliminate salt to meet individual health needs and taste. Barbecued chicken basted frequently during cooking will be saltier than chicken that has been lightly basted.
* If marinade is prepared ahead of time, refrigerate it until ready for use.
* Keep the chicken on the grill for several minutes after the last basting to be sure the sauce is well cooked.
* Because the marinade doesn't contain sugar or sweetener of any kind, the skin of the chicken doesn't turn as turns black as its Texas, Bacolod (Inasal), or Aristocrat counterparts.