Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Dr. Baker's Famous Cornell Chicken – Ivy League Taste on a Community College Budget

Unlike most of America's regional culinary specialties, the origins of the Cornell chicken recipe are undisputed. According to nearly all reports, as well as the college itself, this famous grilled chicken recipe was created by Dr. Robert C. Baker, Professor of Animal Sciences at New York's Cornell University.

They say Dr. Baker was simply trying to invent an easy and delicious way to grill smaller, younger chickens, so that the local chicken farms could sell more birds, sell them sooner, and more affordably. The doc's tasty recipe ended up being such a success that sales in the area soared, and the recipe became a statewide favorite.

While that all makes sense, there was something that just seemed to be a bit odd. I mean, why would a college professor be so unusually motivated to increase chicken sales? Then I thought, what if he had no choice? Maybe I've been watching too many straight-to-cable movies, but what if the real story was much more sinister and diabolical.

What if Dr. Baker just didn't love chickens, but really, really, "loved" chickens? What if someone inside the local poultry industry found out about the professor's "love" and blackmailed him into devoting his life's work to promoting the succulent grilling of their chickens. That's completely insane, you say? Well, is it? Is it? Yes, actually that is ridiculous. Never mind.

Anyway, the results of my Cornell chicken experiment were exceptional. I love this basing sauce. The combination of the egg, oil, and vinegar created a super flavorful, and very moist chicken. I used the original recipe "as is," but as I explain in the video, Dr. Baker's method was intended to be done over a barbecue pit. If you want to see his original plans, you can see them here on the Cornell University website.

I have a bunch of the sauce leftover, so I'm excited to play around with some different variations, so stay tuned for that. I hope you give this a try, since grilling season will soon be in full swing, and you can never have too many ways to do chicken. Enjoy!




Ingredients:
2 cups cider vinegar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
3 tablespoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon poultry seasoning

45 comments:

David said...

Great video(the HD is terrific)! But I think it should be noted that in the video you say to use another brush if you want to baste the chicken after its been pulled from the grill, but the sauce (marinade) still has had raw chicken in it and could cause cross contamination. A better tip would be to reserve a second portion of the marinade so that you don't have to worry about chicken bacteria at all.

Chef John said...

Yes, that's what I meant. New brush and sauce!!

blogagog said...

Looks great. What do you think about adding say 3T of sugar? Would that mess it up or change it too much?

I'm just asking because we usually put equal parts of salt and sugar when barbequeing. Might be a southern thing. Or just something my father made up.

nossi said...

hey chef, i noticed that you were flipping the chicken a lot, whats the deal? usually when bbq-ing i thought you're only supposed to flip once?

Chef John said...

not this recipe, you want lots of turning a basting. For steaks, burgers, etc. yes only turn once.

rosemary said...

Can the chicken be done in an oven? What should be done if so?

Chef John said...

not really, this is for a grill.

Asian Malaysian said...

According to wiki, this Professor invented the chicken nugget:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicken_nugget

How do you reckon that basting sauce would do as a dipping sauce?

Chi Charles said...

I wouldn't use it as a dipping sauce due to the raw egg in it....

matt said...

the wait is over! Looks great, although i was surprised to see you get a blender pitcher dirty for the sauce.

Eric said...

I made this last night John and it was delicious! The original recipe and I also wimped out on the 24 hour marinade but next time I'm going longer. This is good stuff. Thanks Chef John for a great post.
Eric

Eoghan said...

Actually, there's a song about his invention of chicken nuggets

http://www.paulandstorm.com/sounds/gp/GP04-NuggetMan.mp3

Andrew said...

Baker was actually a really interesting guy, as you can read in his obit: http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/March06/Baker_obit.html

Married for 62 years, and two iconic poultry inventions to his name--not bad for an old ag professor.

Karen said...

no way! I haven't heard people tlaking about Cornell Chicken since I was in Ithaca. You are amazing.

chicago culinary school said...

Fantastico....it's a great job chef..

Asian Malaysian said...

@Chi Charles- Mayonnaise has raw egg in it.

Doug said...

Do you have a written form of the recipe which I could print for future reference?

Chef John said...

follow the link and copy the original recipe

Anonymous said...

Chef, What are you doing about Blogger's choice awards? All pedestrian blogs are ruling the list there! Why not you?

Chef John said...

Just no time to try and figure out the all the awards. Not even sure how to get nominated? Do you know? If so, hook me up!

Chris K. said...

I always enjoy watching Chef John flipping a bird.

Cornell chicken with salt potatoes are on the menu this weekend. Except I bought Salamida's State Fair marinade instead.

Sorry! What can I say? As a former upstate New Yorker living in the South, I gotta support my peeps. You know how hard it is to find Yankee grilling products down here?

Now if only I could get my hands on some white hots...

procrastineer said...

Chef John, Did you cook the chicken directly over the charcoals during whole time or did you set up the bbq for direct/indirect cooking?

I have a weber kettle grill and would like to try this recipe.

spike j. said...

Hey Chef since the ingredients are so sparse, will another vinegar, say basalmic or rice wine, work in place of cider vinegar?

What about another type of oil, such as olive oil?

Steve said...

Chef:

I tried this a variant on this recipe with Cornish Game Hen instead of chicken and it turned out fabulous.

Since we don't have a charcoal grill and I didn't want to use the gas grill outside, my variation (other than the substitution of bird) was to sear in a grill pan and then finish in a 350 degree oven. Worked out super, so to Rosemary up there a comment or so ago, I say go for it.

I marinated for about four hours with no ill effect. The extra time in the vinegar gave it a bit of a twang.

I can only imagine how well it'd work on a classic pit-style barbecue.

rosemary said...

Will do. Thanx so much Steve!

tonkaslim said...

I marinated a couple of large chicken breasts for 24 hours. I was worried that all that salt and vinegar would "pickle" the meat, but it was perfect. We were practically swooning. My wife wanted to eat the bones.

This oddly reminded me of the fantastic Thai BBQ chicken that we used to get from a neighborhood joint. Next time I'm going to add sugar, red chile paste and fish sauce to see if I can re-create it.

Steve said...

Spike J, Chef:

In my version, I used rice wine and it worked well. I don't see why any decent vinegar, other than some of the stranger ones made especially for salads, like raspberry, wouldn't work.

Balsamic might be overkill -- I'd expect that it would take over completely -- but it might be worth a try.

Bear in mind that most balsamic vinegars really aren't. Look at the ingredients and you'll note that they're some other vinegar (such as cider) with caramel coloring. I even bought a rather expensive bottle in a fancy-schmancy gourmet shop in Palm Desert that turned out to be bogus, so check the label before plunking down the better part of a Franklin.

Olive oil should be okay, though I wouldn't go with the extra virgin -- high heat does strange things to EVOO -- just use plain old workaday olive oil. I think Rachel Ray is nuts for using it in everything, Mark Miller of Coyote Cafe strongly disrecommends it for high heat and I tend to agree with him. If Chef has an opinion, I'd like to hear it.

Next time I do this, I'm thinking of maybe adding some garlic to the marinade, as well, just because. . . well, as Alton Brown put it, garlic don't need no reason.

Anonymous said...

Can use a gas grill, if so what would the grill setting need to be on a scale 1-10?

Weber Summit Grill said...

This is a nice entry! :D Been looking for good barbeque recipes out there since I am a newbie. I'd definitely try this one out. Thanks! :)

DUNPEAL said...

Last evening I made a batch of the marinade. I used 1/2 the amounts in the recipe (except for the egg) and it made enough for one chicken with enough to baste during the grilling. This has to be the simplest and greatest marinade I have EVER made!

Thanks a lot to the Professor and many more thanks to you C.J. for everything this site offers.

Anonymous said...

My 2 year old Sophia and my 5 year old Luke (grandchildrend) loved this chicken (picky eaters, ate it to the bone). My husband comments on my new recipes as to whether I can make them before or after he dies. He says make this again, good sign, means before he dies. A winner! Followed the recipe as directed - loved it as did all my family

Janet said...

I have a 1985 Reprint of the original Cornell Information Bulletin 862 by Robert Baker (Published originally in 1952). It's out of print now but I would be glad to send a PDF file copy of the brochure to anyone who wants it.

Penn State has a very similar recipe but without the eggs. Dr. Baker did one of his graduate degrees there so he may have tweaked the PSU recipe when he moved on to Cornell.

Also, Dr. Roy Curtiss at Arizona State, lays claim to a NY State Fair winning chicken BBQ sauce. He was a student at Cornell (I think in Poultry Science) in the early 50's so there are actually several BBQ recipes created or adapted by various PhD's at several esteemed universities.

We do 50 to 75 halves at a time several times each summer using Dr. Baker's technique.

The original recipe does not call for marinating the chicken in the sauce at all. It would be difficult to marinate 100 or 200 or 300 halves of chicken the way the fire departments do chicken BBQ's in CNY. The bulletin recommends just grilling it very slowly on a rack about 20 - 24inches over the charcoal and basting it (with a cloth BBQ mop) every time the chicken is turned (about every 5 - 10 minutes). Marinating it briefly sounds like a good technique for the home BBQ though!

The bulletin also says that the ideal broiler half should weigh 1 pound and to cook it for about 1 hour. I'm gonna tell you that you will be lucky if you find broiler halves that weigh less than 1 1/2 pounds. They usually run closer to 2 pounds so it is often necessary to go 1 1/2 to 2 hours on a pit to get the halves to that melt in your mouth goodness. Controlling the charcoal is key.....you don't want it to get too hot so it is important to have a hose or spray bottle of water on hand to cool things down if it gets too hot.

When I do a few halves on my Weber kettle grill, I do it over indirect heat for the first hour and then dump the coals in the middle (perhaps add a few more) and finish it over direct heat to get a nice char...(not quite as charred as your video) but almost. It should literally melt in your mouth when it is done.......it will be very moist and VERY tender.

The bulletin includes recipe quantities for 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, 200 and 300 halves plus detailed guidelines on setting up the BBQ pit and techniques for mopping and turning the chicken.

The bulletin even includes quantities of side dishes needed to go along with 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, 200 or 300 halves (ie. green salad, scalloped potatoes, rolls, pickles, sweet corn, cole slaw, cranberry sauce, butter, etc. Pretty cool!

Ben S said...

As a native Rochesterian who grew up in Baltimore, MD, I was always told this was "Delmarva Barbecue Chicken" for the Delmarva peninsula of Maryland (where Purdue and Tyson grow chickens for the entire east coast), so it took me a while to find this recipe on your site, but it's good to know the "original" name for this, though Delmarva is prominent in at least one version of the history. A local Baltimore magazine printed an in depth article about this, in fact:
http://www.urbanitebaltimore.com/baltimore/wings-of-desire/Content?oid=1245003

Finally - when I've made this, I let the chicken marinate overnight, and it was still phenomenal.

Ben S said...

As a native Rochesterian who grew up in Baltimore, MD, I was always told this was "Delmarva Barbecue Chicken" for the Delmarva peninsula of Maryland (where Purdue and Tyson grow chickens for the entire east coast), so it took me a while to find this recipe on your site, but it's good to know the "original" name for this, though Delmarva is prominent in at least one version of the history. A local Baltimore magazine printed an in depth article about this, in fact:
http://www.urbanitebaltimore.com/baltimore/wings-of-desire/Content?oid=1245003

Finally - when I've made this, I let the chicken marinate overnight, and it was still phenomenal.

Jared said...

Chef John,

I thoroughly enjoy your overall product. Congratulations---I think you are already a success. Mix one part personality, another part cooking skills, and sprinkle on the fact that you truly love what you do, you end up with a matter of time before all your cooking aspirations come true!

Sincerely
Jared

Hollis K. Lee said...

I am trying the recipe today with some turkeys wings I got from the local market. Turkey as most people know is an oily bird that needs tons of flavour to be added.

I am thinking this blend of vinegar salt and other seasonings combined with the smoke from charcoal grill should make for a unique taste.

I will let you guys know how it goes down.

Anonymous said...

Can't wait to try this recipe! my son is at Cornell and loves the "vinegar chicken" there. Hopefully mine will taste as good.
Sending this recipe along to him as well since he lives off campus and may try to make it himself!

Anonymous said...

I grew up with chicken recipe, living in the fingerlakes of NY.
We always marinated overnite.
You should try using 1/2 vingar and 1/2 lemon juice, lil minced garlic, and some fresh chopped rosemary for a little different kick. Delious !!!!! what we do also - don't brush marinate on we dip pcs into bowl of marinate and put back on the grill. Full of flavor.

Doug DeFrees said...

Bringing some of the foods from my childhood home to California. http://sundaydinnerfortwo.blogspot.com/2012/06/taste-of-central-new-york.html

Herobrine said...

Chef John, did you ever try this overnight like you said you would do 3 years ago??

Chef John said...

I don't remember! I'll be trying it again this summer so I will find out.

Helen said...

It was marinated longer. Look for the longer is better post. My family LOVES this recipe.

http://foodwishes.blogspot.com/2010/05/update-cornell-chicken-longer-is-better.html

Helen said...

It was marinated longer. Look for the longer is better post. My family LOVES this recipe!

http://foodwishes.blogspot.com/2010/05/update-cornell-chicken-longer-is-better.html

Tom Loredo said...

It's been a few years since this recipe was posted here; in the meantime, some of the information hosted at Cornell and listed in the comments has moved.

Baker's pamphlet on barbecuing chicken and other meats, containing the recipe and lots of barbecue information, is now here:

"Barbecued Chicken and Other Meats" at eCommons.

An interesting 1-page article on Baker and his many chicken-related accomplishments appeared in this archived Summer 2012 issue of Cornell's Ezra Magazine:

Ezra Magazine (Summer 2012).

See p. 19. Happy grilling!

uncledavid said...

2014: Update People...
1955, I was 7yo, Went to the EN0Joy Park and Had the BEST Chicken BBQ in the world...Cornell???
Now it's Rob Salamida Co Chicken BBQ Sauce Made in the Small Town Of Johnson city NY.