The Best BBQ Chicken – with Cornell Sauce

I know that some of you are thinking – aren’t you a little bit late with your grilling recipe??? I know, maybe I should have posted this in June or July, but honestly, September and October are my favorite grilling months. We really grill year round here in North Carolina, but the summer is so hot we actually take a little break from grilling in August. So, come September, we are rejuvenated and ready for some good grilled food. Plus, since football starts in September I can’t think of a better month to get out the tongs and start grilling!

When we were growing up my dad would make this chicken probably about every other weekend during the summer. Well, maybe not quite that much, but looking back, I remember having this chicken on many many summer weekends. This is honestly the best BBQ chicken that I have ever had. Jim and I probably grill this chicken 3-4 times a year and it is always my request around Mother’s Day.

The recipe was developed by a professor at Cornell who was trying to help farmers sell more chicken back in the 1940’s. He came up with this recipe so that the farmers could sell the smaller fryer chickens and thereby bring their chickens to market sooner. However, he needed a way to make them tastier – and so Cornell Sauce was born!

If you live anywhere in Upstate New York there is a pretty good chance that you have had this chicken. I have also seen it referred to as “State Fair Chicken,” however I have never been to the NY State Fair so I can’t confirm or deny that they serve it there.

This recipe is so simple, but the taste is honestly out of this world. The egg in the marinade gives the skin a nice crispy crust and the salt and vinegar not only give the chicken a tremendous amount of flavor but they also keep the chicken nice and moist during grilling. The poultry seasoning complements perfectly and gives it some herby flavor.

My dad would sometimes parboil the chicken in the sauce before grilling so it would cook quicker and more evenly on the grill. Just make sure if you do this that you don’t cook the chicken too much as it will get a bit rubbery. Also, you can cut back on the salt if you want, however I do think that it gives the chicken a lot of flavor and moisture so I don’t necessarily recommend cutting back too much. I mean, there aren’t a ton of other ingredients in this, so cutting out the salt really does change the end results in my opinion. Finally, be ready to baste the chicken a lot (so grab a drink and be ready to hang out by the grill.) We usually baste liberally about every 10 minutes or so. The grill will flare up so just try your best to get the marinade on the chicken and not on the grill.

Chicken on Grill

Enjoy! If you try it, I promise you will never need another BBQ Chicken Recipe again. I mean, if it’s good enough for Cornell, it should be good enough for you, right?? Dad, this post is for you:-).

The Best BBQ Chicken - with Cornell Sauce
This recipe is for the marinade, but I usually buy a whole cut up chicken at the store and then buy another package of either wing sections or drumsticks. I usually double the sauce for that much chicken.
Recipe type: Main
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  1. Crack the egg into a medium bowl and whisk until beaten. Slowly whisk in the oil until fully blended. Then whisk in the vinegar, salt, poultry seasoning, and ground black pepper. Set some of the sauce aside to use for basting while grilling. Place chicken in shallow baking dish, and coat with sauce. Cover, and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours. It is ideal to marinade 12-24 hours though.
  2. Place chicken on the grill over medium high heat and baste with sauce ever 10 minutes or so. Grill until chicken is cooked all the way through. This usually takes about 30 - 45 minutes depending on how large the bird is.


  1. Your BBQ sauce is so different than any I’ve ever tried that I will just have to make it and see for myself. The egg has me puzzled but your grilled chicken looks delicious and I love the promise of a crispy crust. Yummy post.

  2. Thank you for sharing your family’s chicken recipe! It looks really good! Mouth-watering delicious.

  3. yum! thanks for sharing…Sonya marinated and made some chicken yesterday with this recipe and it was awesome-o. Love it. Our grill is temporarily out of commission until our deck gets re-stained… so while the first go with this marinade wasn’t grilled, can see how it would be even better on the grill.

    p.s. miss your dad, was just telling Sonya how he’d drive by our house on the way to and from work in his blue Toyota pickup and I always remember him waving when we were out mowing the lawn or outside getting the mail.

    • Thanks Dave – I am glad you guys liked it. I will say, I have only had this chicken with the bone in skin on and on the grill. I bet it still tastes pretty yummy on the stovetop or in the oven. I told Sonya you had probably had it at some point growing up at one of our get togethers.

      We miss dad, too. Ten years this year:-(. Thanks for sharing that memory of him – it’s one I wouldn’t have known so that is great to hear!

  4. Loved the recipe, i’ll surely try it.

  5. The “State Fair Chicken” probably comes from the Rob Salamida company that makes and bottles a version of this sauce and is used at the NY State Fair. Variants of this sauce are used all around NY and PA at Fireman’s picnics and carnivals and fairs. One of my favorite things about NY.

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