Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Bob Baker's Cornell Chicken


The original recipe is used as a basting sauce for 10 halves of chickens. I use pieces – I prefer breasts or thighs, I prefer with skin, but I’ve made it with skinned pieces, and they come out moist and tender, albeit with no crispy skin (what a shame). Instead of just basting while cooking, which is what the original recipe calls for, I marinate for about 30 minutes – not too long, as this is vinegary and salty. I place on the grill over low to medium heat and baste every time I turn (about 4 times over 15-20 minutes).

My version – a little bit pepperier than the original:

1/2 cup cooking oil
1 cup cider vinegar
1 TBS salt
2 Tsp poultry seasoning
½ Tsp black pepper
½ Tsp white pepper
½ egg (Crack an egg into a measuring cup or small bowl, beat, then pour out about half. Use the other half for the recipe.)

Add the oil to the beaten egg, and beat. Stir in other ingredients.

This ain’t no shit. (What’s the difference between a war story and a fairy tale? The fairy tale begins, “Once upon a time”. War stories begin, “This ain’t no shit.”) In the 1970’s, I was stationed in Germany atop a mountain in the Black Forest. The site was shared by three small contingents from the US, Germany, and France. Of course, international cooperation demanded that we have frequent parties – lots of great food, beer and wine. The US guys never spit a whole lamb like the French, and we weren’t issued wine by the case, as they were, nor did we receive beer as part of our rations, as did the Germans. But we did pretty good – trading our Class VI spoils for goods from their commissaries. In particular, a few well placed bottles of Jim Beam kept us in baguettes and quaffing the wonderful nectar of the local hofbrau, delivered bi-weekly, by government contract!

For one party we hosted, we bought several cases of frozen chicken pieces from our commissary. We decided to serve it in three ways – one was the traditional bottled tomato type of bbq sauce (Kraft, as I remember), another was my teriyaki marinated chicken (which I had previously made for ourselves and we all liked), and the final batch was a recipe we had just read about in the Stars and Stripes, about this award winning county fair chicken developed by a professor at Cornell.

The Cornell chicken ran out quickly. The teriyaki went next, and the standard bbq stuff had lots of leftovers. Everything was cooked right – nothing too dry or burnt. Everybody (all nationalities) just loved the Cornell chicken.

Since that time, I’ve alternated my grilled chicken between the Cornell and the teriyaki on a fairly regular basis. I should point out that the teriyaki is my Japanese mother’s recipe and is not at all sweet and gloppy like some Americans like their teriyaki. It is a marinade and not a syrupy baste. I use a “mother sauce”, which is basically shoyu, rice vinegar and mirin with a little sugar. And that is made into a large number of marinades and sauces by the addition of garlic, ginger, scallions, sesame oil, yuzu or lemon, etcetc. But while it seems that many people are familiar with teriyaki, few have heard of Cornell chicken.

I did once read a review of the Cornell recipe calling Professor Baker, the Colonel Sanders of barbecue chicken. I wonder, now that KFC is selling grilled chicken, if that still applies. I haven’t had the KFC grilled chicken yet – somehow, I’m not all that eager to try it out. Maybe it’s because I already have the best!


  1. Enjoyed the history of your chicken! How is the sauce intended to be used? Marinade, baste or added at the end to already seasoned chicken?

  2. The original use was as a baste - applied during cooking only. They did this to half chickens, not pieces. The half-chickens were what was sold at the county fairs. There is a further history of Baker wanting to develop recipes for eating smaller birds - faster to market - for the benefit of chicken growers.

    At home, I generally use pieces, and I marinate for 30-45 minutes before putting on the grill, and then augment with basting. I've also butterflied whole birds that were then marinated and also basted while cooking.

  3. i thought the post was called "bob BARKERS cornell chicken" and i was scratching my head wondering how i missed the host of Price is Right comign out w/ a cookbook.

  4. Have you ever tried Black bean marinade or baste( don't know which)for chicken? My husband used to grill or broil chicken wings with it but haven't seen recipe for it. Seems like sometimes it was too salty but if it was made well it was one of my favorites.