Serious Eats

Grilling: Cornell Chicken

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[Photograph: Joshua Bousel]

Not long after I started grilling, my friends started telling me about Cornell chicken. While I'm reminded of it every now and then, it wasn't until this past weekend that I finally tried it out myself. Beyond its geographical home, I didn't know much about the western New York treat, so I started with a little background first.

In the late 1940s, food scientist and Cornell professor Dr. Bob Baker was asked to develop a new chicken recipe for the then Pennsylvanian governor. He brought this method back to his home of New York, where it's been used as a means to cook a lot of chicken quickly at Baker's Chicken Coop at the New York State Fair for over half a century.

So what makes a Cornell Chicken? It's all in the sauce, which starts with an emulsion of eggs and oil, followed by the additions of vinegar, poultry seasoning, salt, and, pepper. The chicken is both marinated in the sauce and basted with it every 10 minutes while it cooks over indirect heat. A quick stint over direct heat finishes the chicken and leaves it with a beautifully brown and crisp skin.

While the meat is moist and delicious, it's the skin that's really killer, with its bright and tangy flavor and nice crunch. Overall this is an uncomplicated recipe and almost guaranteed to end with a great piece of chicken—no wonder I've been constantly pestered to try over the years.

About the author: Joshua Bousel brings you new, tasty condiment each Wednesday and a recipe for weekend grilling every Friday. He also writes about grilling and barbecue on his blog The Meatwave whenever he can be pulled away from his grill.

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