Cornell Brooks BBQ Chicken Recipe {An Upstate NY Favorite}

by Julie Cohn
Brooks BBQ Chicken Recipe 2

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This Cornell Brooks BBQ Chicken recipe is an upstate New York favorite and will quickly become your favorite too…no matter where you live!  The chicken is soaked in a zesty vinegar-based marinade, then slow roasted on the grill, creating a flavorful and juicy chicken with crispy skin.  Oh my goodness, this chicken is so tasty!

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From the time I was very young, my Dad was always active in the Knights of Columbus while we lived in upstate New York. Each summer, the Knights of Columbus men would host a famous chicken BBQ fundraiser, using a chicken marinade recipe developed at Cornell University. 

People would line up for miles (seriously) to get a plate of this deliciousness!   Rows of charcoal grills made from cement blocks and grates cooked the sizzling chicken, while the Knights of Columbus team basted it with big paintbrushes.  Fresh off the grill, they piled the chicken high on each plate and served it with salt potatoes, corn, watermelon, and a roll to sop up the chicken marinade.   

My mom would often make Cornell Brooks BBQ Chicken for us at home too and now my own family enjoys it.  It was one of the best flavors of summer in upstate New York! 

Brooks BBQ Chicken 2

My husband grew up in upstate New York too, but a different area, several hours away from where I grew up.  The famous barbecue chicken in his area was Brooks BBQ from Oneonta, NY.   One time, while visiting my in-laws, they brought home Brooks BBQ chicken for us to eat. Lo and behold I discovered that Brooks BBQ chicken was the exact same recipe as the Cornell chicken that my mom and the Knights of Columbus men used to make! 

Since then, I’ve tweaked the Cornell Brooks BBQ Chicken recipe just a little bit, and this has become one of our favorite ways to make barbecue chicken at home.   I often serve this Cornell Brooks BBQ chicken with potato salad, broccoli Slaw, Raspberry Razzle jello salad, and watermelon.  YUMMY!

A few key ingredients

The following ingredients should not be substituted in order to get the best flavor out of the Cornell Brooks BBQ Chicken.  

Apple Cider Vinegar –  The flavor just is not the same if you use a different kind of vinegar.  If you are in a bind without apple cider vinegar in the house, use white vinegar, but be prepared for the flavor to be different.  

Egg – Egg helps the marinade bind with the raw chicken and helps the chicken stay juicy.  Be aware that you are working with raw egg and raw chicken so properly sanitize all kitchen utensils and cooking surfaces the raw marinade touches.  

Poultry Seasoning – You can use any kind of poultry seasoning but Bells Seasoning has the best flavor.

Chicken –  You can use any kind of chicken, but if you use boneless chicken breasts, make certain you do not overcook it.  The best flavor is half breast sections with the skin attached.  Trim as much fat as you can off the chicken before you marinade it. 

Cornell – Brooks BBQ Chicken Recipe

  • 2 c. Apple Cider vinegar
  • 1 c. oil
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbsp. poultry seasoning (I use Bell’s Seasoning)
  • Pepper to taste
  • Half Breast Chicken Sections w/Skin  

Whisk together all the ingredients except the chicken.  This makes a lot of marinade liquid, but you will need some to baste the chicken too, so it is good to have extra.  Place the chickens in a large baggie or marinade pan.  Pour the marinade over the chicken, seal the container, and allow the marinade to sit in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours or overnight, turning the container occasionally to thoroughly coat the chicken.

 Heat the grill on high, then slow cook the chicken over medium heat for about 40-45 minutes, basting with the marinade while cooking.  Make sure to slow roast the Cornell Brooks BBQ Chicken, don’t let it cook too quickly.  Keep an eye on it so it does not burn.  


Cook until the skin is crispy but not black.  Cut into the chicken to make certain the center is no longer pink before removing from the grill, as thicker pieces of chicken take longer to cook.  Serve the chicken with a few summer salads, such as this Four Bean Salad.  If you have any leftovers, pull the chicken off the bone and eat cold or use for a zesty chicken salad!   You can also prepare the marinade, add the chicken, and freeze in bags to grill another time.  Be sure to fully defrost the chicken before you put it on the grill. 

Note:  This Cornell Brooks BBQ Chicken tastes best grilled over a charcoal flame, but most people have gas grills these days.  Your chicken will be delicious on a gas grill but if you have the chance to use charcoal, do so, as it really does bring out the flavors!   

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