Finger-Lickin' Finger Lakes Chicken

June 23, 2021
19 Ratings
Photo by Ty Mecham
  • Prep time 8 hours
  • Cook time 20 minutes
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

Cornell chicken, marinated in vegetable oil, apple cider vinegar, poultry seasoning, lots of salt and an egg ( ) was invented more than 60 years ago by a professor of animal science with the intent of getting people to eat more chicken instead of using them just to lay eggs. To this day, it remains is omnipresent at all manner of public gatherings in the Finger Lakes region, from country fairs to Boy Scout fund-raisers, VFW dinners, 4-H club outings and beyond. I had my first taste of Professor Baker's crispy, tangy barbecued chicken along with some Finger Lakes riesling on a picnic at Lake Owasco a gazillion years ago; here's my updated version of the original. I used split chicken breasts to even out the cooking time, but you could use a whole chicken, quartered, or even a couple of Cornish game hens, split. —wssmom

Test Kitchen Notes

Wssmom’s chicken really is finger-lickin’ good. I had never marinated in an aioli base before but I certainly will again and again—the 8-hour bath in aioli and vinegar renders a juicy tender chicken that stands up to grilling without any dryness. I thought that is might be very vinegary and/or herby, but it’s not, those are just subtle notes in what is very good grilled chicken. We tried both breasts and thighs, and also tried it both warm and cold. AND – I used the extra aioli to marinate a pork tenderloin which I also grilled. All variations were tender and delicious. This is a go-to recipe for the rest of the summer and beyond. —aargersi

What You'll Need
  • For the fresh herb aioli
  • 1 large organic egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, minched
  • 1 cup grapeseed oil
  • 1 pinch sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 cup Champagne vinegar (yes, 1 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh sage leaves
  • 1 teaspoon minched fresh rosemary sprigs
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh oregano
  • For the Finger Lakes chicken
  • 2 whole organic chicken breasts, split so you have four nice-sized pieces
  • 1 pinch freshly ground pepper
  • 1 serving fresh herb aioli marinade (above)
  1. For the fresh herb aioli
  2. In a large bowl, preferably one that won't spin around, whisk together the egg yolk, lemon juice, and garlic. Add the grapeseed oil in few drops at a time (having a friend do this helps), whisking until it emulsifies. Continue to dribble in the oil, whisking away, until it's completely incorporated.
  3. Put half the aioli in another bowl, saving the remainder for another use. To form a marinade, whisk in the vinegar to the aioli, add the herbs and add a tad more salt than you think necessary, about 1 teaspoon in my case.
  1. For the Finger Lakes chicken
  2. Liberally sprinkle the chicken breasts with freshly ground pepper, put them in a ziplock bag with the marinade, smush them so they are covered, and let marinate for at least 3 hours, or preferably overnight.
  3. Grill, bone side down and covered, over medium heat for about 15 to 20 minutes, then turn and crank up the grill to high to finish, so that the skin gets nice and crispy.
  4. Chill and bring along to your picnic—serve with some lovely, dry riesling.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • eatchimac
  • Rachel Lara
    Rachel Lara
  • Chana Orit
    Chana Orit
  • Cristina Sciarra
    Cristina Sciarra
  • DiggingDogFarm

64 Reviews

BH December 15, 2021
This recipe is actually from the Fanny Farmers Cookbook. Look it up.
eatchimac March 30, 2021
Oh, I didn’t try Finger-Lickin' Finger Lakes Chicken Recipe. Now I can make it at home. So glad for sharing this recipe Now I can make it at home. It looks delicious. Now I can share your blog with my friend circle. I am so glad after seeing your recipe, Thanks for sharing this recipe. Food is one of the biggest topics of conversation online and offline. Keep it up, I am waiting for your next recipe!
Zackadoo December 6, 2019
Could you please tell me the temperature for baking chicken breasts and should I pound them or cut them?

Can't wait to make this with chicken breast 😁
Linda D. November 22, 2018
Made the chicken again last night and used chicken breasts this time instead of the chicken thighs. I will stick with the chicken thighs because the skin on the chicken breasts was more charred than crispy. Love that marinade!
Linda D. November 14, 2018
I read Cristina's comments and used chicken thighs instead of chicken breasts-yum! I used white wine vinegar because my market does not sell champagne vinegar. I did soak the chicken over night. Thank you for a simple and delicious recipe.
Grazia July 29, 2018
If you put a damp towel (can be paper) under your bowl it will be more stable and not dance around. It works for a cutting board too.
suttonsr July 1, 2018
Does anyone know when you add the vinegar. The recipe does not say and in the comments no one ever answered the person who said she added the vinegar and it became a mess.

I hate when someone gives a recipe and does not give the complete recipe
franny July 1, 2018
Take a second look at the recipe. It's in there.

inpatskitchen July 1, 2018
The recipe says to add the vinegar to half of the aioli which becomes the marinade.
Rachel L. June 28, 2018
What oil can I sub for the grapeseed oil?
Dogolaca June 25, 2018
Is it possible that this recipe will work without so-called "organic" chicken? Asking for a friend.
KL April 30, 2017
Would this work with boneless skinless chicken breast in the oven? Are usually don't cook chicken with skin on because it increases the fat content of the meat. Thank you.
Chana O. October 24, 2015
What would happen if you kept some uncooked chicken frozen in the marinade for quick suppers/surprise company etc.
Cristina S. June 23, 2014
This was wonderful. I made a double batch (using chicken thighs) on the grill for friends over the weekend. The chicken received rave reviews! I used a combination of champagne and white balsamic vinegars, because that's what I had. Once I added the vinegar, I definitely lost the emulsification and the marinade turned to soup, but I don't think it mattered one bit. I threw everything into gallon-sized ziplock bags, and then into the fridge for 24 hours. I will definitely make this recipe again, hopefully very soon!
DiggingDogFarm July 1, 2013
Having lived in the Finger Lakes region all my life and being very familiar with the classic version, I'm a bit skeptical but willing to give it a try,
Jim June 30, 2018
How does this recipe vary from the "classic version"?
DiggingDogFarm June 30, 2018
Please see this thread on
"Dr. Baker's Famous Cornell Chicken Extension Bulletin"
aargersi June 14, 2013
Do you think a 24 hour marinade would be too long? I have my aioli ready but party is tomorrow afternoon - I can store separately ...
wssmom June 26, 2013
Nope, have at it!
MaryDD March 3, 2013
So I made a beautiful thick aioli but when I added the vinegar it just turned into liquid. I added back the half of the aioli that I took out to see if it would thicken but no such luck. Is the vinegar supposed to be whisked in as slowly as the oil? (Still using the mixture to marinate the chicken in.) Thanks!
Sarag July 23, 2012
This takes me all the way back to Cayuga and Skaneateles, and the church chicken dinners I hunted down in college. I can't imagine apple recipe without the full on zing from apple cider, but I will give this version a try. We've been making the good old Cornell, aka white barbecue, marinade for decades.
Currli May 22, 2012
Just wondering about a substitute for champagne vinegar. I live in a small town and our stores just don't have all these wonderful ingredients to try. Could I use apple cider vinegar and/or white wine vinegar and get a good result? I see that the original recipe used apple cider vinegar.
wssmom July 6, 2012
Sorry for the late response, Currli, for dsome reason I haven't been getting any email notifications. White wine vinegar, rice vinegar and apple cider vinegar (maybe tempered with some water) would all work!
myshkin March 12, 2012
Can't wait to try this -- boating season will be early this year!
wssmom May 14, 2012
This makes an awesome take along!
cateler July 13, 2011
oh I fear I'm on the wrong track. My marinade mixture is SO far away from being a slather! First my aoili broke and I had to add some extra egg yolk to fix it. So after the first rescue I carried on. However, whisking a cup of vinegar into the fixed mayo turned it to soup - no slathering to be done with that. So now we have a chicken in a zipper bag full of semi-thickened vinegar. Gonna throw it on the grill and see what happens! Was the end result of the aioli plus vinegar supposed to be spreadable?
wssmom July 14, 2011
Sorry I didn't see this yesterday (on the road!) It should have been slather-able, but I don't see why it shouldn't taste good; the original recipe that inspired it called for oil with an egg beaten into it. The only thing to watch out for from that is flare-ups from the oil dripping on the coals. Let me know how it turned out!
inpatskitchen July 13, 2011
Thanks for this wonderful recipe! I made it last night with only two minor changes...I did a whole chicken halved...and because of my fear of chicken not being done when grilled, I put it in the oven for about 20 minutes before serving. It truly is Finger Lickin Good!!!
wssmom July 13, 2011
I am thrilled you enjoyed it!