What is Fireman Chicken? Chances are if you don’t live in upstate or western New York or have friends from that area, you may have never heard of it, but that is about to change. You might also know it as Cornell Chicken, perhaps?
Foodie friends, I hereby introduce you to the king of all BBQ chicken recipes: Fireman Chicken, also known as Cornell Chicken BBQ.
Where did Fireman Chicken Originate?
Most say Fireman Chicken originated in Ithaca, New York, and the home of Cornell University, where every year the fire department has a fundraiser and makes pounds of their famous BBQ chicken.
Others claim it actually came from a fire company on the Eastern shore of Maryland. Who knows, really.
What I know is that because hubby and a few of his friends are from these parts, Fireman Chicken has become a staple at each and every one of our BBQs.
What is Fireman Chicken?
People love it, they crave it, they get excited when they find out we are making it!
The marinade is a simple vinegar-based sauce that differs from person to person. Some add paprika, others garlic, apple cider vinegar, poultry seasoning and some use raw egg instead of mayonnaise… even though mayo is actually raw egg.
It sounds odd, but results in a super moist chicken and a marinade that really sticks. My Fireman Chicken recipe is a hybrid of them all.
Why You’ll Love This Fireman Chicken Recipe
There’s just something about chicken on the grill that everyone loves! Here are a few reasons why we think this recipe is awesome.
- Simple ingredients – While I can almost guarantee you already have most of these ingredients on hand, they can easily be found at the grocery store if not.
- Family friendly – No veggies or “weird” ingredients when it comes to this chicken recipe. So you can be rest assured it will satisfy even the pickiest of eaters.
- Great for a cookout – Because it’s made on the grill, this chicken recipe is great for whipping up at a cookout with friends.
I love when recipes have short and simple ingredient lists, and this Fireman Chicken recipe is one of them.
- Chicken – The cut of chicken used for the original recipe are chicken quarters or chicken pieces of choice, but breasts and boneless chicken thighs are acceptable too. I’ve even used this marinade on pork. You really can’t go wrong with chicken!
- Mayonnaise – When added to the marinade, the mayo helps lock in moisture and promote browning when the meat is cooking on the grill.
- Vegetable oil – The oil in the marinade helps to provide a fat. The fat helps transfer flavors to the meat while also providing moisture.
- Apple cider vinegar – This adds a delicious tang to the chicken. Vinegar is added to a marinade to help break down the fibers to allow the marinade to really soak into the meat.
- Salt – When cooking, I often times use coarse kosher salt. If using a different salt, double check the measurements. Different salt measure differently.
- Seasoning blend – I use a blend of poultry seasoning, freshly ground black pepper, garlic powder and paprika. It’s the perfect savory, smoky blend to make this chicken really tasty.
How to Make Fireman Chicken
Making this fireman chicken couldn’t be easier. Follow the steps below to find out just how easy.
- Make marinade. In a medium mixing bowl, combine mayonnaise, vegetable oil, cider vinegar, fine sea salt, poultry seasoning, ground black pepper, garlic powder and paprika. Whisk until smooth.
- Prepare chicken. Pierce chicken with a fork several times to allow marinade to really sink in.
- Marinate chicken. Place chicken quarters into a large airtight plastic bag or other tight fitting container. Cover with marinade, reserving some for basting. Refrigerate for a few hours to overnight.
- Prepare grill. Heat grill to medium-high heat. You can use either gas or charcoal, however make sure you have a long burning charcoal if you go that direction. Place chicken on the grill on indirect heat.
- Cook and baste. Use reserved marinade, basting the chicken throughout the cooking process. Cook over indirect heat, turning and basting. Make sure you reach the correct chicken temperature before going on to the next step!
- Crispy skin. Transfer to direct heat to get a crispy and good char marks. At this time, stop basting. If you are using different cuts of chicken, please adjust accordingly.
- Allow to rest. Remove from the grill and allow to rest before serving. Discard any unused marinade.
Sauces for Grilled Chicken
Grilled chicken can be serve with such a wide array of basting and dipping sauces. This grilled chicken recipe boats oodles of flavor on it’s own, but you know I like it saucy.
What to Serve with Fireman Chicken
Anything you normally serve with chicken dinners, you can serve your Fireman Chicken recipe with. For sides we like to serve with potato salad, Baked Beans, Corn on the cob, macaroni salad, squash casserole or a nice Kale Salad! If you want everything to be on the grill, do grilled potatoes or my spicy honey grilled vegetables.
To really take your barbecue dreams to the next level, serve with other cookout favorites like hamburgers and hot dogs. The options are endless and the choice is yours.
Storage, Make Ahead and Freezing
Storage: You can store any leftover barbecue chicken in an airtight container. It will stay in the refrigerator for up to three days.
Make ahead: If you are cooking for a large crew, I would suggest making them ahead of time. Chicken on the grill can be quite time consuming. Do like the restaurants do and cook the chicken ahead of time, allowing you to just reheat it on the grill when it is time to serve.
Freezing: You can also freeze if you’d like to. I recommend freezing the chicken in the marinade and then defrosting when you are ready to cook. You can also freeze cooked chicken, but it tends to come out a little dry.
Frequently Asked Questions
Nope- use whatever chicken pieces you’d like. If you want to use a variety and save some money, learn how to cut up your own whole chicken.
I do prefer to use pieces with chicken skin, opposed to boneless skinless chicken breasts. It helps to hold in the flavor.
You can use canola or any vegetable blended oil. I suggest vegetable oil only because it is fairly cheap. Don’t go wasting money using an expensive olive oil.
I never recommend using marinade that has raw chicken or raw meat in it for basting even if you boil it. Instead, make a little extra and set it aside for basting.
More BBQ classics
- Best BBQ Ribs
- Grilled Lemon Chicken
- Bacon Wrapped BBQ Chicken Stuffed Peppers
- Grilled Zucchini Boats
- Grilled Watermelon
- Basic Chicken Marinade
- Smoked Whole Chicken
- Huli Huli Chicken
- In a medium mixing bowl, combine mayonnaise, vegetable oil, cider vinegar, fine sea salt, poultry seasoning, ground black pepper, garlic powder and paprika. Whisk until smooth.
- Pierce chicken with a fork several times to allow marinade to really sink in.
- Place chicken quarters into a large airtight plastic bag or other tight fitting container. Cover with marinade, reserving a 1/2 cup for basting. Refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours, maximum of 24 hours.
- Heat grill to medium-high heat. You can use either gas or charcoal, however make sure you have a long burning charcoal if you go that direction. Place chicken on the grill on indirect heat.
- Use reserved marinade, basting the chicken throughout the cooking process. Cook over indirect heat for 35 minutes, turning and basting.
- At 35 minutes, transfer to direct heat to get a crispy and good char marks. At this time, stop basting. If you are using different cuts of chicken, please adjust accordingly.
- Remove from the grill and allow to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving. Discard any unused marinade.
- If you’ve tried this recipe, come back and let us know how it was!