Parking Lot Chicken


Shortly after moving here to northern Indiana, we periodically noticed little pop up stands selling chicken. These stands are usually in parking lots and are teamed up with an organization to raise money for some sort of organization. My husband had employees that would see the stand on their way to work, and come in to work carrying a little take out container that would send those smokey BBQ enticing fumes throughout their break room. They told him it was Nelson’s Chicken. The famous, well locally known Nelson’s Chicken. They call it Port-A-Pit Chicken and is their main item at these stands. The organization teams up with Nelson’s and plans out their menu and pricing based on their budget, if tickets are sold, etc. Nelson’s has helped thousands of organizations raise money for over 45 years. They break down the potential group net profit, pricing, and information on planning in their fundraising link on their website.  In addition to chicken, they also make pork chops and ribs, and you can check out their upcoming fundraising locations and menu items that will be available. So if you are road trippin’ through the Hoosier state and happen to see a Port-A-Pit or Nelson’s stand- pull over and grab yourself some! You won’t be sorry! Usually, when we’d see these pop up stands in bank parking lots or schools when we were on our way home from just eating or didn’t have cash on us to stop so neither my husband or myself had ever tried this talk of the town chicken we had seen and heard so much about!

A few weeks ago, my youngest and I were on our way home from her preschool at a local YMCA. Usually we go straight home after preschool and eat lunch. Correction: momma scarfs down lunch because I work out at the Y while she’s in preschool and I’m starving by the time preschool is over. Is it sad that I dream of food while I’m sweating away and grunting through sets of burpees and jump squats? On this day, I needed to run to the grocery store. My little shadow always asks if we are going to the “small” grocery store or the “big” grocery store. By small, she is referring to Aldi and by big, she means Meijer (my second home, I swear!). These two happen to be right across the way from each other and less than five minutes from our house so yes, I’m there a lot! So that day was just going to be a “small” grocery store stop so after we left Aldi, something caught my eye in a nearby bank parking lot . . . Nelson’s Port-A-Pit Chicken stand!!!!! Proceeds benefited some youth summer camp of some sort – I can’t remember exactly. I knew I had some cash on me and decided I would have a little chicken for my lunch! So I walked up and told the nice ladies that I was a Nelson’s Newbie and never eaten it before! They cheered and eagerly explained that each container had a half a chicken in it for $6 and I could also get their famous Pit-Tatoes if I wanted, for an extra $3. I just went with the chicken since I’m trying my hardest to cut back on those starches. I was so excited to get home and eat this chicken. I made my little lady a sandwich and popped open my little take home meal. Of course, I took a few pictures and texted my husband who was at work. I decided to cut the chicken in half and save half for him. I made a salad to go along with my chicken and dug right in! It had a rub or some sort of marinade on it which had a little spice, but no heat and no real BBQ type flavors, just a nice smoked flavor and fall apart moist chicken. The way chicken should be! It doesn’t have any type of sauce on it and you don’t even need any sauce on it. It’s that good! I was impressed and quickly started searching for copy cat recipes of this wondrous chicken! I knew I would be making it in the near future! After a few searches, I found a couple of recipes for the chicken. My dear friend shared a recipe with me that she had of the Port-A-Pit chicken and that’s the one I went with. Most recipes I found were similar with ingredients, but just slight differences in quantities. One I found included adding MSG to the marinade. He swore it made the chicken better. I’m sorry, but I’m not adding that to my food. It doesn’t agree with my stomach or my husband’s and I’ll avoid it if I can. So I decided to go with my friend’s recipe. Big thank you to her! I learned through my searches that it’s basically a marinade that the chicken is soaked in and partially poached in, then the chicken is smoked or grilled and coated with the marinade while cooking. It’s that simple. It’s that good! You need to try it!

When writing this post, I couldn’t decide what to call this delicious chicken. Nelson’s, and locals refer to it as Port-A-Pit Chicken. Maybe my mind is in the gutter (or freestanding portable toilet) but I just couldn’t call it that. One recipe refers to it as Dirty Chicken. I guess because your fingers get the marinade on them and you need a few napkins. I didn’t want to copy that so I decided on Parking Lot Chicken since that’s where those stands show up! To my family if you are reading this, I plan to make this chicken again during one of our 4th of July cookouts so have no fear – Parking Lot Chicken is coming your way!

Parking Lot Chicken



5-7 lbs of chicken. Leg Quarters, breast quarters, legs, thighs – whatever you like. I used 7 lbs of legs. This was 15 large chicken legs.


2 C water

2 C vinegar – I used Apple Cider Vinegar

1/4 lb butter

4 TBS Salt

2 TBS Garlic Powder

3 TBS Black Pepper

5 TBS Worcestershire Sauce

Directions: Rinse chicken clean and place in either a large pot or pan large enough to hold the chicken and the marinade.

Combine all the marinade ingredients in a large pot on the stove, stir and bring this to a boil.


Remove about 1 C of the marinade and set this aside to be used for basting when the chicken cooks.


Once the marinade is boiling, remove from heat, let cool and pour marinade over the chicken.


Cover chicken and marinade and place in the fridge. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, but up to 24 hours. I let mine refrigerate for 6 hours. I think the longer the better and that’s part of the secret to the yummy chicken.


You can either grill the chicken or smoke it. Prepare your grill or smoker so it’s hot and ready.

Remove chicken from marinade and place on hot grill or smoker. We decided to just grill ours and didn’t bother with smoking it.



Discard the used marinade, but be sure to keep the reserved C of marinade that you set aside before. You may need to warm the reserved marinade in microwave or on stove if butter has hardened in it.


Baste chicken with the reserved marinade once or twice during cooking.


Grill or smoke chicken until it is done (165 degrees F internal temperature).


That’s it! You don’t need sauces or anything in my opinion. Just maybe a napkin or two for your fingers!


Fall apart moist chicken with a nice flavor.



8 thoughts on “Parking Lot Chicken

  1. So glad you liked it! I pulled chicken out this morning planning to make this for dinner before even reading your post😉


  2. I can’t say that we have chicken being sold in our parking lots here in Florida, but it sure sounds good! I have some drumsticks in the deep freeze…looks like I found a reason to pull them out! Thanks for sharing!


  3. Just a note of caution – Pouring boiling hot marinade over chicken, then allowing it to come to room temperature, and then placing it in the fridge for 6 hours is food poisoning looking for a place to happen. Eek! Marinade/brine should always be cold.


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