Cornish hens are so versatile and utterly delicious. These little birds can easily take on your favorite whole chicken recipe in a fraction of the time. Perfect for that WOW factor at a dinner party!
So this past Sunday I did a freezer cleanout and I happened to find these 2 lovelies. I had been craving roasted chicken but didn’t want to make a whole big bird.
That’s where cornish game hens come into play. they look like mini chickens well that’s because they actually are mini chickens. They can weigh between 1-2 pounds but the average is about 1.4 pounds.
How to cook Cornish Game Hens
Cornish game hens cook pretty much identical to how you would make a whole chicken. Now I make one killer roasted chicken (both stuffed and unstuffed) so when it came to making these I went with an herbed compound butter rub.
I’ve never seen them fresh so mine are always found in the freezer section.
I thaw them in the fridge for 1-2 days. Never thaw poultry on the counter or at room temperature.
- Thaw the game hens and clean out the gizzards (they typically are in a little bag). You can save them and make gravy or add it to a stuffing. Totally your choice.
- Pat the birds dry and make your compound butter. (See below)
- Separate the skin from the breast meat and put the compound butter in there. Smush it down and help spread it out. What’s going to happen is that when the bird roasts, that butter, and all the herbs are actually going to infuse into the meat and not only make it juicier BUT add such incredible flavor!
- Add oil, salt, and pepper and bake!
How to make Compound Butter
I wrote up an entire post here on how to make it. Check out THIS post!
- For this recipe, I just took room temperature unsalted butter and added my herbs and aromatics to it – garlic and my favorite herbs.
- Combine the ingredients into a smooth mixture. At this point, you can roll into a log and refrigerate for serving later OR use it as I did in this recipe.
Cooking Times of Cornish Game Hens
As mentioned above the average size is about 1.4 pounds each. For hens larger than 1.4 pounds, you’ll want to increase the baking time to 50-60 minutes when the temperature is reduced to 350F.
You’ll still cook it the same amount of time at 450F but when it’s reduced to 350F, that’s when you’ll want to bump up the cooking time.
That being said, the BEST (and safest) way to determine that they are done is to check the birds in the thickest part of it (not touching a bone) with a meat thermometer. It should read 165F.
What to serve with Cornish Game Hens
Honestly, pretty much anything.
- 6 Rock Cornish Hens, thawed (~1.4 lb each) *See note
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
- 2 teaspoon garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
- 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- Preheat oven to 450F. Remove birds from wrapping, remove gizzards (inside stuff) and pat dry inside and out. Place a cooling rack on a baking pan. Place them breast-side up on the cooling rack inside of the pan.
- In a bowl combine the butter, garlic, rosemary, thyme to make a soft, but spreadable herbed butter. Carefully separate the skin from the breast. Spread about 2 tablespoon of the butter between the skin and breast of each bird. Smooth skin back down to cover the meat. Rub the olive oil all over the birds and sprinkle with the salt and pepper.
- Roast at 450F for 20 minutes. the reduce the heat to 350F. Continue roasting about 40 more minutes or when the thickest part of the meat reaches 165F. Baste occasionally with pan juices. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
If your hens are larger than 1.4 lbs each you’ll want to increase the cooking time when the temperature is reduced to 350F to about 50-60 minutes.
The most important thing is to check the temp!
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