on Sep 25, 2022, Updated Dec 23, 2023
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They may be small birds, but Cornish hens, with their tender meat and crisp skin, are a holiday favorite.
For many people, it wouldn’t be Christmas (or name another holiday!) without Cornish hens on the menu. Whether carved into halves, or presented and served whole, they are a nice way to offer diners both dark and white meat in one meal.
Table of Contents
- What Is a Cornish Hen?
- What Is the Best Way to Cook a Cornish Game Hen?
- How to Thaw Frozen Cornish Game Hens
- How Long to Cook Cornish Game Hens
- What Temperature Should Cornish Game Hens Be Cooked At?
- How Do I Know When Cornish Game Hens Are Done?
- How Do You Keep Cornish Game Hens from Drying Out?
- How to Reheat Cornish Game Hens
- What to Serve with Cornish Game Hens
- Cornish Game Hens Recipe
What Is a Cornish Hen?
Cornish hens are a type of small chicken with a mild flavor.. They are younger and more tender than a larger chicken, usually about 4 or 5 weeks old. You might find them labeled poussins or Rock Cornish Game Hens, though technically, they are not game birds as they aren’t wild. They are leaner than chicken, with a lower fat content and, therefore, fewer calories comparatively.
What Is the Best Way to Cook a Cornish Game Hen?
Cornish game hens can be cooked in any way that chicken or other poultry is cooked. They can be baked, roasted, grilled, or even cooked in an appliance like a slow cooker, instant pot, or air fryer. They can also be stuffed before baking or roasting. My favorite way to cook a whole Cornish game hen is the same way I like to cook a whole chicken: roasted in the oven.
How to Thaw Frozen Cornish Game Hens
Cornish game hens are often available frozen, though you can also find them in the fresh meat department, especially around the holidays. To defrost a frozen game hen, keep it in its original packaging. Transfer it to the fridge, on a plate, or tray of some sort in case it leaks as it thaws.
A 1 ½ pound Cornish hens should take about 24 hours to defrost. You can speed up the process by placing the frozen hen (still in its packaging or placed in a tightly sealed zipper-top bag) into a bowl of cold water and allowing it to defrost at room temperature. This should take about 2 to 3 hours.
How Long to Cook Cornish Game Hens
Unstuffed Cornish game hens usually take about 30 to 50 minutes to bake in the oven, depending on the size of the birds, the temperature of the oven, and whether or not they are stuffed. An unstuffed hen cooked at 400 degrees will take about 40 minutes in the oven on average. If you are cooking a large amount of hens, you will probably need to
What Temperature Should Cornish Game Hens Be Cooked At?
My favorite temperature for cooking Cornish game hens is about 400 degrees. However, if your oven is set at a slightly higher or lower temperature for another dish, you can absolutely cook the hens at a different temp. Anywhere between 325 and 450 degrees works, just adjust the cooking time up or down as needed. Bake the hens for about 50 minutes at 325 degrees. Or, reduce the cooking time to about 30 minutes for a 450-degree roasting temperature.
How Do I Know When Cornish Game Hens Are Done?
Like chicken, Cornish game hens are cooked through when the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees, and the juices run clear when a knife is inserted into the thickest part of the thigh. You will want to take them from the oven when the internal temperature hits 160 degrees. The temperature will continue to climb a bit as they sit.
How Do You Keep Cornish Game Hens from Drying Out?
Make sure to take them out when the internal temperature reaches 160 or 165 degrees max. However, you do want a nice crispy skin. Pat your hens completely dry with a clean dish towel or paper towels before roasting or baking. If the skin is wet it will steam and won’t crisp up properly.
How to Reheat Cornish Game Hens
To reheat Cornish game hens, place them in a baking pan and pour in ½ cup chicken broth or white wine if you prefer. Heat in a preheated 325-degree oven for about 20 minutes until warmed throughout.
What to Serve with Cornish Game Hens
- Wild Rice Salad
- Butternut Squash Casserole
- Scalloped Potatoes
- Butter Sweet Potatoes
- Maple Roasted Butternut Squash
- Roasted Cauliflower and Carrots with Olive Drizzle
- Herbed Mashed Potatoes
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Cornish Game Hens
- 2 Cornish game hens or poussins (about 1 ½ pounds each)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper (to taste)
- 1 lemon (halved)
- 2 shallots (halved and peeled)
- 1 teaspoon finely minced fresh rosemary
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (softened)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper (to taste)
- Preheat the oven to 400 F. Pat the hens thoroughly dry with paper towels.
- Squeeze the lemon juice from the cut lemon into a medium bowl. Place one squeezed lemon rind and two halves of shallot into the cavity of each of the birds.
- Add the softened butter and rosemary to the lemon juice, season with salt and pepper, and use a fork to blend well. Smear the butter mixture over the hens, working it carefully under the skin and into the cavities of the birds.
- Place the birds in a roasting pan large enough to fit the birds without touching. Bake for about 40 to 45 minutes until the internal temperature reads 160 F in the thickest part of the thigh. Remove the birds from the oven, let sit for 5 to 10 minutes, then serve. You can serve the birds whole or cut them in half for smaller portions.