The Best Easy Air Fryer Cornish Game Hens Recipe

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The Best Easy Air Fryer Cornish Game Hens recipe – tender, juicy delicious cornish game hens in under 40 minutes from an air fryer or Instant Pot with broiler lid!

air fried cornish game hens seasoned with herbs and topped with chopped parsley on a white plate
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air fried cornish game hens seasoned with herbs in an air fryer basket over slices of air fried lemons

Air Fried Cornish Hens

Tender, delicious Cornish game hens with a crispy, golden crust are one of the most delicious dishes to serve at a dinner party or holiday dinner.

They are low carb and keto compliant, have a light, chicken-like flavor, present beautifully, and are so easy to make.

These air fried Cornish game hens are a perfect main dish for a smaller holiday dinner – each hen serves about 2 (if your guests are big eaters, you can serve 1 per guest), and make great leftovers.

I hope you love this recipe as much as we do!

air fried cornish game hens seasoned with herbs and topped with chopped parsley on a white plate

How to Air Fry Cornish Game Hens

To make this recipe, we will need the following ingredients:

  • Cornish Game Hens (2): Cornish game hens are small, young chickens that are perfect for individual servings. They offer tender and flavorful meat that’s great for roasting or air frying.
  • Salt and Pepper (to taste): Salt enhances the overall flavor of the dish, while pepper adds a subtle heat and depth of taste. Balancing these seasonings is crucial for a well-seasoned dish.
  • Lemons (2, sliced): Lemons provide a citrusy brightness to the dish. Slicing lemons and placing them both inside the hens and around the air fryer basket infuses the meat with a zesty aroma and flavor.
  • Fresh Rosemary (2 sprigs): Rosemary is an aromatic herb that imparts a distinct earthy and pine-like flavor to the hens. Stuffing the hens with rosemary adds a fragrant note to the meat as it cooks.
  • Italian Herb Seasoning Blend (1 tbsp): The Italian herb blend adds a combination of various herbs, such as oregano, thyme, basil, and marjoram. This blend enhances the overall herbaceous and savory profile of the hens.
  • Butter (3 tbsp, softened): Butter adds richness and moisture to the hens, preventing them from becoming dry during cooking. It also helps to create a flavorful crust on the skin.
  • Garlic Cloves (8): Garlic is a pungent and aromatic ingredient that brings a robust flavor to the dish. Roasting the garlic cloves with the hens infuses the meat with a mellowed garlic taste.

Once you’ve gathered your ingredients, we will use the following method:

  • Prep. Preheat air fryer to 450F. Rub chickens with 3 tablespoons of butter. Lightly season chickens with salt, pepper, and herbs. Place 1 lemon wedge, 4 garlic cloves, and 1 sprig rosemary in cavity of each hen. Spray inside of air fryer basket with nonstick spray. Reduce oven temperature to 350F.
  • Air Fry. Arrange chickens in air fryer basket. Roast in preheated air fryer for 30 minutes.
  • Flip to crisp. Flip hens, roast additional 10 minutes. Remove hens from oven when they reach 170 degrees with an instant read digital thermometer. Tent hens with aluminum foil as hens carryover cook, do not carve for at least 10 minutes.
  • Enjoy! Serve individual chickens on diners plates, and encourage them to carve tableside for a fun dinner!
air fried cornish game hens seasoned with herbs in an air fryer basket

Tips and Tricks for Perfect Air Fried Cornish Game Hens

If you love crunchy game hens, be sure to check my top tips for perfect air fried chicken legs below:

Preheat air fryer. Run your air fryer for a few minutes before adding the food so it is hot and ready to go when you go to air fry your cornish game hens. This is optional, but I feel it helps the skin to puff up and get a crispy “fried” texture.

Don’t open too often. Since air fryers are completely sealed off, it’s hard to judge your hen’s doneness by the look of it. Don’t open your air fryer constantly, letting heat escape – trust in the timing of the recipe, and a handy rapid-read digital meat thermometer. Check the temperature of the game hen when you’re already opening the air fryer to flip them – don’t open it just to check the temperature or too much heat will escape. You can also buy an air fryer with a built-in temperature probe, that does all the work for you – including shutting off when the meat is fully cooked!

How many Cornish Game Hens per person. One of the trickiest parts of serving Cornish Game Hens for a holiday dinner is planning out just how many to cook for a crowd! Luckily, it can be easy to figure out with a little bit of planning! While one Cornish hen per person might make the most sense for your dinner party, you might want to go for a little less, and serve it pre-carved to guests. If you want to serve a meal with some meat left as leftovers, it is important to be sure you cook a slightly bigger portion per person. Since cornish game hens are quite small, they really only give 1 – 1 1/2 servings per bird, making them a dish you really need to plan ahead to be sure you have the proper amount before roasting. For larger portions dinners, plan for one cornish game hen per person for dinner.

Let guests carve their own. This hen can be sliced and portioned and then served to dinner guests on a platter, or presented whole on a plate so the guest can carve their own hen.

Use a digital thermometer. Use a digital thermometer. When your timer is done, immediately test the temperature of the game hens with a digital thermometer inserted into the middle of the thickest part of the chicken drumstick without touching bone.

Cook to the right temperature. Cornish game hens should be cooked to 165 degrees internally. If poultry has not met 165 degrees internally, add another 2-5 minutes to cook time.

Don’t crowd air fryer basket. Air fryers help get hot air to circulate around the game hens to get a heat so high it makes meat taste fried – and to do that, it helps to not crowd the pan. Put the Cornish game hens in your air fryer pan in a way they aren’t crowding each other – it makes a huge difference.

air fried cornish game hens seasoned with herbs and topped with chopped parsley on a white plate

Recipe FAQ’s

How many Cornish game hens per person?

Plan on one game hen per person for hungry adults if it is a main course.

How big is a Cornish game hen?

Game hens run from 1-2 pounds, but most hens will weigh about 1 1/4 pound.

How can I get crispier skin?

Slather cooked game hen in a little butter and prop under the broiler for 2-5 minutes to crisp skin before serving.

How long do I cook air fryer game hens in the air fryer?

The cooking time can vary based on the size of the Cornish game hens and the specific air fryer model. As a general guideline, cook the hens at 375°F (190°C) for approximately 25-30 minutes. To ensure they are fully cooked, use a meat thermometer to check that the internal temperature reaches 165°F (74°C).

Should you preheat the air fryer?

Preheating the air fryer is recommended to ensure even cooking. Preheat the air fryer to the cooking temperature (375°F or 190°C) before placing the hens inside.

How should I season the hens before cooking?

Season the hens with salt, pepper, and the Italian Herb Seasoning Blend both on the skin and inside the cavity. You can also rub softened butter over the hens for added flavor and moisture.

Can I use other herbs for seasoning?

Yes, you can use other herbs like thyme, sage, or a poultry seasoning blend based on your preferences. These herbs will add different flavor profiles to the hens.

Do I need to flip hens in air fryer during cooking?

It’s not necessary to flip the hens in the air fryer, as the hot air circulates evenly around them. However, if you prefer, you can flip them halfway through the cooking time for more even browning.

Can I use frozen Cornish game hens in the air fryer?

It’s recommended to thaw the hens completely before cooking for even and safe cooking. Thaw them in the refrigerator for a day or two before air frying.

How do I keep Cornish game hens from sticking in air fryer?

To prevent sticking, you can lightly coat the air fryer basket with oil or use non-stick cooking spray. You can also place a piece of parchment paper on the bottom of the basket. Preheating the air fryer also helps keep the hens from sticking.

What can I serve with Cornish Game Hens?

Consider serving the hens with roasted vegetables, mashed potatoes, a side salad, or even some dinner rolls. The choice of side dishes depends on your preferences.

How do I know Cornish game hens are cooked properly?

To ensure the hens are cooked, use a meat thermometer to check that the internal temperature reaches 165°F (74°C) in the thickest part of the meat, without touching the bone.

air fried cornish game hens seasoned with herbs and topped with chopped parsley on a white plate

What to Serve with Air Fryer Cornish Game Hens

Roasted Vegetables: Roasted vegetables such as carrots, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, or potatoes are a great choice. Their caramelized flavors and textures complement the succulent hens.

Mashed Potatoes or Cauliflower Mash: Creamy mashed potatoes or a healthier cauliflower mash provide a comforting and hearty side that can soak up the flavorful juices from the hens.

Gravy: Serve the hens with a rich homemade gravy made from the drippings and air-fried juices. The gravy adds extra depth and moisture to the meal.

Green Salad: A light and refreshing green salad with a tangy vinaigrette can help balance the richness of the hens.

Coleslaw: Creamy coleslaw with a zesty dressing adds a fresh and crunchy component to the meal.

Rice or Quinoa: Serve the hens over a bed of fluffy rice or quinoa for an additional source of carbohydrates.

Grilled or Steamed Vegetables: Opt for vegetables like broccoli, green beans, or zucchini that are lightly grilled or steamed for a healthy side option.

Fruit Compote: A sweet fruit compote or chutney, such as cranberry or apple, can provide a sweet contrast to the savory hens.

Bread Rolls or Baguette: Freshly baked bread rolls or slices of baguette are perfect for mopping up the delicious juices and flavors from the hens.

Wine or Sparkling Water: Consider pairing the meal with a glass of white wine, rosé, or even sparkling water with a splash of citrus for a refreshing beverage.

Roasted Potatoes: Crispy roasted potatoes seasoned with herbs and spices can be a hearty and flavorful accompaniment.

Mixed Grains Salad: A salad made with a mix of grains like quinoa, farro, or barley, along with fresh herbs, vegetables, and a light dressing, adds both texture and nutrition.

air fried cornish game hens seasoned with herbs and topped with chopped parsley on a white plate

The Best Air Fryer Cornish Game Hens Recipe

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air fried cornish game hens seasoned with herbs and topped with chopped parsley on a white plate

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air fried cornish game hens seasoned with herbs and topped with chopped parsley on a white plate
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The Best Easy Air Fryer Cornish Game Hens Recipe

EasThe Best Easy Air Fryer Cornish Game Hens recipe – tender, juicy delicious cornish game hens in under 40 minutes from an air fryer or Instant Pot with broiler lid!
Course Air Fryer
Cuisine American
Keyword air fryer poultry, cornish game hens, main dish
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Resting Time 10 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings 2 game hens
Calories 426kcal
Author Courtney O’Dell

Ingredients

  • 2 Cornish game hens
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 lemons sliced -1 to stuff in hens, and one to place around air fryer basket for extra flavor
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary to stuff in hens
  • 1 tbsp Italian Herb Seasoning Blend
  • 3 tbsp butter softened
  • 8 cloves garlic

Instructions

  • Preheat air fryer to 450F.
  • Rub chickens with 3 tablespoons of butter.
  • Lightly season chickens with salt, pepper, and herbs.
  • Place 1 lemon wedge, 4 garlic cloves, and 1 sprig rosemary in cavity of each hen.
  • Spray inside of air fryer basket with nonstick spray.
  • Reduce oven temperature to 350F.
  • Arrange chickens in air fryer basket.
  • Roast in preheated air fryer for 30 minutes
  • Flip hens, roast additional 10 minutes.
  • Remove hens from oven when they reach 170 degrees with an instant read digital thermometer.
  • Tent hens with aluminum foil as hens carryover cook, do not carve for at least 10 minutes.
  • Serve individual chickens on diners plates, and encourage them to carve tableside for a fun dinner!

Nutrition

Serving: 1hen | Calories: 426kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 29g | Fat: 32g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 18g | Cholesterol: 191mg | Sodium: 322mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g

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About Courtney

Courtney loves to share great wine, good food, and loves to explore far flung places- all while masting an everyday elegant and easy style at lifestyle blog Sweet C’s Designs. Sweet C's devoted to finding the best food and drinks you'll want to make or find, around the world!

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1 Comment

  1. Trisha says:

    I think I’m going to make this for Easter in my air fryer and after looking at the recipe I saw #10 saying to keep it in the oven until the temp reaches 170. Do you mean keep it in the air fryer basket with the door closed?