The Best Roasted Cornish Game Hens

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Easy, delicious tender juicy roasted Cornish game hens packed with flavor that are perfect for a holiday dinner, keto and low carb diet friendly, and easy enough for even beginner cooks!

crispy roasted cornish game hen in a square baking dish with lemons, shallots, and garlic
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crispy roasted cornish game hen in a square baking dish with lemons, shallots, and garlic

Easy Baked Cornish Hens

Cornish Game Hens (or Cornish Chickens) make excellent holiday dinner food – they are gorgeous as a main course when served individually.

If you love tender, juicy chicken – but feel like the large whole roaster chickens don’t have a ton of flavor, you’re not wrong. Smaller chickens tend to have much more flavor – and are easier to cook!

These Cornish game hens are the easiest, most delicious dinner and are perfect for a dinner party or even just Sunday supper!

This recipe is designed to be easily adaptable – please feel free to use your favorite herb or seasonings to bring this delicious baked cornish game hen recipe your own!

Even though they have a very fancy name, Cornish Game Hens, as labeled by the USDA, are really just small chickens. The USDA currently has a pretty sparse definition of the Cornish game hen – which includes chicken between one and two pounds in weight, and slaughtered at fewer than five weeks of age can be labeled as a Cornish game hen. 

A Cornish game hen must weigh between 1 and 2 pounds, with the standard at about 1 1/4 pounds. Cornish hens have to be slaughtered before five weeks of age and they can be either male or female birds.

Since Cornish game hans are smaller than chickens, they actually are easier to cook – you can get crispy, crunchy perfect skin and juicy, tender, not-dried out meat.

Cornish game hens are the perfect easy main course for any elegant dinner!

Roasted cornish game hen on a baking sheet with herbs and butter

How To Roast Cornish Game Hens

To roast cornish game hens, you will need the following ingredients:

  • Cornish game hens – Cornish game hens aren’t actually game birds – they are young broiler chickens that are between one and two pounds when ready to cook and have a great flavor and small shape, making them quicker to cook than a whole chicken.
  • Lemon – we love to stuff lemon into the cavity of Cornish game hens to help infuse tons of flavor and aroma into the poultry as it cooks. This also helps to keep the meat tender and juicy!
  • Sprigs of fresh rosemary – stuffing rosemary into the cavity also helps to release tons of rich, delicious flavor and a to-die-for aroma that will make your game hens irresistible!
  • Italian Herb Seasoning Blend – a simple blend of marjoram, thyme, basil, oregano, and other herbs helps to add complexity and flavor to poultry – without overpowering the light meat flavor.
  • Softened butter – rubbing butter all over the hens helps to crisp skin, so the hens have a perfect caramel color and crispy, crunchy crackle – the fat in the butter also keeps the meat from drying out as it roasts.
  • Garlic – garlic adds flavor to Cornish game hens as it cooks by stuffing cloves into the cavity, releasing tons of amazing flavor into the bird as it cooks – and helping to flavor the liquid that drips to the bottom of the pan that can be used as a baste or a gravy!

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

  • Prep. Preheat oven to 450F. Pat chickens completely dry. Rub chickens with 1 tablespoon of butter. Lightly season chickens with salt, pepper, and herbs. Place slices from 1 lemon, 4 garlic cloves, and 1 sprig rosemary in cavity of each hen. Arrange slices from 1 lemon, sliced rounds of shallot or onion, and garlic cloves in baking dish, roasting pan without rack, or dutch oven.
  • Roast. Roast for 25 minutes at 450F. Reduce oven temperature to 350F. Continue roasting about 25 minutes longer, or until hens are golden brown and juices run clear – and chicken’s internal temperature is 160 degrees.
  • Rest. Remove hens from oven when they reach 165 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 table-side for a fun dinner!
crispy roasted cornish game hen in a square baking dish with lemons, shallots, and garlic

Tips To Perfect Cornish Game Hens & FAQs

Cook from frozen. To cook cornish game hens from frozen, let fully defrost before cooking for the best results. I let my cornish game hens defrost in a bowl in the refrigerator overnight before cooking. Be sure to thoroughly pat dry hens before roasting in the oven to ensure skin can crisp and become golden brown.

How many cornish game hens to serve 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.

How Many Cornish Game Hens To Serve For Bigger Portions. 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.
  • Hens 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.

How Many Cornish Game Hens to Serve For Four. For a standard portion, plan for three cornish game hens for four people – which would ideally be carved ahead of time and served on the table like you would present a turkey or whole roasted chicken.

How To Store Baked Cornish Game Hens. After you’ve roasted your cornish game hen, serve and carve immediately. To store cooked leftovers, place in an airtight container or plastic bag and keep in the refrigerator up to four days.

To Freeze Roasted Cornish Game Hens. To freeze roasted cornish game hen, gather up any leftovers and trim fully from hen. Place in airtight freezer bag and store for up tp four months in a freezer.

How To Reheat Baked Cornish Game Hens. To reheat frozen baked Cornish game hens, let thaw int he refrigerator naturally overnight. Place thawed frozen Cornish hens, or refrigerated hens, in a foil pouch with 1tbsp chicken stock.

crispy roasted cornish game hen in a square baking dish with lemons, shallots, and garlic

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 on Cornish game hens?

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 Cornish game hens last?

Cornish game hens can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to four days.

How do I prep Cornish game hens?

Before roasting, rinse and pat dry the hens. Season them with your choice of herbs, spices, and oil. You can also truss the hens to help them cook evenly and retain moisture.

Can I marinate Cornish game hens?

Yes, you can marinate the hens in a flavorful marinade before roasting. Keep in mind that marinating might increase the cooking time slightly due to the extra moisture.

What is a Cornish game hen?

Cornish game hens are small chickens that are typically around 1 to 2 pounds in weight. They’re known for their tender meat and delicate flavor. Despite the name, they are not game birds but rather young chickens.

What should I stuff Cornish game hens with?

You can stuff the hens with a variety of ingredients, such as a mixture of herbs, garlic, lemon, onion, or even a traditional bread stuffing. Just ensure that the stuffing reaches a safe internal temperature as well.

How long do I roast Cornish game hens?

Roasting time depends on the oven temperature and the size of the hens. Typically, they are roasted at 375°F (190°C) for about 50 to 60 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F (74°C) in the thickest part of the thigh.

Can I roast Cornish game hens with vegetables?

Absolutely! Roasting hens with vegetables is a wonderful idea. Choose root vegetables like carrots, potatoes, and onions, and arrange them around the hens in the roasting pan.

Should I use a meat thermometer for roasting?

Yes, using a meat thermometer is highly recommended to ensure the hens are cooked to a safe internal temperature of 165°F (74°C). Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh without touching the bone.

How do I know when a Cornish game hen is done?

The hens are done when their internal temperature reaches 165°F (74°C) and the juices run clear when pierced. If using a meat thermometer, make sure to check multiple spots to ensure accurate readings.

Can I make a gravy from the drippings?

Absolutely! The drippings from roasted Cornish game hens can be used to make a flavorful gravy. Simply skim off the excess fat, then use the drippings to make a roux-based gravy. Find our The Best Easy Turkey Gravy Recipe here – swap the chicken juices in place of turkey!

How do I carve Cornish game hens?

To carve, start by removing the legs and wings, then separate the breast meat from the bone. Slice the breast meat into thin slices and serve with your chosen sides.

What side dishes go well with Cornish game hens?

Side dishes like mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables, salads, stuffing, and dinner rolls are popular choices to complement the hens’ flavors.

crispy roasted cornish game hen in a square baking dish with lemons, shallots, and garlic

What to Serve With Cornish Game Hens

Roasted Vegetables: Roasted vegetables like carrots, potatoes, and Brussels sprouts make for a hearty and flavorful side that complements the rich taste of Cornish game hens.

Rice or Quinoa Pilaf: A light and fluffy rice or quinoa pilaf, seasoned with herbs and spices, provides a satisfying base for the hens.

Mixed Green Salad: A fresh mixed green salad with a variety of veggies, nuts, and a tangy vinaigrette adds a refreshing and crunchy element to the meal.

Mashed Potatoes: Creamy mashed potatoes are a classic choice that pairs well with the tender meat of Cornish game hens.

Cranberry Sauce: A homemade cranberry sauce or relish adds a touch of sweetness and tanginess that complements the savory hens.

Stuffing: Traditional or gourmet stuffing made with bread, herbs, and your choice of add-ins can elevate the meal’s flavors.

Steamed or Grilled Asparagus: Tender asparagus spears, whether steamed or lightly grilled, provide a fresh and nutritious side.

Gravy: A flavorful gravy made from the hens’ drippings can be drizzled over the hens and side dishes for an extra layer of taste.

Fruit Chutney: A fruit chutney, such as mango or apple, adds a sweet and tangy contrast to the savory hens.

Cornbread: Serve warm cornbread on the side for a comforting and slightly sweet accompaniment.

Garlic Bread: Garlic bread or garlic knots can be a flavorful addition that complements the meal’s richness.

Wine or Sparkling Cider: Pair your Cornish game hens with a suitable wine, such as a light white or red, or offer sparkling cider for a non-alcoholic option.

Dessert: End the meal with a light dessert like a fruit tart, sorbet, or a simple fruit platter for a fresh finish.

Soup: A light soup, such as a creamy vegetable soup or a clear broth, can serve as a delightful starter to the meal.

You can find our complete side dish recipe archives here.

crispy roasted cornish game hen in a square baking dish with lemons, shallots, and garlic

The Best Roasted Cornish Game Hens Recipe

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crispy roasted cornish game hen in a square baking dish with lemons, shallots, and garlic

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roasted cornish game hens over slices of lemons, shallots, and roasted garlic cloves in a baking dish

Best Easy Roasted Cornish Game Hens Recipe

Yield: 4
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes

Delicious tender juicy Cornish game hens packed with flavor. Perfect for a holiday dinner, keto and low-carb diet friendly, and easy enough for even beginner cooks!

Ingredients

  • 4 Cornish game hens
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 lemons, sliced into rounds
  • 1 onion or shallot, sliced into thin rounds
  • 2-4 sprigs thyme, rosemary, and sage, some minced, some whole
  • 4 sprigs fresh rosemary, to stuff in hens
  • 1 tbsp Italian Herb Seasoning Blend
  • 1 tbsp butter, softened
  • 20 cloves garlic

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450F.
  2. Pat chickens completely dry.
  3. Rub chickens with 1 tablespoon of butter.
  4. Lightly season chickens with salt, pepper, and the minced herbs.
  5. Place slices from 1 lemon, 4 garlic cloves, and the whole herbs in cavity of each hen.
  6. Arrange slices from 1 lemon, sliced rounds of shallot or onion, and the remaining 4 garlic cloves in baking dish, roasting pan without rack, or dutch oven.
  7. Roast for 25 minutes.
  8. Reduce oven temperature to 350F.
  9. Continue roasting about 25 minutes longer, or until hens are golden brown and juices run clear - and chicken's internal temperature is 170 degrees.
  10. Remove hens from oven when they reach 170 degrees with an instant-read digital thermometer.
  11. Tent hens with aluminum foil as hens carryover cook, do not carve for at least 10 minutes.
  12. Serve individual chickens on diners' plates, and encourage them to carve table-side for a fun dinner!
Nutrition Information
Yield 4 Serving Size 1 cornish hen
Amount Per Serving Calories 748Total Fat 50gSaturated Fat 15gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 31gCholesterol 344mgSodium 363mgCarbohydrates 14gFiber 3gSugar 3gProtein 59g

Nutrition is automatically calculated by Nutritionix - please verify all nutrition information independently and consult with a doctor or nutritionist for any and all medical and diet advice.

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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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12 Comments

    1. I see how that would be confusing, I put some minced on the outside minced and some whole on the inside of each hen. I have changed the recipe card to make it clearer, thanks for commenting!

  1. Recipe ingredients says 16 cloves or garlic, and to put 4 cloves in each Cornish hen. But directions also say to put cloves of garlic in bottom of pan with lemon slices and onion. So…more than 16 cloves of garlic then? Confusing.

    1. Sorry for the confusion, I forgot the ones I put under. I use 20 garlic cloves and set four in each and four in the pan. I have updated the recipe to reflect that!

  2. Wow, this looks amazing. I will be making yours and John C. I love what he did as well. Thanks to both of you for sharing. Yum!!!’

  3. I have made Cornish Game hens for decades. I use olive oil as the easing penetrates the oil and goes into the meat for flavor. Butter is water and does not allow the herb flavor to go into the meat. I also start with the hen’s breast side down for 30 minutes to “tan” the back, then roll it over to make sure the breast are done for 60 minutes. I also sprinkle a few rosemary swigs for a better flavor to the hens. I season with garlic salt and coarse ground pepper lightly. When removing, I slice the thighs skin from the cavity to drain any juice from the bird so it does not leak onto the serving dishes.

    1. Nice! You should put out your own recipes!! Now I don’t know which way to go…. I like butter but you can do both.

  4. Great recipe and the fastest I found…50 minutes to perfection. The skin was crispy brown, the inside tender and juicy. I did not tent it. Just put it on the plates, dished up the sides, said grace, and by then it was ready. I also put sweet potatoes, red potatoes, onions and carrots on the pan with the chicken. Thanks for the great recipe!