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Roasted Cornish Hen

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Our roasted Cornish hen recipe delivers succulent baked chickens that are juicy and tender with golden crispy skins. Prep this easy recipe in 10 minutes, then bake. With an elegant presentation, they’re worthy of gracing the table on Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

PIN ROASTED CORNISH HEN

Roasted cornish hen on a serving platter with sprigs of fresh rosemary.

For small gatherings, the roasted Cornish hen has gained popularity as an elegant alternative to a Thanksgiving turkey. They look gorgeous and festive on holiday tables. When plated as individual servings, baked Cornish hens have a classy, luxurious presentation.

Because they’re small, Cornish hens can be defrosted quickly. They bake up beautifully in about 1 hour, boasting juicy tender meat and golden crispy skins. Any turkey would be jealous! Compared to dealing with a large bulky turkey, this delicious meal is substantially quicker and more hassle-free.

For special-occasion meals, roast hens on a baking sheet lined with slices of Granny smith apples and D’Anjou or Bartlett pears. Garnish baked hens with chopped Italian parsley, and style with sprigs of fresh rosemary.

For a complete holiday feast, pair the hens with these delicious sides:

Holiday table featuring roasted Cornish hen with rosemary garnish and French green beans.

Because this satisfying meal is easy to make, it’s an excellent choice for mid-week dinners. As a make-ahead recipe for busy families, bake chickens in advance. Rewarm up to 2 days later, as needed. Serve with pre-made sides and dinner rolls. Such a time saver!

For a hearty sheet-pan dinner, cook some veggies along with the baked Cornish hens. Carrots, potatoes and onions are traditional choices. Toss the veggies with olive oil, salt and pepper. In the pan, arrange them in a layer. Set the chickens on top. It’s super easy to make this healthy savory meal.

Serve one hen per person, or divide them in half for smaller portions. They pair well with mashed potatoes or rice, salad or veggies, and crusty bread. Delicious and nourishing, this roasted Cornish hen recipe is a family favorite.

Two baked Cornish hens with crispy golden skin on a serving platter with rosemary sprigs.

INGREDIENTS

At markets with a butcher counter, ask if they have fresh Cornish hens. If not, head to the meat department. Look for frozen Cornish game hens near the frozen turkeys. These small chickens are often packaged in sets of 2.

  • Cornish hens
  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Dried thyme
  • Garlic powder
  • Paprika
  • Onion powder
  • Ground black pepper
  • Onion
  • Carrot
  • Celery
  • Garlic cloves
  • Lemon
  • Fresh rosemary

GARNISHES: Flaky sea salt and sprigs of fresh rosemary

Ingredients for roasted Cornish hen recipe.

EASY INGREDIENT SUBSTITUTIONS

Missing an ingredient for this roasted Cornish hen recipe? Don’t put on your shoes and head to the market. Instead, head to your fridge or pantry. Check for these easy ingredient swaps.

It’s convenient and money-saving to use ingredients you already have on hand! Especially during stay-at-home times.

  • CORNISH HENS: Sub with a medium-sized (whole) roasting chicken.
  • OLIVE OIL: Use a mild, neutral cooking oil like canola or vegetable oil.
  • DRIED THYME: Sub with dried oregano and sage, or dried marjoram.
  • PAPRIKA: If you can handle a little heat, sub with cayenne pepper.
  • ONION: Use shallots instead.
  • FRESH ROSEMARY: Use dried rosemary instead. Keep in mind: dried herbs are more potent and concentrated than fresh. Replace 1 sprig of fresh rosemary with 1 teaspoon dried rosemary.
Two baked Cornish hens on a serving platter for a holiday meal.

HOW TO DEFROST A CORNISH HEN

  • REFRIGERATOR DEFROSTING: If the Cornish game hens are frozen, slow thaw them in the fridge for 24 hours. Once thawed, the chickens should be cooked within 1 to 2 days.
  • QUICK THAW METHOD: Submerge the chickens in a bowl of cool water. Refresh the water every 30 minutes until the hens are completely defrosted. This will take about 1 to 2 hours, depending on size. Cook immediately.

RECIPE STEPS

RECIPE PREP: Preheat oven to 400°F. Rinse Cornish hens in the sink under cold running water. Pat the hens dry between paper towels.

  • STEP 1: Arrange chickens on a rimmed baking tray or in a large baking dish.
  • STEP 2: In a small bowl, combine the olive oil with all the dried spices: salt, thyme, garlic powder, paprika, onion powder, and ground black pepper. Drizzle the mixture onto the Cornish hens. With your hands, rub the mixture all over the hens, coating all sides equally well.
  • STEP 3: Fill the cavity of each chicken with 2 quarters of an onion, one clove of garlic, half the carrot, and half the celery. With a fork, pierce the skin of the lemon all over. Quarter the lemon with a knife. Add 2 lemon wedges and 1 sprig rosemary to each cavity. 
  • STEP 4: With kitchen twine, tie the legs together on each hen. Tuck the wings under the bird to prevent them from burning in the oven. Roast the hens for 50 to 55 minutes, or until an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the flesh (away from bones) registers 165°F. After 25 minutes of roasting, baste the hens with juices from the pan.
  • STEP 5: Remove hens from the oven. Cover pan with aluminum foil. Let the hens rest for 10 minutes. We want to allow enough time for the juices in the center to travel throughout the bird for a juicer meat experience.

HOW TO SERVE ROASTED CORNISH HEN: Garnish chickens with flaky sea salt and fresh herbs. Serve warm chickens whole or carved.

Two images showing how to prep and bake roasted Cornish hen.

RECIPE FAQ

These are the most commonly asked questions when making this baked Cornish hens recipe, and the most helpful answers for recipe success.

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A CHICKEN AND A CORNISH HEN?

Cornish game hens are very small chickens that are harvested young at about 5 weeks instead of 8 to 9 weeks. They weigh between 1 and 2 pounds. Regular chickens weigh about 3 to 5 pounds. Cornish hens are prized for their large breasts and tender (white) meat.

HOW TO KEEP CORNISH HENS FROM DRING OUT?

Arrange defrosted hens on a tray. Refrigerate overnight to dry out the skins and lock in juices and moisture. During baking, this will encourage nice crispy skins, while keeping meat tender and moist. After baking, reserve pan drippings to drizzle over the chickens. If reheating leftovers, you’ll want to use this savory liquid to keep hens moist.

HOW TO INCREASE OVERALL FLAVOR AND JUICINESS?

Instead of olive oil, use fresh bacon fat to increase umami flavor. Loosen the skins by tucking 2 to 3 fingers beneath the surface. Slightly lift up the skin. Spread additional dry rub spice mix on the meat beneath the skin. Slip in a pat of butter and a slice of juicy lemon to increase moisture. Add a sprig of rosemary for added flavor.

DO YOU COOK CORNISH HENS BREAST UP OR DOWN?

Place the chickens breast side up in the roasting pan.

HOW TO KNOW WHEN A ROASTED CORNISH HEN IS DONE?

To avoid food-borne illness, the USDA states the internal temperature must reach 165°F. Use an instant-read thermometer. Insert it into the thickest part of the breast away from bones.

HOW LONG WILL A ROASTED CORNISH HEN STAY FRESH?

Stored in an air-tight container (with juices) and refrigerated, the baked chicken will stay fresh with a great texture for up to 3 days. After this time it must be discarded. Or freeze leftover chicken in a zip-top freezer bag up to 1 month. Thaw in the fridge. Reheat with pan drippings in the oven, microwave, or in a Dutch oven on stovetop.

Thanksgiving table featuring roasted Cornish hen with flaky salt and rosemary with a vegetable side.

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This is the savory recipe I make every Thanksgiving for those preferring an alternative to turkey (my hand is raised!). Family and friends are eager to obtain my “secret” recipe for the most delicious chickens ever!

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Roasted cornish hen on a serving platter with sprigs of fresh rosemary.

Roasted Cornish Hen


Description

This roasted Cornish hen recipe delivers tender juicy chickens with golden crispy skins. Prep the hens in 10 minutes then bake. This is an easy recipe that produces savory, elegant-looking chickens.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 Cornish hen (about 1.5 pounds each)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 3/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 small onion, cut into wedges
  • 1 carrot, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 stalk celery, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1 Lemon
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary

GARNISHES: Flaky sea salt + sprigs of fresh rosemary

 


Instructions

RECIPE PREP: Preheat oven to 400°F. Rinse Cornish hens in the sink under cold running water. Pat the hens dry between paper towels.

  1. Arrange chickens on a rimmed baking tray or in a large baking dish.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the olive oil with all the dried spices: salt, thyme, garlic powder, paprika, onion powder, and ground black pepper. Drizzle the mixture onto the Cornish hens. With your hands, rub the mixture all over the hens, coating all sides equally well.  
  3. Fill the cavity of each chicken with 2 quarters of an onion, one clove of garlic, half the carrot, and half the celery. With a fork, pierce the skin of the lemon all over. Quarter the lemon with a knife. Add 2 wedges of lemon and 1 sprig rosemary to each cavity. 
  4. With kitchen twine, tie the legs together on each hen. Tuck the wings under the bird to prevent them from burning in the oven. Roast the hens for 50 to 55 minutes, or until an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the flesh (away from bones) registers 165°F. After 25 minutes of roasting, baste the hens with juices from the pan. 
  5. Remove hens from the oven. Cover pan with aluminum foil. Let the hens rest for 10 minutes. We want to allow enough time for the juices in the center to travel throughout the bird for a juicer meat experience.

HOW TO SERVE ROASTED CORNISH HEN: Garnish chickens with flaky sea salt and fresh herbs. Serve warm chickens whole or carved.

Notes

HOW TO DEFROST CORNISH HENS: See the body of post for the 2 best methods (and complete instructions) for defrosting the chickens.

HOW TO INCREASE FLAVOR AND JUICINESS: Instead of olive oil, use fresh bacon fat to increase umami flavor. Loosen the skins by tucking 2 to 3 fingers beneath the surface. Slightly lift up the skin. Spread additional spice rub on the meat beneath the skin. Slip in a pat of butter and a slice of juicy lemon to increase moisture. Add a sprig of rosemary for added flavor.

HOW TO KNOW WHEN CHICKEN IS DONE: To avoid food-borne illness, the USDA states the internal temperature must reach 165°F. Use an instant-read kitchen thermometer. Insert it into the thickest part of the breast away from bones.

  • Prep Time: 10 Minutes
  • Cook Time: 50 Minutes
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Bake
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: Roasted Cornish Hen, Baked Cornish Hens, Cornish Hen Recipe

Gold Line: Sprinkles of Inspiration | confettiandbliss.com

ROASTED CORNISH HEN > JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Have you experienced the food joy that comes from making or eating a roasted Cornish hen? Was the occasion filled with mouthwatering flavors that created a memorable dining experience? Share your thoughts on this easy baked chicken recipe. Join the conversation below!

5 thoughts on “Roasted Cornish Hen”

  1. These Cornish hens were super tasty and very succulent. I’ll definitely be making this recipe again! Thanks so much for sharing it.

    Reply
  2. I love cornish hens! Smaller and juicier and your method look so simple and foolproof. Can’t wait to try it!

    Reply
  3. These Cornish hens were amazing! The skins were so nice and crispy. I paired them with green beans and mashed potatoes.

    Reply

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