Air Fryer Cornish Hen is a gourmet meal that requires only a few ingredients and cooks in 45 minutes. This Cornish game hen recipe results in super crispy skin on the outside and juicy tender poultry on the inside.
If you are looking for an easy dinner recipe, these Cornish game hens are elegant but easy to prepare and perfect for a special occasion dinner party. Follow the simple steps for a quick Thanksgiving or holiday dinner, a meal perfect for serving guests or something warm and comforting any night of the week.
What are Cornish Game Hens?
Cornish game hens are a smaller breed of poultry that usually weigh 1 to 2 pounds and look like miniature chickens. They taste like regular chicken and the smaller size makes it a great option to serve 1 to 2 people for a gourmet weeknight dinner.
Because they are under two pounds, these small chickens cook much more quickly than a whole roasted chicken. It is easy to divide one in half with a cleaver after cooking making it a perfect size to serve on a dinner plate. This easy air fryer recipe yields tender meat and is perfect for special occasions. It's one of my favorites for serving dinner guests.
Even though they are called game hens, they are not game birds and do not have a gamey taste. The juicy meat is like enjoying mini rotisserie chickens.
While I do occasionally see fresh Cornish hens, most grocery stores sell frozen ones. Make sure to defrost a frozen hen overnight in the refrigerator before cooking.
I love this air fryer method of cooking a Cornish hen. They cook in about 45 minutes and the skin gets a deep golden brown while the inside stays juicy.
If you would rather roast your Cornish Hens in the oven, check out my recipe for Lemon Herb Roasted Cornish Hens.
- Cornish Game Hens - Cornish hens are usually available in 2 packs and are typically between 1 and 2 pounds each.
- Olive Oil – Use your favorite light, neutral-flavored oil.
- Seasoning – A general poultry or chicken seasoning adds lots of flavor and helps the chicken to brown. You will also want to use salt and pepper to taste. You can always change things us and use your favorite seasonings or fresh herbs.
See the recipe card for full details, exact cooking time and ingredients.
How To Cook Cornish Hens in an Air Fryer
- Preheat air fryer to 375 degrees F if necessary. Lightly brush or spray the air fryer basket or racks with the oil. Remove any giblets from the Cornish hens and rinse them inside and out. Pat dry with paper towels.
- Rub the cornish hens with olive oil and sprinkle seasoning, salt and pepper all over and lightly rub to coat. For best results, place the hens breast side down on the cooking rack.
- Cook the Cornish hens for 30 minutes then flip and cook until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F when checked with a meat thermometer. This will take about 10-15 additional minutes and the skin should be crispy.
- Rest the hens for 10 minutes. Cutting in half and season with extra salt and pepper to taste if necessary. Serve with your favorite side dishes.
I brush the outside of the hens with a bit of olive oil and some seasoning. I can fit 2 Cornish hens inside my air fryer which is just perfect to serve 4 people. If you have a smaller air fryer, you might obly be able to do one at a time but this is a perfect meal for two people.
Top Cooking Tip: It is a good idea to check your poultry at the end of cooking with a digital thermometer. The internal temperature of the hens should be at 165 degrees. If you do not have a thermometer, they are cooked when the wing slightly gives from the body of the hen when pulled, the skin is golden brown and the juices run clear.
Seasoning for your Air Fryer Cornish hens
I always keep an all purpose chicken seasoning in my pantry and use it for all poultry. My favorites are this rotisserie chicken seasoning or Montreal chicken seasoning. Both of these seasonings include salt so there is no extra salt needed.
If you wanted to, you could use your favorite seasoning, make your own or just season the Cornish hen with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Italian seasoning and lemon pepper seasoning are also good options. I use one to two tablespoons of seasoning for two hens depending on the size of them.
While the typical size is two pounds or under, they can vary a bit so use just enough seasoning to lightly coat your birds. You can always add some extra salt and pepper to taste before serving.
Side dishes to serve with this Cornish hen recipe
This recipe can easily be served with some roasted or steamed vegetables to make dinner super simple. But if you'd like some more recipe ideas, here you go:
- Roasted Cranberry Glazed Brussels Sprouts
- Butternut Squash and Mushroom Risotto
- Roasted Asparagus with Lemon Zest
- Mini Parmesan Truffle Hasselback Potatoes
- Spinach Salad with Grapes, Blue Cheese and Almonds
- Easy Crockpot Cornbread Dressing via Restless Chipotle
Leftover Air Fryer Cornish Hen
I can't say that I always have leftovers as I have a hungry teenage boy living in my house who loves cornish hen cooked in the air fryer. But he is about to go away to college and sometimes I cook dinner for just my husband and me. But I still cook 2 hens as I like to make an extra. Leftover cornish hens can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge and reheated in the air fryer or oven. Use the leftovers just as you would use leftover roasted chicken. It is perfect to make Buffalo Chicken Flatbread or Chicken, Mango and Avocado Salad.
Air Fryer Cooking Tips
- Preheat your air fryer if necessary. Read your manual instructions as some air fryers need to be preheated while others do not.
- It is a good idea to coat the grates of your air fryer racks or basket with some sort of oil or cooking spray. It will insure that food does not stick. Spray oils are best as some commercial cooking sprays can ruin the finish on racks and baskets.
- Don't overcrowd. In order for food to cook evenly, it should be slightly spread out.
- A good instant thermometer helps insure that meat, poultry and fish are cooked thoroughly.
- For better browning, rotate the basket or racks halfway through cooking.
- The cook time can vary based on your brand of air fryer. You may also need to adjust cooking times depending on the size of your Cornish game hens.
Check out my Cornish Hen webstory to see how easy it is to cook!
Two cornish hens take me 45 minutes to cook in my air fryer. Give or take a few minutes depending on the size of your Cornish hens. Also it could take a few minutes less if you are only cooking one bird.
I cook my hens at 375 degrees in my air fryer for crispy skin and juicy meat. My air fryer does not need to be preheated but check your manual to see if yours does.
There is no need to rinse them but I like to pat mine dry with a paper towel. This removes all moisture and allows for a crispy skin.
You can but I don't recommend it. Hens are best defrosted in the refrigerator overnight then cooked. A frozen hen will take longer to cook plus there will be a lot of juice and the skin will not get crispy like it would when cooking a defrosted hen.
More Air Fryer Recipes
- Air Fryer Baked Potatoes with Seasoned Sour Cream
- Air Fryer Chicken Legs
- Crispy Air Fryer Chicken Wings
- Air Fried Tofu via Souffle Bombay
- Air Fryer Cajun Salmon
- Air Fryer Baby Carrots with Honey Butter
- Air Fryer Lamb Chops
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Air Fryer Cornish Hens
- 2 Cornish Hens (see note on size)
- 1 to 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 to 2 tablespoon poultry or chicken seasoning
- extra salt and pepper to taste
- Grease the air fryer racks or baskets with the oil. Remove any giblets from the Cornish hens and rinse the inside of them. Pat the Cornish hens dry with paper towels. Preheat air fryer to 375 degrees if necessary.
- Rub the cornish hens with olive oil and sprinkle seasoning all over and lightly rub to coat. Place the hens breast side down on the cooking rack.
- Cook the Cornish hens for 30 minutes then flip and cook for an additional 10 to 15 minutes or until internal temperature is 165 degrees and skin is crispy. (see note)
- Rest the hens for 10 minutes before cutting in half. Season with extra salt and pepper to taste if necessary.