Roasted cornish game hens are easy yet elegant. Crispy skin and succulent meat with a hint of lemon and herbs are perfect for a special evening with friends or a romantic dinner for two.
Roasting a regular chicken always makes for a tasty meal but roasting cornish game hens is ideal for a special occasion. The outside of hens is perfectly seasoned with olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted over sprigs of fresh rosemary until the skin is crispy and golden brown.
These little chickens are a great alternative to standard chickens. Every guest can enjoy their own small chickens which is just so fun! Serve with a few delicious sides for a Valentine's or Christmas dinner or holiday meal that everyone will enjoy.
Roasted Cornish hens are affordable but allow you to create a rustic yet high-end presentation. This delicious one-pan meal can be served any night of the week but will also make date night extra special. This roasted cornish game hen recipe is one of the easiest fancy dinners you can make.
If you love this roasted cornish game hen recipe, try my Air Fryer Cornish Hens which are ready in about 45 minutes and are even better for weeknight cooking.
- Cornish Game Hens - This small poultry is perfect for a single serving or for two people. They are usually sold frozen and are packed individually or in a 2-pack. Look for game hens with the neck and giblets already removed.
- Salt and Pepper – Season well with kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper.
- Lemons – Slices of fresh lemon add a bright flavor to the game hens.
- Fresh Herbs – Sprigs of fresh rosemary and thyme add a nice herby flavor.
- Garlic – Fresh garlic is preferred to garlic powder although you can use garlic powder in a pinch.
- Olive Oil – Or use your favorite light, neutral flavored oil.
See recipe card for the complete ingredient list and quantities.
How to Cook Cornish Hens
- Preheat the oven and line a baking dish with slices of fresh lemon, garlic cloves and fresh herbs.
2. Dry the chickens and season them well with salt and pepper before adding to the baking dish.
3. Drizzle the outside of the hens with olive oil and spread it over the skin with your hands or a pastry brush.
4. Bake for 60-70 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F when checked with a meat thermometer.
Hint: Written as is, this recipe makes the perfect special dinner for two to four people depending on the size of your cornish hens. But it's easy to double or even triple this recipe to feed guests or a larger whole family. Be sure to use a baking dish that's large enough or use two separate baking dishes.
- Diet Friendly - This recipe is perfect for a variety of diets including gluten free, keto, and low carb.
- Seasoning - If you aren't a fan of lemon and herbs or you just want something a little different, you can swap the seasoning for poultry seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder or your favorite blend of herbs and spices.
- Butter/Ghee - You can replace the oil in this recipe with melted, cooled butter or ghee.
One thing that makes this recipe so great is that you don't need a rack. The lemon slices and fresh herbs create a natural roasting rack for these cornish hens.
When selecting a roasting pan look for one that is just big enough to hold the hens securely. Using a pan that is too small will result in soggy skin while using a pan that's too large will have your chickens sliding all over the place.
You can use a metal roasting pan or a ceramic baking dish. Cornish hens can even be roasted in throw away aluminum roasting pan in a pinch. It's a truly simple and versatile recipe.
You can store the leftover hens in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. You can leave them whole or pick of the meat off the bones.
If you plan to freeze the leftovers, we recommend that you remove the meat from the bones first. Wrap the meat tightly in freezer bags or an airtight container and use within 3 months.
You can use leftover cornish hens just as you would use leftover chicken.
- Bring the small chickens to room temperature for about 30 minutes before roasting.
- There is no need to rinse the cornish hens but they should be patted dry with paper towels.
- Season well but adjust the amount of salt and pepper to your personal preference.
- Fill the cavity of each hen with lemon wedges and fresh herbs for even more flavor.
- Use trussing string or kitchen twine to tie the legs if desired.
- Save the chicken carcass as it makes a flavorful homemade chicken broth. You can freeze the carcass if you aren't ready to use it right away. I often make noodle soup if there are enough leftovers.
Poultry should be cooked to a minimum temperature of 165 degrees F. Check the temperature with a digital instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chicken.
Cornish game hens are a small breed of chicken that are butchered at just a few weeks of age and are intended as a single serving dish. They cook quickly and are moist and flavorful. Most grocery store carry 2-packs of cornish game hens which 1-2 pounds each in size.
Cook cornish game hens at 400 degrees F. This provides enough heat to cook the chickens in about an hour and make the skins perfectly crispy.
Cornish game hens can be cooked in about an hour when cooked at 400 degrees F.
Cornish game hens cook quickly enough to serve as a weeknight dinner and are special enough for a holiday meal or romantic dinner for two. Each small chicken is the perfect amount for one person when paired with a few sides. Here are some suggestions to serve this delicious recipe with.
- Air Fryer Frozen Green Beans
- Parmesan Crusted Asparagus
- Parmesan Truffle Mini Hasselback Potatoes
- Air Fryer Baby Carrots with Honey Butter
- Roasted Acorn Squash with Maple Browned Butter from Honeybunch Hunts
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Lemon Herb Roasted Cornish Hens
- 2 Cornish game hens
- salt and pepper
- 2 lemons, sliced
- 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
- 4 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 6 cloves of garlic
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Preheat youroven to 400 degrees F. Remove any giblets from the interior of the hens and drain off any juice that may have collected inside or around the packaging. Pat the hens dry with paper towels, then season generously inside and out with salt & pepper and set aside.
- In the bottom of your baking dish, arrange the lemon slices in an even layer (it’s okay to overlap them if needed). Arrange the rosemary and thyme by scattering them around and over the lemon slices. Peel and discard the garlic skins and smash the garlic cloves with the side of a knife. Place the smashed garlic scattered over the lemon slices and herbs
- Arrange the seasoned Cornish hens over the lemons, herbs, and garlic, breasts facing upward. Drizzle the olive oil over the hens, and gently massage it evenly over the skin with clean hands or a basting brush.
- Place the baking dish into the preheated oven and roast for 60-70 minutes, basting about halfway through with the pan juices. After about an hour of roasting, insert a meat thermometer into the breast of the hens. When the internal temperature reaches at least 165 degrees F and the juices run clear, remove the hens from the oven.
- Tent the hens loosely with aluminum foil and allow the hens to rest for 5-10 minutes so the juices can meld, then serve with your favorite side dishes and enjoy!
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