There’s something about the simplicity of oven roasted Cornish hens that are timeless. These little hens are perfect as individual portions for a festive dinner party, holidays, or special occasions when you don’t want to worry about cooking larger cuts of meats all day.
If you’re looking to impress your dinner guests with a gourmet meal that’s both elegant and filled with great flavor, oven roasted Cornish hens are the perfect choice. These petite poultry delights are not only visually stunning but also packed with flavor.
With their succulent meat and crispy skin, Cornish hens make for an impressive main course that’ll have everyone raving. Whether you’re hosting a special occasion, a small Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner, or simply want to elevate your weeknight dinner, this easy but delicious recipe is one you’ll love.
The Cut: What is a Cornish Game Hen?
A game hen is a small breed of chicken, about one to two pounds, making them ideal for individual portions when you want a little more pop on the plate than a regular chicken. These are the perfect little birds for when you want to keep the holiday meal small. Whether it’s a Christmas Dinner or a Thanksgiving feast where roasting a turkey for a large group isn’t what you need, roasted Cornish game hens are perfect. They are also perfect if you really want to make a statement at a dinner party, as you could roast six to ten in your oven due to their small size.
You can find Cornish game hens at most local grocery stores, often in the frozen meat department. These small chickens often come in packs of twos. We find them in the middle freezers in stock as the holiday season approaches near frozen turkeys or ducks.
What you’ll love about this recipe is how simple it is. Nothing fancy, just some pantry staples, and this one pan meal comes together as a great alternative to bigger roasts.
- Game Hens – estimate one per person since these are only 1-2 pounds total
- Oil – olive oil or your favorite neutral cooking oil like avocado oil
- Herb-forward spice rub, like Italian Seasoning, GirlCarnivore Chick Fest, or your favorite poultry seasoning blend.
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Whole heads of Garlic
- White wine
How to Cook Cornish Hens in the Oven
- Start by removing the little hens from their packages and pat them dry with paper towels. Make sure to dry out the cavity of each hen, too. Preheat the oven temperature to 375 degrees F.
- Rub the whole chicken with a little oil and season all sides with the spices and a liberal coating of salt. Truss the legs by tying them together with kitchen twine.
- Arrange lemon wedges, diced onion, and celery in the bottom of a roasting pan, Dutch oven, or cast iron skillet. Remove just the top quarter of the garlic, exposing the bulbs. Rub the garlic with oil and add them to the pan as well. Add a little white wine to the bottom of the pan.
- Place the hens atop the veggies and transfer the dish to the oven. Roast for about one hour, uncovered so the birds get a nice golden brown color, and the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F with a digital meat thermometer. If the roast cornish hens haven’t picked up enough color, remove them from the oven and adjust the temperature to broil. Add the roasting pan back to the oven, allowing the skin to crisp up and get golden brown.
- Carefully transfer the roast hens to a cutting board and tent with foil. Let them rest for 10 minutes before serving. Serve one bird per person on a large dinner plate with a sprinkle of salt and pepper and the roasted vegetables alongside.
Girl Carnivore Expert Recipe Tips
You can make a delicious sauce from the pan drippings. Discard the veggies and add a little chicken broth. Place the pan over a burner set to medium-high heat and, using a wooden spoon, scrape up any browned bits and let the sauce simmer. Add in fresh herbs and remove the pan from the heat; stir in 3 to 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter to make the sauce rich and creamy. Add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, if needed. Spoon it over the birds and delicious sides when serving.
What to serve with these game hens
Pair these little game hens with your favorite comforting side dishes. This is a classic Sunday dinner that needs creamy mashed potatoes or risotto, roasted green beans, or Brussels sprouts au gratin to balance out the meal.
These roasted Cornish hens should be paired with a mild wine. They can go with a dry Chardonnay or even a light Pinot Noir.
Leftovers and Reheating
Store leftovers wrapped tightly in foil in the fridge for up to 3 days. To reheat, preheat the oven to 325°F and place the hens, still wrapped in foil, on a baking sheet and bake until reheated, about 10 to 20 minutes.
Alternatively, pick the meat from the bones and store it in an airtight container in the fridge for three days. Use the leftover chicken meat in any dish that calls for chicken, like hot brown sandwiches, burritos, soups, or salads.
This juicy, aromatic oven roasted Cornish hens recipe makes for an easy yet impressive meal for your dinner party or special date night. Roast up a batch using this simple technique for perfectly cooked game hens bursting with flavor.
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Oven Roasted Cornish Hens
- 4 Cornish Game Hens
- 1 – 2 tbsp oil olive or neutral cooking oil
- 1 – 2 tbsp Italian spices or Girl Carnivore Chick Fest poultry blend.
- 1 tsp Kosher salt
- 2 Lemons sliced into halves or quarters
- 1 Onion roughly chopped into wedges
- 3 Celery stalks chopped
- 2 heads of Garlic
- fresh parsley sage and rosemary
- 1/2 cup White wine
- Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
Prep the Game Hens
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- Remove the 4 Cornish Game Hens from their package and pat them dry inside and out.
- Rub the Cornish hens all over with 1 – 2 tbsp oil and sprinkle with a liberal coating of the 1 – 2 tbsp Italian spices and 1 tsp Kosher salt, making sure to season inside the cavity and under the skin as well.
- Secure the legs by tying them together with butcher’s twine.
- Place the 2 Lemons, 1 Onion, and 3 Celery stalks in a roasting pan or cast iron skillet.
- Carefully cut the top of the 2 heads of Garlic off, exposing the bulbs.
- Rub the garlic with oil and nestle into the vegetables along with the fresh parsley, sage, and rosemary.
- Add the 1/2 cup White wine to the bottom of the pan and nestle the game hens atop the veggies.
Roast the Cornish Hens
- Transfer the pan to the oven and roast for about 1 hour, uncovered, until the skin gets golden brown and the internal temperature reaches 165°F at the thickest part of the breast.
Rest and Serve
- Carefully transfer the roast hens to a cutting board and tent with foil.
- Rest for 10 minutes before serving.
- Serve one bird per person on a large dinner plate with a sprinkle of salt and Pinch of freshly ground black pepper and the roasted veggies alongside.
- If the roast cornish hens haven’t picked up enough color, remove them from the oven and adjust the temperature to broil. Add the roasting pan back to the oven, allowing the skin to crisp up and get golden brown.
- You can make a delicious sauce from the drippings in the pan. Discard the veggies and add a little chicken broth. Place the pan over a burner set to medium-high heat and, using a wooden spoon, scrape up any browned bits and let the sauce simmer. Add in fresh herbs and remove the pan from the heat; stir in 3 to 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter to make the sauce rich and creamy. Add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, if needed. Spoon it over the birds and delicious sides when serving.