Smoked Cornish hens take poultry dishes to a whole new level. These small 1-2-pound chickens are perfect for individual servings. And when marinated in a medley of savory spices, their natural flavors are taken to new heights. To smoke Cornish hens, you slowly cook them over smoky coals or in a smoker until it reaches the safe internal temperature. The Cornish hens, in this process, absorb the sweet essence of the wood, creating an extraordinary symphony of taste.
Since I learned about their low cholesterol levels in cooking school, I’ve become obsessed with smoked Cornish hens. They’re my go-to choice for chicken recipes when I don’t have a big crowd to feed. And now, they’ve become a staple at my poultry cookouts. Today, I’ll show you how I do justice to them on my pellet grill.
Check out how I make my smoked Cornish game hens. I’m using two Cornish game hens here, which should serve two to four persons at the table. Feel free to adjust your own smoked Cornish game hens recipe according to your serving size.
To make smoked Cornish game hens, I like to start by patting the Cornish hens dry with paper towel. Then, it’s spatchcocking time. This is a common procedure for my smoked chicken. That means cutting through the middle and pressing them down to flatten them out. If you’re feeling fancy, you can remove the backbone too.
Now it’s time to add some flavor to the first Cornish hen. Take half cup of Da Kine Hawaiian Hot Sauce (or regular mustard) and brush it over the bird. This will act as a binder to hold the seasoning in place. Then, generously sprinkle one tablespoon of Traeger Original Rub and one tablespoon of Traeger Spicy Rub on both sides of the entire Cornish hen. Make sure to really work that dry rub into the meat for maximum flavor.
We are moving on to the second hen! Instead of hot sauce, grab a bottle of olive oil and use it as a binder by brushing it all over the bird. Then, season the second Cornish game hen with one tablespoon of the Traeger Original Rub and one tablespoon of the Spicy Rub on both sides. Make sure that the dry rub gets evenly distributed for a tasty result.
Now that your hens are seasoned, it’s time to let them marinate. You may also otherwise use a brine solution and make them soak up all those delicious flavors. Pop each Cornish hen into a ziplock bag with the marinade or brine solution. Now seal it up, and throw them in the fridge overnight. This gives the seasonings a chance to work their magic.
It’s go time! Fire up your Traeger grill and preheat it to 225 degrees Fahrenheit. We want that smoker to be nice and toasty for our hens. For me, Hickory wood pellets go well with this recipe. But you know what they say about taste? It varies from person to person. So, be free to use any of your favorite wood pellets.
Take the hens out of their ziplock bags and give them a good coating of the remaining rub from the previous day. Make sure to cover every nook and cranny with that tasty seasoning.
Now comes the fun part-time to smoke those hens! Place Cornish hens on the preheated grill and let them smoke at 225 degrees Fahrenheit for 2 hours. If your grill has a super-smoke setting like the Traeger Ironwood Grill, lucky you! Use it and smoke for one hour. Otherwise, keep on smoking for the entire 2 hours.
Once the smoking time is up, it’s time to add some saucy goodness. Grab that Mustard Hot Sauce seasoned Cornish hen and brush on some delicious Hawaiian Barbecue Sauce. As for the other hen, keep it dry rub only; no sauce needed.
Time to turn up the heat! Increase the grill temperature to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. We’re getting the smoked Cornish hens closer to crispy perfection now.
As the hens sizzle away, keep an eye on the internal temperature. Once it reaches around 145 degrees Fahrenheit of internal temperature, start basting the Cornish hen with the barbecue sauce. Let it cook until the internal temperature reaches the USDA-recommended 165 degrees Fahrenheit on a meat thermometer. This is when you can be sure that your poultry is cooked through for safe and delicious eating.
Take those delicious cooked hens off the pellet smoker and rest for a few minutes. This allows the juices to redistribute, resulting in tender and succulent meat. Now it’s time to carve and serve each smoked Cornish hen!
Now, that’s how to smoke Cornish game hens. Enjoy every juicy bite, and if you want a visual guide for smoked Cornish game hens, check out this awesome video:
When smoking Cornish hens, I recommend you cook them with the breast side up. Why, you ask? Well, when you cook Cornish hens breast side up, the heat penetrates the meat evenly. This helps to keep the breast meat moist and tender. Plus, it gives the hens a beautiful presentation when you’re ready to serve them.
Now, some folks argue that cooking them breast side down allows the juices to flow into the breast meat, making it even more succulent. While this can be true, it may also result in the skin on the breast side not getting as crispy. Ultimately, the choice is yours, and you can experiment with both methods to see which one you prefer.
If you go with the breast side up, you can continually baste the hens during cooking to ensure they stay moist and flavorful. And if you’re looking for extra crispy skin, you can finish them off with a quick blast of high heat or even give them a few minutes under the broiler.
When you first heard of “Cornish hens,” you probably had this image of some rare breed of chicken that only roamed the hills of Cornwall in England. Huh? Turns out it’s not quite like that.
So, what are Cornish hens? Well, they’re just dark red and black young chickens, usually about five to six weeks old. These English heritage breeds of broiler chickens are known for their large proportion of lean white meat. Also known as Indian game, they’re a smaller version of regular chickens, which makes them perfect for individual servings.
But don’t let the name fool you. They can be either males or females. This means many Cornish hens aren’t actually hens!
However, what’s unique about these chickens is that they have a texture that is more tender and leaner than regular chickens.
First, these are not actually game birds, despite the name. Instead, they are a small variety of chicken; a crossbreed between Cornish chickens and another type of bird called white rock chicken. This is why they’re also called rock Cornish game hens. This cross-breeding would then give the chicken that tender and tasty meat.
The name “Cornish” actually comes from the region in England called Cornwall. The story goes like this:
Back in the 1950s, a poultry farmer in Connecticut named Jacques Makowsky decided to crossbreed a Cornish chicken with a White Plymouth Rock chicken. The result was a hybrid chicken that grew rapidly and had a lot of meat on its bones. These hybrid chickens were then marketed as “Cornish game hens” to make them sound fancy and sophisticated. And the name stuck!
Cornish game hens are often considered a delicacy and are commonly served individually as a single serving. Due to their small size, they cook quickly and are famous for special occasions or elegant dinners.
Now, you might wonder why someone would choose to cook a Cornish game hen instead of a regular broiler chicken. Well, there are a few reasons.
Smoked Cornish hens are more than just a meal – they’re an experience that adds a touch of sophistication to any dining occasion. With their individual portion sizes, they help me create an elegant presentation that surely impresses my guests. But it’s not just about looks – smoked Cornish hens deliver on taste too. Their tender, juicy meat and rich flavor are a delight to the smell and taste senses. Whether you stuff these small chickens with your favorite ingredients or season them to perfection, Cornish game hens offer a culinary adventure that will satisfy even the most discerning palate.
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