WTF do you do with a Cornish game hen?

Every time I walk down the frozen meats aisle in the grocery store I see this cute little vacuum-sealed Cornish game hens. They seem like they should be so simple to cook and prepare — after all, they’re so cute and tiny, and certainly a pre-plucked, pre-cleaned bird sealed in plastic should be as easy to develop flavor in as, say, turkey, right?

Clearly, not all poultry is created equally.

Most of the time I’m not averse to using a recipe when cooking a protein for the first time, but for some reason I feel the need to just wing it with these petite birds (that’s a bad pun, I’m sorry).

That hasn’t worked so far. Cornish game hens are supposed to be something special, right? Growing up people always talked about Cornish game hens like they were a delicacy, so I figured they should come pre-packaged with flavor, right? Wrong.

This trial was at least worth blogging about. Overall I’d give the end result a B-minus, but I know it can be expanded on.

So before I share the recipe, here’s how I’d improve it first:

  • Get as much browning on the chicken in the first place as possible. You need the Maillard reaction to break down protein chains into short-enough strings for your tongue to process. This time I didn’t brown the bird enough before putting the whole she-bang into the oven.
  • Stuff something under the skin. I like sliced garlic and butter, so I’ll try that next time.
  • If you don’t do either of those, brine the bird. Not really worth the effort for a Monday evening meal, unfortunately.

So here’s what I used:

  • 1 Cornish game hen (about a pound)
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • Equal parts diced carrots, potatoes (I threw some whole young potatoes in the pot as well) and onion. Sprinkle 1 tsp of oregano, 1 tsp of thyme and 1 tsp dill over the veggies after you’ve cut them up.
  • 3 Turkish bay leaves

And here’s what I did:

  • Rinse out the cavity of the bird, then stuff the cloves of garlic inside it.
  • Preheat your oven to 375 and put your Le Creuset or similar stove-to-oven vessel on the oven. Heat up a few tablespoons of olive oil in it.
  • Brown all sides of the bird (like I mentioned above, get it good and browned to develop flavor).
  • Mix in your diced veggies, place your three bay leaves on the top of the mix (or should the bay leaves be mixed in with everything else? Try it and let me know — just make sure you pull them out before serving).
  • Bake in the oven at 375 for 45 minutes.

I cut the bird in half to serve. When I get around to trying Cornish game hen again, and if the results are better, I’ll share the recipe.

In the meantime, if you can figure out how to make my recipe better (which shouldn’t be too hard) or have a great preparation of Cornish game hen to share, please do. You can e-mail me at or find me on Twitter at

Related posts:

  1. Dinner for four
  2. Plank Grilling
  3. Homemade pizza

About the Author

Owner of a graphic design firm specializing in magazine design and wannabe chef. Former resident of Belgium, the United Kingdom and...North Dakota.