Roasted Cornish Game Hens: A Festive Dish for Special Occasions

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Roasted Cornish game hens are a delightful and elegant dish that brings a touch of luxury to any dining experience. These small birds are perfect for serving individual portions, making them ideal for dinner parties or holiday gatherings. In this article, we’ll explore the appeal of roasted Cornish game hens, discuss essential ingredients and techniques for preparing them, and provide a step-by-step recipe to create this delicious dish in your own kitchen.

The Appeal of Roasted Cornish Game Hens

Cornish game hens are miniature chickens known for their tender and succulent meat. Roasting them whole not only enhances their natural flavors but also allows for impressive presentation at the dining table. They are often stuffed with aromatics and herbs, which infuse the meat with additional layers of flavor. Roasted Cornish game hens are a favorite for special occasions, offering a luxurious dining experience without the complexity of a larger roast.

Ingredients for Roasted Cornish Game Hens

To prepare roasted Cornish game hens, gather the following ingredients:

For the Cornish Game Hens:

  • 4 Cornish game hens (about 1 to 1.5 pounds each)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 sprigs of fresh thyme (or other herbs like rosemary or sage), plus extra for garnish
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 1 lemon, quartered

For the Roasting Pan:

  • 1 onion, peeled and quartered
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 2 celery stalks, cut into chunks
  • 1 cup chicken broth (or white wine for additional flavor)

Preparation Steps

1. Preparing the Cornish Game Hens:

  • Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C).
  • Remove the giblets from the cavity of each Cornish game hen and pat dry with paper towels.
  • Season the inside and outside of each hen generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

2. Stuffing and Trussing the Hens:

  • Place a sprig of fresh thyme (or other herbs) and a crushed garlic clove inside the cavity of each Cornish game hen.
  • Rub the softened butter all over the outside of each hen, ensuring they are evenly coated.
  • Optionally, tie the legs of each hen together with kitchen twine to help them cook evenly and maintain their shape.

3. Roasting the Cornish Game Hens:

  • In a roasting pan, arrange the quartered onion, carrots, and celery as a bed for the hens.
  • Place the seasoned Cornish game hens breast-side up on top of the vegetables in the roasting pan.
  • Squeeze the lemon quarters over the hens and place the squeezed lemon quarters in the pan around the hens.
  • Pour the chicken broth (or white wine) into the roasting pan, around the vegetables but not over the hens.

4. Roasting Process:

  • Transfer the roasting pan to the preheated oven and roast the Cornish game hens for about 45-60 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F (74°C) when measured with a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh.
  • Baste the hens with the pan juices halfway through roasting to keep them moist and flavorful.

5. Serving Roasted Cornish Game Hens:

  • Once cooked through, remove the roasting pan from the oven and let the hens rest for 10 minutes before serving.
  • Garnish with additional fresh thyme or other herbs and serve the roasted Cornish game hens with the roasted vegetables and pan juices on the side.

Tips for Cooking and Serving

  • Herb Variations: Experiment with different herbs and spices to customize the flavor of the hens. Rosemary, sage, or a blend of herbs can add complexity to the dish.
  • Side Dish Suggestions: Roasted Cornish game hens pair well with a variety of sides such as roasted potatoes, wild rice pilaf, or a fresh green salad.
  • Presentation: To impress your guests, consider placing each roasted Cornish game hen on individual serving plates with a garnish of fresh herbs and lemon wedges.

Wine Pairing

Roasted Cornish game hens complement a wide range of wines, including Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, or a crisp Sauvignon Blanc. These wines enhance the flavors of the roasted hens and add a touch of sophistication to the dining experience.


Roasted Cornish game hens are a luxurious and flavorful dish that elevates any special occasion or holiday meal. By following this recipe and mastering the art of roasting Cornish game hens, you can create a memorable dining experience for your family and friends. Whether you’re celebrating a festive gathering or simply craving a delicious meal, roasted Cornish game hens promise to impress with their tender meat, aromatic herbs, and savory pan juices. Enjoy the culinary adventure of roasting Cornish game hens, savoring each bite of this elegant and delightful dish.

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Written by Robert Zelesky

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