Grilled Cornish Game Hens

Grilled Cornish Game Hens

Susie Cushner / Getty Images

Prep: 30 mins
Cook: 45 mins
Total: 75 mins
Servings: 2 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
2115 Calories
160g Fat
10g Carbs
153g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 2
Amount per serving
Calories 2115
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 160g 205%
Saturated Fat 40g 198%
Cholesterol 891mg 297%
Sodium 2780mg 121%
Total Carbohydrate 10g 4%
Dietary Fiber 3g 10%
Total Sugars 1g
Protein 153g
Vitamin C 14mg 71%
Calcium 152mg 12%
Iron 8mg 42%
Potassium 1836mg 39%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Cornish hen is the perfect poultry for a dinner for two when you don’t want to cook a whole chicken. And it’s special enough for a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner as a stand-in for turkey, or for a romantic dinner on Valentine’s day. Cornish hens also cook much faster than chicken and you’ll have a gourmet dinner on the table in minimum time. 

Roasting is the preferred way to prepare Cornish hen but it it by far not the only method to prepare this tasty miniature bird. In this recipe the Cornish game hens are marinated overnight and then grilled. 

For grilling, you have two options. You can cook the Cornish hens on the grill, which requires butterflying them. Place them flat on the grill so all parts cook evenly. Or, you can place them on a rotisserie over the grill, which does not require butterflying because the skewered bird is regularly turned over the heat.

Cornish hens have fatty skin, which makes them great for grilling as the skin naturally bastes the meat and keeps it moist during cooking while it becomes deliciously crispy. 

The marinade is deceivingly simple. If you are short on time, three hours marinating time will do but if you can give it the full eight hours, the flavor will be even better. 

Because Cornish hens take only about 45 minutes to cook, time your side dishes accordingly.


  • 2 (1- to 1 1/2-pound) Cornish game hens

For the Marinade:

  • 1/3 cup olive oil

  • 1/2 cup lemon juice

  • 1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper

  • 2 teaspoons salt

  • 2 teaspoons onion powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

  • 4 sprigsfresh rosemary, soaked in water 30 minutes

Steps to Make It

  1. Split Cornish game hens lengthwise. Rinse hen halves; pat dry with a paper towel.

  2. For marinade, in a medium plastic or glass bowl combine all remaining ingredients, except rosemary. Divide marinade in half, reserving half of the mixture to baste hens during the cooking process. 

  3. Place hens in a large plastic bag. Pour half of the marinade over the hens. Release excess air from bag and seal. Place into refrigerator and allow hens to marinate for 3 to 8 hours. 

  4. Preheat grill. Just before grilling, add rosemary sprigs to the coals or place in a smoker box.

  5. Remove hens from marinade and place, skin side up, on grill rack. Discard marinade. Cover grill and cook for 45 minutes or until hens test done (an internal temperature of 165 F), basting with reserved half of marinade for the first 30 to 35 minutes of cook time.

  6. Once hens are cooked through, remove from heat and serve with your favorite sides.