Cornish game hen is the classic dinner hack for creating the perfect blend of class and style with a hearty meal. With it, you get the deliciousness of an entire chicken dish, plus half the requirements and all of the presentation. It’s no wonder Cornish hens are a regular feature at intimate events and occasions, and even holidays like St. Patrick’s and Valentine’s day.
But though Cornish hens cook just like every other chicken, you still need to understand some facts, especially when preparing them at a specific temperature. For cooking Cornish hens at 400°F, you need to follow particular guidelines to ensure the taste and texture come out just right.
Cornish game hen cooking tips
The title, Cornish hen, called Cornish game hen or Rock Cornish game hen, is given to any young chicken less than five weeks old and around no more than two pounds in weight. As such, any chicken can qualify as a Cornish hen so long as it meets the criteria. Breeding chickens for Cornish hens means they require special care and attention, and as such, they tend to be costlier than regular chickens. It’s why Cornish hens are usually reserved for special occasions like dinner dates, Christmas sit-downs, and others.
When cooking Cornish hens, you use the exact basic directions as you would for chicken. For a typical recipe, what you’ll need to do is;
- Feed pocket in the hen breast with seasoning mix or a marinade. This move adds more flavor to the meat as it roasts.
- Generously marinade or season the rest of the hen and leave it to sit.
- Roast in the oven.
- Rest for 10 minutes in an aluminum foil tent.
Cornish game hen oven cooking time at 400F
Cooking Cornish hen at 400°F means you need to stick to a proper time; otherwise, the meat would come out softer than expected. And like regular chicken, you stand the risk of overcooking it, especially at such a high temperature. For this reason, your Cornish game hen should be allowed to cook for no more than 30 to 45 minutes — or whenever the thickest thigh reaches 165 to 180°F and the juice runs clear, instead of pinkish.
At the lower temperature of 375F, cornish game hens take slightly longer to cook. See an example in Family Around the Table’s Rosemary Roasted Cornish Hens recipe.
Take a look at this recipe example, for instance, and get a better grasp of how this cooking time works.Print
- 2 Cornish hens, 1¼ pound each
- Two tablespoons olive oil
- Two tablespoons chopped thyme
- Two tablespoons lemon pepper
- Two tablespoons chopped parsley
- One tablespoon salt, kosher
- One lemon halved
- Eight thyme sprigs
- Turn the oven to 400°F and let it preheat. Next, clean out the cavity of the Cornish hens and insert half a lemon and three thyme sprigs in each space.
- Loosen the skin from the breasts carefully so as not to tear it off. Then, insert the thyme and parsley under the loose skin. Rub olive oil over the hens and season with salt and pepper.
- Set the hens on a roasting pan and toss in the oven. Cook for up to 45 minutes until the juice runs clear. Also, make sure the thickest part (thigh, mostly) reads 145 to 180°F on the thermometer.
- Once it’s ready, take the hens out and leave them to sit for 10 minutes. Then, serve with thyme sprigs as garnish.
Also, check out this fantastic video recipe for more information about cooking Cornish hens at 400°F.