Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Cornish Game Hens on the Rotisserie

Alright, now that you’ve seen my outrageous baking skills, it’s time get back outside to the grill.

I know it's hard to believe, but this actually tasted much better than it looked.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I made my wife Tuscan style Cornish game hens on the rotisserie for Valentine’s Day.  What’s great about Cornish game hens is that they lend themselves to be easily cooked whole, which minimizes the amount of prep work needed to pull off a great meal.

Lucky for me, I’ve found a market that carries fresh Cornish game hens.  That’s right, these are fresh, not frozen.  It says it right there on the plastic.  And at $4 a pop, it’s hard not to eat these delicate birds all the time.  Don’t worry if you can only find them frozen, they’re delicious either way.

We’ll be using another one of The Prophet’s recipes from his book, “Barbecue! Bible: Sauces, Rubs, and Marinades, Bastes, Butters, and Glazes."  He calls this one his “Fresh Tuscan Rosemary Wet Rub” and it’s awesome. 

Here’s what you’ll need:

2 Cornish game hens
¼ cup fresh rosemary leaves
¼ cup fresh parsley leaves
2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves
4 fresh sage leaves
2 cloves garlic, minced*
2 tablespoons coarse salt**
2 tablespoons cracked black pepper
½ cup olive oil

The Prophet knows how good his stuff is, so I'm required to say the following: Recipe from Barbecue! Bible: Sauces, Rubs, and Marinades, Bastes, Butters, and Glazes by Steven Raichlen.  Copyright 2000 by Steven Raichlen.  All rights reserved.  Used by permission of Workman Publishing.

You will also need some butcher’s twine if you plan on using a rotisserie.

*I added 3 cloves of garlic, just because I really love garlic on chicken.
**You might consider reducing the salt content down to maybe 1-1.5 tablespoons.  It’s delicious as is, but a few bites will be pretty salty.

Here are The Prophet’s instructions:

“Finely chop the rosemary, parsley, oregano, sage, and garlic together.  Transfer to a bowl and stir in the salt, pepper, and oil.  Or chop the herbs, garlic, salt, and pepper in a food processor, then work in the olive oil.  This rub tastes best used the day it’s made.  Cover and refrigerate until using.”

I decided to use the new food processor we got for Christmas.  It made quick work of garlic and herbs. 

Now, on to the hens.  As I mentioned in my previous post, I realize that you might not have a rotisserie.  That’s not a problem.  I’m going to cover how you can grill these birds whole without the rotisserie by using a method called spatchcocking.

First, we’ll cover the rotisserie method.

Rinse the birds off and pat them dry with paper towels.  Very carefully separate the skin from the breast meat by sliding your finger under the skin.  Cornish game hens are very delicate, so be careful not to tear the skin.

Take a spoonful of the wet rub and pour it down underneath the skin on both sides of the breast.  Gently rub the mixture throughout the breast meat.  Repeat again with the other bird.

Place the birds in a large zip-top bag and pour in the remaining wet rub.  Remove as much air as possible from the bag before sealing it.  Then massage the birds and evenly distribute the wet rub.

Marinade in the fridge for anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours.  The longer, the better.

After the birds are done marinating, preheat your grill for indirect grilling at 350 degrees.  Check out my Beer Can Chicken post for more detailed instructions. 

Remove the birds from the bag and onto a plastic cutting board with your rotisserie equipment.  Truss the birds and secure them onto the spit.

Don’t know how to truss a chicken?  Don’t worry, I’ve embedded this video to show you how.  I would show you pictures of me doing it, but I’m not very good and I’ve found that videos are way more helpful than still shots when it comes to situations requiring butcher’s twine.

While this is a very simple way to truss a chicken, there is a more traditional method that you can learn how to do here.

Place the spit over the heat and let the birds spin for 40 minutes.

Once the 40 minutes have passed, get out your meat thermometer and check the temperature.  We are looking for 165 degrees in the breast.  As soon as it hits 165 degrees on both birds, take them off the heat.

Let the birds rest for 10 minutes and then remove them from the spit.  Cut off the twine and serve with pretty much anything.  Now you're ready for your Valentine's dinner... unless you don't have a rotisserie.

If you don't have a rotisserie, check in later on how to spatchcock a Cornish game hen.  It tastes just as good and might even look better on the plate!


  1. This was the BEST chicken I've ever had in my life!! Thank you!

    1. You're welcome! It's flavors like this that keep me grilling.

  2. We made this marinade and followed your instructions. Outstanding. Definitely making this again.

  3. This recipe was perfect. I recommend 100%

  4. My mouth is watering? I love rotisserie poultry but have a problem finding chickens or turkey breasts small enough to turn without hitting the burners. Cornish hens are the answer! This is on the menu for Mother's Day weekend and the marinade looks to die for! Thanks!

    1. Thanks so much! I'm with you on the big chickens. Isn't it funny how so many recipes call for a 3.5 lb chicken? I don't think I've ever actually seen one at the store.