Grilled Split Cornish Game Hens are marinated in a Moroccan Spice Rub and grilled to perfection in just under 30 minutes. Delicious crispy skin with juicy tender Cornish hen served on top of our Vegan Chickpea Lemon Rice for an easy elegant dinner.
Grilled Split Cornish Game Hens: The Easy Impressive Dinner
Have you ever seen rock Cornish hens in the grocery store but thought to yourself, these are way too complicated to cook? Fear not, these little delicious birds are super easy but make for one impressive dinner. Who does not love having their own little personal mini chicken on their dinner plate? Right? It makes you feel special. Whether you are making Cornish hens for just your family or hosting a small intimate gathering, our Moroccan spiced grilled hens are going to be a hit.
Grilling Season is Here!
Why does it always feel like we have 9 months of winter and only 3 months of summer? You have to enjoy the short summer while it lasts. Before you know it, it will be Memorial Day and then snow again. Get out there and fire up your grill. If you need some ideas, be sure to check out our Summer Grilling and Chilling Recipes for some inspiration.
Chicken vs Cornish Hens
We know it has been a little difficult gathering grocery and supplies during this time. That is probably one on the main reasons why we have Cornish Game Hens on the menu today. Who the heck buys Cornish hens during an epidemic? Those crazy people at Healthy World Cuisine! That’s who!
There were tons of Cornish hens at the grocery store but NO chicken! These little frozen Cornish hens are really small so fit easily in the side drawer of the freezer too. If you are looking for a few easy meals when you are low on food supplies, be sure to check out our round up for 17 Pantry Recipes for Emergency Preparedness. On the other hand, if you can get your hands on a whole chicken during the grilling season, be sure to try our Peking Style Beer Butt Chicken. This Asian fusion recipe is a tried and true family favorite.
What is a Cornish Game Hen?
The Cornish Game Hen came about because of cross breeding between a regular short-legged, plump-breasted Cornish chicken with various other chickens, including the White Plymouth Rock variety. So essentially, a Cornish Game Hen is just a mixed breed juvenile chicken. A little Cornish hens usually only weigh about 1.5 pounds or 680 grams a piece. They can fit in the palm of my hand.
What do Cornish Hens taste like?
They taste like chicken but only milder in flavor. The best part about these little guys is they take a lot less time to cook compared to regular full-sized chicken. This quicker cook time allows you to get the skin extra crispy while keeping the hen meat tender and juicy. They do not taste gamey. Cornish Hens are gentle in flavor but are harmonious with the delicious Moroccan Spiced rub. If you would prefer to cook a whole chicken, be sure to try our tried and true recipe for Savory Herb Roasted Whole Chicken for a delicious Sunday supper.
How to Prepare Your Cornish Game Hens for Grilling
We chose to “split” our little hens, but you can also spatchcock or even leave whole and cook them like our Peking Glazed Beer Butt Chicken. Spatchcock is the process for cutting one side of the Cornish hen though so that you can lay the bird flat on the grill to promote even cooking.
Splitting the Cornish game hens helps them grill evenly too. It is very easy to do. In order to split a Cornish hen, you can either use culinary scissors or a sharp knife. Make your first cut on either side of the backbone vertically along the backbone. Removing the backbone is a good idea as those have lots of little bones and your guests will not like that. Then, on the front breast side of the hen just cut straight down the center of the breast. Then you will have 2 even Cornish game hen halves. Discard the backbone.
Best Moroccan Spice Rub Marinade
Moroccan spice rub really takes these little grilled split Cornish game hens from ho hum to AMAZING! We know that many of you will want to be all proper and eat your little Cornish hens with a fork and knife. However, the best way is just to pick them up with your hands and get right in there. This is a casual dining at its best. Finger licking good!
How to Make Moroccan Spice (ras el hanout)
If you have prepared Moroccan Spice (ras el hanout), use that. If not, we make our own spice blend recipe with the dried ground spices and store them in clean dry baby food jars. This Moroccan Spice recipe makes 2 tablespoons just enough for your marinade. We know that some people may add coriander, all spice and many other ingredients to this spice mix but we wanted to keep it simple with the more basic spices you may have at home in the pantry. If you do not like it spicy, then do not add the cayenne pepper and reduce the chili powder to ¼ teaspoon.
- 1 teaspoon dried ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon dried ground garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon dried ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon dried ground ginger powder
- ½ teaspoon dried ground chili powder
- ¼ teaspoon dried ground cayenne pepper
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- ¼ teaspoon salt
Delicious Moroccan Marinade
In addition to the Moroccan spice blend, we added parsley, lemon zest, lemon juice and olive oil for a fresh and delicious marinade. We like to marinate our little split Cornish game hens for about 30 minutes but also can be left up to overnight, if desired. Be sure to cover and refrigerate if marinating overnight.
How to Grill a Rock Cornish Hen
There are many ways to prepare a Cornish Hen but if you want yours extra crispy skinned and tender meat, embrace the grilling season.
- Preheat your grill to between 300 – 350 degrees F or 148 degrees C – 176 degrees C.
- Make sure that you clean your grill grates and oil well to prevent sticking.
- Always best to put the skin side down first so that it gets a crispy skin.
- Place you Cornish Hens slightly off to the side and not under direct heat. Grill with the lid on
- Flip after 15 minutes and cook until the skin is crispy about another 10 -15 minutes or until the internal temperature is 165 degrees F or 73 Degrees C. The juices should run clear.
What side dishes go best with grilled Moroccan Cornish Hens?
Grilled Split Cornish Game Hens are super delicious served on a bed of our Vegan Chickpea Lemon Rice.
Wine Pairing for Cornish Hen Recipe
There are many different options for delicious wines to serve with grilled split Cornish game hens. However, we like the light and bright ones, if we are dining alfresco. Maybe a delicious light Bandol or a fruity Cotes du Rhone rose will delight your senses. You might want to try a California Chardonnay, if you like your wines a little drier. If you like reds, you may want to try a sparkling Shiraz from Australia. Drink what you enjoy is our motto!
Paleo Cornish Game Hen Recipe
Our grilled split Cornish Game Hens are paleo, low carb, diabetic friendly, gluten-free, egg free, dairy-free and super delicious. So, if you are hosting guests, you pretty much are covered from a dietary perspective.
More Delicious Grilled Poultry Recipes
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Grilled Split Cornish Game Hens
- Grill or Grill pan
- 2 whole Cornish Game Hens about 1.5 pounds each or 680 grams
Moroccan Spice Blend (or can use store bought blend - 2 tablespoons)
- 1 tsp cumin dried ground
- 1 tsp turmeric dried ground
- 1 tsp garlic powder dried ground
- 1 tsp cinnamon dried ground
- ½ tsp ginger dried ground
- ½ tsp chili powder dried ground
- ¼ tsp cayenne pepper dried ground (hold if like it mild)
- ½ tsp black pepper
- ¼ tsp salt
- 2 tbsp Moroccan Spice Blend see above for recipe
- 2 tbsp parsley dried or ⅓ cup fresh chopped
- 2 cloves garlic peeled and minced
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp lemon zest
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- salt and pepper to taste
- parsley fresh (optional)
- lemon slices (optional)
Moroccan Spice Blend Marinade
- If you already have prepared Moroccan spice, skip to nextstep. To make homemade Moroccan Spice (ras el hanout), mix together the following ground dried spices… 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp cinnamon, ½ tsp ground ginger, ½ tsp ground chili pepper, ¼ tsp ground cayenne pepper (hold if you do not like spicy), ½ tsp black pepper and ¼ tsp salt. Mix together in a bowl.
- Add either fresh or dried parsley, fresh garlic, olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice to the 2 tablespoons of prepared Moroccan Spice mixture (ras el hanout) and stir well. Set aside.
Prepare your Cornish Hens for Grilling
- Wash and dry your Cornish Hens well. Splitting the Cornish game hens helps them grill evenly too. It is very easy to do. In order to split a Cornish hen, you can either use culinary scissors or a sharp knife. Lay your bird back side up and with the breast side down. Make your first cut on either side of the backbone vertically along the bone. Removing the backbone is a good idea as they have lots of little bones. Then, on the front breast side of the hen just cut straight down the center of the breast. Then, you will have 4 even Cornish game hen halves. Discard the backbone.
- Place your split Cornish hens in a sealed plastic bag or large bowl. Pour the Moroccan marinade over the split Cornish hens and rub them all over. Seal the bag or cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave them marinate at least 30 minutes. You can also put them in the refrigerator to allow them to marinate up to overnight.
- Prep the Grill. Clean the grill grates well. Preheat your grill to 300 to 300 – 350 degrees F or 148 degrees C – 176 degrees C.
- Once the grill is preheated, put the Cornish hen skin side down first so that it gets a crispy skin. Place you Cornish Hens slightly off to the side and not under direct heat. Grill with the lid on.
- Flip after 15 minutes and cook until the skin is crispy about another 10 -15 minutes or until the internal temperature is 165 degrees For 73 Degrees C. The juices should run clear. The cooking time will be around25 to 30 minutes depending on how your grill is. Our birds were cooked at 25minutes. Checking the temperature with the meat thermometer is your best measure.
- Serve your Grilled Split Cornish Game Hens over our Vegan Chickpea Lemon Rice. Garnish with parsley if desired and enjoy!