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Roasted Cornish Hens

Salt-Crusted Cornish Hen Recipe


Salt-roasted Cornish game hens


For 2 hens:

  • 2 Cornish hens, thawed
  • 3 lb kosher salt
  • 1 lemon
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • ~1/3 C chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 Tbsp black pepper
  • 1 medium onion

Ingredients for game hens


  • Preheat your oven to 400°F (204°C). 
  • Peel the zest from the lemon and chop it finely. Chop the herbs finely, reserving some for the cavity of the birds.
  • Stir the lemon zest, herbs, and black pepper into the salt in a large bowl. 
  • Add enough water to the salt to give it the consistency of wet sand—it will hold together when compacted in your fist. About 1 cup, but it will vary based on the texture of your kosher salt brand.
  • Rub the salt firmly in your hands to expel some of the lemon and herb oils into the mixture, freeing their flavors to infuse. 

The salt for the salt crusted Cornish hens

  • Cut two small slices from the lemon. Chop the onion.
  • Suff a tablespoon or so of onion, the reserved herbs, and one slice of lemon inside each bird. Do not cram the cavity!
  • Truss the legs together with some butcher’s twine. 
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  • On a baking sheet (I suggest lining it with parchment, though I neglected to), make two beds of salt, about 1/4″ thick. On each bed, place one bird. 
  • Apply the salt to the birds, making sure they are all covered with a generous crust. Remember, we’re trying to create a steam chamber. If your salt is too crumbly, add more water and try again. 
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  • Once the birds are well ensconced in their salty tombs, insert the probe from a leave-in probe thermometer, like ChefAlarm, through the salt and into the deepest part of the breast of one of the birds. 
  • Set the high-temp alarm for 157°F (69°C) and place the pan with the birds in the oven. Cook. 

Probing a Cornish hen in salt crust

  • When the high-temp alarm sounds on your ChefAlarm, poke a Thermapen ONE into the crust atop the bird and look for any temperatures that are below the critical finish temp. If you find any, try to relocate your probe in the breast and continue cooking. If you have achieved the proper finish temp, remove the birds from the oven. 

Cornish hens at temp

  • Strike the salt crust with the butt of a knife to crack it open. Allow the birds to vent heat for a couple of minutes before proceeding. 
  • Brush the salt from the outside of the birds.
  • Use a kitchen torch to toast the skin of the Cornish hens, being careful not to burn it. 

Torching the game hen skin

  • Serve the tiny birds!

Roasted Cornish Hens