Cornish Hens: simply small chickens?

I saw some nicely priced frozen “Cornish Hens” in a local supermarket and bought some (I’m in USA, in case it matters). I’ve seldom cooked them, but might do so more in the future. Haven’t cooked any of these yet.

One thing seems a little fuzzy in the internet: is a Cornish Hen different to a regular chicken, in quality or species variety, or is it the same as a “regular chicken” but just put to slaughter younger? I tried searching around Hungry Onion, where there is little to this point (searches are crowded with restaurant offerings being described).

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That’s pretty close. In US, it’s a crossbreed of other fairly regular chickens and harvested young, about a month. I’m not sure but I think this breed may also be slightly smaller (or grow more slowly) than regular broiler chickens.

I treat them like any other chicken when cooking, e.g. 163°F at the breast. I particularly like to spatchcock, brine[1], and grill with a bit of pear or apple smoke. This makes them really easy to serve as halves, and usually half the people will eat 1 half only and the rest will eat two halves, so for 8 people I make 6.

[1] Salt of course but also lots of brown sugar, and if I’m feeling like a bit of extra work making a tea out of boiled rosemary, minced garlic, and cracked up peppercorns and allspice berries, then straining the tea and using it as the brining liquid can be nice.

Edit - well, here’s what I get for getting curious - I get contradicted by Wikipedia: :smiley:

  • Adult Cornish game hens are not smaller than standard broiler chickens; the size of cooked Cornish game hens is due solely to the very young age at which they are slaughtered.
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I think of cornish hens as a personal-sized chicken.


Like so many other things, they’ve gotten much larger over time. The ones I used to get (frozen) were about 1.5lbs, just about right for two people. The most recent ones were probably 3lbs. I also used to get normal chickens at 3lbs, but it’s rare to find any under 4-4.5lbs these days.

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Yep. This is instructive regarding what we did to chickens over a ~ 50 year span. Note it’s 17 years old, being from 2005. I wonder if they’re even larger now?

I have some older paperback cookbooks from the `50s (cheap stuff, Betty Crocker and the like) that talk about “a large fryer, about 3 pounds” (paraphrased from memory).

I believe the last bunch of Cornish hens I got, a few months ago were all about 2.2 pounds, give or take. They’re usually about $2.50/lb but sometimes they put them on BOGO and I’ll get a bunch, cook half and freeze the rest.


I certainly treat them like mini chickens. I found a good recipe for Samgyetang (Korean ginseng chicken soup), and the recipe uses a small chicken (it suggests 3-4lbs max). While some pasture raised chickens can be bought at that size, they are quite expensive. I find Cornish hens to be perfect for this.



I’d like to see the Samgyetang recipe, if it’s shareable. Thanks!

I am a recipe “cobbler” and read a few recipes, keeping the parts that are all consistent ( these must be the essential steps) and varying other steps or ingredients to my taste.

Maangchi - the closest to what I do. Simple and so delicious!

Close to Maangchi’s. A few extra prep steps.

This one has interesting variations on stuffings or added flavors and textures.

My variations: I don’t stuff the bird and prefer to add all the ingredients to the liquid. I make a single portion, and use two giant jujubes. Anything more and it’s more sweet than I like. I can’t be bothered with sticking the legs in the skin to make them pretty. The hen gets soft and falls apart easily anyway. I tend to go light on the rice to avoid it being too “ricey”. I use dried ginseng since I have that at home. I go light again, as it has a strong taste. Fresh can be found but pricey, and didn’t taste any different. If you only find dried, you may want to presoak these if you want to eat them.

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