Air Fryer Cornish Game Hens

4 servings
55 min

Air Fryer Cornish Hens have perfectly crispy skin with a juicy, succulent interior. They make an elegant presentation for the holiday table or date night, yet they’re incredibly easy to prepare.

Since they are significantly smaller than larger chickens, Cornish hens take less time to cook. Their small size also makes serving them up easy. Rather than having to carve up a larger bird, simply slice the Cornish hen in half after cooking and resting.


Depending on what else is being served, plan on half a hen per person. This gives each person a breast, leg, and thigh. See the list below for some fantastic side dishes ideas to serve along side this easy yet impressive dinner.

FAQS:

What exactly is a Cornish game hen?A Cornish game hen (also known as Rock Cornish game hen) is a cross between the Cornish and White Plymouth Rock chicken breeds. It’s a small broiler chicken that is served young, weighing no more than 2 pounds.

Should I brine the hens before cooking?I am a strong believer that brining infuses meat with great flavor while keeping the interior nice and juicy. Brining also promotes a crispier skin. Check out this Apple Cider Brine recipe for perfectly succulent hens every time.

Can I cook Cornish hens in the oven rather than an air fryer?Absolutely. Just know that your cooking time will be a little longer. Make sure to check that the internal temperature reaches 165ºF before removing from the oven to rest. You may also need to leave the hens under the broiler for a few minutes to get that skin nice and crispy.


INGREDIENTS FOR RECIPE:

  • 2 brined Cornish hens: Brining is not absolutely necessary, but it does significantly improve the flavor and texture of the meat. Check out the Apple Cider Brine that I used.
  • Avocado oil: It has a mild flavor.
  • Roasted garlic: Roasting the garlic brings out the sweet, nutty flavor, and tempers the pungency. It’s something I always keep on hand in the freezer.
  • Dried herbs: Add depth of flavor during cooking.
  • Lemon wedges: Impart both moisture and flavor.


HOW TO PREPARE AIR FRYER CORNISH HENS:

Note: If you plan on brining your Cornish hens, do this the day before you plan to cook. This Apple Cider Brine is full of flavor. After brining, dry the hens and store covered in the refrigerator until ready to cook.


  • Remove the Cornish hens from the refrigerator, pat thoroughly dry, and place on a small oven rack in the air fryer sheet pan. I like to cover the pan with foil, or line with parchment for easy clean up .
  • Begin by preparing the rub. Add the avocado oil, roasted garlic, pepper, thyme, sage, and paprika to a mini blender, and blitz to combine. Set aside.
  • Preheat air fryer to 375ºF.
  • Cut the lemon into quarters. Smash the garlic cloves with the flat side of a chef’s knife, and remove the papery skin. Place 2 lemon quarters and half the garlic in the cavity of each bird.
  • Use your hands to thoroughly rub down the hens with the herb paste.
  • Once preheated, airy fry the Cornish hens for about 45 minutes. Cook time will vary depending on the size of your hens. Check with an instant read thermometer to ensure the internal temperature reaches 165ºF. Allow the hens to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.
  • To serve, remove the lemons and garlic from the cavity, then slice each bird in half.
Cut lemons and smash garlic cloves.
Blitz the oil roasted garlic and seasonings to combine.
Stuff the hens and rub with seasoned oil.

SIDE DISHES TO SERVE WITH CORNISH HENS:

  • Savory Roasted Butternut Squash
  • Oven Roasted Spaghetti Squash
  • Cheesy Cauliflower Bake
  • Toasted Sesame Green Beans
  • Savory Mashed Sweet Potato Blend
  • Roasted Delicata Squash with Thyme
  • Greek Inspired Cucumber Salad


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INGREDIENT SUBSTITUTIONS:

  • Avocado Oil: Any neutral oil you like can be used.
  • Roasted Garlic: You can substitute 1 teaspoon garlic powder.
  • Dried herbs: Use any combination of dried herbs that you like.


RECIPE NOTES:

  • Check out how to make easy roasted garlic.
  • There are so many air fryers to choose from, but I love my Emeril Air Fryer. I use it almost daily because it has multiple cooking functions which allows you to use less energy than a traditional oven.
  • I love my Magic Bullet for small blending jobs.


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Recipe details

  • 4  servings
  • Prep time: 10 Minutes Cook time: 45 Minutes Total time: 55 min
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Ingredients


  • 2 Cornish game hens
  • 2 tablespoons avocado oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons roasted garlic
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon rubbed sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 lemon
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, smashed

Instructions


Note: If you plan on brining your Cornish hens, do this the day before you plan to cook. This Apple Cider Brine is full of flavor. After brining, dry the hens and store covered in the refrigerator until ready to cook.
Remove the Cornish hens from the refrigerator, pat thoroughly dry, and place on a small oven rack in the air fryer sheet pan. I like to cover the pan with foil, or line with parchment for easy clean up .
Begin by preparing the rub. Add the avocado oil, roasted garlic, pepper, thyme, sage, and paprika to a mini blender, and blitz to combine. Set aside.
Preheat air fryer to 375ºF.
Cut the lemon into quarters. Smash the garlic cloves with the flat side of a chef’s knife, and remove the papery skin. Place 2 lemon quarters and half the garlic in the cavity of each bird.
Use your hands to thoroughly rub down the hens with the herb paste.
Once preheated, airy fry the Cornish hens for about 45 minutes. Cooking times will vary depending on the size of your hens. Check with an instant read thermometer to ensure the internal temperature reaches 165ºF. Allow the hens to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.
To serve, remove the lemons and garlic from the cavity, then slice each bird in half.

Tips

  • INGREDIENT SUBSTITUTIONS:
  • Avocado Oil: Any neutral oil you like can be used.
  • Roasted Garlic: You can substitute 1 teaspoon garlic powder.
  • Dried herbs: Use any combination of dried herbs that you like.

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