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Mar 20, 2013 02:50 PM

Cornish Game Hen vs Older Regular Chicken - Do you have a preference?

It is my understanding that a Cornish Game Hen is just a younger, thus smaller chicken. Aside from perhaps a preference for smaller or more individual servings, is there any reason you prefer one or the other?

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    1. re: Becca Porter

      As posted several times above, it's a hybrid cross between two different chicken breeds - a Cornish or English Game & a Rock.

      1. re: Bacardi1

        A "Cornish Game Hen" is butchered at about 4 weeks of age. If you let those little "hens' grow for another 3-6 weeks you will get fryers and roasters. After 12 weeks of age, these birds put on a lot of fat, or their hearts/legs have given out. Yes, the origins are from Cornish and Rock crosses, but the hybrids the industry uses today are very far removed from the originals. We had the heritage Cornish and Rock breeds on our farm and when they cross bred, their offspring was nothing like what you would get from today's meat breed.

        1. re: earthygoat

          When we lived in Nashville there was a store that carried Empire Kosher frozen Cornish hens that were about the size of a small fryer and quite fat. Being Kosher there was no point in brining, or even salting them, and they quickly became my favorite available poultry. Here in SoCal, unfortunately, they do not exist.

          1. re: earthygoat

            Yeah I had the heritage breeds once also. I prefer a cornish game hen over a chicken any day. Better texture/better taste/a LOT more meat on the bone.
            I do a quick salt brine then 'low and slow' at 200 F. Then a wicked hot quick broil to crisp the skin.
            Notice the amount of leg and thigh meat

      2. to me they are two different animals (pun intended)

        I would never plan a roast chicken dinner and then sub cornish hens and visa versa.

        Even though the flavors are similar the end results (in my repertoire) are very different so I don't prefer one to another, I like both. To me they are like comparing pork loin to pork chops or ground steak to a whole steak.

        1 Reply
        1. re: foodieX2

          I find them to be universally bland. Not to mention sad.

        2. "Cornish Game Hens" aren't just "younger smaller chickens", they're a specific breed of chicken meant to produce a larger more broad-breasted bird at a younger age. In fact, they really aren't any younger than regular chickens when they go to market - just shaped differently.

          Frankly, I've never discerned any appreciable difference in flavor, but will admit that a perfectly-cooked nicely-browned Cornish Hen (& "hen" is really a misnomer - both sexes are used for meat) is very attractive on the plate, whether served whole or halved, depending on size.

          1. They're a hybrid of a small wild chicken and Plymouth Rock, is how I heard it. I have served split grilled or roasted halves to company at informal sit-down dinners, and once or twice split halves baked on a bed of dressing. But they aren't as useful for an extended chicken dinner as a larger fowl, as they don't throw the same quantity of pan juices for the gravy, and carved pieces give the diners more choices and easier eating, especially if you live with a person who believes that knife and fork is the only permissible way to eat any chicken …

            2 Replies
            1. re: Will Owen

              Not a "small wild chicken", but the Cornish or Old English Game chicken (one of several breeds initially bred for fighting), crossed with the Plymouth Rock.

              1. re: Bacardi1

                Yes, a cross between the Cornish and Plymouth Rock breeds, bred for incredibly accelerated growth, in fact if they should happen to bypass slaughtering age they can't support their own weight due to being so young and having such a disproportionate muscle weight ratio.
                Personally, I am reminded of watching "Eraserhead" and since I had my own backyard laying flock I don't care for chicken, especially if it looks like a chicken. Especially the little ones. I remember holding the baby chicks in my hands and well, you know the rest. What can I say? I'm a city girl.

            2. I've found that with most "game hens", they come frozen or cyrovac sealed. They're decent. I usually give them a 4-6 hour brine and then roast them Zuni/Keller style. People rave about them. One little detail, while they come to room temp, I place an ice pack under the breast to keep it cold. Makes the breast less over cooked come dark meat's proper temp.

              4 Replies
              1. re: hankstramm

                I have been eye-ing the Zuni recipe, it seems so simple but must be delicious because everyone seems to love it

                1. re: fldhkybnva

                  I've been making it for years. Follow it to the T, and you're guaranteed an amazing bird. You can skip the bread salad, although it is an amazing addition.

                  1. re: hankstramm

                    Is there anything in particular that you like vs. other recipes?

                    1. re: fldhkybnva

                      Fldhkybnva, it's much tastier since the bird is dry brined with herbs under the skin. With the cornish hens, I don't usually do the whole Zuni treatment, just a quick brine, but if I were to, the meat takes on a different texture and flavor from osmosis (reverse I believe) bringing the moisture which has mingled with the fresh herbs back in to the meat. Makes a superior breast at the least.