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Cornish Hen question

Spatchcocking and dry brining seem to be all over the boards, so when I saw a Cornish hen in the market yesterday, I decided to go for it. I figure I can work my way up to chicken after this go-round.

Here's my plan, based on my reading of various threads and sites:

For roasting tomorrow mid-day, I'll spatchcock this afternoon, salt both sides with a total of 1 Teaspoon of Kosher Salt, and let it sit, uncovered, in the refrigerator until tomorrow noontime.

Then, I'll mix up some black pepper, chopped fresh rosemary, grated garlic and lemon zest, and rub this over the bird. Roast @ 500 degrees for 30 mins. Looking for an internal temperature of 165 degrees. When it's done, squeeze lemon juice overall.

So, is this a plan? Am I using too little salt, resting too long, cooking too hot? Do I need to rack it in the fridge? Am I right in holding off the other seasonings until tomorrow? I welcome answers from anyone who's roasted a spatchcocked hen.

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  1. It sounds like a good plan to me, although I'd be a bit concerned about 500 degrees for 30 minutes. That seems a bit hot, or too long at 500. I also don't cook chicken to 165. I like to pull it out between 155 and 160. Just be diligent with an accurate meat thermometer and you should be ok. Leaving it uncovered in the refrigerator overnight will give it a nice crispy skin, especially at that high temperature.


    1 Reply
    1. re: Burghfeeder

      Yes, even a spatchcocked roaster chicken usually only needs about an hour at 425 F.

    2. is this a plan? Yes
      Am I using too little salt, No
      resting too long, No
      cooking too hot? Maybe or not I've seen temps that high but I Usually roast a CGH at 425F.
      Do I need to rack it in the fridge? No lay it flat, skin side up. Some weight it down with a foil covered brick.
      Am I right in holding off the other seasonings until tomorrow? Good plan!

      1. Thank you both for your detailed answers; I'm going to adjust slightly based on your comments. I'll back the temp off to 450, check it with my Thermopop at 25 minutes, and pull it @ 160.

        Got to start it now. Will report back tomorrow.

        2 Replies
        1. re: mcsheridan

          I actually pull closer to 145-150 and let rest for 10 minutes. Remember that the temperature will continue to rise once the hen comes out of the oven.

          1. re: loratliff

            I also pull at 145-150F and the chicken is always nice and moist

        2. Mimi, We use "herbs de provence" as a dry rub when roast our weekly chicken, inside and out.. We got a pound of the stuff really cheap from someplace online... trying to use it up before it turns to dust.
          We like it and we must try to split a bird someday!

          1. After I spatchcock a chicken, I usually make a paste of chopped herbs, lemon zest, garlic and a bit of butter and rub it under the skin and then let it air dry overnight in the fridge. Then I toss some chunks of onion or leeks, a carrot and stock of celery and a clove of garlic under the chicken, as it helps create a nice pan juice.

            1. Well the hen went in @ 450 for 30 mins. It cam out fully cooked, moist, and very tasty.

              Only one of my goals wasn't met; despite dry brining uncovered in the fridge for nearly 24 hours, the skin did not come out crispy at all. In fact; the browning was much less than I'd expected.

              One possible flaw in my method: the only pan I had available was over 2" deep. Could it have been the reason I didn't get a nice, brown, crispy skin?

              The hen went down easy. :)

              5 Replies
              1. re: mcsheridan

                Nice! Thanks for checking back with your results!

                1. re: mcsheridan

                  Well it certainly looks wonderful but if you say the skin was not crisp but cooked to your liking I wonder if a few minutes under the broiler would have been the solution.

                  1. re: Gio

                    Perhaps, but I have yet to broil in my still new oven, and oddly, newer ovens require a separate purchase of the broiler pan. I have yet to do this.

                    1. re: mcsheridan

                      I haven't done it in years, as I like the results I get, but when I was a young cook, I took my mother and grandmothers lead and put a seasoned bird wrapped in a brown paper grocery bag in a roasting pan, in the oven, and it always came out great.

                      1. re: mcsheridan

                        Huh, that's strange. I recently bought a new stove and got a broiling pan with it. But anyway, broiling in a newer oven is very simple. I'm assuming you have the manual. If you have any kind of flat short sided roasting pan that would work. Also a cast iron skillet would work as well. First roast the chicken as you did but in the skillet, then put the CI skillet under the broiler. That's what's so great about cast iron.

                  2. next time...

                    * use the top shelf position in your oven.,,,it;s hottest.

                    * use a rack or grill grate over the fry pan to elevate it.

                    * consider using a brick in a Cast Iron Pan, skin side down.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: fourunder

                      Any one of those would probably have done the trick. This time, being cautious to a fault, I roasted it in the middle of the oven, and as I said, probably in too deep of a pan.

                      Next time, I'm going to follow your note and go higher. Thanks.

                    2. I'm sure you hens were great. And I've roasted many of them. But recently I've found that these guys are small enough to fit in my deep fat fryer and that's what I've done with them. They don't take all that long either, maybe 10 min. I just make sure that they are defrosted fully and set up to drain, so they are as dry as possible on the outside. That way there's less splattering. This is also how I get crispy skin on oven roasted birds. Make sure when you put it in the oven, that the skin is as dry as possible.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Atochabsh

                        I absolutely agree and frying is now my preferred way to do hens.


                      2. I preheat my oven with the broiler on HI and a container of water on the top rack. After it's Very Glowing I switch to the regular temp controls and preheat to 500-- when I put in the hens [usually do 2x at a time] I turn down the temp to 450.

                        Unfortunately, I have to open it all to do a bird-temp check [no nice probe thermometer], which I do after about 15min.s.

                        My Aldi's has Cornish hens for $3.50. A hen.

                        1. Try 425. Rub hen with a little olive oil before roasting. Middle of oven is fine. Do use a shallow pan. Place a couple thick onion slices under hen to elevate bird.

                          1. Was the skin dry after its fridge time?

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: sandylc

                              I suppose so, but after 3 months, who remembers? :)