Grilled Cornish Hens

Given their small size, Cornish hens are a great choice for the grill. Once split and flattened (called spatchcocking) they cook quickly, stay moist and juicy and have so much natural flavor they need very little attention in the seasoning department.

Our recipe calls for just a little salt, pepper and garlic powder and a finishing glaze of honey and fresh lemon juice. It’s easy, quick and goes great with classic summer sides like fresh corn and a green salad.

Grilled Cornish Hens
Grilled Cornish Hens

Grilled Cornish Hens

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Easy and quick-cooking, these grilled Cornish hens have so much natural flavor, all they need is a little salt, pepper, garlic powder and a light glaze of honey and fresh lemon.


  • 4 cornish game hens, 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 lbs each
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 lemon wedges

For the glaze:

  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice


  • Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to medium-high heat (about 400°F).
  • Make the glaze by combining the honey and lemon juice in a small bowl. Set aside.
  • To prepare the hens, place them breast side down on a cutting board. Use a pair of poultry shears to remove the backbone by cutting straight down either side of it from the cavity to the neck.
  • Once the backbone is removed, lay the hens skin side up and flatten them by pressing firmly on the breastbone with the heel of your hand.
  • Combine the olive oil, salt, garlic powder and a few grinds of black pepper in a small bowl. Brush the hens on both sides with the mixture and set aside.
  • Once the grill is preheated, oil the grates and add the hens, skin side up. Cover the grill and cook for 6 to 8 minutes (see notes).
  • Using tongs and a large spatula, turn the hens skin side down, cover again and continue cooking until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 160°F, 6 to 8 minutes longer.
  • Turn the hens skin side up again and brush liberally with the honey-lemon glaze.
  • Leave on the grill for 1 additional minute, then transfer the hens to a serving platter and allow to rest for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Tips for Making This Recipe

Because cornish hens vary in size and grill temperatures are considerably less reliable than ovens, it’s important to keep a close eye on your hens while they cook. Be prepared to move them around a bit to tame any flare-ups and check their internal temperature after a total of 12 minutes cooking time. You can always put them back on the grill if they’re not quite done, but there’s no fixing an overcooked bird.
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