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Roast Cornish Hens in a Cast Iron Skillet

Roast Cornish Hens

Perfectly tender and juicy, savory with a touch of boldness, roasted Cornish hens are sure to become the new family favorite! This flavorful dish packed with fresh herbs and seasonings is simply unforgettable.
Course Main
Cuisine American
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 55 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings 8
Calories 769kcal
Author Imma


  • Large roasting pan 
  • Foil
  • Paring knife 
  • Small mixing bowl 
  • Meat thermometer  
  • Flavor injector  optional
  • Baster or large spoon  
  • Wire rack 
  • Small saucepan 


  • 4 Cornish game hens 
  • 4 tablespoons (56 g) garlic butter, softened
  • Olive oil 
  • Salt and pepper, to taste 
  • 1 tablespoon (5.5 g) Italian seasoning 
  • 1 tablespoon (12 g) Creole seasoning  
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary 
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme 
  • 2 bay leaves, halved  
  • 4 medium yellow onions, quartered 
  • 12 cloves garlic, roughly chopped 
  • 2 lemons, quartered 
  • 2 cups (480 ml) chicken stock 
  • ½ cup (117.5 ml) dry white wine 
  • ¼ cup (62.5ml) fresh lemon juice


  • Rinse Cornish hens with water, then pat dry with paper towels. Salt and pepper the hens.
  • Preheat oven to 450°F/232℃. The high temperature at the beginning will crisp the hens—line the bottom of a baking pan, cast iron, or roasting pan with foil.   
  • Use your index finger to carefully loosen the skin on top of the hens and rub them with garlic herb butter mixture. Plain butter works as well. 
  • Lightly spray or coat the skin of hens with olive or cooking oil, then season with Italian and Creole seasoning.     
  • Open up the cavity of the hens and stuff with half of the herbs, bay leaf, onion, garlic, and lemon. Just think of all those flavors infused in the meat!
  • Tuck the wings under the hen and use kitchen twine to tie the legs together. That helps the hens roast evenly and present well. No worries, if you don't have any on hand, it won't affect the taste. 
  • Place hens in a roasting pan and place the extra herbs, garlic, lemon, and onions around them. Roast for about 20-25 minutes.
  • While the hen is roasting, whisk together chicken stock, white wine, and lemon juice. Set aside.
  • After the hens have roasted for 20-25 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 350°F/177℃.  
  • Carefully and heavily baste the hen with the chicken stock mixture. Continue roasting for about 25-30 minutes or until juices run clear and/or the thermometer reaches 165°F/74℃ (ensure the thermometer doesn't touch the bone!).
  • If using a flavor injector, inject hens with chicken mixture, baste and inject your hens every 10 minutes. This step is optional for those who choose to do it.
  • Remove the pan from the oven and let the chicken rest for about 5-10 minutes. Transfer fully cooked hens to a carving board, cut, and serve. 


  1. No garlic butter? That's okay because plain butter works fine.
  2. Cooking Cornish game hens is relatively easy. Remember, they cook faster than regular chickens due to their smaller size. Keep your eye on the oven, so they don't overcook!
  3. Some people prefer butterflying the hens to get that nice, crispy skin or grilling them after marinating. But I find that the regular basting and the garlic butter under the skin get the flavors into every inch of the meat while keeping it moist and juicy.
  4. Use your fingers to apply the garlic butter and work quickly. If the bird is still cold, the butter solidifies quickly and is difficult to spread.
  5. What's the best way to tell if Cornish game hens are done? A digital instant-read thermometer is a solid investment for any kitchen. They're easy to use and the best way to ensure perfectly cooked meat at every meal!
  6. Please keep in mind that nutritional information is a rough estimate and can vary greatly based on the products used.


Serving: 1half of Cornish hen | Calories: 769kcal | Carbohydrates: 3g | Protein: 55g | Fat: 46g | Cholesterol: 325mg | Sodium: 370mg | Potassium: 1025mg | Calcium: 43mg | Iron: 4mg