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Okay, confession time. We've never grilled cornish hens. I think we've grilled every.dang.thing under the sun, but not a cornish hen. So I set out to do quite a bit of research before we tackled this recipe, and we learned a ton in the process. This is why I really love working with brands like Tyson® and Kikkoman®. It typically forces me WAY out of my comfort zone, and I typically learn new cooking methods or techniques along the way. Each time I learn something like this, I'm that much closer to being an awesome contestant on Chopped! (KIDDING!) But seriously, I can do grilled cornish hens with the best of them now.
A few things for you to know:
- Rock Cornish Game Hens are actually the result of two different varieties of chicken, and were bred for their small size.
- When grilling them, I recommend following the Steven Raichlin method, which calls for a quick sear over very hot heat for 2-3 minutes on each side. Then, another 10-15 minutes per side over indirect heat. This method yields incredibly crispy skin, and succulent, juicy meat. More on that later.
- Cornish Hens are usually around 20 ounces each and are about the perfect serving size for one person. My husband ate one by himself, and my son and I were able to share one.
To prepare for this recipe, I stopped by Walmart to get my ingredients. I picked up some fresh green onions from the produce section, two Tyson® Cornish Hens and a bottle of Kikkoman® Soy Sauce. You can find the Hens in the meat section, usually in the freezer chests by the fresh meat. Most of the time, they come in a two-pack.
You'll notice on the package label that they are All-Natural and have no artificial ingredients, preservatives, added hormones or steroids. Gotta love that!
When I got home, I set out to create my spice rub. I used five spice powder (star anise, cinnamon, cloves, schechuan pepper, and fennel seeds), garlic, cayenne and ginger. I then prepared my Hens by removing them from the packaging and giving them a quick rinse on the outside and also in the inner cavity. I placed them on a plate and patted them dry with paper towels, then trussed them up. You can truss a chicken without kitchen twine, follow this tutorial. Or, if you have kitchen twine, follow this tutorial.
After the Hens were coated with the spice rub, I let them sit and marinate in the rub for about 20 minutes. While they marinated, I made my super simple basting and dipping sauce using the Kikkoman soy sauce, garlic, brown sugar, ginger, and a few other spices. My husband got the grill fired up. If you have a gas grill. If you have a charcoal grill, you'll want to pile ALL the charcoal on one half of the grill.
The skin gets super crispy and blackened just with the quick sear. Watch carefully and make sure to move it to the indirect heat to finish. I have to gush a little because this method cooked them PERFECTLY. I sliced into the breast piece and it was juicy and absolutely delicious. I dipped each piece in the mongolian grill sauce and groaned. I swear the words "This is SO good. Like this is REALLY good" left my lips more than ten times during dinner, and my family wholeheartedly agreed!
By the end of the meal, we agreed on one thing. We are serving these Five Spice Hens to his family if we end up hosting Christmas at our house this year. They typically do something a little unique for Christmas dinner, and these have such a cool presentation and knock-out flavor, they'd be perfect!
For the Hens
For the Mongolian Grill Sauce
(Pssssttt..... I loved the dipping sauce so much I used it to create an easy slow cooker chicken recipe).
We will definitely be experimenting with other ways to make grilled cornish hens! Tyson has a web-site with a ton of great recipes for them, so definitely check that out here. Kikkoman also has a web-site with great recipes, and I was surprised to see how many of them are not asian inspired like this one!