How Long to Smoke Cornish Hens: (Guide for Perfect Results)

Hey there, aspiring chef extraordinaire! I’m here to guide you on your journey of creating the perfect smoked Cornish hens. One bite and your friends will be begging for more!

In this comprehensive guide to smoking Cornish hens, I’ll share:

  • The ideal temperature to smoke the birds for maximum flavor
  • Timing tips that guarantee perfection every time
  • Techniques to take your smoked Cornish hen recipe over the top
  • How to tell when it’s done like a master chef would
  • Plus, I’ll also include my personal favorite marinade recipe as a bonus.

Let’s get cooking – or in this case, smoking!

Preparing Your Cornish Hens for Smoking

Smoking Cornish hens is a delightful culinary adventure that can leave you with a delicious, juicy, and flavor-packed meal.

The journey to creating this masterpiece begins with the right preparations.

Let’s walk through it together.

How to Clean Cornish Hens

Firstly, cleanliness is paramount when dealing with any form of meat. It’s essential to know how to clean your Cornish hens properly to prevent any possible cross-contamination. Begin by thawing your Cornish hens if frozen. This process should be done in the refrigerator for about 24 hours before you plan to cook.

Once thawed, clean the inside of the Cornish hens using warm, soapy water and a kitchen brush.

This helps to get rid of any lingering bacteria.

After this, you should rinse your hens and soak them in water mixed with a bit of vinegar.

This adds an extra layer of cleansing and helps to remove any lingering gamey flavors.

Cornish Hen Brine

Now that your Cornish hens are clean, let’s talk about brining.

Making the Wet Brine

Brining your Cornish hens is a crucial step in the preparation process.

It ensures that your hens remain juicy and tender throughout the smoking process.

An effective brine consists of water, salt, brown sugar, and soy sauce.

This mixture, once created, will be the bath in which your hens will soak.

They should be fully submerged in the brine for about 2 hours.

After this, they should be rinsed and patted dry, ensuring that they’re ready to absorb the next wave of flavors.

Cornish Hen Seasoning and Dry Rub

Let’s move on to the flavoring phase – the seasoning and dry rub.

Pork Belly Marinate - Smoked Pork Belly Recipe

Smoked Cornish Hen Rub

For a delicious smoked Cornish hen, a good rub is essential.

You can make your own rub at home using ingredients like paprika, thyme, chili powder, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder.

This rub should be generously applied all over the hens, ensuring that every crevice is covered.

Not only does this give your hens a beautiful color, but it also provides a burst of flavor with each bite.

Step 1: Stuff Them

Once your hens are properly seasoned, the next step is stuffing them.

Stuffing should be tightly packed in, ensuring that it doesn’t spill out during the cooking process.

Just remember to keep a check on the internal temperature.

According to the thermometer reading, it should reach 165°F while the juices should run clear at 180°F.

Step 2: Marinate

After stuffing, the hens are ready for marination.

A good marinade consists of water, orange juice, sugar, salt, and your choice of spices.

This mixture should cover your hens completely.

It’s important to refrigerate your hens during this process, allowing the flavors to seep in properly.

Setting Up Your Smoker

Now that your hens are ready for smoking, let’s move on to setting up your smoker.

How to Prepare Cornish Hens for Smoking

Preparing your hens for smoking involves placing them on smoking racks and brushing them with sesame or olive oil.

This helps to get a crispy skin while preventing sticking.

Prepare the Smoker

The ideal temperature for smoking Cornish hens is around 225°F.

You should preheat your smoker to this temperature before adding the hens.

What’s the Best Wood for Smoking Cornish Hens?

The choice of wood is crucial and depends on personal preference and the type of smoker used.

Pecan or fruit woods are generally recommended, with cherry wood being a top choice.

Applewood and hickory wood are also good options while mesquite should be avoided as it can be overpowering.

The Smoking Process

With the hens and smoker ready, it’s time to start the smoking process.

How Long to Smoke Cornish Hens

The smoking process for Cornish hens can take about 1.5 to 2 hours.

However, the actual cooking time can vary based on the size of the hen and the exact temperature of your smoker.

The goal is to smoke them until the internal temperature reaches 160°F.

Step 3: Smoking

Place your hens on the smoker, maintaining a safe distance between each to ensure even smoking.

Close the lid and let the smoker do its magic.

Step 4: Smoke ‘Em

During the smoking process, you may want to add more flavor by brushing the hens with a marinade or sauce of your choice.

This will also help to maintain moisture and give the hens a tantalizing glaze.

Step 5: Cover and Rest

Once the smoking process is complete, remove your hens from the smoker and cover them with foil.

Let them rest for about 10-15 minutes. This allows the juices to redistribute, making the hens even more tender and flavorful.

Post-Smoking Procedures

You’ve successfully smoked your Cornish hens. Now onto the post-smoking procedures.

Step 5: Serve

After your hens have rested, they’re ready to be served.

Smoking gives them a beautiful golden-brown color and a mesmerizing aroma.

How to Serve Smoked Cornish Hens

Smoked Cornish hens can be served whole or cut into halves.

They go well with a variety of sides and can be garnished with fresh herbs for added appeal.

Storage and Reheating

Leftover smoked Cornish hens should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

They can be reheated in an oven or microwave until heated through.

Additional Tips for Success

Let’s discuss some additional tips for success.

Tips for Smoking Cornish Game Hens

For a successful smoking session, ensure to monitor your smoker’s temperature regularly.

Also, don’t rush the process.

Remember, low and slow is the key.

Expert Tips for Success

Some expert tips include using a good quality meat thermometer to ensure proper cooking and not overcrowding your smoker.

Also, remember to clean your smoker after every use to ensure its longevity.

Ingredient Notes

Always use fresh ingredients for the best results.

Also, ensure to use quality wood for smoking.

Recipe Tips and Tricks

A helpful trick is to tie together the legs of the hens with kitchen twine.

This helps them cook more evenly.

Also, remember to let your hens rest after smoking before serving.

Suggested Meal Companions

Smoked Cornish hens can be served with a variety of sides.

Serving Suggestions

You can serve your smoked Cornish hens with sides like mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables, or a fresh salad.

What to Serve with Cornish Hens

Other good companions for smoked Cornish hens can include cornbread, coleslaw, or a rice dish.

Sides for Traeger Smoked Cornish Game Hens

If you’re using a Traeger grill for smoking, your hens will have a unique flavor that can be complemented with sides such as baked beans, mac and cheese, or grilled corn on the cob.

So there you have it – a comprehensive guide to smoking Cornish hens.

We hope this helps you on your culinary journey.

Happy smoking!


How do you prepare a cornish hen for smoking?

To prepare a Cornish hen for smoking, start by rinsing off the hens and patting them dry. Then coat the outside and inside with olive oil and season with salt, pepper, or other desired seasonings. Place the hens on a preheated smoker set to 225-250°F and smoke for 1-2 hours until an internal temperature of 165°F is reached.

Are Cornish game hens different from regular cornish hens?

Yes, Cornish game hens are smaller in size than traditional cornish hens. They also have a more intense flavor since they haven’t been raised as long as regular cornish hens.

Can you cook an entire cornish hen on a smoker?

Yes, an entire Cornish hen can be cooked on a smoker. Place the bird on the grill over indirect heat at 225-250°F, breast side up. Smoke until the internal temperature reaches 165°F, approximately 1-2 hours depending on the size of your bird.

What is the best way to keep smoked cornish hens from drying out?

The best way to keep smoked Cornish hens from drying out is to brush them with oil after they come off of the smoker and while they are still hot. This will help seal in moisture so that your bird won’t become dry when it cools down after being cooked. Additionally, adding some sort of glaze or sauce can also help keep smoked Cornish Hens moist during cooking time.

How are broiler chickens different from regular chickens when preparing a roast?

Broiler chickens are usually younger than regular chickens, which results in the birds being smaller and more tender. The breast meat is especially juicy, which makes them ideal for roasting. The cooking process will take less time with these little birds compared to larger birds.

What ingredients should be used to make a brine solution for pellet smoker Cornish hens?

To make a brine solution for pellet smoker Cornish hens, you’ll need water, coarse sea salt, brown sugar, garlic powder, and some acidic ingredient such as lemon juice or white vinegar. This mixture should be stirred together until all the ingredients have dissolved completely into the water.

How can one achieve crispy skin on their Cornish hens?

One way to achieve crispy skin on your Cornish hens is by drying off the moisture with paper towels before beginning the cooking process. After that, you should coat them with oil and sprinkle some dry rub onto them before placing them in your pellet smoker over indirect heat using wood chips for added flavor. Lastly, you should cook your birds until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit and then let it rest uncovered for 10 minutes before serving – this allows any residual heat to crisp up their skin even further!

Households with small families often find that preparing Cornish hens instead of a large chicken may be more suitable

What other advantages does cooking Cornish hens offer households with small families?

Cooking Cornish hens offers households with small families several advantages over traditional sized chicken roasts such as allowing everyone at the table get an individual bird cooked just right and not having leftovers taking up valuable space in their refrigerators or freezers afterwards. Additionally, because they are so much smaller they require less time and effort to prepare – marinate in a brine solution overnight or run through a quick dry rub seasoning before popping into your cooker – plus they help reduce waste since you only use what you need at any given time rather than having leftover bits of chicken going bad after sitting around too long!

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