Grilled Cornish Game Hens

Grilled Cornish game hens are a culinary delight, offering a unique and flavorful alternative to traditional chicken dishes. These petite birds are perfect for grilling, as they cook quickly and absorb the smoky flavors from the grill beautifully. Whether you’re hosting a backyard barbecue or simply craving something special for dinner, grilled Cornish game hens are sure to impress. In this recipe, we’ll explore how to prepare and grill these tender birds to perfection, infusing them with zesty flavors that will tantalize your taste buds.


  • 4 Cornish game hens (approximately 1 1/2 pounds each)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • 1 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon white wine


  1. Prepare the Marinade: In a small mixing bowl, combine the minced garlic, chopped onion, hot pepper sauce, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, celery salt, black pepper, salt, olive oil, and white wine. Whisk the ingredients together until well combined.
  2. Marinate the Hens: Place the Cornish game hens in a large resealable plastic bag or a shallow dish. Pour the marinade over the hens, ensuring that they are evenly coated. Seal the bag or cover the dish and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or preferably overnight, to allow the flavors to meld and the hens to absorb the marinade.
  3. Preheat the Grill: Preheat your grill to medium-high heat, around 375-400°F (190-200°C). If using a charcoal grill, arrange the coals to create a two-zone fire, with direct heat on one side and indirect heat on the other.
  4. Grill the Hens: Remove the marinated hens from the refrigerator and let them come to room temperature while the grill heats up. Once the grill is hot, remove the hens from the marinade, shaking off any excess, and place them on the grill grates over direct heat, skin-side down. Grill for 5-7 minutes per side, or until the skin is golden brown and slightly charred, then move the hens to the indirect heat side of the grill.
  5. Continue Grilling: Close the grill lid and continue cooking the hens over indirect heat for an additional 20-25 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F (74°C) when measured with a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast or thigh.
  6. Rest and Serve: Once cooked through, remove the grilled Cornish game hens from the grill and let them rest for 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh herbs or lemon wedges, if desired, and serve hot.

Cook Notes and Variations:

  • Brining: For even juicier and more flavorful hens, consider brining them before grilling. Simply dissolve 1/4 cup of salt and 1/4 cup of sugar in 1 quart of water, then submerge the hens in the brine for 4-6 hours before proceeding with the recipe.
  • Spice Variation: Feel free to customize the marinade with your favorite herbs and spices. Add a pinch of smoked paprika for a smoky flavor, or incorporate fresh herbs like thyme or rosemary for added aroma.
  • Glaze: For a glossy finish and extra flavor, brush the hens with a mixture of honey and soy sauce during the last few minutes of grilling.
  • Side Dish Suggestions: Serve your grilled Cornish game hens with a side of roasted vegetables, grilled corn on the cob, or a refreshing salad for a well-rounded meal.

Keto Version:

For a keto-friendly version of this recipe, you can omit the onion and hot pepper sauce, as they contain higher amounts of carbohydrates. Instead of Worcestershire sauce, use coconut aminos, which are lower in carbs. Additionally, swap the white wine for chicken broth or vinegar to reduce the carb content further. Enjoy your grilled Cornish game hens with a side of keto-friendly vegetables or a crisp green salad dressed with olive oil and vinegar.

Grilled Cornish game hens are a delightful addition to any summer cookout or weeknight dinner. With their tender meat and flavorful marinade, they are sure to be a hit with family and friends alike. Whether you’re a grilling novice or a seasoned pro, this recipe is easy to follow and yields impressive results every time. So fire up the grill, gather your ingredients, and get ready to enjoy the irresistible taste of grilled Cornish game hens

Additional Tips and Tricks:

  • Butterflying the Hens: To ensure even cooking and quicker grilling time, consider butterflying the Cornish game hens before marinating. Use a sharp knife or kitchen shears to cut along each side of the backbone and remove it. Then, press down firmly on the breastbone to flatten the hens.
  • Basting: For extra moisture and flavor, baste the hens with the remaining marinade while they grill. This will help keep the meat juicy and impart more of the delicious marinade flavors.
  • Resting Period: Allowing the grilled Cornish game hens to rest before serving is crucial for redistributing the juices and ensuring a juicy and tender result. During this resting period, the internal temperature of the meat will continue to rise slightly, resulting in perfectly cooked hens.
  • Checking for Doneness: While a meat thermometer is the most accurate way to determine if the hens are fully cooked, you can also check for doneness by making a small incision between the leg and breast. If the juices run clear and there is no pinkness in the meat, the hens are ready to be removed from the grill.


  • Herb-Marinated Hens: Enhance the flavor profile of the marinade by adding a variety of fresh herbs such as rosemary, thyme, or parsley. Finely chop the herbs and mix them into the marinade for an aromatic and herbaceous twist.
  • Asian-Inspired Marinade: For an Asian-inspired twist, swap the Worcestershire sauce for soy sauce and add grated ginger and minced garlic to the marinade. Finish the grilled hens with a drizzle of sesame oil and a sprinkle of sesame seeds for added flavor and texture.
  • Citrus Infusion: Incorporate the bright and zesty flavors of citrus by adding orange or lime zest to the marinade. The citrus notes will complement the savory flavors of the hens and add a refreshing twist to the dish.

Low-Carb and Keto-Friendly Variation:

For a low-carb or keto-friendly version of this recipe, you can modify the marinade ingredients to eliminate any added sugars and reduce the carb content:

  • Sweetener Substitute: Replace the white sugar with a keto-friendly sweetener such as erythritol or monk fruit sweetener. These natural sweeteners provide sweetness without the added carbs and calories.
  • Reduced-Sugar Sauce: Opt for a low-sugar or sugar-free Worcestershire sauce to minimize the carbohydrate content of the marinade.
  • Serve with Low-Carb Sides: Accompany the grilled Cornish game hens with low-carb side dishes such as roasted vegetables, cauliflower rice, or a crisp green salad dressed with olive oil and vinegar.

Grilled Cornish game hens are a delicious and versatile dish that can elevate any meal. With a flavorful marinade and simple grilling technique, you can create tender and juicy hens that are bursting with flavor. Whether you’re hosting a backyard barbecue, enjoying a cozy dinner at home, or looking for a keto-friendly option, this recipe is sure to satisfy your cravings. So fire up the grill, prepare your marinade, and get ready to enjoy the irresistible taste of grilled Cornish game hens!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Peach and Blackberry Cobbler

Summer Squash Bread