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Carrie & I were shopping the other day – grocery shopping – our favorite pastime. We were trying to decide what to have for dinners in the week ahead. Understanding that we are in the BBQ industry, we typically choose an assortment of meats that might either provide a learning experience, or perhaps fresh material to share. Cornish Game Hens came up last night, and indeed – produced something to share.
Most folks LOVE BBQ Chicken, in one or more of it’s many forms. We serve lots of BBQ Chicken to clients and make many of recommendations to customers looking for a new way to prepare it. One complaint we’ve heard often,” The chicken breasts are just too big” or “We cooked a whole chicken and now we have to store the leftovers – that never get eaten.”
Cornish Game Hens don’t have any of those problems. One hen, split in Half will comfortably feed two people with no leftovers. Even better “SpatchCock” (or a hen with the back cut out and butterflied), but straight hen halves are wonderful.
Here are the Basics of what we did:
Frozen Game Hens – cut in half just like a chicken. One half per person is the appropriate portion.
- I tossed (3) Halves in a 2 gallon Zip Lock bag & poured a “Mojo Criollo” Marinade – this is a wonderful citrus based marinade that is traditional in Cuban or Mexican cooking.
- Let the hens soak in the marinade for (4) hours – that’s all the time I had in order to get them cooked on time. Let them soak longer if you can.
- Get a BBQ or Smoker set up with some BBQ Smoke Wood and plan for “Indirect” heat; adjusting your temps to the 250 Degree range. When the temperature stabilizes, put the hens on the BBQ. I add a water pan to the grill if I am worried about moisture – this is just a metal bread pan filled 2/3 with water & set on the same side as the hens. The pan will steam and add humidity to the cooking chamber. This can be done on ANY BBQ.
- I lay the hens on the BBQ grate - setting the thickest (breast) side of the hen towards the fire – I don’t like burnt wing and leg tips.
- Let the hens cook for 20 minutes – shake on a mellow BBQ rub once the skin has started to sweat a bit. I used D-Dog’s Maple Rub – very complimentary to poultry.
- An hour later, baste on some olive or canola oil, balsamic vinegar & honey mixture that you’ve prepared in the house…this will dilute & emulsify the dry rub that was applied earlier. The color will really come out and begin to look glossy.
- Another hour into the cook, your hens should have been on the BBQ for about 2 1/2 hours now – baste with a final BBQ sauce or glaze. Mine was simple sugar, mint, sage & a touch of brown mustard – all mixed together nicely prior to painting the hens…you can use a bottled sauce at this point too…
- Things should be VERY close to done – ensure now that the BBQ doesn’t get much hotter than the 250 degrees we’ve talked about – that sugar will burn if it does.
- The hens will be done now – and can be pulled off the BBQ. I like to put mine under a foil tent on a platter or other type of “steamer” – this allows the hens to rest while other parts of the meal are finished off.
- Enjoy those nice Cornish Game Hens – they should be super juicy & tangy sweet.
We used a Traeger Pellet Grill for this recipe, you can easily replicate this on a Charcoal or Gas grill. The Traeger Pellet Grill is easy & low maintenance – we recommend them.
Thanks for checking out our BBQ blog – I try to come up with stuff that anybody can try with success – We have many of the items mentioned in our online BBQ shop at: www.greenleafbbq.com
Best of luck,