Transform Game Day with these irresistibly tender Smoked Cornish Hens! Each hen is generously coated in a homemade rub, bringing a burst of flavor to every bite. Whether you're using a pellet grill or an electric smoker, these hens are smoked to perfection with crispy skin and juicy meat. Smoked game hens are sure to impress your guests with their delightful taste and perfect smokiness.
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What Makes Smoked Cornish Hens Smoked on a Pellet Grill So Good?
Cornish game hens aren't on the menu every day, so when you serve them to your guests, they're sure to be impressed. This Smoked Cornish game hen recipe is easy to make yet amazingly delicious.
The smoking adds its own unique flavor, and the low and slow cooking method ensures an incredibly tender and moist meat. Try this recipe the next time you want to serve something special from your smoker.
Why You'll Love This Smoked Cornish Game Hens Recipe
You can stumble over smoked chicken and turkey recipes everywhere, but a good smoked Cornish game hen recipe is a little tougher to find. But this one is a great, easy-to-make version that is wonderful for experienced pit masters as well as those just starting out.
Forget about preparing a brine for Smoked Cornish Hens; this Smoked Cornish Game Hens recipe only requires a simple dry rub. That means you can save hours and streamline your prep while still ending up with succulent, flavorful poultry.
Smoked Cornish Hens Ingredients
For Smoked Cornish Hens, you'll need:
- Cornish Game Hens
- Smoked paprika
- Garlic powder
- Onion powder
- Vegetable oil
What's the Best Wood For Smoking Cornish Hens?
Cherry is one of the more popular woods for smoking Cornish hens because it has a good amount of sweetness with just enough smokiness to keep things interesting.
Applewood is another option with very similar characteristics.
Pecan also works well for those who appreciate a sweet and slightly nutty flavor.
Hickory or mesquite are also good options.
Smoking Cornish Hens in Electric Smoker
To prepare the Cornish hens:
- In a small bowl, whisk together the smoked paprika, garlic powder, salt, and onion powder until well blended. Set the dry rub aside for later.
- Check the Cornish game hens to ensure that all the innards are removed. If not, get rid of them.
- Use a paper towel to dry the Cornish hens thoroughly.
- Spread the vegetable oil on the Cornish hens, sprinkle the dry rub on the bird, and massage it in. Loosely cover the Cornish hens with plastic wrap and keep them in the fridge until ready to smoke.
To smoke the Cornish hens:
- Add the wood pellets to the pellet smoker and preheat it to 275°F. Smoking Cornish hens in an electric smoker is much more convenient, but you can use a traditional smoker if you prefer.
- Remove the Cornish hens from the fridge while the smoker is coming up to temperature and allow them to shake off the cold.
- Lay the Cornish hens directly on the smoker grate. If you want, insert a corded thermometer into the breast of one of the birds.
- Smoke for 30 minutes and then increase the smoker's temperature to 350°F. Continue to smoke until the internal temperature is at least 165°F, about 45 to 70 more minutes, depending on the size.
- Remove the Cornish hens to a wire rack placed on a rimmed baking tray. Serve warm.
You can use this recipe as a cooking method and customize the dry rub for Cornish hens based on your preferences. Opt for a store-bought rub or experiment with homemade versions. Here are a couple of ideas to help get you thinking:
- Spicy Dry Rub. For those who like things a bit on the hot side, this wings dry rub works equally well for Cornish hens. The chili powder and cayenne powder will surely get your taste buds tingling.
- Lemon-Pepper Rub. This Lemon-Pepper rub is light and citrusy and perfectly contrasts the smoky flavor. To make, stir together two tablespoons of lemon zest, a tablespoon each of freshly ground black pepper and salt, two teaspoons of garlic powder, and a teaspoon of onion powder.
Consider placing a few sprigs of rosemary or thyme on the grate of the smoker to infuse the meat with herbal notes.
What to Serve With Cornish Game Hens From the Smoker
Cornish game hens may seem a bit fancy, but the same sides you love with smoked chicken will pair well with it. If you do decide to up your side dish game, try these:
- Potato au Gratin. These extra creamy potatoes are a bit more special than mashed potatoes, but the side is still simple to make.
- Honey Roasted Carrots. Sweet with a bit of tang, Honey Roasted Carrots are an excellent addition.
- Creamed Corn. This recipe for Creamed Corn is the real deal. It calls for plenty of heavy cream and cream cheese and will bring extra indulgence to the meal.
- BBQ Sauce. Chicken and barbecue sauce is a classic pairing.
How to Store Smoked Cornish Hens
Cool the Cornish hens after cooking and transfer them to an airtight container where they will stay good for up to three days.
The dry rub for Cornish hens will keep well in a small, airtight container for a month or more.
What's the Best Way to Reheat Cornish Hens?
Use the oven to warm up Cornish hens:
- Preheat the oven to 300°F.
- Place the Cornish game hens on a baking tray and cover with aluminum foil.
- Reheat for about 10 minutes or until warmed through and the internal temp is at least 165°F.
More Smoker Recipes for Game Day
Smoked Cornish Hens
- 2 Cornish hens any giblets or livers removed
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- Preheat the smoker to 275°F.
- In a small dish, combine the paprika, garlic powder, salt, and onion powder. Mix well.
- Pat the Cornish hens dry and drizzle with vegetable oil, ensuring that all sides of the hens are coated. Sprinkle all of the seasoning blend over the hens.
- Smoke the Cornish hens for 30 minutes, with a thermometer placed in the breast or thigh. After 30 minutes raise the temperature to 350°F. Cook until the internal temperature reaches 165°F. This should take 45 to 75 minutes depending on the size of the bird.