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Lemon Herb Spatchcock Cornish Hen

This lemon herb spatchcock Cornish hen is the perfect way to evenly cook Cornish hens. Simply cut, lay flat, and rub with lemon herb butter. Hello, dinner!

Lemon Herb Spatchcock Cornish Hen sitting on a metal serving tray.

Looking for an impressive, but super easy dinner? 

This stunning lemon herb spatchcock Cornish hen is packed full of flavors from citrusy fresh lemon, and earthy rosemary and sage.  

It’s simple enough to cook on a weeknight and fancy enough to present to the most important of guests.

This is also my go-to for when I’m feeling like I want a cozy meal that will fill my home with delicious aromas.

You’re going to love this lemon herb spatchcock Cornish hen!

Lemon Herb Spatchcock Cornish Hen cut up on a serving platter.

Ingredients for lemon herb spatchcock Cornish hen

  • Cornish hens – These are a particular breed of chicken, are smaller than traditional chickens, and are often leaner with lower fat content.
  • Butter – Butter will give us fat and moisture to our Cornish hen.
  • Garlic – Garlic is a classic addition to our flavor rub. It will add great flavor!
  • Lemon – Fresh and bright, lemon adds a citrusy burst.
  • Herbs –  Rosemary, sage, and thyme will give us robust earthy flavors
 Lemon Herb Spatchcock Cornish Hen served on a platter with fresh herbs.

Why spatchcock a Cornish hen?

Spatchcocking is the process of removing the backbone of the bird and pressing it flat. 

This creates an even surface area of your bird, ensuring that it cooks more evenly; no dry breasts here!

How to spatchcock a Cornish hen

You can do this process (called “spatchcocking”) to any bird, like a turkey, or a bigger roasting chicken. Once you give it a try, you’ll see how easy it is!

First, make sure you have a good pair of kitchen shears. The sharper they are, the easier it will be to remove the backbone.

Next, cut down either side of the backbone, starting from the neck end, and going down to the tail.

Once you’ve removed the backbone, you’ll need to break the breastbone so that we get it to lay as flat as possible. 

Press down firmly on the wings of the bird, until the breastbone cracks. 

(Optional: save that backbone in a freezer-safe bag, it’s great for making broth!)

Flip it over and you’re done! You’ve just spatchcocked your Cornish hen!

Prepare ahead of time!

You can prepare this bird the night before, or even a full day in advance!

Spatchcock the Cornish hen, rub with the lemon herb butter, and place in a baking dish covered with plastic wrap in the refrigerator. It’ll be ready for the oven when you are!

Storage and leftovers

If you have any leftovers of this lemon herb spatchcock Cornish hen, simply package it in airtight containers in the refrigerator, where it’ll last for up to 3 days. 

Reheating is as simple as putting the meat in a microwave-safe dish, covered loosely with a damp paper towel, for 2-3 minutes or until hot.

Lemon Herb Spatchcock Cornish Hen cut up on a tray.

More Cornish hen recipes

This lemon herb spatchcock Cornish hen is the perfect way to evenly cook Cornish hens. Simply cut, lay flat and rub with lemon herb butter. Hello dinner!

Lemon Herb Spatchcock Cornish Hen

Author: Brandy O’Neill – Nutmeg Nanny
This lemon herb spatchcock Cornish hen is the perfect way to evenly cook Cornish hens. Simply cut, lay flat, and rub with lemon herb butter. Hello, dinner!
4.30 from 24 votes
Print Pin
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes


  • 2 2-1/2 pound Cornish hens, giblets removed
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter room temperature
  • 2 cloves garlic grated or finely minced
  • 1 lemon zested
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves


  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  • Remove the giblets from the Cornish hens and place them on a cutting board, breast side down.
  • Using sharp kitchen shears cut down each side of the backbone, starting from the neck end down to the tail. Remove the backbone, pull open the hen, flip it over, and lay it flat.
  • Optional: Near the bottom of the breast near the legs there should be some loose skin. Cut a small slit on each slice of fat and put your legs through the hole. This helps hold the legs in place but it is completely optional.
  • Season the front and underside of the bird with kosher salt and pepper.
  • In a small bowl mix together butter, garlic, lemon zest, rosemary, sage, and thyme.
  • Using your finger loosen the skin from the breast and stuff the lemon herb butter under the skin directly on top of the breast. Stuff each chicken with equal parts butter – leave at least 1 tablespoon of the butter in the bowl.
  • Use the remaining tablespoon of butter to rub over the top of each hen.
  • Place your birds onto a rimmed baking sheet and place them in the oven.
  • Cook until the skin is golden brown and when tested in the thigh it reaches 160 degrees. You will know the hen is fully cooked when you wiggle the wing or leg and it easily jiggles.
  • Let the chicken rest for at least 5 minutes (I usually let mine rest 10 minutes) and devour.


  1. My Cornish hens were a little large so the cooking time took on the longer side. If your hens are smaller than 2.5 pounds make sure to adjust the cooking time and always test for doneness with a thermometer.


Serving: 1g | Calories: 394kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 13g | Fat: 38g | Saturated Fat: 22g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 13g | Cholesterol: 339mg | Sodium: 209mg
Course Main Course
Keyword cornish hen recipe, easy cornish hens recipe, how to spatchcock cornish hens, lemon herb spatchcock cornish hen, poultry recipe, spatchcock cornish hen
Did you try this recipe?Leave a comment and 5 star review!
Lemon Herb Spatchcock Cornish Hen pin for pinterest.

About Brandy!

I am a food lover and recipe developer bringing you delicious recipes that taste great and are easy to make! My food is inspired by travels around the world and my love of flavorful food. A list of things that make me happy: cats, Coke Zero, houseplants, and travel. Read more...

Recipe Rating


Thursday 16th of March 2023

I made the hens last night with a few adjustments. I used dried herbs instead of fresh (1/3 of the suggested fresh herbs) and melted the butter. I basted it on the skin, under the breast and the back. It came out great!! Tasted great as well!! Thank you.


Saturday 25th of December 2021

We have been making this for a few years now and I needed to comment on how much we enjoy this recipe. It has become a tradition on Christmas since we travel the next day (no leftovers). It is so delicious and special for the holiday. Thank you!


Sunday 19th of September 2021

I glad this post is still up and came up in my search. I have a munch for Cornish hen. Looks like a little bird in my immediate future!


Thursday 7th of January 2021

I brined my hens for 24 hours with sugar, spices, and salt. I always use a BBQ probe thermometer to monitor internal temperature. I also started my hens at 400 for 10 minutes and then dropped to 375 for extra crispy skin. Served with mushroom "rice-a-roni" (home-made, of course).


Monday 19th of February 2018

By the way, the Martha Stewart video doesn't show how to spatchcock, but how to butterfly. Spatchcocking, as you describe and show, is to remove the breast bone to open the bird that way. butterflying removes the backbone, which is what Martha did in the video, despite using the wrong terminology. Food geek, I know...


as seen on promo graphic


as seen on promo graphic