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!
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!
Table of Contents
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
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.
More Cornish hen recipes
- Looking for an easy holiday meal? Try my Cranberry BBQ Sauce Cornish Hens.
- Want a summer recipe? Try my Sheet Pan Spatchcocked Cornish Hens with Summer Vegetables.
- Craving different flavors? Try my Pomegranate Molasses Glazed Cornish Hens.
- Love a good sheet pan meal? Try my Sheet Pan Thanksgiving Dinner.
Lemon Herb Spatchcock Cornish Hen
- 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.
- 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.