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+ servings
four cornish hens on a tray

Crispy Cornish Hen

Crispy Cornish hen recipe featuring hen that is brined, slow-smoked, and then roasted to a golden crispiness.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 658kcal
Author: Marwin Brown


  • Smoker


  • 2 small Cornish Hens
  • 1 pint Buttermilk
  • 2 tsp Cumin
  • 1 tbsp Paprika
  • 2 tsp Kosher Salt
  • 2 tsp Black Pepper
  • ¼ cup Cilantro roughly chopped
  • 3 sprigs fresh Thyme
  • ½ tsp Lime Zest
  • 1 medium Lime Juiced
  • 4 Garlic Cloves diced
  • ¼ cup Duck Fat


  • Mix the dry spice ingredients together in a small ramekin.
  • Mix the buttermilk, lime juice, zest, garlic, fresh herbs, and half the dry seasoning mix.
  • Place the brine mix in a extra large ziplock bag. Add the Cornish hen to the brine and marinate overnight.
  • Remove the hen from the refrigerator. Rub each hen with duck fat below and above the skin.
  • Add the remaining dried spice mix all over the hens as well as under the skin.
  • Pre-heat smoker between 225-275 degrees. Add the hens and smoke for about an hour.
  • Remove from smoker and finish in the oven at 450 degrees. Remove and let rest about 5 minutes.


Don’t skip the brining step. Brining adds amazing flavor and ensures a moist bird during crisping.
I went for a somewhat Cuban seasoning mix. Feel free to tweak or use your favorite dry seasoning mix. Just make sure the hen is well seasoned.
When seasoning the bird be sure to season underneath the skin as well as on the skin. The hen has loose skin in a few different locations that you can raise with a finger or spoon to add seasoning. Same holds true for the duck fat.
Duck is an amazing add! But it’s not accessible everywhere, but if you find it, buy it and use it. Otherwise butter is a fine substitute.
Desired temp is 165 degrees F. I tend to pull my hen out at about 160 ish as the hen will continue cooking some as it cools.
If you have stands to cook the hens upright use them.


Calories: 658kcal | Carbohydrates: 11g | Protein: 43g | Fat: 49g | Saturated Fat: 15g | Cholesterol: 253mg | Sodium: 1429mg | Potassium: 790mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 1391IU | Vitamin C: 8mg | Calcium: 192mg | Iron: 3mg
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