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Lemon Herb Roasted Cornish Game Hens - BoulderLocavore.com

Lemon Herb Roasted Cornish Game Hens

Individual Cornish Game Hens always make a meal feel special and are a great holiday meal choice as well. This simple roasting method leaves them with juicy, succulent meat and crispy golden skin. Hen cavity sizes vary so if there is excess onion or lemon which cannot fit, add it to the base of the roasting pan before placing the hens on top. This will add to the flavor of the pan juices which are drizzled over the hens when serving.
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword Cornish Game Hens, lemon roasted cornish game hens
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 25 minutes
Servings 4
Calories 1020kcal
Author Toni Dash


  • 4 Cornish Game Hens , 1 ¼-1 ½ pounds (all hens the same size); fully thawed if frozen
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher Salt
  • 2 teaspoons Black Pepper , freshly ground
  • 2 small Lemons; 1 cut into 4 wedges lengthwise , the other sliced crosswise into paper thin slices
  • 1 small Yellow Onion , cut lengthwise into 8 wedges leaving the root end intact*
  • 8 sprigs fresh Thyme
  • 5 sprigs fresh Rosemary , each cut in half
  • 8 fresh Sage leaves
  • Butcher’s twine
  • Instant read thermometer

Ingredients for the Basting liquid:

  • 3 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 teaspoon Unsalted Butter
  • 1 small Shallot , diced
  • 2 medium Garlic Cloves , diced
  • 1 sprig Rosemary
  • 3 slices of the Lemon (see ingredients above)


  • Set the Cornish hens out to come to room temperature about 1 hour before cooking. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and set a rack to the middle position of the oven.
  • While the hens are coming to room temperature, make the basting sauce. In a small sauce pan over medium-low heat, combine the olive oil and butter. Once the butter has melted add the shallot, garlic, rosemary and lemon slices. Allow to simmer for 3 minutes and then remove from the heat to cool and infuse.
  • Rinse the hens inside and out, and pat fully dry with paper towels. Combine the salt and pepper and rub over the hens externally as well as inside the cavity.
  • Stuff each hen with 1-2 onion wedges, 1 lemon wedge, 2 sprigs of thyme, 2 rosemary sprig halves, 2 sage leaves. Tie the legs together with butcher twine, in a crossed position but not overly tightly.**
  • Spray the sides of an 11-inch by 13-inch baking pan (this helps prevent the sides of the hens from sticking to the pan while cooking), add remaining lemon slices and any of the onion wedges that were not stuffed into the hens (separate them into pieces). Baste the hens fully and place them with breasts up in the baking pan. Cook on 425 degrees for 30 minutes.
  • Lower the heat to 350 and cook an additional 20 minutes. When an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the hen (usually the thigh or breast) reads 165 degrees (the juices should run clear as well), remove the pan from the oven and allow the hens to rest for 15 minutes before serving. Reserve the flavorful pan juices to drizzle over the hens when serving.


*Instead of cutting off the ends of the onion, peel the onion and cut through the root end but leave it intact. That functions to hold the onion wedge together, making it easier to handle when inserting it into the hen's cavity.
**A trick I use when tying the legs together is to double an 8-10 inch length of butcher twine, hold the loop (the middle of the double twine) at the curve just below the end of a drumstick, thread the remaining twine through the loop and pull until it's snug, not overly tight. This provides a secure anchor for the twine. From here, weave the twine around the two leg ends and tie together. Refer to photos.


Calories: 1020kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 77g | Fat: 74g | Saturated Fat: 19g | Cholesterol: 457mg | Sodium: 1439mg | Potassium: 1127mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 610IU | Vitamin C: 7.9mg | Calcium: 74mg | Iron: 4.1mg