Honey BBQ Spatchcock Cornish Game Hens
Updated: Jan 21, 2021
One of my favorite meals growing up was a recipe my dad used to cook, roasted Cornish game hens. I always loved that I would get my own entire mini-chicken as I called it back then. I always remembered them being so good and since my dad cooked them, I assumed that they were very easy to cook (in case you are reading this dad, I’m joking…kind of).
But, I was right, these are really easy to cook and they come out fantastic! I’ll save my dad’s recipe for Cornish game hens for another day as today, I wanted to try something different. I never had, nor seen, a barbecue game hen. I mean, one that’s slathered with BBQ sauce and cooked like the barbecue chicken we all know and love.
So, guess what? I did it and I did it with our knock-out honey BBQ sauce. And, it was delicious!
If you like Spatchcock Poultry, be sure to check these other recipes:
Category: Poultry - Chicken
Weight: 2 Cornish Game Hens
Heat Source: Wood Pellets
Type of Wood: Traeger Signature Blend
Estimated Cook Time: 2 hours (brined for 4 hours as well)
Actual Cook Time: 2 hours
Time of Cook: 3:30 PM
Estimated Cooking Temperature: 225 degrees
Actual Cooking Temperature: 225 degrees, bumped to 300 for final 15 minutes
Location of Purchase: Local grocery store
Cook Date: September 26, 2020
10 cups water
1 cup Kosher salt
1 tablespoons peppercorns
4 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons honey
1 bay leaf
Tip: For a brine, a ratio of roughly 10-1 water to salt is good.
Game Hens and Rub
2 (or more) Cornish Game Hens
BBQ Rub for Poultry and Pork (or your rub of choice)
Honey BBQ Sauce (or your sauce of choice)
Thermometer - These are critical tools to have there are two main types. First, instant read thermometer like this one or this one. The Thermapen is worth it's weight in gold and one I use almost every day. I know the price tag seems excessive but it's the best in the business for a reason. If you're looking for a dual temperature thermometer for both grill temperature and meat, this is the way to go. I use my Smoke for longer more specific cooks such as this.
Prep and Brining
Step 1: Make the brine. In a large stock pot, bring all ingredients to a boil and stir until salt is dissolved. Once dissolved, set aside to cool.
Tip: You can cool it down quickly with ice if you don’t have time to let it cool naturally but you’ll want to reduce the amount of water originally used. A quick ratio is about 8-10 regular ice cubes per cup of water.
Step 2: While the brine is cooling, place your hens breast side down on a cutting board. Using poultry shears, cut the backbone out of the hen. Trim off any remaining ribs. For a video of this, click here.
Tip: You can keep the backbone to make stock…or you can discard, your call.
Step 3: Place the hens breast-side up, then firmly press down with your hands to flatten. Trim off any excess skin. You want to ensure your hen lays nice and flat. Again, click here for a video showing this process.
Step 4: Place the flattened game hen in a pot or marinating dish where the hens can be covered with the brine. You can also use a large Ziploc bag if needed. Add the brine. If you didn’t make enough brine to cover the hens, just add additional cups of water. Make note for future cooks. Refrigerate a minimum of 2-4 hours but you don’t need much longer (definitely not overnight) as these are small and will get too salty.
Step 5: For the best result, about 2-3 hours before the cook, remove the hens from the brine, rinse under water and pat dry. Place the hens on a baking rack, uncovered, and refrigerate for 1-2 hours. This will help the skin dry out and create a crispier skin while cooking.
Step 6: Remove from the refrigerator and allow the chicken to come to room temperature. This takes about 1 hour. Suggest covering with tin foil.
Seasoning and Cook
Step 1: Fire up your smoker and bring to 225 degrees.
Step 2: Using the BBQ Rub for Poultry and Pork, season the game hens to preference.
Tip: If you have a digital meat probe, I highly suggest inserting it to keep an eye on the temperature because you are cooking the game hens to a specific temperature. I use my Smoke thermometer and it always comes out perfect!
Step 3: Place the hens on the smoker and cook until internal temp is 145 degrees. Upon reaching 145 degrees, baste your game hens with the Honey BBQ Sauce and continue cooking until internal temperature in the thickest part is 160 degrees.
Step 4: Remove from the grill and let rest 10-15.
Final step: Dig in and enjoy!!
Lessons Learned (Note: I will update this section to include your lessons learned from the comment section)