Smoked cornish hens are not only perfectly sized so that each person gets their own “little chicken” but they are easy to smoke in just a few hours and they are amazingly delicious, tender and juicy when you follow my simple instructions.

Helpful Information
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Brine Time: 1.5 hours
  • Cook Time: 1.5 – 2 hours
  • Smoker Temp: 230-260°F
  • Meat Finish Temp: 165°F
  • Recommended Wood: Pecan

What You'll Need

Please note that my rubs and barbecue sauce are now available in 2 formats-- you can purchase the formulas and make them yourself OR you can buy them already made, in a bottle, ready to use.

Step 1: Make Brine

Make a typical brine and, of course, you can add anything you like to it so feel free to “color outside of the lines” here.

My basic brine recommendation for 2 birds and 1/2 gallon of brine is the following:

  • 1/2 gallon of cold water
  • 1/2 cup of coarse kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar

Fill a gallon pitcher with cold water. Add the salt and stir until it is dissolved.

2015-IMG_7243 2015-IMG_7241

Add the brown sugar and once again stir until the sugar is dissolved into the water.

2015-IMG_7251

If you want to add herbs you will probably want to heat a pint of the water from the pitcher, add the herbs, let them simmer for a few minutes to extract the flavor then, let the water cool completely before adding it back into the brine solution.

Place the brine in the fridge to cool before adding the chickens.

Step 2: Brine the Birds

If the birds are frozen as they usually are, take them out of the freezer and put them in the fridge a couple of days before you plan to cook them.

Remove them from the plastic wrap and give them a good rinse under cold water

2015-IMG_7245 2015-IMG_7246

I used a 1-gallon pitcher but only made 1/2 gallon of brine so I simply dropped them down into the brining container.

2015-IMG_7255

If you have more of the cornish hens, you will need to make more brine and use a larger container for the brining. A food grade bucket, container or even large zip top bags will work.

Place the birds in the container and pour enough brine over them to cover.

Place the container in the fridge for the entire time they are brining.

Step 3: Rinse and Dry

When the little chickens are finished brining (about 1.5 – 2 hours is usually plenty of time), remove them from the brine solution and rinse them really well under cold water.

2015-IMG_7256

Pat them dry with a paper towel..

2015-IMG_7257

Optional

In order to help the skin to end up more crispy, consider drying the skin before adding the rub.

To dry the skin, place the hens into the fridge on a couple of folded paper towels for about 2 hours. Dryer skin will end up with more “bite thru” and won't have that chewy texture that is typical for smoked chicken.

Step 4: Add Seasoning

Mayonnaise is basically oil and egg and it is an excellent base for applying rub on poultry. Apply the mayo generously to the outside of the chicken.

2015-IMG_7259 2015-IMG_7260

Sprinkle Jeff's original rub (Purchase formula here | Purchase bottled rub) onto the chicken top, bottom, sides and anywhere else you can get it. If you are using my own rub recipe, you can be very generous with it due to the low salt.

Remember that this is a finger food and lots of my rub is a good thing.. while you are eating the chicken the delicious rub transfers from your fingers to the pieces of meat to your lips and the world is a happy place!

2015-IMG_7268

As always, I use a pan/rack to carry the cornish hens out to the smoker. The whole rack is laid on the smoker grate and this makes it easy to carry them back into the house once the meat is done cooking.

Step 5: Smoke

Unless you are using a pellet smoker, set up your smoker for cooking with indirect heat at about 260°F if possible. The slightly higher temperature will get them done faster, helps to crisp the skin and still gives them about 90 minutes of smoke time.

If you are using a pellet smoker, cook them on the smoke setting or as low as possible for about 1 hour then crank them up to 275 to finish. You should still be looking at about 2 hours total.

If your smoker will not go above 225°F, that's not a problem, just plan on about 2 hours of cook time.

Place the cornish hens on the smoker grate breast side down. Keep the smoke going with pecan or your favorite smoking wood for at least an hour.

It is vital to monitor and check the temperature of the chicken. Every outdoor cook or chef should have a good digital meat thermometer. There are lots of good ones on the market and the one I use right now is the Smoke by ThermoWorks and/or the Thermapen for a quick and final check of all meat once it's done.

The hens are done when they reach 165°F in the thickest part of the breast and thigh.

Step 6: Serve

Serve the chickens by placing one on each plate with sides. Be sure to make a few extra for those who are extra hungry.

2015-IMG_7268

Please note that my rubs and barbecue sauce are now available in 2 formats– you can purchase the formulas and make them yourself OR you can buy them already made, in a bottle, ready to use.

Purchase the Formulas for Jeff's Rubs and Sauce
**Instant Download!**
Jeff's Original Rub Recipe
Jeff's Barbecue Sauce
Jeff's Texas style rub recipe

I have hundreds and hundreds of smoking recipes in every imaginable category on this site and all of them are absolutely free. The only thing I offer for sale are the recipes to my (2) amazing dry rubs and my one-of-a-kind barbecue sauce.

Please understand that this is how I support the newsletter, the website and all of the other stuff that we do here to promote the art of smoking meat.

Read these recent testimonies:

I recently purchased both recipes. The files did not come thru right but Jeff was prompt to get it fixed. I tried them both last weekend and they were a huge hit. I followed his burnt ends recipe to the letter and my neighbors thought I was some master chef! Thanks Jeff!  -Susan T.

Your Content Goes Here

Thank you for the great advice. Followed your rib recipe and everyone loved them. Used your rub and sauce. On point!  -Charles W.

Love the sauce and rub recipes. So far I have used them on beef ribs, pork ribs, and different chicken parts. Can't wait to do a beef brisket. Texas rub is great as well!  -Peter S.

Love the original rib rub and sauce! We have an annual rib fest competition at the lake every 4th of July. I will say we have won a great percent of the time over the past 15 years so we are not novices by any means. However, we didn't win last year and had to step up our game! We used Jeff's rub and sauce (sauce on the side) and it was a landslide win for us this year! Thanks Jeff for the great recipes. I'm looking forward to trying the Texas style rub in the near future!  -Michelle M.

I tried the rub on a beef brisket and some beef ribs the other day and our entire family enjoyed it tremendously. I also made a batch of the barbeque sauce that we used on the brisket as well as some chicken. We all agreed it was the best sauce we have had in a while.  -Darwyn B.

You see the raving testimonies and you wonder, “Can the recipes really be that good?”

No worries! Make up a batch and if it's not as good as you've heard.. simply ask for a refund. Now that's a bargain and you know it. Let's review:

  • You decide you don't like the recipes.. you don't pay!
  • The recipes are absolutely amazing!
  • Once you order, there'll be no more recipe ads in the email version of the newsletter

I REALLY want you to have these.. click on the big orange button below to order these premium recipes now.

Order Jeff's Rub Recipe n' Sauce Recipe
I really, really appreciate the support and, remember, if you're not as happy as a June bug with these recipes, let me know and I'll issue a quick refund.
Jeff's Smoking Meat Books

Smoking Meat: The Essential Guide to Real Barbecue – The book is full of recipes and contains tons of helpful information as well. Some have even said that “no smoker should be without this book”!

With more than 1000 reviews on Amazon.com and a rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars, it comes highly recommended and is a Bestseller in Barbecuing & Grilling books on Amazon.

AmazonBarnes & Noble | German Edition

Smoke, Wood, Fire: The Advanced Guide to Smoking Meat – Unlike the first book, this book does not focus on recipes but rather uses every square inch of every page teaching you how to smoke meat. What my first book touched on, this second book takes it into much greater detail with lots of pictures.

It also includes a complete, step-by-step tutorial for making your own smoked “streaky” bacon using a 100 year old brine recipe.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Get Almost Anything at Amazon

If you enjoy the newsletter and would like to do something helpful, then..

The next time you decide to order something at Amazon.com, use THIS LINK to get there and we'll get a small commission off of what you purchase.

Thank you in advance for using our special link: http://www.smoking-meat.com/amazon


Printable Recipe

Print Recipe
4.84 from 6 votes

Smoked Cornish Hens

Smoked cornish hens are not only perfectly sized so that each person gets their own “little chicken” but they are easy to smoke in just a few hours and they are amazingly delicious, tender and juicy when you follow my simple instructions.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time2 hrs
Course: Entree
Cuisine: Hot Smoking
Servings: 4 -6
Author: Jeff Phillips

Ingredients

  • Cornish (game) hens (1 per person + a few extra for the bigger appetites)
  • Brine (recipe below)
  • Mayonnaise
  • Jeff’s original rub recipe

Instructions

Step 1: Make the Brine

  • Add 1 cup of salt to 1 gallon of cold water
  • Stir until the salt is dissolved
  • Add 1 cup of brown sugar and stir until sugar is dissolved.

Step 2:Brine the Birds

  • Rinse cornish hens under cold water
  • Place birds in food safe container such as a bowl or zip top bag
  • Pour brine over birds to cover
  • Place brining container with cornish hens into fridge for 1.5 hours
  • When brining time is elapsed, rinse birds under cold water
  • Pat dry with paper towel

Step 3: Season the Hens

  • Apply mayonnaise liberally to cornish hens
  • Sprinkle rub on top, bottom and sides of chickens

Step 4: Smoke 'Em

  • Set up smoker for cooking at 230 to 260°F. If you can maintain the higher temperature, the hens will only take about 1.5 hours. At the lower end, they will take about 2 hours.
  • Once smoker is ready, place birds on smoker grate breast side down
  • Continue cooking until they reach 165°F as read by a digital meat thermometer.

Step 5: Serve

  • Remove the chickens from the grate when they are done and place one cornish hen on each person's plate with sides.

Step 6:

    FREE Smoker Recipes in your Inbox
    No big words– just clear instructions and how-to images
    Subscribe
    Give it a try, single-click unsubscribe at any time if you change your mind.