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Butterflied Cornish Hens "Baby Chickens"

In this recipes for smoked cornish hens, we cut out the backbone and open them up before cooking them. This allows them to cook faster and more evenly.
Course Entree
Cuisine Hot Smoking
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Servings 6
Author Jeff Phillips


  • Cornish hens (1 per person)
  • Brine (instructions/recipe below)
  • Olive oil
  • Jeff's Texas style rub


  • Make a brine by adding 1 cup of kosher salt to 1 gallon of water. Mix until the salt has dissolved and the water returns to clear.
  • Place the cornish hens in a large bowl or container and pour the brine over them to cover. Put the container into the fridge for 4 hours.
  • Once the brining process is complete, rinse the birds to remove any residual salt.
  • Use kitchen shears to cut along both sides of the backbone.
  • Press the carcass open to make them lay flat.
  • Brush olive oil onto the inside of the hen then sprinkle a generous amount of Jeff's Texas style rub onto the meat.
  • Flip the bird over and repeat this process of oil and rub on the skin side of the bird.
  • Prepare the smoker for cooking at about 240°F with indirect heat
  • Apply smoke for at least 1 hour using a mixture of pecan and maple or your own favorite smoking wood.
  • Use a digital thermometer to monitor the temperature of the hens while they cook.
  • When they reach 165°F in the thickest part of the breast and thigh, they are finished.
  • Remove from the heat and serve immediately.