Spatchcock-Que Cornish Hens

From Cornwall, UK to BBQ USA, yep New England, our newest dish takes a well-known large stocky breed of broiler chicken and prepares it in a way that is unique and fits into two of our “Three T’s of Que” category – Tantalizingly Twisted!

We have an exciting new addition to our BBQ plate line up.  In one, two, three chops our Chicken Thief is fast becoming The Tormentor, The Teaser, the Food Crowd Pleaser…

This dish provides an opportunity to take very tasty bird and crank up the flavor profiles that in a way are surprising but satisfying.  The Cornish Game Hen, Cornish Hen, Plymouth Game Hen is a stocky breed broiler often used in New England households as a tasty, yet small roaster chicken.  As we are not known for running our kitchen normal, this intro to our Twisted-Que is certainly going demonstrate our Three T’s.

Note – There are some blunt butchering photos included below (for those with a squimish tummy). A spatchcock chicken or game bird is one that has had its back-bone and keel-bone removed so that the two halves of the bird lay flat, similar to a butterflied bird.

Serving Size – approximately 1 hen per person, stuffing recipe can provide a 1 cup serving for about 6-8 people


  • Brine (mix together in a bowl and place in a bag with the Cornish Hens)
    • 1 cup kosher salt
    • 8 cups warm water
    • ½ to 1 cup honey
    • ½ cup smoked paprika
    • 1 cup granulated garlic
    • 1 cup onion powder
    • ¼ cup chipotle powder
  • 2 qty 1 to 1.5 lb Cornish Hens (defrosted and rinsed)
  • 2 sticks of compound butter
  • Seasoning for the compound butter (per stick):
    • 2 tbsp granulate garlic
    • 2 tbsp onion powder
    • 1 tbsp kosher salt
    • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
    • 1 tsp chopped tarragon
    • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • Apple-Onion Stuffing
    • 1 package of Pepperidge Farm Herbal Stuffing
    • 3 to 4 medium granny smith apples peeled, quartered and chopped
    • 3 to 4 medium shallots diced
    • 5 cloves of garlic minced
    • 6 large and washed basil leaves rolled and stripped
    • 2 stalks of rosemary stripped and leaves chopped
    • 1 stick unsalted butter
    • 32 oz (8cups) of chicken stock
    • 1 egg
  • ½ to ¾ cup of our Big Blue Coastal BBQ Sauce for drizzling over the Cornish Hens and Stuffing

Equipment: 12 inch cast iron skillet

Insight: Approximately two hens will fit side by side in a 12 inch cast iron skillet, up your supplies of skillets or just use the skillet to sear the hen.  Use a large baking dish to roast the hens in the oven as described below.


Insight:  24 hours in advance best to prep the compound butter and brine the Cornish hens

Compound Butter

  1. Soften one stick of unsalted butter in the microwave (about 15 seconds)
  2. To the butter add the listed seasoning
  3. Mix the seasoning and butter thoroughly
  4. Roll out either a sheet of parchment paper or plastic wrap onto a hard surface
  5. Scoop the seasoned butter onto the edge center of the parchment or plastic wrap and for the butter back into a stick or log of the similar visual size
  6. Fold the parchment or plastic wrap over the butter and roll the seal the parchment or plastic wrap, tuck the edges and place the freshly made compound butter in the freezer for 24 to 48 hours (if longer double wrap and place the butter in a Ziploc freezer bag for storage in the freezer)
  7. Repeat these steps for the other stick of butter

Apple-Onion Stuffing

  1. Peel and wash, chop each apple
  2. Trim and dice each shallot
  3. Mince the garlic
  4. Trim and chop the celery
  5. In a large covered sauté pan, melt the stick of unsalted butter over medium heat
  6. Add the apples, onions, celery and garlic and sauté till soft/translucent (about 3 to 5 minutes)
  7. Add the chicken stock to the veggies and bring to a soft boil, boil for 1 minute and remove from the heat
  8. In a large mixing bowl empty the contents of the stuffing mix and add one egg blending it in
  9. Add the veggies and stock, mix thoroughly to ensure all of the dry mix is moistened, add more stock if necessary
  10. Using about 1 cup of stuffing for each hen (as noted below)
  11. Place remaining stuffing into a well-buttered covered baking dish and cook at 350°F for 30 minutes or until the internal temp is 165°F

Spatchcock Preparations and Brining

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  1. Remove each Hen from its wrappings (one at a time), wash and rinse
  2. Place each hen breast side down on a hard working surface (cutting board)
  3. Using poultry sheers or sharp knife cut from the neck to the tailbone to remove the back-bone
  4. Once you have removed the backbone you will be able to see inside the bird
  5. Make a small slit in the cartilage at the base of the breastbone to reveal the keel bone
  6. Grab the bird with both hands on the ribs and spread such open (like a book). Facing down toward the cutting board
  7. Remove the keel bone
  8. Remove the ribs with the sheers or knife
  9. Repeat for each hen
  10. Rinse each hen and dry them off, please in a two gallon sized Ziploc bag
  11. Mix the brine ingredients in a large mixing bowl
  12. Pour the brine over the hens and carefully seal the bag
  13. Place the brine mixture in the refrigerator for 24 hours

Cooking Day!

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F
  2. Remove each hen from the brine, drain over the sink place each hen skin side up on a cutting board
  3. Slice the compound butter into 1 tbsp size rounds
  4. Place the hen on the cutting board skin side up, carefully ply the skin away from the breast meat, rub the medallion of compound butter over the breast leave a medallion on each breast under the skin
  5. Flip the hen over and rub the cavity with another medallion of compound butter.
  6. On the stove top, heat the seasoned cast iron skillet over medium high heat
  7. Place each hen (one at a time) skin side down splayed open in the cast iron skillet and sear the skin for about 3 minutes (lift to see if its golden in color, if so remove to the cutting board
  8. Repeat for each hen, keep the hens warm
  9. Place three to five strings of cooking twine down on the cutting board and place a hen over such so that the two sides of the hens fold up and towards the center
  10. In the center of the spatchcock’d hen place approximately 1 cup of our Apple-Onion Stuffing (not cooked yet)
  11. Pull the sides of the hen up and towards the center, tuck the legs together and the wings under, using the twine tie the hen up so as to rebuild it
  12. Place each stuffed/tied hen into the cast iron skillet skin side up
  13. Place the skillet in the oven at cook for 30-4 minutes, testing with a thermometer till the internal temp in the thickest part of the drum stick is 165°F or the juices are running clear
  14. Keep warm till ready to serve

Platting Suggestions:   Wash and trim another apple, cutting it into slices. Form

a star with the apple slices in the center of your serving dish and place a hen on top of such (once you have removed the cooking twine).  Drizzle the hen with our Big Blue Coastal BBQ Sauce (in addition to any extra stuffing you may add to the plate).  Serve with seasonal vegetables and a fresh salad (perhaps our Tomato-Cucumber Greek Salad).

Dont have our Big Blue Coastal BBQ Sauce, our suggestion would be to get a soft tone BBQ sauce – one that is not overally tangy- and add a little pear and apple juice (4 tbsp to 1 cup) and just a hint of white wine vinegar. Mix the combination and try it out.  The key is the sauce aught to accentuate the hen not overpower it.