Crockpot Cornish Hens Recipe

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Tender and juicy, these Crockpot Cornish Hens make an easy weeknight dinner that’s special enough for guests.

Crockpot Cornish Hens recipe served on a plate with peas and wild rice

Crockpot Cornish Hens Recipe

Crockpot Cornish Hens are a dinner obsession in my home. My teenage son (an eating machine) loves them because he gets a whole one for himself. I love them because they’re so easy to make. You just need a handful of ingredients and 20 minutes to marinate them.

Cornish Hens Are Chickens

Cornish Hens are a specific breed of chicken specially bred in England. Cross-breeding helped them thrive in the mild yet rainy environment. What we buy in US-based grocery stores are labeled “Cornish Game Hens.”

But they aren’t necessarily hens. In fact, Cornish Game Hens are quite often male and are never true game birds.

Cornish Hens Might Not Even Be Cornish

The labeling quirks don’t end there. See, they aren’t always related to Cornish chickens, either. Due to USDA guidelines, any chicken of any breed or gender can be a “Cornish Game Hen.” It just has to weigh between 1 and 2 pounds and be younger than five weeks old.

Stock Up When They’re On Sale

You may have noticed that Cornish Game Hens cost more per pound than regular chicken. But the’s one time of the year when you’ll find fantastic bargains.

Around the holidays, stores stock up on them for those who prefer not to make a full-sized turkey. So, look for great markdowns on frozen Cornish Hens after New Year’s. They’ll reach an annual low after Valentine’s Day. Cornish Hens keep up to a year in the freezer, so stock up when you find a good sale!

How to Cook Cornish Hens in a Crockpot

Remembering to defrost is the only hard part about this Crockpot Cornish Hens recipe. There’s some debate about the safety of using a slow-cooker with frozen poultry. Some manufacturers say it’s okay. The USDA says it’s not.

Start with Thawed Birds

The real problem with cooking frozen poultry in a slow-cooker is that it takes longer to reach a safe internal temperature of 165°. Starting this Crockpot Cornish Hens recipe with frozen birds can make them turn out dry or tough.

So, if you forget to defrost them in the refrigerator, don’t give up hope. YOu can quickly defrost poultry — or any meat — in a cold water bath. Here’s a video explaining how.

Give them a Quick Marinade

Start marinating them right after they come out of the freezer. Or dump the marinade into a bag, add the birds, and let it sit for 20 to 30 minutes. This marinade isn’t acidic, so you don’t need to worry about it breaking down the meat. Instead, it’s purpose is to add a rich flavoring throughout.

Prop them Up in the Crockpot

For evenly-cooked birds, keep them off the bottom of the crockpot. Sticking them in the slow cooker without propping them up an inch or so will let their undersides get mushy.

To prop them up, line the bottom of your slow-cooker with four onion halves, two per Cornish Hen. (A reader says that potato halves work great, too.) If you’re not a fan of onions or potatoes, crumpled balls of aluminum foil work well, also.

Temperature and Cooking Times

Once the birds are in the crockpot, pour any marinade left in the bag over them. Cook them on LOW for 8 hours or HIGH for 4 hours. That’s all there is to it. Thanks to the marinade, your Cornish Hens are perfectly seasoned, tender, and still juicy. Weeknight dinners don’t get much easier than this!

Adjusting for Single Crockpot Cornish Hens

Many readers have asked if they need to adjust cooking times to make only one Crockpot Cornish Hen. Halving a slow-cooker recipe can be tricky. These devices work best when two-thirds to three-quarters full.

If you don’t have a smaller crockpot, you can get the same effect by using an oven-safe baking dish. Put the dish in your slow cooker, then add the halved recipe. Voila, you’ve created a smaller crock within your crockpot. Now you don’t need to adjust the time to get the same results.

Or, just make the full recipe and freeze half for later. It’s always nice to have a freezer stocked with healthy, heat-and-eat homemade meals.

Reheating Leftovers

With a teenage boy in the house, I rarely have leftover Crockpot Cornish Hens. They’re simple to reheat, though.

Put them in an oven-safe dish and cover with foil. Bake at 350° for 15-20 minutes until warm all the way through. For crispy skin, bump the heat to 450° for 2-3 minutes.

Crockpot Cornish Hens slowcooker recipe
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4.89 from 9 votes

Crockpot Cornish Hens

Shake a few ingredients together and enjoy tender, juicy Crockpot Cornish Hens even on busy weeknights.
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword chicken, crockpot, dinner, easy, freezes well, slowcooker
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 8 hrs
Total Time 8 hrs 20 mins
Makes 2 people
Calories 992kcal
Created by Katie Berry

Equipment

  • Crockpot or Slow Cooker

Ingredients

Ingredients

  • 2 Cornish hens
  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp oyster sauce
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • 2 onions - optional
  • 2 tbsp butter - optional

Instructions

  • Shake marinade ingredients together in a gallon-size resealable bag. Add defrosted hens and marinate in refrigerator 20-30 minutes. (Or add frozen hens and let them marinate as they defrost overnight in the refrigerator’s meat drawer.)
  • Slice the onions in half and place them flat-side down in the crockpot. (Alternatively: wad 4 pieces of aluminum foil into lemon-sized balls. Place these in the bottom of your crockpot.)
  • Put each hen on top of 2 of the onion halves (or foil balls), so it's raised at least 1 inch from the bottom of the crockpot. Pour remaining marinade over the hens. (Optional: melt and drizzle the butter over the hens.)
  • Cook on LOW for 8 hours or HIGH for 4 hours. Remove the crockpot lid and let the hens rest 5 minutes before transferring to serving plates.
  • To crisp the skin, transfer the cooked Cornish Hens to a shallow oven-safe baking dish and broil for 2-3 minutes. Watch carefully to prevent over-browning.

Notes

Nutritional values reflect the combination of ALL ingredients, including the marinade. You probably won’t be drinking the marinade from the crockpot, though. 

Nutrition

Serving: 1hen | Calories: 992kcal | Carbohydrates: 16g | Protein: 85g | Fat: 63g | Saturated Fat: 18g | Cholesterol: 455mg | Sodium: 4011mg | Potassium: 1346mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 486IU | Vitamin C: 10mg | Calcium: 92mg | Iron: 5mg

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Comments are moderated. It may take up to 72 hours for moderated comments to appear. I welcome and encourage questions and discussion. However, I will not approve comments that are off-topic, repetitive, or contain hateful or threatening language, advertising or spam. Comments asking for information already covered in the article will not be approved.

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38 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    WOW! Your cornish game hens are cooked so beautifully.

    Thank you for sharing with us at Thursday Favorite Things Blog Hop

    Olivia, co-hostess

    Reinvented Collection

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Thank you, Olivia! They’re definitely a family favorite. ๐Ÿ™‚

    2. Katie Berry says:

      Yes, but if your crockpot cooks fast you should check them after 6 hours.

  2. Katie Berry says:

    You’re very welcome. Thank you for visiting!

  3. Growing up, we had Cornish hens all the time. As an adult, it hasn’t been something that I have made. This post made my mouth water. I know what I am making this weekend! Thank you so much.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      When I was a kid, I always begged my mom to make Cornish hens but never actually got to have one until I was in my late 20s! They’re now a family favorite. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Miz Helen says:

    5 stars
    We just love Cornish Hens, these look so good! Thanks so much for sharing your post with Full Plate Thursday and have a great day!
    Come Back Soon,
    Miz Helen

  5. Judy@CranberryMorning says:

    5 stars
    Sounds delicious. I love Cornish hens served with Brussels sprouts. Thanks for the recipe!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      You had me at Brussels sprouts. I love those!

  6. Katie Berry says:

    They’re so convenient in the crockpot, and they never come out dry!

  7. Katie Berry says:

    Aren’t slow cookers a busy mom’s best friend? ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Or man

    2. Katie Berry says:

      Yep, busy men love crock pots, too!

  8. Husband allergic to soy. Any ideas for substitute in Cornish hen crock pot recipe

    1. Katie Berry says:

      You could easily swap chicken broth, orange juice, or white wine. It will change the flavor profile but I think you’d still like the results. ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Katie Berry says:

    5? FIVE??? Yep, I’d cherish my crockpot, too, if I had that big of a gang to feed. Have you tried the Instant Pot yet? It’s a slow cooker but SO MUCH MORE. I make flavored steel cut oats or hard “boiled” eggs (that the shells practically fall off from) for breakfast, then vegetable soup or steamed chicken (from frozen, in 20 minutes!) with broccoli for lunch, and anything from super tender spare ribs (45 minutes) to juicy pork chops (8 minutes) to whole “roasted” chicken (30 minutes) for dinner. I โค๏ธ my Instant Pot, and I’m just feeding two of us now. With a family your size, you’d love it!

    Oh, and I hope you enjoyed the Crockpot Cornish Hens recipe. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. How long would you cook this recipe in the Instant Pot? 30 minutes as mentioned above? What if you cooked 2 or 3 Cornish hens? Thanks!
      J

    2. Katie Berry says:

      When using a pressure cooker, there’s no need to increase the time you set just because you’ve doubled or tripled a recipe (or halved it, even). That’s all explained in the manual. ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Martha Stuber says:

    This recipe saved my day. Recently moved to a new apartment and did’nt know my oven isn’t working till I went to preheat it. Then had the good fortune to find your recipe for using my crock pot. Especially live the onion to rest the game hen on, as I avoid having aluminum as a contaminant in my food. Thanks so much.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      I’m so glad you enjoyed them, Martha!

  11. Katie Berry says:

    Teriyaki sauce works, too, or a bit of broth.

  12. Awsome recipe, they turned out delicious. Paired the hens with olive oil roasted potatoes, and steamed broccoli. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      So glad you enjoyed them, Mitch. I love what a simple yet impressive recipe this is. Your olive oil roasted potatoes sound delicious, too!

  13. Nandi Brown says:

    5 stars
    I havent tried this recipe yet but I saw it and wanted to try it….I usually stray away from soy sauce recipes……I’m nervous to cook with it, but I love the flavor of it! I’m excited! I am using the onion/bell pepper bed due to lack of foil! If it lets me I will update my comment post cooking! I am new to housewife life and I stumbled upon your page…..I look forward to following your page, thank you!

  14. Sheila Beck says:

    5 stars
    Making monday but I am goign to do 4 hens do I double everything? What about cooking time on high ? 4 to 6 hrs ?

  15. Katie Berry says:

    I assume you’ve found the answer already. Sorry — I was on Spring vacation!

  16. 5 stars
    I tried this for Thanksgiving dinner, Absolutely amazing, I turned the leftover marinade into a gravy using corn starch. Thanks for recipe.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      I’m so glad you enjoyed them, Dan. Thank you for taking the time to leave a positive comment!

  17. Katie Berry says:

    I’ve revised the recipe since the photo was taken. In the original, I recommended rubbing the hens with butter. I skipped that step a few times and they turned out just as well. I’ll edit the recipe to indicate it’s optional.

  18. 5 stars
    Hmm would potato’s do in place of the onion to hold the hens out of the juice?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      I can’t see why not! Great idea. ๐Ÿ™‚

  19. Katie Berry says:

    You can always try it, though I haven’t done so. My concern is that they’d dry out, so if that happens please don’t blame the recipe. ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. 4 stars
    Great recipe for a beginner like me. Iโ€™ve made it twice now and we love it. I would only give this 4 stars because of the extremely high Sodium content. I replaced the Soy Sauce with Braggโ€™s Liquid Aminos to lower the Sodium by almost half; without a loss of flavor.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed the recipe. Keep in mind that the sodium levels reflected in the nutritional info represent ALL the marinade ingredients. Since you’re not drinking them (or, at least I hope you’re not), they don’t indicate the amount of sodium you’re actually consuming. That said, Bragg’s works, too.

  21. Cassandra says:

    5 stars
    Wow! This recipe really exceeded my expectations. I didn’t have the ground ginger or the oyster sauce, but substituted it for a little chicken broth. The hens still turned out juicy, tender, and delish! I roasted some red potatoes and Brussels sprouts for sides and the meal could not have turned out more perfect! Thank you for sharing this “must try” recipe!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      I’m so glad you liked it, Cassandra. Your choice of side dishes sounds delicious!

  22. Iโ€™m making this now! I didnโ€™t have oyster sauce so I used Hoisen instead. Hope it turns out good!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      That substitute should work well. I hope you enjoy it!

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