Grilled Cornish Hens with Lemon and Rosemary

[Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.

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Grilled Cornish Hens with Lemon and Rosemary

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About This Recipe

Yield:Serves 4 to 6
Active time:30 minutes
Total time:45 minutes
Special equipment:grill, instant read thermometer, skewers
This recipe appears in: The Food Lab: Grilled Cornish Hens with Rosemary and Lemon

Ingredients

  • 4 Cornish hens, about 1 pound each
  • 1 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 tablespoon juice and 1 tablespoon zest from 1 lemon
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, minced on a microplane grater
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Procedures

  1. 1

    Pat hens dry with paper towels and place breast-side-down on a large cutting board. Using sharp kitchen shears, remove the backbone by cutting along either side of it. Turn chicken over and lay out flat. Press firmly on breast to flatten the chicken. For added stability, run a metal or wooden skewer horizontally, entering through one thigh, going through both breast halves, and exiting through the other thigh. Tuck wing tips behind back of breasts. Repeat with remaining hens.

  2. 2

    Combine salt, pepper, rosemary, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, and olive oil in a small bowl and stir with fingers until homogenous. Rub mixture evenly over all surfaces of hens.

  3. 3

    Light one half chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread the coals evenly over half of coal grate. Alternatively, set half the burners of a gas grill to high heat. Set cooking grate in place, cover gill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate.

  4. 4

    Place hens skin-side-up directly over the coals. Cover and cook until lightly charred on bottom, about 5 minutes. Carefully flip birds skin-side-down. Cover and continue to cook until golden brown, crisp, charred in spots, and center of breasts registers 145 to 150°F on an instant read thermometer, about 15 minutes longer. If birds threaten to burn before temperature is achieved, carefully slide to cooler side of grill, cover, and cook until done. Remove from grill, let rest 5 minutes, and serve.

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