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Grilled Five Spice Cornish Game Hen Recipe

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five spice cornish game hen

My five spice Cornish game hen/chicken recipe is really a beautiful combination of Chinese spices and a tender flavorful chicken. But…

What is a Cornish game hen?  It sounds like a fancy game bird hunted in the wild wetlands of England, but it’s not.  A Cornish game hen is basically a young chicken.  Technically it is a young chicken of the Cornish chicken breed, 5 to 6 weeks old,  less than 2 pounds, and very tasty.

When I use to live in NYC my apartment was like a small motel in the East Village.   Every weekend there was a new visitor and during the holidays I’d have to turn away friends because my couch has met it’s capacity. Now that I live in Raleigh I have a place 10x bigger and maybe one guest a year, if I’m lucky.  Funny how things work out.  Recently I did have one visitor from California, my friend Derek.  He had some meetings during the day but afterward I tried to show him around a bit and I started with my favorite place in North Carolina.  24 hour  Super Walmart.

Yes, I know that they are not going to win any company of the year awards, but I’m not here to talk about a company’s best business practices.  But given the fact that most stores are closed at 9pm and being quite a night owl, I have a limited selection.  It’s the only place open at 2am, other than the mini mart at the gas station, where the variety of product is not limited to Funyuns and Monster energy drink.  Basically I like to cruise the miles of white aisles free of hundreds of people and shopping carts.  It makes the entire process much faster and easier.  So while browsing the food section, we talked about cooking, BBQ and some of our favorite foods.  Cornish game hen was on sale and he told me his super easy recipe.  The rest was history.

I never cooked Cornish game hen never mind five spice Cornish game hen, but now it’s one of the easiest Asian recipes that I know.  Anyone can make it and it only takes a few minutes to set up.

raw cornish game hen


Difficulty Level: 1 – Heat, stir, and have a beer.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes (1 hour if you marinate)
Real people serving size:1

1 Cornish game hen (usually 1lb to 1.5 lbs frozen, so you’ll have to defrost)
2 tsp salt (I prefer kosher salt but any salt works)
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp five spice powder
1 large brick (covered with foil, that way you know it’s clean)

Butterfly the chicken from the back. Mix the three dry ingredients together in a bowl and rub it all over the chicken including the front and back(the inside cavity with the bones). And that’s it for prep. You can grill it right away or let it sit for an hour in the fridge and let it marinate.
Grill for 6 minutes with the breast side up on medium high and place the brick on top of it. Then flip it and cook it breast side down for another 5 minutes or until done with the brick on top of it. Once cooked let it rest for 4 minutes.

Now grilling is probably one of the hardest things to explain on the internet simply because there are so many variables and differences in grills. Gas, electric, charcoal, wood, hot areas, low areas, etc. Any BBQer worth their salt knows their grill like the back of their hand. So cook accordingly. The brick simply helps cook the chicken faster and more evenly by allowing all parts of the chicken equal contact with the grill. Keep in mind that the brick may got too hot to handle so be careful.

There are a ton of options, you can broil it in the oven without the brick of course. You don’t have to butterfly it and can cook it whole in the oven like a roast chicken. You can use a regular chicken. You can add some minced garlic to the inside of the skin, or some soy sauce to the mix. The possibilities are endless but sometimes it’s great to keep it simple.

Cut the Cornish game hen into quarters or halves and serve with Thai sweet chili sauce and rice.
That’s it, super quick and easy. Great for parties, romantic dinners, or quick late night snacks.