Smoked Spatchcock Cornish Hens
Cornish game hen is the USDA-approved name for variety of broiler chicken, produced from a cross between the Cornish and White Plymouth Rock chicken breeds, that is served young and immature, weighing no more than two pounds. The main difference between a Cornish hen and a chicken is the mature size of the bird. On the farm, Cornish hens reach maturity faster than chickens -- in only about 28 days. Broiler and frying chickens are butchered between 39 and 42 days, while a roaster's lifespan is 50 days.
If you’re not sure what spatchcocked means it’s a big word for taking out the backbone and laying the bird flat. The bird has been splayed out and therefore cooks evenly and easier. Cornish hens are a bit more expensive than chicken but the extra cost is well worth it. They make for an elegant dinner, are more tender, tastier, and fun to eat. Who doesn't want to enjoy their very own little chicken - but don't be surprised if you can't eat a whole one yourself ... There's actually more meat on a Cornish hen than you think.
Carefully pull back the skin from the breast and legs/thighs on the spatchcock Cornish hens and rub Roasted Garlic Extra Virgin Olive Oil under and on the skin of each hen. Liberally rub my Poultry Seasoning which can be found on page 170 in my cookbook, The Wood Pellet Smoker and Grill Cookbook, under and on the skin of each hen. Wrap the seasoned Cornish Hens with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours.
Preheat your wood pellet smoker grill to 180ºF using 100% hard wood CookinPellets.com Premium Perfect Mix wood pellets. I recommend using a Teflon grill mat to keep the Cornish hens from sticking to the grill grates. Smoke the Spatchcocked Cornish Hens for an hour at 180ºF before increasing the pit temperature to 375ºF. The Cornish hens are cooked when the internal temperature of the breast at the thickest part reaches 170ºF. Rest the Smoked Spatchcock Cornish Hens loosely under a foil tent for 10 minutes before serving ... For planning purposes only - took a total of about 2½ hours which includes the preheat time - Always cook to internal temperatures!
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