or Connect
ChefTalk.com › ChefTalk Cooking Forums › Cooking Discussions › Food & Cooking › help with cornish hens!
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

help with cornish hens!

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 
I bought 2 cornish hens the other day because I wanted to make a nice dinner for my husband and I. Since I had never cooked them before I looked online for ideas.
I mainly wanted an idea of what temp and how long to cook them. One one recipe it said to cook them at 320 for 1 hr and 30 min. I don't have a normal oven, just a toaster oven but I figured the length of time wouldn't be too different because I've made several things in the toaster oven and it took about the same amount of time to bake as the recipe said.
I pulled the chicken out a few times to butter it up because I read online that helps to keep it moist so it doesn't dry out.
After the 1.5 hrs I pulled it out and since I didn't have a temp thing to check the chicken, I just cut into the thigh to see if the juices ran clear...there was still red blood coming out! I put it in for another 30 minutes, cut into another thigh, and still blood!
I turned up the temp incase my toaster oven was off, let it sit for another 30 minutes in the toaster oven, cut into the tigh of the second chicken, and still blood!
I then left it in for another 45 minutes, cut into the last thigh and still blood!
By this time it was 9:30pm, my husband and I were hungry and getting tired so I ended up just popping a few hot dogs in the microwave (which I hate doing but we do it when we have no time), and just ate those and tossed out the chicken.
The chicken looked so good but I was so disappointed!
I've read of others baking them in a toaster oven but I don't know what I did wrong!
Oh, and I put foil lightly around the chicken (I did this more to keep the pan clean and incase any butter that was in with the chicken decided to pop up onto the burner things in the toaster oven. We are purchasing a larger toaster oven soon so I'm trying to keep this one clean so we can sell it)
I am still a new cook. Some foods I am able to get on my first try but these 2 hens have me stumped! Perhaps they weren't thawed out all the way? I had them sitting in the refrigerator for 2 days. The both seemed to be pretty thawed out. Perhaps just bad luck or stubborn chickens that didn't want to become someone's meal?
Any ideas?
post #2 of 7
The best thing for you to purchase is an instant read thermometer, a digital one is best. Look up the appropriate cooking temperatures for chicken.

There is just way too much variability in time/temperature/technique to give you even a rough estimate. Who knows if the oven is properly calibrated or what the internal temperature was before you put it in, and to make matters worse, some ovens drop heat like crazy as soon as you open the door. Anyway, as a general rule, you can pull on the leg and if it's kinda loose then it's done. But again, what's "kinda loose" right?

Get a meat thermometer. ;)
post #3 of 7
Thread Starter 
thanks :) My hubby and I still have some credit towards Bed Bath and Beyond from our wedding gifts, so I'll go hunt one down there :)
post #4 of 7
Sorry to hear about the failed fowl for dinner. I'm guessing that part of the problem is that they were not really thawed all the way through.

One way to speed up the cooking time is to cut them in half and remove the backbone. If you have a cooktop of some sort you can try poaching them first before browning and finishing in the toaster oven.

My wife isn't that fond of them, so I don't cook Cornish hens too often. The last few times have all been on the smoker in conjunction with some other slab of something. I rinse the hens, lightly salt the cavities and loosely stuff with a lime wedge or two, a couple cloves of garlic and some fresh cilantro leaves. They aren't that big, you can't get much in there. They take about 2, maybe 2.5 hours in a 250 degree smoker.

Gee, Memorial Day weekend, and thanks to today's root canal I'll be laying on the sofa moaning and groaning most of the weekend instead of going to Jackson Hole as we planned. Maybe I'll fire up the smoker....

Food nourishes my body.  Cooking nourishes my soul.
Food nourishes my body.  Cooking nourishes my soul.
post #5 of 7
Just a few observations:

Cornish hens are not actually chickens. They've got substantially more flavor and a bit more fat in the flesh -- it's as though they're mostly dark meat. Sometimes, no matter how long you cook them the juices won't run completely clear. The best way to test for doneness is to follow Kuan's advice and use an instant read thermometer. The bird should be over 155 at the breast and 165 at the thigh. Even if the juices show a little color, the bird is safe to eat. Another test, is to wiggle the leg. If the thigh bone moves easily in its joint with the body, the bird is done.

True for cornish hens and chickens -- 320 is not high enough to roast properly. The recipe you followed was... oh what's the word? Oh yes ... bad. You want at least 400 deg to do a proper job. Basting is really for bigger birds, but you can if you want. You're far better off pushing a few pats of butter under the skin at the breast so the bird self bastes.

Like most roast birds, Cornish hens respond well to brining. A couple of hours in a medium strength brine makes a big difference.

Cornish hens and chickens are best roasted whole, and trussed. You don't need to sew the cavity shut. Season the cavity and put a bit of lemon, lime or orange and part of a sprig of rosemary. Tie the legs together. Tie the thighs tight to the body. Bend the wings behind the back and tie them tight to the body. If you don't feel like tying -- don't bother. Life's too short to obsess. Rub the bird all over with butter or olive oil and season it well with kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper, granulated garlic, granulated onion, paprika, and a little rosemary and thyme.

The best strategy is to calculate the cooking time, divide it into four parts, and rotate the bird 1/4 turn every interval -- start with the back down and end with the breast up. For instance, if you were cooking at 400, cooking time for an average bird would be 3/4 hour, you'd rotate at 15, 25, and 35 minutes. Turning like this is better than basting. If this seems like too much fuss, cook the first 45 minutes with the breast down, and the last 15 with it up. Doing most of the cooking with the breast up insures a juicy breast.

If your bird really was uncooked for as long as you cooked it, your oven may be broken, you may have somehow set it wrong, or perhaps the bird really wasn't fully defrosted. h/t to teamfat.

Don't hate me for saying this -- but sometimes newer cooks forget. Don't forget to take the package with the liver, giblets and neck out before cooking. Removing the package and seasoning the cavity will get your hands in the bird and let you know if it's still frozen in there.

Toaster ovens are usually more accurate than normal home ovens. They recover much faster from an open door. You won't hear this from me often, but I doubt your door was the problem.

If and when you decide to broil the little guys -- you want to butterfly them with a technique called "spatchcock." You can google it yourself or I'll explain when you're ready.

Better luck next time,
post #6 of 7
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the advice, especially BDL! I know there weren't any Giblets, liver or neck because the package said they were already removed :) I did stuff it, but being my first time, I just poured in the better and stuffed a little veggies in so I never really felt around much inside, Next time I'll do that :)
I'm guessing they weren't completely thawed out and as you mentioned, 320 wasn't high enough. I'll try your tips BDL next time I make them! I look forward to trying again sometime soon! Perhaps after our camping trip we are about to take.
post #7 of 7

Hey! Just wanted to say thank you. I know this was posted ages and ages ago, but I'm in college now and kind of stuck with the dorm lounge which boasts only a toaster over, microwave, and the electric skillet my mom bought my sister and. This was a big help in ensuring I didn't totally botch my Saturday lunch. I think I might go the 45 and 15 route next time though, seeing as my breast was a twitch on the dry side. In my case I stuffed with a clove of fresh garlic, a tablespoon of butter, rosemary, a liiiittle bit of oregano and salt. Ah... like being home again ^_^

New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Food & Cooking
ChefTalk.com › ChefTalk Cooking Forums › Cooking Discussions › Food & Cooking › help with cornish hens!