Grilled Butterflied Cornish Hen Recipe | Grilling Recipes | PBS Food

Grilled Butterflied Cornish Hen or Chicken

Grilled Butterflied Chicken recipe

Grilled Butterflied Cornish Hen uses a method, also called spatchcocking, that produces tender flesh and crispy skin. (Recipe Credit: Aube Giroux from Kitchen Vignettes)


Yield: 4 servings

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  • 1 whole chicken or 2 Cornish hens (size of your choice)
  • For the Simple Dry BBQ Rub:
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (more if you like more spicy)
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper


  1. To ensure quick, even cooking and tender meat, butterfly your chicken or Cornish hen. Do this by placing the bird breast side down and using sturdy kitchen scissors to cut all the way along each side of the spine (about an inch on each side), cutting through the ribs and removing the spine completely. This video shows how to do it. Once you’ve removed the backbone, flip the Cornish hen and use the palm of your hand to press down firmly on the breast to lay the Cornish hen flat. (Make the most of your Cornish hen by keeping the backbone for making stock to which you can also add the cooked bones at the end of your meal).
  2. Mix the dry rub together by placing all the ingredients in a small lidded jar and shaking well. With the skin side of the Cornish hen facing up (use a paper towel to pat the Cornish hen dry first if it’s excessively wet), generously and evenly distribute the dry rub over every part of the chicken, on the skin side only.
  3. Preheat the grill to medium-low. If you’re using a wood-fired weber grill like I do, prepare a nice fire made from perfectly dry wood. Let it die down to a 1-inch bed of hot embers, moving the embers to one side so that there is a cooler zone and a hotter zone. Place the Cornish hen skin side up on the cooler zone of the grill and leave it alone until it reaches an internal temperature of 130F. Carefully flip the bird over to crisp the skin on the hotter part of the grill. Be sure to monitor how fast the skin is cooking so it doesn’t burn. Do not flip the Cornish hen back again once it is on its skin side. If you need to, move it over to the cooler side of the grill or turn the heat down. The skin should quickly crisp in about 5 to 10 minutes and the meat should reach internal temperature of 165F when you insert a meat thermometer into the deepest part of the breast meat. Remove it as soon as temperature is reached and let the cornish hen rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
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