This Air Fryer Cornish Hen recipe is perfect for entertaining or an elegant dinner at home! The hens are rubbed with lemon and flavorful spices, then air fried to perfection. They are packed with flavor and you’ll get perfectly crisp skin every time! No one will ever know they only take about 30 minutes to cook with hardly any fuss at all!
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If you have never had a Cornish game hen, or feel intimidated by it, let me settle your fears right now! The air fryer is your best friend when you think something is too complicated to cook!
An air fried Cornish hen is a thing of glory….season it up however you like, pop it in the air fryer, flip it once….it comes out perfectly golden with crispy skin every single time! How easy it that?!
While roasting a Cornish hen in the oven is also delish, it can take up to an hour to cook 2 birds, depending on their size. In the air fryer, you can have two 16 oz. birds cooked in about 30 minutes!
You can literally rub some olive oil, salt and pepper on a game hen, air fry it and it will be yummy and perfect. This air fryer game hen recipe takes it up JUUUUST a notch and will give you Thanksgiving Vibes…. I think the lemon and rosemary just put you in that turkey (hen) eating spirit!
WHY YOU’LL LOVE THIS RECIPE
- It’s a simple, yet super impressive meal!
- Quick cooking time–only about 30 minutes!
- Crisp, delicious skin with zero fuss!
- Flavorful inside and out!
You’ll need the following ingredients to make these delicious Air Fryer Cornish Hens:
Cornish Hens: For this recipe, I used 16 oz. Cornish game hens. At the store, they usually range from about 16 oz to 32 oz. A 16 oz. hen is perfect for one person. If you are serving 4 people, 32 oz. hens will be your best bet–two people can share one hen. Use whatever size suits you, just remember that cooking times are for a 16oz. hen. Adjust accordingly. Also, keep in mind the size of your air fryer when choosing hens to buy.
Lemon: No wasting the lemon here! You’ll use the zest to get the outside nice and flavorful, then cut up the rest and tuck it inside the bird to keep it moist and flavorful on the inside!
Rosemary: I also love tucking fresh rosemary sprigs inside the birds along with the lemon. However, if you only have dried rosemary, that’s fine too. Just mix it into the spice mixture and leave it out of the inside.
Smoked Paprika: This spice adds great flavor to the birds, but more importantly, that deep rich color!
Air Fryer: I used my brand new Cosori L501 Air Fryer for this recipe! I absolutely LOVE this drawer-style air fryer. I also have the Corsori 12 in 1 Air Fryer which is also a toaster oven, toaster, pizza cooker and so much more! This new L501 air fryer can be purchased on Amazon or could be obtained on Cosori official website as well.
I was super excited to try the drawer-style air fryer and I have to say, I am in LOVE! It’s super easy to use and cooks everything so quickly! The best part, though is that it’s easy to clean! I throw the little air fryer grate into the dish washer–easy breezy!
Air Fryer Liners: My Cosori L501 Air Fryer is super easy to clean, but I also love using these air fryer liners to make clean up even easier! I never air fry without a liner! Make sure you choose the size that fits your air fryer!
HOW TO MAKE AIR FRYER CORNISH HENS: STEP BY STEP
Here are some quick visual instructions. Remember that full instructions with exact ingredients will be in the recipe card below!
Step 1: Combine your spices.
Step 2: Then, rinse and pat your hens with paper towels until they are VERY dry. Rub olive oil over the birds, then rub the spice mixture INSIDE and OUT!
Step 3: Air fry hens for 16-18 minutes on one side. Then flip, and cook another 10-15 minutes until internal temperature reaches 165.
Step 4: Let the birds rest for 10 minutes before serving.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Two 16 oz Cornish game hens take approximately 25-35 minutes to cook in the air fryer at 400 degrees. Cook for 16-18 minutes on one side. Then flip and cook another 10-15 minutes until the internal temperature at the thickest part of the leg reaches 165 degrees.
Cook Cornish game hens in the air fryer at 400 degrees.
Yes, you’ll want to rinse your Cornish game hens well before cooking. Rinsing them gets off any excess blood or residue that has been on the hens in the packaging. Make sure you pat the hens dry with paper towels before seasoning and cooking.
There are SOOOO many options here!!! Have fun with it! Use flavors and spices you love! The hens are super tender and flavorful so I suggest you keep it simple. Here are some ideas;
1. Use a simple poultry spice mix like this one from McCormick.
2. Use your favorite BBQ rub! Then brush hens with BBQ sauce in the last few minutes of cooking.
3. Rosemary, lemon zest and olive oil
4. Italian seasoning, olive oil
5. Montreal seasoning
RECIPE TIPS & TRICKS
- Use your HANDS to rub seasoning mixture all over the bird. Your hands are really the BEST way to get the seasoning in all the little nooks and crannies of the birds..and it’s super fast, too! Don’t forget to season the INSIDE, too!
- Adding cut-up lemon and a sprig of rosemary to the inside of the birds helps keep them both moist and flavorful. Just don’t forget to remove them before serving.
- This recipe uses (2) 16 oz. hens. If you have bigger hens, just check them at about the 20 minute mark, flip, then use an instant read thermometer at about the 25-30 minute mark and check for an internal temp of 165 degrees.
- When using an instant read thermometer, make sure you are checking in the thickest part of the leg and also ensure the thermometer isn’t hitting a bone, which will give you an inaccurate reading.
- There may be yummy juices in the bottom of your air fryer basket, so don’t forget to pour them over the top of the hens when serving!
OTHER AIR FRYER RECIPES YOU’LL LOVE
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Air Fryer Cornish Hen
- 2 16 oz. Cornish game hens See Note 1
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- zest of one lemon
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped plus 2 sprigs
- Preheat air fryer to 400. If your air fryer doesn't have a preheat setting, just turn it to 400 and give it about 3-5 minutes to come to temperature.
- Line your air fryer tray or basket with a liner like this. Optional, but highly recommended for easy clean up!
- Remove hens from package, and rinse well. Place on a plate and pat VERY dry, inside and out, with paper towels. Then, trim off any excess fat/skin with kitchen shears (optional).
- Combine salt, pepper, lemon zest, smoked paprika, garlic powder and rosemary.
- Rub each hen with olive oil–use your hands! Then sprinkle on the spice mixture and rub it all over the hens, inside and out.
- Cut the remainder of the lemon you used for zest in 4 pieces and stuff 2 into the cavity of each bird, along with one stem of rosemary. This will ensure the hens are flavorful all the way through!
- Place hens in the air fryer breast side down and air fry for 16-18 minutes, Then flip and cook another 10-15 minutes until the hens reach 165 degrees in the thickest part of the leg. Use an instant read thermometer like this one to ensure meat is cooked through.
- Remove hens from air fryer and let rest 10 minutes then serve immediately. There may be yummy juices in the bottom of your air fryer basket, so don't forget the pour them over the top of the hens when serving!