How Long To Cook Cornish Hens (And Why)?

Exact Answer: 50 To 60 Minutes

Cornish hens are a cross between White Rock and Cornish chickens. Due to their small size, they resemble miniature chickens. Cornish hens are a delight during any elegant dinner party. 

These hens are cooked and served whole. An individual may choose between several methods to cook a cornish hen. An important between the cooking methods is the time duration.  

How Long To Cook Cornish Hens?

Method used to cook Cornish hensTime taken
Oven baking (425 degrees Fahrenheit)50 to 60 minutes
Slow cooking3 hours on high, 5 hours on low
Poaching30 to 35 minutes
Deep Frying (350 degrees Fahrenheit)10 minutes
Barbecue1 hour
Sous Vide (160 degrees Fahrenheit)3 hours and 30 minutes

One can cook a cornish hen in several different ways. Oven roasting the hen is the most common one. In this method, one bakes the hen in a preheated oven at a temperature of 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 50 to 60 minutes.

One can also slow cook a cornish hen. A slow cooker takes 3 hours to cook a hen on high and 5 hours on low. One must wait until the internal temperature of the hen reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Poaching, another way to cook cornish hens, requires 30 to 35 minutes. 

On the other hand, one can also grill the hen on a barbecue grill. A whole Cornish hen cooks in 1 hour and has a nice char on it, similar to oven roasting the meat. Deep frying a cornish hen only takes 10 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit due to its small size. 

A cornish hen can be sous vide at 160 degrees Fahrenheit for 3 hours and 30 minutes. 

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Why Does Cooking A Cornish Hen Take So Long?

Three factors affect the cooking time of cornish hens. They are- the type of meat, the presence of bone and the cooking method. 

Cornish hens contain dark and white meat. Dark or Red meat is present in regions exposed to prolonged exercise and movement. White muscles, on the other hand, are not as active. 

Active muscles require a high amount of oxygen. Therefore, they are rich in iron. Furthermore, they also contain high-fat content. Tough dark meat like the legs needs more time to tenderize. 

During the cooking process, a connective tissue known as collagen liquefies and converts into gelatin. The process requires high temperatures. Hence, the meat must be cooked for longer to reach these temperatures. Additionally, the extra fat present melts at high heat, keeping the cornish hen meat juicy.

In contrast, white meat is tender and has lesser connective tissue. Therefore it cooks faster.

As cornish hens are cooked whole, bones cook with the meat. Heat radiates throughout the bone, prolonging the cooking of the muscles. Furthermore, skin on the hens traps moisture inside, increasing the cooking time.   

One must not overcook the meat. Overcooking dark meat results in less tender meat as collagen fibres shrink, resulting in fluid loss. Additionally, overcooking white meat makes it dry.

Lastly, meat directly to the heat source cooks faster. During oven roasting, deep frying or grilling, cornish hens come in contact with the heat source. These include the heating coil in an oven, the hot oil during deep frying and the light coal in a barbecue. Therefore, they char and cook fast. Sous vide and Poaching rely on heat transfer through water which is not as effective. Finally, a slow cooker heats the utensil slowly. Therefore it takes a long time. 

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Conclusion

Cooking a cornish hen is easy as long as one does not go beyond the recommended time. The duration of cooking the meat depends on various factors. These include the type of meat, the presence of a bone and the method used. The most significant is the cooking method.  

For an elegant dinner party, one may opt for an oven-roasted hen. However, one may choose barbecue or deep frying during a time constraint. One can also slow cook the hen overnight to save time on cooking. Poaching and sous vide is rare. 

References

  1. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1365-2621.1966.tb01928.x
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0032579119380241
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