Perdue Farms Guide: How to Cook Cornish Hens

An elegant main course that is deceptively easy to cook, Cornish hens are perfectly portioned to feed one person per bird. Tender and juicy, with little seasoning required, birds can be roasted in the oven, grilled, braise in a slow cooker, deep fried, smoked or cooked sous vide. There’s really no wrong way to make a delicious dinner with these pint-sized birds. Here, Perdue Farms’ Corporate Executive Chef Chris Moyer, CEC,CRC, shares his top tips for preparing, cooking and serving Cornish hens.

Farmers at Perdue Farms raise what is called a Cornish Cross, a hybrid of a Cornish sire, a breed imported from England in 1887, and a White Plymouth Rock chicken, a popular commercial breed introduced in the U.S. in the late 19th century. Breeding and crossbreeding generations of birds has resulted in a chicken that features a broader, meatier breast and produces more tender meat than either the Cornish or the White Plymouth Rock.

Cornish Crosses are harvested when young (only four to six weeks old) and weigh approximately 1 to 2 pounds. In the past, farmers would have referred to these chickens as “poussins” or “spring chickens.”

Interesting fact: Perdue Farms’ Cornish birds are raised by experienced Perdue farmers on small U.S. farms that feature only one to two houses. Farming on such a small scale allows farmers to spend more time with the birds. These farmers specialize in brooding (caring for chicks during the first few crucial weeks of life).

Perdue’s Cornish chicken was bred to produce a more plump and tender bird. And also a chicken that is the perfect size: One Cornish equals one natural portion. Here are more reasons why we think the product is so exceptional:

  • Meat boasts delicate flavor and melt-in-your-mouth texture.
  • Meat is fall-off-the-bone tender.
  • Skin, thinner and with less fat content than that of a full-size roaster, crisps up easily and offers superior crunch.
  • Bird cooks up more quickly than a full-size roaster.

Perdue Cornish birds are naturally low in calories and cholesterol and high in protein. To reduce calories when you cook, avoid use of butter, oil and cream and, instead, flavor birds with chicken broth, herbs, garlic, slices of citrus fruit and dry wine or sherry.

Properly sealed in air-tight packaging, frozen birds may be stored in the freezer for 7 or 10 months.

  • Refrigerator Defrosting: To thaw, place frozen bird in the refrigerator and let set for at least 24 hours. Once thawed, cook within a day or two.
  • Quick-Thaw Defrosting: Submerge frozen bird in a bowl of cool water. Refresh water every 30 minutes. Ensure that the package is not ripped or torn, as water that seeps into the package may affect cooking time or introduce bacteria. Soak bird for 1 to 1 1/2 hours (or 30 minutes per pound). Once thawed, cook immediately.

Do not rinse the skin or cavity of the bird, as doing so may spread bacteria in the sink and on the countertop.

Once defrosted, remove bird from packaging and pat dry with a paper towel. Remove giblet bag from cavity and reserve for making sauces, etc.

Heavily brining or marinating product is unnecessary as Cornish birds are small and meat is quite succulent.

Source: “The Big Thaw — Safe Defrosting Methods for Consumers,” USDA.