Rotisserie, Sunday dinner
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Rotisserie Cornish Game Hens, Brined and Herbed

I’ve been writing this blog for a little while now, and I’ve been amazed at the number of readers that my rotisserie recipes attract. I know from my own research that rotisserie recipes are few and far between – when I find a new one, I get excited about something else I can try with my favorite grill gadget.

The recipe that everyone seems to find is my Rotisserie Cornish Game Hens. That post has three times more viewers than any other post I’ve done. I was even more amazed to find out that I show up on the first page of search results if you Google “rotisserie cornish game hens”.
*My blog? Showing up “above the fold” on Google? Whoohoo! I’ve hit the big time! On a busy day, I have dozens of readers. Dozens! Hmm. That doesn’t sound as impressive as it did when I said it in my head.

**I’m addicted to Google Analytics. Every morning, I get up and check my stats from the day before – how did I do? What search terms brought people to my blog? Wait…someone in the Czech Republic visited my blog? Where are they from? Liberec? Where’s that?

I was inspired to do a follow up post. If people like one rotisserie cornish game hen recipe, why not another one? The main reason I wanted to revisit my little chickens is: Usually, I don’t pre-salt the hens.
*It’s a great way to do it, but the overnight salting takes more foresight than I have under normal circumstances.

Brining the Hens

Instead, I usually brine my cornish game hens. Brining gives you more of a temperature cushion in poultry, because the brine causes the meat to suck up more moisture. That’s good if you accidentally cook the breast meat past 165*F – the extra moisture keeps them from getting too dry to be good to eat. Also, and more important, it seasons the meat all the way through, and if you add a little sugar to the brine it gives it a nice hint of sweetness.

Recipe: Rotisserie Cornish Game Hens, Brined and Herbed


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Rotisserie Cornish Game Hens, Brined and Herbed

  • Author: Mike Vrobel
  • Prep Time: 4 hours
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 4 hours 45 minutes
  • Yield: 6-8 1x


Rotisserie Cornish Game Hens, brined and rubbed with a herb paste from my garden.


  • 4 (1.5 pound) cornish hens


  • 1/2 cup table salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 quarts water

Herb rub

  • 4 teaspoons fresh thyme, minced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh oregano, minced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, minced
  • 2 teaspoons sage, minced
  • 1 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • Zest of 1 lemon (roughly 1.5 teaspoons)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil


  1. Brine the hens: In a container large enough to fit all the hens, mix the salt and sugar in the water until dissolved. Submerge the hens in the brine, and refrigerate for 2-4 hours.
  2. Prep the hens: Put the herb rub ingredients in a small bowl, mix to combine, and set aside. Remove the hens from the brine, and pat dry with paper towels. Be thorough – wet hens won’t brown! Loosen the skin covering the breasts of the hen by carefully running your finger under the skin. Get a little of the herb rub on the breast meat where you just loosened it, and spread it all over the breast. Rub the hens with the rest of the herb rub, making sure to get some inside the cavity as well. Truss the hens and put them on the spit. It helps if you have four sets of forks for your spit for this. Put the hens on in two sets of two – first bird on the spit feet first, then the second bird breast first, so the neck part of the backbone of the two hens are touching. Then use a fork to secure the first pair of hens. Repeat for the second set of hens. Let sit at room temperature while you prepare your grill.
  3. Prepare the grill: Set your grill up for rotisserie cooking at high heat. For my Weber Summit, this means removing the grates, turning the two outer burners (burners 1 and 6) to high, and turning the infrared burner to high. Then I put my drip pans in the middle, over the unlit burners.
  4. Cook the hens: Put the spit on the grill, put your foil pans under the hens, and start the spit spinning. Cook with the lid closed. It will take for 30-45 minutes, depending on the size of the hens. (It took 45 minutes for my 1 1/2 pound hens). Check the internal temp on the hens after 20 minutes, and every 10 minutes thereafter – you want 160*F to 165*F in the breast, and 170*F to 180*F in the thigh. Remove the spit from the grill (while wearing gloves!), and remove the hens from the spit. Cover the hens with foil, and let rest for 15 minutes before serving.
  5. Final prep and serve: Cut the hens in half – I find a half a hen to be a good serving for an adult, with one hen per person if they’re a big eater. If you have poultry shears or kitchen shears, cut the chicken along one side the backbone, and then through the middle of the breast to separate the hen into two halves. If you don’t have shears, use a large knife. On a cutting board, run a chef’s knife through the cavity and split the chicken along the backbone, then turn it over and split through the breast.


See my Rotisserie Poultry Basic Technique for more details.

  • Category: Rotisserie
  • Cuisine: American

*Different Herbs: The herbs listed above are what you get if you buy a “Poultry Pack” of fresh herbs, which is what I look for when I want a variety of different fresh herbs. Use whatever herbs you like, just try to use roughly the same amount, total, that I have above. Oh, and watch out for rosemary. A little is good, too much and you wind up with something that tastes like a pine tree. During the summer, when our garden is producing, I’ll use what we have grown – usually some combination of parsley, basil, thyme, and rosemary.
*Of course, after making this, I went out and checked our garden – the thyme is growing like mad. Darn! I could have used it in the recipe. Next time…

*Watch your hands with the hot spit! Use oven mitts or (preferably) welding gloves.

*As you can see in the pictures, I made my rotisserie pan potatoes along side this recipe. They’re almost as good as the hens – potatoes browned in chicken fat. Just don’t pretend you’re on a diet when you eat them…

*If you can find them, use fresh hens. It’s been a busy week, and I didnt’ want to make the trip downtown, so I used frozen hens this time around. It worked out – with the brine and the herb rub, they tasted great. If you do use frozen hens, make sure they’re thawed before brining them. The brine doesn’t get absorbed if the hens are frozen.

*I made a big mess trying to remove these hens from the spit. The back pair of hens dripped all over the table and the floor while I was trying to get the front pair loose and on the platter. Next time I’m going to line up a sheet pan next to my platter, to give me a landing strip for the juices.

*I love these Rubbermaid 8 quart food service containers for brining. They’re the perfect size for 4 cornish hens (or 2 chickens) to just fit. If you don’t have one of these, try your stockpot. If you need more brine to get your chickens submerged, just use a ratio of 1/4 cup salt, 2 tbsp sugar, and 1 quart water to make more.

*Are cornish game hens really a game bird? No, they’re just a young chicken.

What do you think?  Questions?  Other ideas?  Leave them in the comments section below.

Related Posts:
Click here for my original Rotisserie Cornish Game Hens recipe.
Click here for my other rotisserie recipes.
References and inspirations:
Alton Brown introduced me to brining, but Cooks Illustrated helped me get it down to a science.
The Cooks Illustrated’s Guide to Grilling And Barbecue

Check out my cookbook, Rotisserie Grilling.

Everything you could ask about the rotisserie,
plus 50 (mostly) new recipes to get you cooking.

It’s a Kindle e-book, so you can download it and start reading immediately!

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Filed under: Rotisserie, Sunday dinner


Hi! I’m Mike Vrobel. I’m a dad and an enthusiastic home cook; an indie cookbook author and food blogger with a day job, a patient spouse, and three kids who would rather have hamburgers for dinner.


  1. Donna says

    I didn’t have four hooks for my rotisserie so I used all metal shish kebab skewers to secure the chickens. I was actually doing five 2 1/4 pound Cornish game hens. They’re turning out beautiful I just wish I could share a photo. I also made the fried potatoes and they are looking fabulous as well. Excited to use my rotisserie That I’ve owned for my grill for the last 15 years. I will definitely be looking at some of your other rotisserie recipes. Yes my grill has lasted 15 years I use it constantly and it’s a Jenn Aire four burner.

  2. Forrest Munford says

    Thanksgiving 2020! My wife and daughter generally don’t like turkey so I turned to your very consistent rotisserie recipes and suggested Cornish game hens. I followed everything to the letter and had the most delicious and moist results!!! They were definitely happy Thanksgiving eaters. Thank you Mike Vrobel….

  3. Thomas Ryall says

    I want to try this but I only have 2 sets os forks for the Weber rotisserie. Can I just use them and something to tie them down?

  4. Susan says

    This is the best single page on the internet! The simple brine (that doesn’t need to be heated and cooled) works for all poultry and pork. Brilliant. The herb rub is beyond amazing. I think it’s the oregano that sends it over the top. I usually do use what is listed but may change things out. One really yummy alternative is to use tangerine or orange rind instead of the lemon. A surprisingly different variant. I cook all kinds of veggies in the pan below the chickens (all of which I par cook in the microwave to make sure they get melty and brown on the grill) – carrots, fennel, shallots or cippollini onions, rutabaga, brussels sprouts, etc. I save out a little extra of the herb mix and put it on the veggies before cooking. Whether rotisserie-ing or not, this is now a way of life for me and I sincerely than you for it 😉

  5. Sweet Lou says

    Best Cornish Hen recipe I’ve ever tasted. Do not, repeat do not deviate from the recipe or the brining of these tasty birds. I use my charcoal grill rotisserie and they come out perfect every time.

  6. I’ve used this recipe several times this year. It’s simple and works great. It works equally as well in a NuWave Oven. Thanks for sharing.

  7. CuriousDaisy says

    Hello! We recently bought the Summit 470. I was googling around for a Cornish Hen recipe and found yours. I made them last night so I wanted to drop you a note to let you know that you nailed it. Fantastic! I followed your exact instructions and even better I was able to use a lemon from the tree in my backyard for the zest. This recipe is perfect perfect perfect!

  8. Andria says

    This is such an amazing recipe surely works,I love it!????????Thanks for sharing!????????????????????????

  9. Daphne says

    This is the first recipe I have ever tried with my new rotisserie and it was so simple and turned out fantastic. The meat was like candy I ended up eating a whole hen myself and I’m a pretty petitie girl, I just couldn’t stop it was so good. Thanks!

  10. Scott says

    Hello there, thanks for showing up above the fold in the schmoogle search!  I have yet to cook using a rotisserie but perhaps tomorrow I will.  (All depends on what brown can do for me)…  I just wanted to say thank you for doing the blog.  I am sure I will be back soon to check out more of your recipes.  Be well.

  11. Karla says

    Thanks for such thorough directions and pictures for someone who is just trying a recipe for the first time. I am brining my hens right now will be getting in the herb garden in minutes to make my rub. We have an electric rotisserie. This should make our house smell heavenly. Can’t wait for the hubby to come in and smell it. Thanks again! 🙂

  12. Anonymous says

    Thanks for a great recipe, and great step-by-step directions.

    FYI, judging by your photos, looks like your herb rub has garlic in it, although it’s not listed in your ingredients list….

    Thanks again!

  13. Momma Amy says

    I am going to try this recipe tonight! I have heard wonderful things about cornish game hens! The only difference is I have a electric counter top rotiserrie… Still very excited to give it a shot! Thanks a million for the recipe!

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