This juicy air fryer cornish hen is so delicious and done in just 40 minutes. The air fryer makes the perfectly seasoned bird irresistibly crispy on the outside and wonderfully tender on the inside!
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Easy Air Fryer Cornish Hen Recipe
I’m so excited to share this delicious air fryer Cornish game hen recipe with you. This little poultry is seasoned with a beautifully simple blend featuring thyme and oregano before it’s handed over to the air fryer. It only takes 30 minutes for the machine to work its magic on the bird, giving it a perfect, crispy-skinned outside and a phenomenally tender inside. There’s nothing quite like the crunch you feel as you sink your teeth into the finished product, followed by a mouthful of succulent meat.
You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how quick and easy it is to turn out this elegant, delicious dinner for two. So, tie on your apron and preheat that air fryer – you’ll be glad you did.
Why You’ll Love This Cornish Hen Recipe
Succulent, crispy-skinned, perfectly portioned poultry in just 40 minutes? What’s not to love? Here are some of my favorite things about this wonderfully simple recipe.
- Quick and easy. Not only is this recipe super simple – just season your chicken and toss it in the air fryer – but it’s also quick. Unlike roasting a whole chicken, which can take hours, Cornish hens are smaller and cook much faster.
- Perfect portion size. This Cornish game hen is perfect for 1 very hungry person but 2 can share.
- Crispy on the outside, tender on the inside. The beauty of cooking game hen in the air fryer is that the machine creates that irresistible crispy skin without the need for excessive oil or deep frying.
- Highly customizable. This recipe provides a great baseline for experimentation. I encourage you to play with different seasonings, brines, and sauces to customize the taste according to your preferences.
What Is A Cornish Hen?
Despite the name, Cornish game hens are not actually game birds. The word “game” kind of just got thrown into the name at some point, but we aren’t really sure why (perhaps to increase sales). These delicious birds are a crossbreed between Cornish and White Plymouth Rock chickens. They are harvested at a young age, while they are still small and while their meat is still very tender and their flavor delicate.
Here’s a list of what you’ll need to make Cornish hen in the air fryer. Scroll to the recipe card below for exact measurements.
- Cornish game hen – I used a 1 1/2-pound bird. You can select a smaller or larger Cornish game hen. Just note that you may need to adjust your cooking time.
- Olive oil
- Salt & Pepper
- Garlic powder
- Dried Thyme
- Dried Oregano
How To Cook Cornish Hen In Air Fryer
- Prep the air fryer. Preheat your air fryer to 375°F for 5 minutes and then grease the basket.
- Prep the hen. Rinse the Cornish game hen and pat it dry with a paper towel.
- Season the hen. Whisk together the salt, garlic powder, black pepper, thyme, and oregano. Rub the bird with olive oil and sprinkle it with the seasoning blend.
- Air fry. Air fry the bird, breast side down, for 20 minutes. Flip and cook for 10 more minutes or until the internal temperature of the bird reaches 165°F.
- Rest. Remove the bird from the air fryer and let it rest for a few minutes before slicing and serving.
Tips for Cooking Cornish Hen
- Thaw properly. These little birds generally come frozen. Make sure to thaw them completely (ideally overnight in the refrigerator) before cooking.
- Pat it dry. Be sure to pat the hen dry on the outside and the cavity. This step ensures that the skin crisps up nicely during cooking.
- Preheat the air fryer. It can be tempting just to pop the seasoned bird in the air fryer, but this will not only affect the cooking time, but you’ll also end up with much less crispy skin. So preheat your air fryer before adding the hen.
- Don’t crowd the air fryer. If you decide to double this recipe, be sure to give the hens plenty of space in the air fryer. If they are too close together, they will likely cook unevenly and you won’t get that nice, crispy skin.
- Use a meat thermometer. I suggest investing in a good meat thermometer. Insert it into the thickest part of the meat at the end of the cooking time. It needs to reach an internal temperature of 165°F. If it’s not quite there yet, air fry the bird for a few more minutes and check the temperature again. Repeat if necessary.
What To Serve With Air Fryer Cornish Hen
That juicy, mouthwateringly delicious Cornish game hen will need some company. Here are some of my favorite things to serve it with.
- Roasted vegetables. Try my Easy Oven Roasted Vegetables, Garlic Brown Butter Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Carrots, or Crispy Air Fryer Roasted Broccoli.
- Rice. This Garlic Asiago Cauliflower Rice with Mushrooms, my easy Mushroom Rice Recipe, or Almond Brown Rice Pilaf would be a great way to go.
- Potatoes. Potatoes pretty much any way will pair wonderfully with air fryer Cornish game hen. I have been loving these Crispy Smashed Potatoes in the Air Fryer, my Air Fryer Baked Potatoes, and these Garlic Rosemary Mashed Potatoes.
- Green salad. Add some greenery and a pop of flavor and texture to your entree with this Broccoli Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette, my Green Goddess Salad, or my Crunchy Kale Quinoa Salad.
- Stuffing. Make the meal Thanksgiving-ish with my Traditional Stuffing Recipe or this Cheesy Italian Sausage Stuffing Recipe.
- Gravy. Try my Turkey Gravy Recipe with Pan Drippings. Just use the drippings from the air fryer instead of turkey drippings. Note that you will have to adjust this gravy recipe based on the amount of drippings left behind in your air fryer.
How To Store & Reheat Leftovers
- Refrigerator. Place any leftovers in an airtight container and store them in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.
- Freezer. If you want to freeze the leftovers, wrap them tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil and seal them in a freezer-safe container. Store them in the freezer for up to 3 months.
- To reheat. Preheat the air fryer to 375°F and cook for about 5 to 7 minutes or until heated through. Alternatively, place the leftover on a microwave-safe dish, cover with a damp towel, and microwave in 30-second intervals until heated through.
More Air Fryer Recipes
- Air Fryer Tilapia
- Air Fryer Chicken Tenders
- Air Fryer Lobster with Cream Sauce
- Air Fryer Avocado Fries
- Juicy Air Fryer Pork Chops
Air Fryer Cornish Game Hen
- 1.5 pounds Cornish game hen
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ tablespoon dried thyme
- ½ tablespoon dried oregano
- Prep the air fryer. Preheat your air fryer to 375°F for 5 minutes and grease the air fryer basket.
- Prep the hen. Rinse the Cornish hen under cold water and pat it dry with a paper towel. Also, dry the inside cavity of the hen.
- Make the seasoning. Whisk together the salt, garlic powder, black pepper, thyme, and oregano.
- Season the hen. Rub the olive oil all over the Cornish game hen, coating it evenly, and sprinkle the seasoning blend evenly over the bird.
- Air fry. Place the seasoned game hen in the preheated air fryer basket, breast-side down. Cook for 20 minutes. Flip and cook for an additional 10 minutes.
- Check for doneness. Insert a meat thermometer into the breast of the bird. It should read 165°F. If it’s not there yet, cook for 5 more minutes and check the temperature again. Repeat if necessary.
- Rest. Once the Cornish game hen is fully cooked, remove it from the air fryer and let it rest for a few minutes before slicing and serving.
- Thaw: Cornish hens usually come frozen – thaw them in the fridge overnight before cooking.
- Dry the Hen: Pat dry the bird, inside and out.
- Marinate or Brine: Consider marinating or brining the hens beforehand. This can help enhance the flavor and retain moisture during the cooking process. You can also season the cornish hens and let the rub sit for 30 minutes or up to 1½ hours to allow the salt and spices to penetrate the meat before cooking.
- Rub Under the Skin: For even more flavor, gently separate the skin from the meat and rub some of the seasonings directly on the meat beneath.
- Let it Rest: Just as with larger roasted meats, allowing the hen to rest for a few minutes after cooking can help redistribute and lock in the juices.
- Avoid Overcrowding: When doubling the recipe, ensure hens have ample space in the air fryer for even cooking and crispiness.
- Temperature Check: Use an instant-read meat thermometer to check for doneness – it should register at 165°F in the meat’s thickest part. Cook longer if needed.
Nutritional info is an estimate and provided as courtesy. Values may vary according to the ingredients and tools used. Please use your preferred nutritional calculator for more detailed info.