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Smoked Cornish Game Hens With Brine And Dry Rub Recipe

These Smoked Cornish Game Hens With a Brine And Dry Rub Recipe and are full of flavor! Stuff with butter, leeks, celery, and green onions for moist meat!!
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time3 hrs 30 mins
Soaking in brine4 d
Total Time4 d 3 hrs 50 mins
Course: Entree
Cuisine: American, BBQ
Servings: 8


  • Smoker


  • 4 Cornish Game Hens

Brine Ingredients

  • 1 Gallon Water
  • 1 Cup Salt
  • ¼ Cup Garlic Salt
  • ¼ Cup Worcestershire Sauce
  • 4 Tbsp Black Pepper
  • ¼ Cup Montreal Steak Seasoning
  • Ice

Dry Rub Ingredients

  • Sesame Oil
  • Jack Daniels Chicken Rub

Stuffing Ingredients

  • 1 Bundle Leeks
  • 1 Bunch Green Onions
  • 3 Stalks Celery
  • Garlic Herb Butter
  • Minced Garlic
  • Twine


How To Make A Brine For Cornish Hens

  • This cornish hen recipe does take some planning to do, the brine also works on large breasts or regular chicken. We keep our cornish game hens frozen and place them in the brine frozen. Be sure to know and follow food safety procedures for thawing time and storage of this brine and the hens.   
  • Fill a larger container or large bowl with water and put in all your brine ingredients. This container needs to have a lid.
  • Give the water and the brine a good stirring with a whisk.  
  • Place your frozen game hens into the container of chicken brine solution and keep them refrigerated until you are ready to smoke. Note if you are not placing them in a refrigerator you need to keep a constant ice bath on the chickens.
  • Keeping the gallon of brine this cold allows the chicken to absorb the flavoring as well as season cavities as well.
  • This sat in a fridge for a couple of days, I recommend at least an overnight brine.
  • Pull your hens and brine mixture out of the fridge a couple of hours before you are ready to smoke to allow them to get to room temperature.
  • Discard brine after you are done, you do not want to keep the brine.
  • When you remove your cornish game hens from the brine place hens on a pan or a pan lined with aluminum foil.
  • Pat the hens dry with a paper towel after removing them from the brine.

How To Dry Rub Cornish Game Hens:   

  • Rub or brush hens with sesame oil, or olive oil, onto the hens, this will help to have a crispy skin but also prevent hens from sticking to the grill grates.
  • Season with your rub.  I did use Jack Daniels Chicken Rub but Spiceology makes amazing rubs as well. 
  •  Allow the young chickens to rest for a bit, you can store them in the fridge as well to let them season more. 

How To Make Smoked Cornish Hens:

  • Start your smoker up with the water and wood pucks to get a good smoke rolling and going before putting in your chicken.
  • Spray your smoking rack with a nonstick spray or rub with oil. 
  • Chop up your celery, leeks, and green onion into stalks that are about the same length, this will be a smaller size than they are bought.
  • Take your twine and tie a combination of the three into bundles that will fit to stuff hens. Note you won't be eating these, this is to keep the meat moist while smoking. I have an obsession with spreading things out on a cutting board, this helps me to also see if we have everything together.
  • Make garlic butter by taking a slab of cold butter, I started with 4 tbsp butter and added, and mix with minced garlic. Or just keep throwing slabs of butter into the bowl till you get the consistency you want or amount.
  • Scoop premade garlic butter or scoop your garlic butter blend into balls that will fit into the cornish game hens, you can make these any size I used a Wilton cookie scoop.  
  • Hold your hen open and stuff posterior of the bird with a garlic butterball, add more minced garlic, and then shove in a bundle of the green mixture.
  • It can be helpful to stand them on the upper end of the hen for this part.
  • Place your breast side down chicken on the racks in the smoker. Keep your smoker at about 225 degrees and smoke for about 3 ½ hours.
  • Place breast side down chicken on the racks in the smoker, or on the thickest part of the breast.
  • Keep your smoker at about 225 degrees or medium heat or medium-high heat on the grill, it is important to cook them on indirect heat. A higher temperature will allow for fast cooking of the hens but medium low heat with indirect cooking will allow for juicy meat and smoky flavor.
  • Keep an eye on the temperature of the smoker and use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the meat. Do not remove until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.
  • The cook time for mine was about 3 ½ hours but cook for temperature, not time