Air fryer Cornish hens are a great option when you want to make a special meal, but don’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Their small size makes them perfect for the air fryer, and air frying results in crispy, juicy, and perfectly cooked meat. Plus, it’s a lot less hassle than roasting a hen in the oven.
Why you’ll love this recipe
- It is a great alternative to roasted chicken and roasts in around half the time
- Air frying is a healthy alternative to traditional roasting, and ensures that it comes out with perfectly crispy skin
- Because Cornish hens are small, you can make a one-pot meal by cooking your sides in the air fryer at the same time
This recipe is great for a main dish when you are just cooking for one or two. It is simple to make and only requires a few ingredients. The cornish hen is juicy and flavorful, and the air fryer gives it a nice crispy skin.
Scroll down for the printable card for this Cornish hen air fryer recipe, or read on for all the details!
What do you need?
Quantities are given in the recipe card below.
I use fresh Cornish hen. If you have a frozen Cornish hen, then thaw it over night in the refrigerator before cooking.
Brush onto the hen, then apply the seasonings. The butter helps to make the skin really crispy, as well as adding a wonderful richness to the flavor. You can substitute cooking oil if you prefer.
For this recipe, I use a simple homemade spice mix of salt, pepper, rosemary, and thyme, but you can use any other seasoning mix, dry rub, or herb seasoning that you like with roast chicken.
Try switching out the rosemary and thyme for Italian seasoning, or adding some garlic powder, onion powder, or smoked paprika.
How to Roast Cornish Hen in an Air Fryer
This recipe is very straight-forward to make. There are just a few simple steps to getting it just right:
Step 1: Seasoning
- Mix the dry seasonings together in a small bowl.
- Brush the skin of the bird with melted butter.
- Then rub Cornish hen with seasonings to ensure it is coated thoroughly. Ensure you add some seasoning inside the cavity.
You can also add stuffing or fill the cavity with a small lemon or onion, and some crushed garlic to really add a flavor punch!
Step 2: Trussing the hen
Trussing the hen is important to ensure it cooks evenly. It also helps retain moisture, keeping the meat tender and juicy. Tucking the wings in also protects them from getting charred to a crisp during cooking.
It’s easy to do! Simply use a short length of kitchen twine or string to tie the legs together.
Step 3: Air frying the hen
- First, preheat the air fryer to 390°F/ 195°C.
- Place the trussed Cornish hen in the air fryer basket. If you are cooking more than one, ensure they are not touching.
- Air fry the Cornish hen for around 30 minutes until it has reached at least 165°F/ 74°C in the center of the thickest part.
Exactly how long to air fry it depends on the size of the bird, and how powerful your air fryer is, but a 1½ pound bird should take approximately 30 minutes to cook.
The best way to tell whether your hen is cooked is to use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature.
The safe temperature for poultry is 165°F/ 74°C. Measure the temperature at the thickest part of your Cornish hen for an accurate temperature reading.
Remember that the temperature of the meat will continue to rise a few degrees while it rests.
Step 4: Resting
Once it has reached the desired temperature, remove it from the air fryer, and resist the urge to tuck in straight away. For really juicy meat, you need to rest it first.
Tent with foil and leave to rest for ten minutes so that it can finish cooking and the juices can reabsorb into the meat.
Remember to continue to check the temperature while it is resting to ensure that it has reached the all-important temperature of 165°F/ 74°C
Note: if necessary, give it an extra blast in the air fryer for a few minutes until it does reach this temperature.
Roasted Cornish hen is a very versatile dish. It can be served in many ways with different types of sides. I usually serve with roasted vegetables and steamed vegetables, but it is also great with rice, mashed potato, baked potatoes, or fries, and salad.
Here are some great side dishes to go with this recipe:
- Air Fryer Roast Potatoes
- Air Fryer Roasted Vegetables
- Air Fryer Sweet Potato Cubes
- Instant Pot Mashed Potatoes (no-drain recipe)
- Microwave Steamed Broccoli
- How to Make Gravy from Stock
Air frying sides with the Cornish Hen
I love a one-pot dinner, and roasting a side of vegetables in the air fryer with the hen couldn’t be easier! Simply:
- Cut your veggies into 2-inch chunks (try potatoes, onions, sweet potatoes, broccoli, carrots)
- Scatter in the bottom of the air fryer basket with a quick spray of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper
- Then gently place the Cornish hen on top before cooking
The cook time for the Cornish hen will be a little longer than if it was roasting on its own, so monitor it towards the end of the cooking time with an instant-read thermometer and add additional 5-minute intervals as necessary until it is done.
Remember: the vegetables can cook for an extra ten minutes once the Cornish hen has been removed to rest if they need a little longer.
Sides that will cook in ten minutes or less can be prepared while the hen is roasting, and air fried while it is resting. Try air fryer broccolini, air fryer carrots, air fryer parsnips, or air fryer pumpkin.
How to cook Cornish hen in the air fryer.
- 1 Cornish game hen (approx. 1½lb)
- 1 tablespoon melted butter (or olive oil)
- 1 small bunch fresh rosemary and/or thyme, finely chopped (or ½ teaspoon dried)
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- Preheat air fryer to 390°F/ 195°C.
- Pat the Cornish hen dry with a paper towel.
- Mix herbs and salt together in a small bowl.
- Brush melted butter onto the skin of the Cornish hen, and rub herb mix into the skin. Also rub some seasoning inside the cavity [Note 1].
- Tuck the wings in, and tie the legs together to truss the bird.
- Place the Cornish hen into the air fryer basket [Note 2].
- Air fry at 390°F/ 195°C for 30 minutes, until the internal temperature is 165°F/ 74°C [Note 3].
- Remove Cornish hen from the air fryer, cover with tented aluminum foil, and leave to rest for at least ten minutes before serving.
- Cut the string and serve!
- If you are using fresh herbs, place a small bunch of rosemary and/or thyme inside.
- If food tends to stick to your air fryer basket, you can spritz it with olive oil before you add the hen.
- Use an instant-read thermometer to ensure that it has reached the safe temperature of 165°F/ 74°C or higher in the center of the thickest part before serving.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 385Total Fat: 29gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 17gCholesterol: 184mgSodium: 443mgCarbohydrates: 0gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 29g
Nutrition information is an estimate and provided for informational purposes only.