If you’re looking for a delicious and impressive main course, look no further than the air fryer cornish hen. This dish is perfect for a simple meal or a special occasion, and it’s so easy to make! The air fryer gives the cornish hen a crispy, golden skin while keeping the meat juicy and flavorful. Trust us, this dish will be a hit with everyone at the table.
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How to Roast Cornish Hen in an Air Fryer
Cornish hen (or Cornish game hen) is easy to cook in an air fryer, and as a bonus you can roast a side of veggies in there at the same time!
A much smaller bird than regular chicken, it roasts in around half the time, and is just the right size for dinner for two.
Also, unlike with traditional roasting, air frying means they are not sitting in oil while they cook, so they absorb less of it. So you get delicious juicy Cornish hen without a ton of extra calrories. Air frying also ensures that it comes out with perfectly crispy skin.
Scroll down for the printable card for this air fryer Cornish hen recipe, or read on for all the details!
Quantities are given in the recipe card below.
Cornish hen: I use fresh Cornish hen. If you have a frozen Cornish hen, then thaw it in the refrigerator before cooking. (Make sure to check inside the cavity and remove any giblets if present!)
Melted butter: 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.
Seasonings: 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.
Olive oil spray or avocado oil spray: this is optional, and used to help prevent the Cornish hen from sticking to the air fryer basket. You will probably know whether your air fryer needs this or not.
Choose the type of oil spray that spritzes rather than an aerosol, and try to avoid generic ‘cooking spray’ (like PAM) as both of these can damage the non-stick coating of your air fryer.
Step 1: Seasoning
The seasoning process is very simple for this recipe:
- 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
Trussing the hen is important to ensure it cooks evenly, it also helps retain moisture, keeping the meat tender and juicy. We will also need to tuck the wings in to protect them from getting charred to a crisp.
It’s easy to do! Simply use a short length of kitchen twine or string to tie the legs together.
Step 3: Air frying Cornish game hen
First, preheat the air fryer to 390°F/ 195°C. Preheating the air fryer means that the hen goes in when it is hot.
Air fry 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 roast 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 cooking time in the recipe card below is perfect for my Philips XL Airfryer. If you have another powerful air fryer brand like Nuwave or Ninja Air Fryer, then expect cook times to be similar.
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), but I usually remove the hen when the thermometer reads just over 160°F because the temperature will continue to rise another few degrees while it is resting. Just remember to check the final temperature to ensure it did reach 165°F/74°C (give it an extra blast in the air fryer for a few minutes if needed until it does).
I have managed to over-cook Cornish hen in the past before I learned this trick!
Meat thermometer tip:
Measure the temperature at the thickest part of your Cornish hen for an accurate temperature reading.
Step 4: Resting
Once it has reached the desired temperature, remove 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).
Then cut the string, and serve!
Scroll down for this recipe card for this air fryer Cornish hen!
Roasted Cornish hen is a very versatile dish, it can be served in many ways with different types of side. I usually serve with air fryer roasted potatoes and microwave steamed vegetables, but it is also great with Instant Pot mashed potatoes, air fryer baked potato, sweet potato fries and/or a salad (try this pomegranate couscous salad).
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 (think potatoes, onions, parsnips, sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkin) into 2 inch chunks. 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.
You may need to add a few minutes to the cooking time, so monitor it with an instant-read thermometer and add additional 5-minute intervals until it is done. The vegetables can cook for an extra ten minutes at the end while the Cornish hen rests to help get them crispy.
Alternatively, 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.
Air Fryer Cornish Hen Recipe Card
How to cook a Cornish hen in an 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
- Olive oil spray
- 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.
- Spray the air fryer basket with olive oil spray (to help prevent sticking).
- Place the Cornish hen into the air fryer basket.
- Air fry at 390°F (195°C) for 30 minutes, until the temperature of the thickest part is 160°F (72°C) [Note 2}.
- Remove Cornish hen from the air fryer, cover with tented aluminum foil, and leave to rest for at least ten minutes. This allows it to finish cooking and allows the juices to reabsorb.
- Monitor the internal temperature to ensure that it has reached 165°F (74°C) [Note 3].
- Cut the string and serve!
- If you are using fresh herbs, place a small bunch of rosemary and/or thyme inside.
- The temperature will continue to rise while the bird is resting.
- 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: 444Total Fat: 36gSaturated Fat: 11gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 22gCholesterol: 184mgSodium: 710mgCarbohydrates: 0gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 29g
Nutrition information is an estimate and provided for informational purposes only.
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