Smoked Cornish Hens

Smoked Cornish Hens

These smoked cornish hens are juicy and flavor-packed with super crispy skin. For exceptional exterior texture, swap the brine for a flavorful marinade. This recipe combines a hearty dose of fresh cilantro, garlic, lime juice, and fragrant spices. Every bite is light and bright, with a warm complexity enhanced by sweet smoke.  
Servings 4
Prep Time 1 hour 25 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 25 minutes
Resting Time 10 minutes
Total Time 3 hours


  • Food processor
  • Butchers twine
  • Z Grills Smoker Grill
  • Z Grills Apple Wood Pellets
  • Cast iron skillet (optional)


  • 4 cornish hens
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil, or canola oil
  • 1 bunch of cilantro
  • 7 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 6 limes, juiced
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper 
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • Lime wedges, for serving


  • Rinse the hens under cold water, then pat dry with paper towels.
  • Add the oil, cilantro, garlic, lime juice, salt, paprika, oregano, black pepper, and cumin to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until roughly chopped to prepare the marinade.
  • Apply the marinade all over each cornish hen and in each cavity.
  • Tuck the wings underneath, then use butcher’s twine to tie the legs together. Tucking the wings prevent the tips from burning while tying the legs promotes even cooking and makes the hens easier to remove from the grill. There’s no need to truss the hens.
  • Place onto a rimmed baking sheet, preferably lined with a wire rack, and marinate for 1 hour, then leave the hens to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, prepare your Z-Grill with branded cherry or apple pellets or other wood pellet grill for indirect cooking at 225 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly oil the grates once hot to prevent sticking.
  • Place the hens on the grill breast side up, close the lid, and smoke for 50 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit. You want to insert the probe of your thermometer into the thickest part of the breast and thigh.
  • Increase the grill’s temperature to 300 degrees Fahrenheit, close the lid, and cook until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Remove the hens from the grill and rest for 10 minutes.
  • Finish with a squeeze of lime juice, if desired, and serve.


Total cook time will vary depending on the size of your cornish hens.
Watch the internal temperature closely. Since cornish hens are small, their temperature rises rather quickly.
Consider serving the hens in a cast-iron skillet to keep them warm. This tip is handy if you made enough for seconds.
Calories: 790kcal
Cost: 20
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Chicken, Smoked

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Z Grills

Z Grills is a grill manufacturer with over 30 years of experience within the industry. With over 650,000 pellet grills sold and 85 million cooks made, trust us.

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