Rich, savory, yet slightly sweet glaze delivers incredible flavor in this scrumptious recipe for Sesame Glazed Cornish Hens. My sauce would actually be fabulous whether the chicken was prepared on the grill, stir fried, slow-cooked or baked and I wouldn’t hesitate to use it with any cut of chicken, even boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs. Because I prepared it on the grill, spatchcocking (butterflying) the bird helped it to lie flat and cook more evenly. Sound complicated? It’s not! You’ll be making this delicious recipe in your own kitchen, in no time!
I had never cooked Cornish hens, before, and I was surprised at how simple it is. Cornish hens aren’t actually hens. They are young, (about 8 weeks old), chickens. Apparently only one parent actually needs to be of the Cornish breed for the offspring to be designated “Cornish hen”. So, even though their miniature size makes them fantastic for something elegant and special, Cornish hens are simply chicken and you can prepare them as you would other chicken dishes. The ones I made were p.e.r.f.e.c.t. on the grill! DELISH! Cornish hens are easy to find, too. It was as simple as visiting my local Walmart’s freezer section. Tyson Cornish Hens were sold in 2-packs and it was definitely my lucky day, because each two pack had a sticker with a coupon for $2 off 10 oz. Kikkoman products. Soy sauce is a key ingredient in my sesame glaze, which is a family favorite. I decided it would be a great treat to surprise the family with and made up my mind to alter our usual recipe to incorporate whole birds. So, I bought four Cornish hens, the rest of my ingredients and with the $2 coupon on my Tyson chickens, I ended up with a FREE bottle of soy sauce. You can’t beat that sweet deal!
You might think it would be difficult to cook a whole bird on the grill and have it cook evenly. You’d be right! 🙂 Until you learn to spatchcock (butterfly) your birds, that is. This technique allows the meat to lie flatter on the grill, and because of that, to cook more evenly. Cooking meat on the bones also means more flavor and juicier texture. You may not have grown up dressing two or three hundred chickens each summer, the way I did, but even so, this simple skill is easily learned and a basic kitchen need-to-know that will serve you well. I found several variations online for spatchcocking, one of which used wooden skewers to hold the legs and wings in place, after removing the backbone and while grilling. Another even removed the breast bone without cutting completely through the breast. That would lay even flatter, but again you sacrifice some moisture and flavor when you start removing all the bones. I opted to just tuck the wings, as shown in a different method, however, I think I may try the wooden skewers, next time, just to see which method I like best. Here’s how I did it, this time.
Once your chickens are prepared, it’s time to get cooking! To save time, you will make a double-batch of marinade and then use only half of it for marinating the birds. The other half will be cooked down to a rich, savory sauce for serving your Sesame Glazed Cornish Hens. To mix it up you need a few simple ingredients that you probably already have in your kitchen.
This makes enough marinade to prepare four Cornish Hens. Pour half the marinade over the spatchcocked birds and let them hang out in the fridge for at least two or three hours, soaking up the delectable flavors. Reserve the second half of the marinade for later.
When you’re ready to grill, make sure you start with it VERY hot. I wish I could give you precise instructions for charcoal grilling, but I used a gas grill and it’s the only frame of reference I have. I preheated mine to the highest setting. Take the chickens out of the marinade (discard the marinade) and place the chickens, skin-side up, on the preheated grill. Immediately reduce the heat to medium and cover the grill. Allow the chicken to cook for 10 minutes. This initial high-heat cooking will begin to render the fat out of the skin, so that when you flip the chicken, your skin will get crisp and caramelized instead of gummy and slimy. By rendering most of the fat, now, it will also help to prevent flare-ups after you turn the chicken.
This is the time to start your glaze cooking. Pour the reserved marinade in a saucepan and heat over medium heat until it comes to a boil. You’ll add the cornstarch mixture and allow it to continue cooking down to a beautiful, rich glaze while the chicken finishes cooking.
After 10 minutes, turn the chicken, so the skin is down, now. Reduce the heat on your grill to low and cover it, again. Cook the chicken over the low heat for 15 minutes with the cover on. Then test for doneness using a meat thermometer. Internal temperature of the thickest part of the thigh should be 165 degrees and the thickest part of the breast should read 150 to 155 degrees. Keep checking at two or three minute intervals until it is done. Remove the chicken from the grill and drizzle with your prepared sesame glaze. We served these tender and succulent little chickens with roasted asparagus and wild and long grain rice with pine nuts. Mmmm..mmm…grilling Cornish Hens is a good thing!
- 4 Tyson Cornish Hens, spatchcocked for grilling
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 cup Kikkoman soy sauce
- 1 cup raw, unfiltered local honey
- ½ cup red wine vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons toasted sesame oil
- 2 Tablespoons minced garlic
- 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated
- 1 teaspoon sriracha chili sauce
- 1 Tablespoon cold water
- 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
- optional, sesame seeds and parsley for garnish
- Spatchcock the chickens. so they will lie flat on the grill. Place all four, together, in a large container.
- Mix the marinade by combining chicken stock, soy sauce, honey, vinegar, sesame oil, garlic, ginger and sriracha.
- Divide the marinade mixture in half, pouring the first half over the chickens in the container and reserving the second half to make your glaze.
- When chickens have finished marinating, discard the marinade they were soaking in. Place the chickens on a grill that has been pre-heated to the highest setting. Lay them SKIN-SIDE-UP to start. This will allow fat to render from the skin quickly and help to create that crispy, caramelized skin that makes grilled birds so beautiful.
- Immediately reduce the heat on your grill to medium and cover. Allow the chicken to cook for 10 minutes.
- Pour the reserved marinade into a saucepan and bring it to a boil over medium heat.
- Mix the cold water and cornstarch until the cornstarch has completely dissolved. Add the cornstarch mixture to the boiling marinade, stirring to incorporate.
- Reduce the heat and allow the glaze to continue to cook down and thicken while you finish the chickens.
- After the ten minutes have passed, open the grill and turn the chickens so they will now be skin-side-down. Reduce the heat on your grill to low and once, again, cover it. Allow the birds to continue cooking over low heat for 15 minutes.
- Using a meat thermometer check the temperature, first in the thickest part of a thigh, which needs to reach 165 degrees to be done and then, in the thickest part of one of the breasts, which should reach 150 - 155 degrees, internally. If they're not quite ready, let them cook a few minutes more and continue checking the temperature every 3 or 4 minutes to prevent overcooking.
- Once they are ready, remove the Cornish hens from the grill. Decide if you will serve whole birds or halves. A simple slice alongside the breast bone will divide them, easily.
- Spoon the thick, savory, Sesame Glaze over each serving and sprinkle with sesame seeds and parsley, if desired.
For even more great ideas, information and recipes, be sure to follow both Tyson and Kikkoman on Pinterest.
Have you ever grilled a whole chicken?
Do you spatchcock (butterfly) them first?
What’s your favorite recipe for preparing a whole bird on the grill?
Share your tips and ideas in a comment, below!
The weekend’s almost here! Let’s get those grills fired up!