How To Cook Juicy, Tender Cornish Hen In The Air Fryer

Cornish hens on plate with sage
Cornish hens on plate with sage - Chrishynes/Getty Images

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The Cornish hen holds many of the best qualities of a normal roast chicken while improving upon them, like the perfect ratio of skin and meat. A holiday meal favorite, Cornish hens call for a shorter cook time and pack a powerful, flavorful punch. They're also a great option to make even an ordinary weeknight meal more special, as you can serve one bird per person at your dinner table.

Originally, Cornish hens gained their fancy moniker from cross-breeding the chicken breeds Red Aseel and Black Breasted Red Game of the Lord Derby type. But today, Cornish hens are humbly defined as young chickens under five weeks old weighing in at under two pounds. You can now find them fresh or in the freezer section of your local grocery store and prepare them easily at home.

Their small size and tender, succulent meat make Cornish hens a perfect match for everyone's favorite compact cooking gadget: the air fryer. Air fryers and chicken are already known as a dynamic duo for the fryer's ability to keep even ordinary roasting chicken juicy. With this strong yet simple cooking combination, you'll doubly cut down on your meal prep time while still delivering a delicious meal.

Read more: 15 Tricks For Making The Most Crispy Chicken Thighs Ever

Preparing Your Cornish Hen For The Air Fryer

Raw Cornish hens on oven rack
Raw Cornish hens on oven rack - YaJurka/Shutterstock

If you purchase frozen cornish hens, make sure they are fully thawed before proceeding. You'll want to take advantage of every inch of the hen's surface here, so make sure to pat the birds completely dry so the skin can get as crispy as possible. And don't forget to prepare a tasty seasoning rub for your Cornish hen. You can keep it earthy with a rub of dried herbs and oil, or spice it up with pepper, chili powder, and some lemon zest for brightness. The choice is yours!

Now that your Cornish hens are completely dry, you'll want to evenly coat them in oil -- making sure to reach even the nooks and crannies. Then cover your bird with your prepared seasoning rub. You can also try poking a few holes in the bird's skin (without piercing the meat) before cooking. This will allow the fat to render more easily, and you want the juicy fat essentially basting and crisping up the skin instead of staying stuck beneath the skin where it will prevent it from crisping.

Let The Air Fryer Work Its Magic On The Cornish Hen

Air fryer roast chicken
Air fryer roast chicken - rafa jodar/Shutterstock

Another perk of cooking this smaller bird is that your air fryer is perfectly sized to accommodate your beautifully prepared Cornish hen. No need to turn on the oven just to roast one bird! But let's set up your dish for success by properly working with your air fryer's specific size and capabilities.

The number of cornish hens you can cook at once will depend on the size of your air fryer, but make sure you cook them long enough to reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit so they're done but not overcooked and dry. Don't overcrowd your air fryer, as you want to give the birds enough space to crisp up the skin on all sides.

For the juiciest results,  start by air frying your Cornish hen breast side down, this way you can protect the delicate breast meat from drying out. But make sure to finish off the hen breast side up for the last few minutes of cooking time to crisp up the skin. No matter how you choose to season your Cornish hen or what you serve alongside it, cooking these tasty tiny birds in the air fryer along with other great air fryer recipes is sure to satisfy.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.