Cooking a cornish hen in an air fryer is one of the easiest main dishes in our recipe book. Perfectly crisp and exquisitely seasoned, these mini rotisserie chickens will have you planning air-fried menus every night of the week. If you love this hassle-free protein and want more ways to use your air fryer, you’ll adore making my crispy chicken legs in the air fryer and turkey legs in the air fryer.
Usually available in the freezer section of grocery stores during the winter months, these little birds cook faster than regular chicken. Thanks to their small size, they are an ideal entree for any special occasion (including any holiday dinner) or a humble but delicious weeknight meal.
Ingredients You’ll Need
To make this air fryer cornish hens recipe, gather two cornish hens, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, Kosher salt, black pepper, olive oil, and chopped fresh parsley.
How to Thaw Cornish Hens?
To give your dish maximum tenderness, I recommend thawing cornish hens before cooking them in the air fryer. Here are two easy methods that will have your birds ready to roast in no time:
- Overnight in the fridge: For hassle-free thawing, transfer each frozen game bird to the refrigerator and let them naturally defrost overnight.
- Submerged in cold water: I recommend thawing your cornish hens in a cold water bath to speed up the thawing process. Change the water every 30 minutes to keep it at a cool temperature.
I do not recommend thawing game hens at room temperature, as this process may result in the growth of harmful bacteria.
How to Air Fry Cornish Hens?
You won’t believe how effortless it is to cook cornish hens in an air fryer. With only eight steps, these foolproof instructions will have even beginner chefs preparing mouthwatering chicken.
- Dry the hens: Remove the game hens from the fridge and use a few sheets of paper towels to pat dry them on all sides. Let the poultry rest while preparing the rub.
- Mix the seasoning: In a small bowl, combine the onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, salt, and pepper.
- Oil the meat: Rub olive oil evenly over all sides of the cornish hens, including inside their cavities. You should use about one tablespoon of oil total for both hens.
- Season the birds: Sprinkle the hens with the rub mixture, evenly distributing the seasoning over all their sides and in their cavity areas.
- Prepare the air fryer: Preheat the air fryer to 350 degrees F.
- Place cornish hens in the air fryer: Place the 2 cornish hens in the air fryer basket in a single layer with their breast sides facing down.
- Air fry the hens: Cook the game hens in the air fryer for 20 minutes. Then, flip the chicken and air fry them until the thickest part of the bird registers 165 degrees F. with a meat thermometer (15-17 minutes). When done cooking, the chicken’s skin should also turn golden brown and crispy.
- Serve: Remove the air-fried cornish game hens from the air fryer. Let the birds rest for 10 minutes, then serve.
How to Store Leftovers & Reheat?
Once you learn how to cook a cornish hen in the air fryer, you won’t want a single bite to go to waste.
Be sure to bring cooked cornish game hens to room temperature and store them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days.
How to Reheat Cornish Hen?
The best part about cooking cornish game hens in the air fryer is that you can easily reheat them with one of the two easy methods listed below. So, try one of the methods below and say goodbye to food waste and hello to easy meal prep!
- In the air fryer: To reheat cornish game hens in an air fryer, preheat the fryer to 400 degrees and cook the hens for 4-5 minutes. Keep an eye on the meat to avoid overcooking, and flip the birds halfway through the reheating process.
- In the oven: If you don’t want to reheat them in the air fryer, you can reheat them in the oven instead. Set the oven to 350 degrees F., place the chicken in a baking dish, and add a few tablespoons of water to keep the meat moist. It should take about 10 minutes in the oven for the hen to warm up.
Side Dishes to Serve With This Recipe:
We love and cook cornish hens so much that I created several menu ideas around it and shared a post to find the best sides to serve with cornish hens. However, if you need quick inspiration, below are a few suggestions:
Even beginner chefs can cook a cornish game hen in an air fryer oven. From air fryer cornish hen cook time to cornish hen air fryer temperature, you’ll find all your answers right here.
Yes. For the best results, I recommend thawing your mini rotisserie chickens before cooking them. Thawing will ensure your hens cook evenly and come out tender, with juicy meat and crispy skin.
The quickest way to defrost cornish game hens is to place them in a cold water bath for 3-4 hours. Be sure to change the water every half hour to maintain the bath’s cool temperature.
You can technically cook your frozen hens in the air fryer at 350 degrees F. for one hour (though the timing might change based on the size), oiling and seasoning them after 30 minutes of cooking. However, I don’t recommend this method, as it often results in undercooked insides and burnt chicken skin.
When cooking two 1¼-pound birds at once, your cornish hen air fryer cook time will be 35-40 minutes at 350 degrees F. Be sure to flip your chickens halfway through and check their internal temperature. The thickest part of the meat should reach 165 degrees F. before it is ready to eat.
Cornish hens generally range from 1-2 pounds and can feed 1-2 people. You can serve smaller chickens (between 1- and 1¼-pound cornish hens), one per person. However, if your hens are larger (closer to 2 pounds each), they’re the perfect size to split between 2 people. You can easily halve a 2-pound hen by cutting it down the middle with kitchen shears, snipping down its breast bone and along the backbone.
Other Air Fryer Recipes You Might Also Like
If you love this recipe for roasted cornish hen in an air fryer, your tastebuds will go wild for these other air fryer recipes. Fast, easy, and flavorful, these dishes will complete any menu.
- Corn on The Cob In Air Fryer
- Asparagus in the Air Fryer
- Green Beans in Air Fryer
- Need more inspiration? Check out all our Air Fryer recipes.
If you try this recipe for Cornish Hens in the Air Fryer, please take a minute to rate the recipe and leave a comment below. It is a great help to others who are thinking of making the recipe. And if you took some pictures, be sure to share them on Instagram using #foolproofeats so I can share them on my stories.
Cornish Hen in Air Fryer Recipe
- 2 cornish hens 1 to 1 ½ pounds each – fully thawed
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon paprika or smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley chopped
- Dry the hens: Take cornish hens out of the fridge and pat dry on all sides using a few sheets of paper towels. Let them rest while you are making the rub.
- Mix the seasoning: Mix the onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.
- Oil the meat: Rub the cornish hens with olive oil on all sides and inside the cavity.
- Season the hens: Sprinkle with the seasoning on the skin and in the cavity area, ensuring that it is equally distributed.
- Preheat the air fryer: Preheat the air fryer to 350 degrees F. (176 degrees C).
- Place hens in the air fryer: Carefully remove the basket and place seasoned cornish hens breast side down in a single layer.
- Air fry: Air fry for 20 minutes, flip, and continue to air fry until the thickest part of the bird registers 165 degrees when inserted with a thermometer for 15-17 minutes. The skin should be golden brown and crispy as well.
- Rest and serve: Carefully remove the cornish hens from the air fryer and let them rest for 10 minutes before serving.
- Prep: Be sure to thoroughly dry the skin of your hens before putting them in the air fryer. Removing as much liquid as possible will ensure that your chickens come out with perfectly crispy skin.
- Cook time: This recipe was tested with cornish hens that were about 1 ¼ to 1 ½ pounds. There is a direct correlation between the size of the bird and air frying time. If your birds are larger, I would recommend adding 5-10 minutes of additional cooking time, depending on their size.
- Thaw: I highly recommend thoroughly thawing the cornish hens before placing them in the air fryer. Fully thawing the meat will ensure that it cooks evenly in the air fryer, giving you an evenly cooked chicken with a crisp exterior.
- Breast side down: When you add your meat to the air fryer, position the cornish hens breast side down in the basket. This is an important step to prevent the breasts from cooking before the rest of the birds.
- Tie the legs: Tying the legs is an optional step. However, it helps with ensuring that they hold their shape and still look good after they are air fried.
- Resting time: Be sure to let the meat rest for ten minutes before serving. This resting time allows the meat to reabsorb its juices, resulting in a flavorful poultry meal.
- Serving suggestions: What to serve them with? Here are a few of our favorite side dishes to serve with this recipe.
- Store: Be sure to bring air-fried cornish hens to room temperature and store them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days.
- Reheat: To reheat the leftovers, you have two options:
- In the air fryer: To reheat cornish game hens in the air fryer, preheat the fryer to 400 degrees and cook the hens for 4-5 minutes. Keep an eye on the meat to avoid overcooking, and flip the birds halfway through the reheating process.
- In the oven: Set the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the chicken in a baking dish and add a few tablespoons of water to keep the meat moist. It should take about 10 minutes in the oven for the hen to warm up.