A split Cornish game hen makes a nice meal for my wife Cindy and me. Sometimes we’ll simply roast it. Another favorite method is to put it in a Pyrex dish with oil, vinegar and seasonings (or if you want to do it really simple, just pour in some of your favorite Italian salad dressing), cover, and bake. But for this version I decided to brine it for a few hours, and then smoke it in the Cameron stove-top smoker.
For the brine, we had an unused pre-made mix leftover from Thanksgiving. The bottle holds 400 grams of the mix, which is to be used with a gallon of water to brine a whole turkey. That meant, of course, that I had to down-size the recipe. First, I determined that it would take five cups of water to cover the bird, so that meant I needed to measure out 125 grams of the brine mix. I put the water and brine into a large plastic bag, sealed it, and shook it to mix well. In goes the bird, and then the re-sealed bags went into the refrigerator for 3½ hours.
As the the time was almost up for the bird’s brine bath, I got out the smoker to prep it. That means putting a layer of aluminum foil in the bottom of the pan where the wood chips will. Next, I wrapped the drip pan in foil, top and bottom. This just helps make clean-up easier. The final steps are to select the flavor of wood chips you want to use (I picked cherry for today), and also spraying the wire rack with some non-stick cooking spray (that makes it easier to clean). After that, you just put the smoker on the stove, heat it, put the bird in, and wait until it reaches 170° F. Below is a formal recipe, followed by a photo gallery illustrating the various steps.
Smoked Cornish game hen
Yield 2 portions
1 Cornish game hen, spatchcocked
5 cups water, and large sealable plastic baggie to hold it
125 grams brining spices
2 tbsp. wood chips
1 can non-stick cooking spray (to coat the wire rack)
- Spatchcock the bird. That is, remove the spine of the Cornish game hen by cutting along both sides of the spine with kitchen shears. Lay it flat and press down on it to spread it out. You can save the spine for stock, or throw it away. If you plan to serve the bird in halves, you can go ahead and cut it in two now.
- Pour 5 cups of water (enough to cover the bird) into a large sealable plastic baggie. Add 125 grams of brine mix. Agitate to thoroughly mix.
- Place the bird into the bag with the brining water. Squeeze out as much air as possible and seal shut. In addition, you may wish to twist the plastic bag such that it squeezes all the brine into the bottom, and then tie it with butchers twine to keep it from untwisting. Place in refrigerator for 3 or 4 hours.
- Prepare the stove-top smoker for use by covering the bottom of the pan, and the drip pan in aluminum foil.
- Choose your flavor of wood chips (I used cherry, but pecan and hickory might be good options) and scatter two tablespoons across the bottom of the smoking pan.
- Place the drip tray on top of the wood chips, then place the wire rack on top of that. You can spray the wire rack with non-stick cooking spray to keep the bird from sticking to it.
- Slide the lid onto the smoker, leaving it slightly open. Place it on a standard eye on the stove set at medium heat. Wait for the first signs of smoke to appear.
- Once smoke appears, place the bird on the wire rack and slide the lid closed. Cooking times vary, depending on the size and temperature of your setup and bird, but it will likely be between 30 and 45 minutes.
- The target temperature is 170° F in the thickest parts of the meat. Check the temperature with an instant-read thermometer after about 20 minutes, and then every five or ten minutes after that until it reaches the target temperature.
- Remove from the smoker and serve with the side dishes of your choice.
Courses Lunch of dinner
Smoked Cornish game hen photo gallery
When finished, I served the Cornish game hen with rice and salad. The bird was very moist and the flavor outstanding, with the taste of the spices in the brine, plus the smoky cherry from the wood chips. And the kitchen smelled wonderful! ♦
Get your own stovetop smoker
If you’d like to get a stovetop smoker like we used for this recipe, please click here.