Deep fried Cornish hens


I love Cornish hens: baked or smoked, but also deep-fried. To me they're like smaller turkeys, so they're perfect for entertaining smaller groups or just your family. If you can't find them at your butcher counter, check the frozen-meat section—just be sure to let them thaw out completely. Because of their small size, you can use an electric fryer instead of the larger turkey contraptions for deep-frying them (another bonus). Deep-fried, they've got a golden crust and a juicy, juicy tenderness. If you're short on fridge space, divide the marinade between two or three large zip-top bags, and divide the Cornish hens among them. Press the air out and seal tight; then you can fit them into a smaller space. Now, Shelbi and Gina might share a hen, so for light eaters just split one bird down the middle. But a heavy eater like me will eat a whole hen. I've been anticipating it all day!


  • 2 Cornish game hens, spine removed and cut into piece (breasts, thighs, drum sticks)
  • I find it easiest to do with kitchen shears
  • 3 cups buttermilk
  • 2 tbsp Kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp cayenne pepper


  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 cup Crisco


In a large bowl, combine the buttermilk with the salt, black pepper and cayenne. Add the chicken and stir to coat. Let stand at room temperature for 2 hours or refrigerate for 4 hours.

In a large, resealable plastic bag, mix the flour with the onion powder, garlic powder, salt, black pepper, and cayenne and shake to combine.

Set a rack on a baking sheet. Working with one piece at a time, remove the chicken from the buttermilk soak, letting the excess drip back into the bowl. Dredge the chicken in the flour mixture, pressing so it adheres all over. Transfer the coated chicken to the rack and let stand for 30 minutes.

In a deep skillet, heat the Crisco to 350°. (If you don’t have a deep fat thermometer, just wait until a pinch of flour sizzles when you drop it into the pan. This is what I did, but Jamie got me a deep fat thermometer for Christmas so next time I’ll be more exact – what a guy!) Line a cookie sheet with paper towels and heat the oven to 200. Fry the game hen in batches at 315°, turning once, until golden and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of each piece registers 160°, about 5-7 minutes per side.

Transfer the chicken to the paper-lined cookie sheet in the oven while frying in batches. Don’t crowd the pan or the pieces won’t be crispy.

Serve warm with pea puree (or whatever else you’re in the mood for!).

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