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Brine for Cornish Hens?

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
I've found a lot of posts about Cornish Hens, and I'm thinking of doing some for Christmas Eve dinner. Many of the posts mention they brined the birds, but I would like a little more detail, for a newbie :)

So if any of you wouldnt mind giving up a brine including specific quantities, I'd sincerely appreciate it PDT_Armataz_01_12.gif.

I will be cooking them in an oven as it's too cold in NY to spoke outdoors. I'm going to use liquid smoke in a water pan in the oven. QViews will be posted!

post #2 of 13
1 cup of kosher salt per gallon, the rest of the ingredients is purely your own taste. Them little birds I'd just do overnight and wash good before ya cook them.
post #3 of 13
Slaughterhouse Poultry Brine By Tip Piper of Hillbilly Vittles
1 ½ Gal Water
½ C Salt - Kosher
½ C Dark Brown Sugar
2 tsp Garlic Powder
2 tsp Onion Powder
2 tsp Cajun Spice (Louisiana Cajun Seasoning)
2 tsp Celery Seed
I wouldn't brine em anymore then overnight, a good rinse after the brine, some a yer favorite rub then fer heavens sake smoke em! I've smoked in 25 below temps before. Yall like em better if ya smoke em!
post #4 of 13
personally, I would add the liquid smoke to your brine, not a pan in the oven.

I do not think you will be happy with the smoke flavor coming form a pan.

Put it in the brine or on the skin before doing a rub.
post #5 of 13
yup....but i would go easy, ain't much to them liitle guys and i would only brine for 1-2 hrs with 1 c. to 1 gal. ratio.
post #6 of 13
Don't say that around my kids who have to clear a path in the snow to the smoker and grill each week all winter. I figure the smoke is more even when the snow is higher than the smoker (no wind) lol

That said I would go shorter over longer with hens, 2-3 hrs vs. overnight. Also be sure to wash well inside and out. They will be better brined especially in the dry old oven. I would skip the liquid smoke and sub some smoked paprika,salt or adobe in the rub if you have some.

Be sure to let us know how they come out
post #7 of 13
Game birds also react favorably to a buttermilk brine. The buttermilk is highly acidic and is used a lot in fried chicken recipes. It does wonders for game birds as well.

Base Brine Ingredients
Start with 2 quarts of water (use bottled or filtered for this purpose) in a 3+ quart pot. Add to water:
¾ Cup Kosher Salt
1 tbsp fresh ground black pepper
1 large bay leaf
2 sprigs of rosemary
2 fresh garlic cloves slight mashed
1 yellow onion, cut in eights

If you use a table salt, try to avoid iodized if possible and use a smaller amount, about 1/2 cup. You can also substitute the fresh herbs and garlic with dried if necessary, to taste.


Bring the mixture to a boil and boil for 5 minutes. remove from heat and let steep for 15 minutes so the flavors of the aromatics are drawn into the brine. You may now add 8 cups of ice cubes or quick chill in a sink with ice water.

Brining Process
In a large container (I prefer a 5 gallon food grade bucket with lid) add:
Cooled Basic Brine Mix from above
4 quarts Buttermilk

Stir well, then add your rinsed birds to the bucket and submerge them. You may have to use a bowl filled with water or a Tupperware container filled with water to keep the birds submerged.

Let the birds sit in the brine for about 12-16 hours, keeping it under 40 degrees F.

When you are about ready to fire up the smoker or indirect grill, remove birds from the brine and rinse well and pat dry. These will be some of the best birds ya ever cooked.
post #8 of 13
Thread Starter 
Hah! Well we live in the city, and go upstate a couple times a month. Since it's the holidays we probably wont be back this month and we are shutting it down Jan-Feb-Mar. So I'll need to cook in the oven until then icon_cry.gif. However I will definetly fire up the smoker in the Spring for round 2...

post #9 of 13
I have not tried racey's brine but it sounds really good thou. But when I brine poultry I always have used Tip's hillbilly brine and it works really good too. I just like alittle kick to my food and smoke.
post #10 of 13
I just brined 2 cornish hens a couple days ago. Use the ratio of 1 cup of Kosher Salt to 1 Gal. non-clorinated water (bottled water). Mine came out a little on the salty side 'cuz I didn't follow the chart of brining times and kept mine in the brine for 5 hrs when the chart called for 1-2 hrs for Cornish Hens. Though they were a little on the salty side, they were still the best hens we'd ever had. And they were baked in the oven like you're gonna do. They baked at 350 uncovered till about 160* then laid some tinfoil over the top loosely(tucked a little bit) till finished. About 1 1/4 hr overall. I discovered that the new square plastic coffee containers with the built in handle will hold a singe cornish hen perfectly. You can make your basic brine solution and then modify it individually per container. I like to have crushed red pepper flakes and other stuff with mine but the wife doesn't. It takes about 1/2 gal brine solution to cover the hen. Don't have the brine over 40* at any time the bird is in it and since the brining time is so short you can put them in the freezer without concern. Rinse thoroughly after the brine, pat dry with papertowels, and put your rub on. Once they're trussed up and in the pan you can use a spritzer bottle with EVOO and spray it lightly over the rub. Oh, almost forgot, there is also a 1 3/4 cup of brown sugar per gal water...

1 gal. non-chlorinated water
1 cup Kosher Salt
1 3/4 cup brown sugar
brine 2 hrs
post #11 of 13
Thread Starter 
OK, so here is the final result. I used the Hillbillies brine that was posted (Thanks for that!) and brined for 2 hours. On the next attempt I may brine a bit longer though. I added a spicy soy ginger glaze that was great, even the wife approved. icon_smile.gif

Thanks everyone for their input.

post #12 of 13
My father inlaw made 25 cornish hens for Christmas dinner and they were great!He uses this brine mixture we get from the local butcher.I think it's a local company.It's Reicherts "sweeter than sweet"Great stuff. Well anyways he soaked them for 2 days and smoked with applewood,best hens I have ever had!Really juicy.You might try to look this stuff up on the net,but not sure if they even have a website.By the way, looks like you did a very good job on those hensbiggrin.gifhave a happy
new year!
post #13 of 13
Can't lose. As a "Cornish hen" is just a little chicken icon_smile.gif
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