Thai Grilled Cornish Hens

It got to be about 100 degrees today.  I pulled out the blow up pool for the kids and put it under the swing set slide.  All the neighbor kids were over to join in on the fun, and I decided to keep the heat outside today and cook dinner on the grill.  My latest Cooks Illustrated Issue contained a recipe for Thai marinated cornish game hens with a chili dipping sauce that I have been dying to try.  Today seemed like the perfect day for that, so while the kids slid down the slide and into the pool, I supervised over the BBQ grill.  It was a great day in the sun followed by a fantastic dinner.  Cornish Hens were perfect for BBQing!  Because they are smaller, they cooked up in about 30 minutes on the BBQ grill and the dipping sauce was awesome–the type of sauce you would dip Thai fried spring rolls in.  It carries a little heat, so maybe cut back on the pepper or skip it entirely if you don’t like the heat.  I only made a few little changes like using a serrano pepper instead of a Thai chili pepper mostly because I didn’t find it where I was shopping earlier this week and didn’t feel like hitting another store where I knew I would find it just for that one ingredient.

Ingredients for the Hens:

  • 4 Cornish game hens (1 1/4- 1 1/2 lbs each), if hens weigh 1 1/2-2 lbs grill three and grill an additional 5 minutes.
  • 1 C fresh cilantro leaves and stems
  • 12 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/4 C packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tsp ground white pepper
  • 2 tsp ground coriander (I used whole coriander because that’s what I had and didn’t feel like grinding it).
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 C fish sauce

Ingredients for the Chili Dipping Sauce:

  • 1/2 C distilled white vinegar
  • 1/2 C granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp minced Thai chiles (or serrano pepper)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 tsp salt


  1. FOR THE HENS:  Working with 1 hen at a time, place hens breast side down on cutting board and use kitchen shears to cut through bones on either side of backbones; discard backbones.  Flip hens and press on breastbones to flatten.  Trim any excess fat and skin.
  2. Pulse cilantro leaves and stems, garlic, sugar, pepper, coriander, and salt in food processor until finely chopped, 10-15 pulses.  Add fish sauce and stir until marinade has consistency of loose paste.
  3. Rub hens all over with marinade.  Transfer hens and any excess marinade to 1-gallon ziplock bag and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or up to 24 hours, flipping bag halfway through marinating.
  4. FOR THE DIPPING SAUCE:  Bring vinegar to boil in small saucepan.  Add sugar and stir to dissolve.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until vinegar mixture is slightly thickened, 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and let vinegar mixture cool completely.  Add chiles, garlic, and salt and stir until combined.  Transfer sauce to airtight container and refrigerate until ready to use.  (Sauce can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks).
  5. ON THE GRILL:  Turn all burners to high, cover, and heat grill until hot, about 15 minutes.  Leave primary burners on high and turn off other burners.
  6. Clean and oil the cooking grate.  Remove hens from bag, leaving any marinade that sticks to hens in place.  Tuck wingtips behind backs and turn legs so drumsticks face inward toward breasts.  Place hens, skin side up, on cooler side of grill.  Cover and cook until skin is browned, 30-35 minutes, rotating hens halfway through cooking.
  7. Using tongs, carefully flip hens skin side down and move to hotter side of grill. Cover and cook until skin is scrips, deeply browned, and charred in spots, 3-5 minutes, being careful to avoid burning.
  8. Transfer hens, skin side up, to cutting board; tent with aluminum foil and let rest for 10 minutes.  Slice each hen in half or into 4 pieces and serve, passing dipping sauce separately.


One Comment Add yours

  1. This looks so delicious!


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