It has finally gotten hot in Chicago. Granted, it’s nothing like my friends who are baking in the southwest with their triple digit temperatures, but I don’t have a high tolerance for heat given my thin blood. Needless to say, it is time to head outside and cook on the grill. I don’t care what I’m making, whether it’s pizza or burger, it’s getting cooked outside right now.
And as much as I can eat the same thing for breakfast day after day, the same doesn’t hold true for dinner. I crave variety. I love finding something where I can take a familiar flavor and put a twist on it that makes it new and fun. Instead of chicken…why not Cornish hens? Granted, you don’t automatically think of the grill when you think of Cornish hens, but trust me, it works beautifully.
They’re fairly similar, but Cornish hens have meat that’s just a little more tender, and it’s a fun twist on an old favorite. To go along with that twist, I wanted to do a different type of marinade and preparation. When I make chicken, I often do a lemon marinade that’s amazing, as I love citrus. This time around, I wanted to do something different.
And when I want to come up with something different, what do I do? I don’t know about you, but I tend to head to the store and start walking the aisles. I already had to head to Walmart to pick up some Cornish hens and found the Tyson® Cornish hens in a two pack in a freezer case. As I kept searching, I ended up in the Asian aisle. Kikkoman® is always a solid choice, so I grabbed a bottle of soy sauce, and that’s when my eyes wandered over to the Kikkoman orange sauce. Voila. Forget orange chicken, I’m making an orange ginger Cornish hen.
Orange Ginger Cornish Hens Recipe
I mixed up a quick marinade using the Kikkoman soy sauce, orange sauce, ginger, garlic, and chicken stock to give it a ton of flavor and let the soy sauce create a brine for the Cornish hens. Then I headed out to the pool with the wee ones to cool off on another hot day.
Good news? Once you put the marinade in a zip top bag and add the Cornish hens, seal it and shake it around to ensure that the marinade covers each part of the bird. Stick it in the fridge for up to eight hours before grilling, and you’re good to go. I love when my meat lets me spend all day having fun before I come home to cook a full flavored dinner.
Once I got home from the pool, I sent the wee ones upstairs to take showers and hang up all their wet clothes while I started on dinner. Because Cornish hens are so small, you want to be careful cooking them so you don’t dry them out by cooking them too fast. That means a whole bird cooks for a little longer at lower temps on the grill, but trust me, it’s worth it.
I wanted to serve my orange ginger Cornish hens over rice to continue the Asian theme, so I started up my rice maker right away. A little secret? Instead of cooking my rice in water, I use half chicken stock to give it a little flavor. So good, and the rice maker is perfect to get it ready without heating up my kitchen or me watching over it while I focused on the hens.
To prepare the grill, I heated two thirds of it on medium and left one third off so that I could create an indirect heat that wouldn’t be too harsh for the birds. If you have a charcoal grill, pile the coals on one side to control your heat. Once the grill was fully heated, I rubbed it down quickly with a paper towel soaked in oil using tongs to ensure my birds wouldn’t stick.
I placed the birds breast side down to start on the cooler side of the grill and let them start to cook, reserving my marinade. After about seven minutes, I flipped them and basted with some of the reserved marinade. After another five minutes, I flipped and basted, then turned them bottom side up to help them cook inside for another twenty or so minutes until a thermometer inserted in the breast read 165 degrees.
The reserved marinade became a sauce for the orange ginger Cornish hens, as well. This is something you can do if you boil it thoroughly to kill any potential bacteria in the marinade. Add your marinade to a pot and turn up the heat to medium. Add a quarter cup of honey and another third cup of the Kikkoman orange sauce, then bring to a boil. Boil for at least ten minutes. This will reduce into a gorgeous thick sauce to spoon over your orange ginger Cornish hens once they’re grilled.
Once your Cornish hens have come to temperature, remove them from the grill and let them sit for five minutes to allow the juices to redistribute so they don’t all leak out as soon as you cut into your gorgeous orange ginger Cornish hens.
I split the orange ginger Cornish hens in half on a cutting board using a strong knife, then cut those in half again to set on the plate over rice before drizzling some of the reduced glazed over it.
I have just one word for you. Wow.
This had a great sweet flavor with a great boost from the ginger that really made this perfect for grilling. The skin of the orange ginger Cornish hen was crispy and flavorful, and everyone devoured them. This right here is why I don’t make the same thing night after night. Sometimes, inspiration strikes and creates something special.
- 2 Tyson Cornish hens
- 2 T Kikkoman soy sauce
- 1 T ginger, grated
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 c chicken stock
- 1/2 c Kikkoman orange sauce, divided
- 1/4 c honey
- Mine your garlic, and grate your ginger. Add them to a gallon size zip top bag, along with the soy sauce, chicken stock, and 1/4 cup of the orange sauce. Shake to combine, then add the Cornish hens. Press out as much air as possible and seal. Move the bag around to ensure all the birds are thoroughly coated in the marinade. Refrigerate for up to 8 hours.
- When ready to grill, preheat your grill on medium on two thirds of the grill and no heat on the remaining third to create a zone for indirect cooking. Rub a paper towel coated in oil quickly on the grill to reduce chances of sticking.
- Add the Cornish hens to the indirect heat portion of the grill and close, reserving the marinade. Cook for seven minutes, then flip. Baste with your marinade. Cook another five minutes, then turn on the end to finish cooking, basting again with the marinade.
- Create a sauce with the remaining marinade. Add it to a pot and turn the heat to medium. Add the last 1/4 cup orange sauce and the honey, and bring the mixture to a boil. Boil for at least 10 minutes to kill all bacteria and reduce to a thicker glaze.
- When a thermometer inserted into the Cornish hen breast reads 165, remove from the grill and let sit for five minutes.
- Cut in each Cornish hen in half, twice, then serve over rice. Spoon the sauce atop it, and enjoy!