Cornish game hen sounds kind of fancy, like something you might serve at a dinner party, but really they are essentially mini-chickens. They are smaller and have a richer flavor with a higher fat content than chicken, comparable to the dark meat you find in chicken. Because of their slightly higher fat content, the meat is a little juicier and, when cooked correctly (ie: not overcooked so they dry out!) lend themselves to an enjoyable dining experience.

First things first, make your jerk marinade:

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grill girl, jamaican jerk cornish game hens on the grill

Grilled Jerk Cornish Game Hens

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  • Author: Robyn
  • Total Time: 0 hours


  • one large bunch scallions
  • one red bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon ground allspice
  • 1 tablespoon grated peeled ginger
  • 1 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 scotch bonnet pepper or 2 habenero ***
  • kosher salt
  • 4 Cornish game hens (1 1/2 to 2 pounds each), butterflied
  • freshly ground pepper


Combine ingredients 1-11 (use 1 tablespoon salt) in food processor and make a thick sauce. Reserve 1/4 cup of the sauce in the refrigerator for serving with the hens later.

Remove the backbone from the hens so that you can butterfly them. Season the hens all over with salt and pepper; poke a few holes into the meat so the marinade can penetrate the bird. Rub 1 cup jerk sauce all over the hens in a large bowl or pan. Then, cover and let marinate in the refrigerator for 2 to 4 hours.

Preheat the grill to medium. **Note that some recipes call to use a brick covered in foil or a metal press on the grill to flatten the hens and make them extra crispy. I did not do this, I only butterflied the hens and after marinating in the fridge for 2 hours they were pretty flat already.

Cook the hens on the grill until browned on each side (this will vary according to grills and meat size), at least 7-8 minutes per side. While grilling, baste the hens with any extra jerk sauce. The hens will be done when a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part reads 160 degrees.

I served the hens with saffron rice (yellow rice) and grilled vegetables.
Guests went crazy over this dish and went back for seconds. Yours will too!!!


Safety goggles are recommended when chopping habaneros or scotch bonnet peppers. First off, chopping will make your nose run, you will use your arm to wipe your nose and the next thing you know you have rubbed chili juice into your eyes! No bueno!!

  • Prep Time: 2-4 hours
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Method: Grilling
  • Cuisine: Poultry


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