Cooking Cornish hens on your Traeger is a great way to make something that looks fancy but is actually quite easy. Cornish hens are simply small chickens so they have a familiar flavor profile and cook quickly.
There are several recipes for Cornish hens on the Traeger app and I took bits and pieces of several of them to put together a recipe of my own that I am pleased to say turned out quite nicely!
Prepare the Hens for the Traeger
Getting the chicken ready for the grill is pretty simple and only requires two steps:
- Seasoning with a Dry Rub
- Stuffing and Trussing the Hens
Season the Hens with Traeger’s Pork and Poultry Rub
Rinse the hens with cold water and pat dry with paper towels.
Rub both sides of the bird with olive oil and then liberally coat with Traeger’s Apple Honey Pork & Poultry Rub. If you don’t have this rub on hand then here is the ingredient list so you can whip up a batch of something similar:
Traeger Pork and Poultry Rub Ingredients
- Cane sugar
- Dehydrated apple
- Corn starch
- Chili pepper
This rub has a sweet and savory flavor profile without much heat.
Stuffing and Trussing the Hens
I kept the stuffing pretty simple and placed a quarter of an orange into the cavity of each hen. If you wanted more citrus flavors then you could make up an orange and lemon brine like in this recipe for Citrus Brined Smoked Cornish Hens.
After the hens were stuffed the legs were trussed with some twine to make for a cleaner presentation.
Choosing Wood Pellets
I was burning Traeger Signature Blend pellets that I got the other day at Home Depot. These pellets are a blend of cherry, hickory and other hardwoods.
I bought these pellets because I had a Home Depot gift card and wanted to see if they were really the exact same as the the “Gourmet” pellets that are sold at Costco for half the cost (I think they are).
Set Your Traeger to 375F for Grilling
Start your grill and set the temperature to 375F. Let the grill pre-heat at 375F for at least 15 minutes.
Place the hens breast side UP on the grate.
Close the lid and let the hens cook until they reach an internal temperature of 160F in the breast.
After 30 minutes the breast meat was at an internal temperature of 145F and, since the grill was already open, I went ahead and brushed the hens with Traeger’s Sweet and Heat barbecue sauce.
It took another 15 minutes, 45 minutes total, for the Cornish hens to reach 160F in the breast at which point they were taken off the grill.
How Did it Turn Out?
The Cornish hens turned out delightful! The birds looked beautiful and the meat was super juicy.
The flavor was a mix of the smoke, chicken, dry rub and sauces and combined to make a surprisingly complex but balanced taste explosion.
The only way that I would really want to improve upon the recipe is to get the skin a little crisper. The skin on these hens was perfectly fine, not rubbery at all, but simply wasn’t amazing.
All in all, I will call this cook a great success!
Traeger Cornish Hens
- 2 Cornish Hens
- 3 tbsp Olive Oil
- 1 Orange
- 4 tbsp Traeger Pork & Poultry Rub
- 4 tbsp Traeger Sweet and Heat Barbecue Sauce
- Rinse the hens under cold water and pat dry with paper towels.
- Rub olive oil onto the skin of the hens.
- Cut the orange into quarters.
- Insert an orange quarter into the cavity of each hen.
- Season the outside of the hen with Traeger's Pork and Poultry Rub.
- Turn on your Traeger and set the temperature to 375F.
- Fill a six inch smoke tube with wood pellets and light with a torch.
- Place the hens on the cooking grate along with the smoke tube.
- Cook for 30 minutes then baste with Traeger Sweet and Heat barbecue sauce.
- Cook another 15 minutes until the breast meat reaches an internal temperature of 160F.