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What Is A Cornish Hen? How Does It Differ From Regular Chicken?

Are you one of those who are wondering, what is a Cornish hen? If so, get to know this unique chicken breed in this descriptive FAQ guide!

After hours of searching, you’ve finally found a tasty and hearty chicken-based dish for your easy weeknight dinner. 

While looking at the ingredient list, you’ve stumbled upon Cornish hens and that left you wondering what food item is this.

Is it a fancy word for chicken? 

Or is it not related to the poultry at all?

For starters, Cornish hens are a breed of chicken that originated in Southwest England, specifically in Cornwall.

They have more of a unique size and appearance than the average chicken you usually buy in the grocery store. 

Cornish hens have gained popularity worldwide for their culinary applications—and because they’re versatile and easier to work with.

Learn more about Cornish hens in this comprehensive guide just for you!

It shares everything you need to know about Cornish hens, including how it differs from regular chicken, its flavor profile, a bit of its origin, the storage process, and how you can add it to your dishes.

What is a Cornish hen?

Contents

A Cornish hen is an English breed of chicken and is considered a heritage breed, meaning they’ve been around for a long time and were generally developed in a certain place for a particular purpose. 

For Cornish hen—for instance—they have been raised by poultry enthusiasts for their meat and not for eggs as they’re poor egg-layers.

Cornish hens are female Cornish chickens(obviously). 

This chicken breed originated in Cornwall, England where it was popularly known as the “Indian Game.

It was then recognized by the American Poultry Association (APA) in 1893 and renamed “Cornish Indian Game” and “white Indian Game” in 1905. 

Due to the confusion, the name caused by implying the breed came from the country India, was eventually relabeled as simply “Cornish” in 1910.

The female Cornish chickens are somewhat similar to Cornish males. 

They have short but large legs and broad muscular breasts with large deep eyes, projecting brows, and slightly curved beaks. 

As mentioned, they’re poor egg-layers and artificial mating is often suggested to achieve production. 

Moreover, Cornish hens feature yellow skin and shank with white meat and fine texture. 

Since they’re butchered younger, Cornish hens tend to be tender than the regular chickens when cooked. 

As per Cornish hen size, they are generally up to one kilogram, making them perfect for individual serving. 

Similar to regular chicken, a Cornish hen is versatile; you can bake, grill, and even turn it into a comforting soup. 

But since they’re so much smaller, the best way to cook Cornish hens is by roasting them as a whole. 

They roast faster than a typical whole chicken, too!

Cornish hen vs chicken

Cornish hen and chicken are not the same ingredients. 

There are quite a few differences between the two then you may expect, with each poultry offering its culinary power, appearance and texture, background, and flavor profile.

Appearance and textureFlavor profileCulinary uses
Cornish henThe Cornish hen has a broad and well-muscled body with large, short legs and large deep eyes as well as a slightly curved beak, giving the breed its cruel or scary expression.

Also, the breed has unique yellow skin and shank with white meat and fine texture. 

It has shorter feathers and is deceptively heavy than typical chicken.
The Cornish hen taste is pretty similar to chicken. 

It’s delicate and almost sweet with a fine texture that melts in your mouth. 

Also, it’s worth noting that the breed is more tender than the chicken since the bird is eaten at a younger age. 
Many chefs use Cornish hen in their everyday dishes. 

Some add the meat into tasty soups while others grill and bake the bird. 

But the best way to enjoy Cornish hen is by roasting it as a whole, knowing the breed is significantly smaller than chicken.
ChickenWhen it comes to size, commercial meat chickens are the victor. 

They’re up to 27 inches tall and weigh about 2.6 kilograms on average.

The chickens sold in the grocery store are either white or yellow but mostly, chickens with white skin are more abundant than those with yellow skin.
As mentioned, the taste of Cornish hen and ordinary chicken is almost identical. 

However, sometimes chicken (depending on the variety) offers a stronger flavor than a Cornish hen.
Chicken can be roasted as a whole akin to the Cornish hen. But it’s more versatile than the latter—you can grill, bake, stir-fry, and fry the bird!

Speaking of chicken, how about making these super straightforward air fryer chicken thigh recipes?

What does Cornish hen taste like

As mentioned, Cornish hen simply tastes like chicken. 

It’s delicate and almost sweet with a fine texture that likely melts in your mouth. 

But some individuals say that chicken has a stronger flavor than a Cornish hen.

Ways to cook a Cornish hen

The most common way to cook a Cornish hen is by roasting the bird as a whole.

However, you can use Cornish hen in multiple ways—you can bake, grill, or add them to soups. 

Here are some Cornish hen recipes you can make at home other than roasting a Cornish hen.

How to store Cornish hen

The fresh Cornish hens in the grocery store are sold in plastic packaging and should be cooked within 24 hours after purchase. 

But if you plan to keep it for up to days, the best way to store it is in your refrigerator. Here’s how to do it: 

Tools needed:

  • Store-bought Cornish hen
  • Refrigerator

Instructions for storing Cornish hen in the fridge:

  1. Keep raw Cornish hen in its original packaging and wrap it tightly with plastic wrap. This avoids the juices from leaving out the package.
  2. Once done, stick it on the bottom shelf of your fridge. 
  3. Use the stored Cornish hen within two days for the best quality.

The bottom line

If you’re a poultry lover or an adventurous cook, you’ll enjoy eating Cornish hen. 

The best thing about this bird is that it cooks quickly, considering its size. 

Plus, it has endless possibilities when it comes to its culinary power; fry, bake, roast, or stir fry it with other complementary ingredients—you name it!

In case you haven’t tried this chicken breed before, then this is the time to give it a shot. 

Don’t forget to share your experience with us in the comments below.