This recipe from Williams-Sonoma’s Essentials of Grilling combines two great techniques for cooking poultry—spatchcocking and placing a stuffing under the skin.

To spatchcock or butterfly a small chicken or hen, cut along both sides of the backbone to remove it. Then flatten the chicken and grill it. It cooks quickly and evenly. Some people weigh the chicken down with a foil-covered brick, but I don’t think it’s necessary.

Placing a stuffing under poultry skin adds flavour and makes for an impressive presentation. In this recipe, the stuffing is made of chopped summer herbs. Be patient and go slowly when you are loosening the skin of the chicken and pushing in the stuffing, otherwise the skin will tear. It’s a little messy to do, but worth the effort.

Spatchcocked Cornish hen in the process of having herbs stuffed under the skin

To avoid additives and preservatives in this recipe, use fresh lemon juice. Concentrates usually contain sodium benzoate.

Grilled Cornish hen


2 Cornish hens

¼ cup chopped fresh summer savory

¼ cup chopped fresh chives

¼ cup chopped fresh mint

¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

Salt and coarsely ground black pepper


Remove the backbones from the hens and press down on them firmly to flatten them. Rinse the hens and pat dry. In a small bowl, toss together the chopped savory, chives, mint and parsley. Using your fingers, and starting at the tail end, carefully loosen the skin over the breast and thigh of each hen half. Using about half of the mixed herbs and dividing them evenly among the hen halves, insert them under the skin of each bird half, spreading as evening as possible.

Add the oil, lemon juice, garlic and ½ tsp each salt and pepper to the herbs left in the bowl. Mix well. Brush the oil mixture evenly over the hen halves, reserving a little of it for basting on the grill. Let the birds stand for 15 minutes at room temperature, or cover and refrigerate for up to 4 hours. If refrigerated, remove from fridge 30 minutes before grilling.

Prepare charcoal or gas grill for grilling over medium-high heat. Grill the hens, skin side down, over hottest part of the fire for 15 minutes. Turn and brush with the reserved herb-oil mixture. Continue to grill, turning once or twice, until richly browned, about 30 minutes longer. To test for doneness, insert an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of a thigh away from the bone; it should register 175 degrees F. Cover loosely with foil and let hens rest 10 minutes (temperature should rise to 180 degrees during resting). Serves 4.

From Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Grilling, 2005