This 30 Minute Air Fryer Cornish Hen is super tender and juicy, yet incredibly fast for a weeknight meal! I was at my local Asian Store and found a two pack of cornish hens for a really good price. I just bought an air fryer (yeah, I am slow with new kitchen gadgets). Don’t ask me how long it took me to buy an Instant Pot! I wanted to try out my new gadget with hens.
Mercy, am I glad I did. I could not believe how “hands off” this recipe is. I didn’t have to heat up the house by turning on the oven, or spending time with the stove top. Instead, this is simply add-to-air-fryer and virtually forget about it! Try to think of those nights when you need hands off dinner! This is it!
🍴Prep the Cornish Hen
This is extremely easy. Cut the wrapping away from the hen and remove the bag that has the neck and liver. Set them aside, as we’ll use them later.
I chose to add a couple of small pads of butter between the skin and the meat on the breast in order to help the skin brown and crisp up.
Alternatively, a couple of spritzes of olive oil would do the trick too. In the first hen I cooked, I rubbed the outside lightly with olive oil, but I wanted to see how the pads of butter would do this time. I was impressed!
There are other options to season the hen. You could prepare the hen with the following:
- Poultry Seasoning – Rub the outside of the hen with a liberal amount of poultry seasoning. Make sure to add some to the cavity of the bird as well.
- Fresh Herbs – Grind fresh rosemary, thyme and sage to create a dry rub. Unfortunately, it is still winter here, and the fresh herbs weren’t available without spending more money than I wanted at the store.
- Lemon and Vegetables – Stuff the inside of the bird with a sliced lemon and fresh carrots and celery. Note that you may need to cook the bird for a few extra minutes if the cavity is filled. Also, discard the stuffing after the cornish hen is cooked. It is just meant to provide additional flavoring to the hen.
- Olive Oil and Dry Rub – I sprayed the skin with a bit of olive oil and then applied my favorite dry rub, Dizzy Pig’s Coarse Ground Dizzy Dust. I put that seasoning on almost everything! It is sooo good!
🍽️ Prepare the Air Fryer
Turn the air fryer to 390 degrees and pre heat it. It takes three or four minutes for it to come up to temperature. When it is at full temp, it will beep.
Set the timer for 15 minutes and add the cornish hen, breast side up. I usually start breast side down, but since I added butter, I placed those on top to have the butter melt and drip down the bird. I placed mine on the lower shelf, right above the drip tray.
After 15 minutes, carefully remove the tray and turn the hen over. I used two forks to help this. Be careful, as this is very hot, and there will be drippings.
Set the timer for another 15 minutes.
Using the sheet pan trick, remove the hen and test the internal temperature. It should be a minimum of 165 degrees Fahrenheit (75 degrees Celcius). If not, add it back to the air fryer for a few more minutes.
Tip: I use a ¼ sheet pan to rest the air fryer shelf on. I line it up to the front of the air fryer and then pull the shelf with the cornish hen straight on to it. It eliminates any drips on the door or my floor.
🍴Air Fryer Neck and Giblets
With about 12 minutes left, add the neck and giblets to the air fryer tray. I made the mistake the first time I made them by adding them at the very beginning of the cook, but they were rock-hard and over cooked. The second time, I added them with 12-14 minutes left and they were thoroughly cooked and oh-so delicious.
🥘 How to Freeze
I cut the cornish hen in half using a sturdy kitchen knife. The bones are very soft, so it is easy to do. To freeze them, I add it to a freezer safe tupperware container. It stays good for several weeks.
Alternatively, I have placed the whole cornish hen in a freezer bag after it has cooled. If I think it will stay frozen for more than two weeks before I plan to use it, I will wrap it with Saran or Cling Wrap and then put it in the freezer bag. It helps to ward off the freezer burn.
🥄 Can I Meal Prep This
I bet you won’t spend more than five minutes preparing the bird for the air fryer. Seriously, it is that fast! But, you can meal prep this the night before by taking the hen out of the packaging, adding the pads of butter and rubbing it with any seasonings. Then, place it in the fridge until you are ready to start the air fryer. If you choose to do this, it is simply transferring the hen from the refrigerator to the Air Fryer. You have your evening free.
🥣 Alternate Herb Rub
Now that you know how to make a basic Cornish Hen in the Air Fryer, it’s time to get creative with your spice cabinet and make some amazing meals your family is going to wild about! This herb rub is simply two ingredients mixed together and rubbed onto the cornish hen prior to putting into the Air Fryer. Using a simple herb rub like this one will allow you to have limitless possibilities with your hen while using what you already have!
Step One: Rinse and dry off the cornish hen.
Step Two: Combine the Herbs de Provence and freeze dried chives in a bowl and stir.
Step Three: Spray the cornish hen with the spray olive oil. This is going to help the hen get crispy on the outside. Then, using your hand, spread the herb rub on both sides of the hen and place it in the Air Fryer BREAST SIDE DOWN and cook at 390 degrees for 30 minutes, flipping it over half way.
PRO TIP – If you aren’t a Herbs de Provence lover, that’s ok. Mix up a couple of herbs from your cabinet together using the same ratios and use that as a rub! I want you to learn to use your spice cabinet and mix up herbs to create amazing flavors!
🌿 Great Herb Flavors to Try
If you want to try out different combinations of herbs that you have in your spice cabinet, here are a few great combinations to start with right now!
- Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Marjoram
- Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano, Parsley
- Rosemary and Thyme
- Thyme, Rosemary, Tarragon and Marjoram
- Sage, Oregano, Parsley
- Sage, Marjoram and Parsley
- Oregano, Basil, Parsley and Thyme
🍲 What to Serve as a Side Dish
The thing I love about the air fryer is that it keeps my oven, my stovetop and my Instant Pot free for cooking other things! That really frees up the options.
Roasted Carrots and Beets – This is a simple and classic veggie dish that takes just a few minutes to make, and is phenomenal! Seriously good!
Mashed Rutabaga – If you have never tried mashed rutabagas, now it the time. This is such a flavorful dish that you will wonder why you eat mashed potatoes so often. It is a lot lower on carbs, and a lot higher on taste!
Mashed Cauliflower – This keto-friendly veggie dish is the bomb! I love how cauliflower takes on the taste of virtually anything you add to it. That makes this an extremely versatile side dish.
‼️ Air Fryer Recipes!
Air Fryer Sweet Asian Chili Chicken Wings– these are the BOMB, you guys!! I had them twice in one week and I couldn’t have done more! I love the crispy skin with the sweet and slightly tang of heat from the sauce! You will love these!
Air Fryer Chicken Livers these are such a great appetizer or small main dish if you grew up loving livers like we did! They cook up in under ten minutes with a crispy outer coating that you will think you deep fried!
Air Fryer Ravioli these these are the appetizers that you will come back to time and time again for parties and game days. The outer crunch is perfect after being dipped into the homemade marinara sauce!
Air Fryer Broccoli this is a super quick, hands off side dish that you can cook to the amount you like your broccoli! If you like it super soft, cook longer. I like mine a little al dente so I cook it less! Absolute perfect side dish from the air fryer!
Air Fryer Cornish Hen
- Air Fryer
- 1 each Cornish Hen with the packet of the neck and giblets removed
- 2 tbsp butter sliced
Prepare the Cornish Hen
- Remove the bag with the neck, liver and giblets from the cavity of the hen. Set aside.
- Work your fingers between the skin and the meat of the bird to make room for the two pads of butter.
Prepare the Air Fryer
- Preheat the Air Fryer to 390 degrees. It should take 3-4 minutes.
- When it is preheated, insert the hen with the breast side up.
- Set the timer for 15 minutes
- After 15 minutes, carefully remove the hen from the air fryer and turn it over. I used two forks.
- Put the Cornish Hen back in the Air Fryer and set the time for another 15 minutes.
- After 15 more minutes, check the temperature to make sure it is at least 165 degrees F
Cook the Neck, Liver and Giblets
- With about 12 minutes remaining, open the Air Fryer and add the neck, liver and giblets to the tray. When the hen is completely cooked, these goodies will be fully cooked as well.
- Remove and serve.