How to Air Fry a Succulent Cornish Hen

How to Air Fry a Succulent Cornish Hen
Photo: WilliamEdwards14, Shutterstock

When I was six, my mum moved from Mississippi to Los Angeles with me and my sisters, and I discovered a whole new world of children’s entertainment. In addition to the Empire of the Mouse, there were water parks, museums, and orchestral performances, all geared towards the children. I, for my part, really wanted to go to Medieval Times.

I wasn’t particularly into jousting, but my friend Melissa had told me that they gave you a lot of food. “You get a whole tiny chicken, all to yourself,” she explained breathlessly over recess one day. “And that’s after you get soup!”

I was immediately obsessed with the idea of eating an entire tiny chicken, but it wasn’t until Melissa’s birthday that I finally made it mine. I don’t remember what colour our knight was — or if he won — but I remember my soup, my spare rib, my unlimited Pepsi product refills, and my personal tiny chicken.

Many years later, I would learn that those tiny chickens were actually Cornish game hens, though I didn’t do that much with that information. But, yesterday, as I was browsing the frozen meat at the grocery store, I saw a two-pack of the tiny hens and thought “Look at the air fryer-sized chickens.” I bought them, thawed one, brushed it with mayo, seasoned it with Caldo de Tomate, and shoved it down into the air fryer basket.

This Cornish game hen was, I’m sorry to say, much more delicious than any Cornish game hen I had ever eaten before, including that first one I ate at Medieval Times. The tiny convection oven rendered the skin of the tiny bird improbably crispy, and the meat succulent, juicy, almost too tender. I ate the whole thing in one sitting, which isn’t that impressive when you consider how small it was.

It was so small, it fit into my very small, 2-quart Instant Pot Vortex Mini, which might be the smallest air fryer on the market. I had to remove the little cooking tray — and smush the breast of the bird down a bit — but it fit, and the bird that came out was perfect. It was delicious, but more than that, it felt special — almost as special as that first trip to Medieval Times.

How to cook a Cornish game hen in your air fryer

To make it yourself, you will need:

  • 1 Cornish game hen
  • A couple of teaspoons of mayo
  • 1/2 teaspoon of Caldo de Tomate (or some other seasoning blend)

Remove the hen from its packaging and pat it dry with paper towels. If you’re working with a small air fryer, press down on the breast bone to flatten the hen out a bit. Tuck the wing tips under the body, brush mayo all over the hen, then season with Caldo de Tomate.

Set the air fryer to 190-degrees Celsius and cook the hen, breast down (to keep the tips of the drumsticks from getting burnt), for 15 minutes. Flip over so the breast faces up and cook for another 10, or until the internal temperature of the thickest part of the bird reads 70 degrees C. Eat immediately, crispy skin first, and wash it down with unlimited soda refills. (Not Pepsi though. Pepsi is gross.)

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