Guiness Marinated Cornish Hen

This may be the best way to cook a chicken that I have ever encountered. I tend to say that about every type of Cornish hen I make, but this time I mean it. It’s tender. It’s dark. It’s smoky. All the bitterness of Guinness and mustard and molasses come together to turn the meat into something more decadent than I could possibly have guessed. And you won’t believe how easy it was to make.

One of the more delightful things about Cornish hens is the fact that they’re small. This means they don’t take as long to cook. This means you have to almost try to overcook the little things to end up with tough breast meat. So while this recipe would surely work for a nice big butterflied fryer if you cooked it longer, I urge you to stick with wee little hens. You’ll thank me when you pick up a drumstick and the meat slides right off of it onto your plate.

Ingredients (serves 1 per half-hen)

One and a half Cornish hens, bisected (or one hen to serve two, or two hens to serve four.)

1 bottle Guinness extra stout, or your favorite stout. Don’t use Guinness draught. I’ll know, and I won’t be pleased.

3 T mustard powder

3 T olive oil

1 T salt

2 T molasses

3 cloves garlic


Pour the beer in a bag. I like to prop a gallon zip-top bag up inside of my 2-quart soufflé dish so that it can’t fall over and cover the counter, the floor, and the corvid with marinade.

Scoop in the mustard powder.

Lots and lots of mustard powder.

Then the olive oil.

Then molasses. No, I didn’t actually measure the molasses. It’s too sticky.

Now we need some salt. I didn’t measure that, either, because there’s no such thing as too much salt.

Then garlic. I always seem to be out of fresh garlic, and the ones we planted were uprooted and carried off by a maniacal squirrel, so we’re using dried today. Fresh is better.

That’s your finished marinade. Seal it up and shake/squish it until everything is fully mixed.

Put the hens inside and pop the whole bag in the fridge for a few hours or (better) overnight. Flip the bag over a few times to keep the marinade even.

When ready to cook, heat the oven to 425°F. Arrange the hens skin side up in a cast iron pan big enough to fit them without crowding. Pour the marinade over them and sprinkle the skin with a bit of salt.

Bake 30-35 minutes at 425°F.

Serve with colcannon and asparagus.

Sorry about that last picture. My camera battery died before I could take more than one. The chicken is delightful. I agree with our lovely dinner guest that the only necessary improvement would be a chicken made only of the crispy skin (so good!), but this was delightful. I mean absolutely and purely fantastic. Make this soon, you won’t regret it.


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  1. #1 by lexy3587 on August 16, 2011 - 6:22 AM

    I was just thinking I wanted to try one of your tiny-chicken recipes, lol… you’ve convinced me it should be this one! 🙂

    • #2 by koshercorvid on August 16, 2011 - 9:54 PM

      Oh, it definitely should! It’s so easy and so tasty!

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