Cornish Hen vs. Chicken: 3 Differences & Why Cornish Hen is Juicier

Roasted Cornish hens.

Cornish Hen vs. Chicken: 3 Differences & Why Cornish Hen is Juicier

When comparing the Cornish hen vs. chicken, it’s important to know that Cornish hens are, in fact, chickens. But there are enough unique aspects to cornish hens that differentiate them from the larger, less juicy chicken. Cornish hens differ from regular chickens in size, nutritional content, and in the tenderness of their meat. Unlike chickens, Cornish hens do not lay large or high-quality eggs. Instead, cornish hens are bred for their tender meat. Some people swear it tastes different than chicken. Cornish hens are butchered earlier than mature chickens, which is part of why the meat texture is so different.

In this post, we’ll learn about the history and origin of the Cornish hen vs. chicken. Get some ideas for recipe variations, and how to prepare each type of these tasty birds. By the end of this, you’ll for sure know the differences between Cornish hen and chicken. Perhaps more information will help you know which one to try at your next poultry-based dinner. Happy reading!

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Cornish Hen vs. Chicken: What Is The Difference?

The differences between Cornish hen vs. chicken come down to the size of the bird, the tenderness of the meat, and the nutritional content of each. Due to their size and the age at which they're butchered, game hens tend to have less fat and calorie content than chicken meat. Cornish hens are also a generally smaller breed of chicken, which contributes to their size overall. Let's learn more about each type of bird.

What Are Cornish Hens?

Cornish hens are a type of chicken characterized by their smaller size. In appearance, they resemble a chicken in coloration. Similar to a Cornish hen is the Cornish cross. Cornish cross is a hybrid of the Cornish hen with the white Plymouth rock breed. It is known for its high-quality meat. Cornish cross grows quickly, stays small, and has very tender meat (via Brittanica).

History And Origin Of Cornish Hens

As you might've guessed from the name, Cornish hens were first bred in Cornwall, England in the year 1820 by Sir Walter Gilbert. It was first referred to as an “Indian Game Hen,” and recognized by the APA as an official breed in 1893 (via Oklahoma State University).

It first got this name due to its breeding history which combined a Red Aseel chicken (from India) with a Black Breasted Red Game chicken. The breed was originally used for cock fighting, especially because they did not produce high-quality eggs. The name was changed in 1905 to Cornish Indian game hen, but because it was only being bred for its meat and no longer used in cock fighting, the APA changed the name to simply “Cornish hen” in 1910. Breeders found that butchering the birds' young resulted in very tender meat, which is often why it's referred to as a “broiler chicken.” Modern Cornish hens are cross-bred with American chicken types. The result is fast-growing, compact, yet very juicy specimens. Fully grown Cornish hens can grow between 6.5-8.5 pounds (via Livestock Conservatory).

Cornish game hen with fresh vegetables and roll ready to enjoy for dinner or lunch "Cornish hen meal"
Cornish hens are small in size with tender, juicy meat.


How To Prepare Cornish Hens

Cornish hens cook similarly to chicken, but they're smaller and easier to serve. For this recipe from Allrecipes, you'll need some Cornish game hens, olive oil, spices, some lemon, white wine, and chicken broth. First, clean out the cavity of the bird. Next, season the hen with olive oil, salt and pepper. Stuff the cavity with spices like rosemary, the fresher the better, and lemon slices.

Preheat your oven to 450º Fahrenheit and roast the Cornish hen in the oven until it looks golden brown. Next, add white wine and chicken broth to the pan with the birds, reduce the heat to 350º, and baste the birds for the next 25 minutes of roasting. Remove the Cornish hens from the oven, and pour the juices into a separate pan. This recipe calls for a sauce made with the roasting juices and garlic cloves. Add your sauce, serve your birds, and enjoy your meal. Check out the full recipe here.

There are lots of ways to prepare a Cornish hen. These include recipes for full-sized chickens. Simply reduce the ingredinets to fit the needs of a smaller, juicier bird. Check out some great recipes below:

What Are Chickens? 

The chicken (Gallus gallus) is a breed of poultry with origins tracing back to even the dinosaurs! They are one of the earliest domesticated birds and bred for both their egg production as well as their meat. Modern-day, there are numerous kinds of chickens. Some of these include the Rhode Island Red chicken, the Recap chicken, the Booted Bantam, the Campine chicken, and the Cochine chicken (via A-Z Animals). Chicken meat is a classic ingredient in all kinds of soups, stews, broths, and savory dishes.

 a chicken sunset
There are all kinds of chicken breeds, and they come in so many colors!


History and Origin Of Chickens

It is suspected that the direct originator of the modern-day chicken is the Southeast Asian Red Jungle Fowl. The species was domesticated some 7,000 years ago and became popular not only for their meat but also for their egg production. In the year 1874, the American Poultry Association defined the first set of chicken breed characteristics. From this standard, future breeders would continue to perfect all kinds of chickens for breeding and distribution. Certain breeds are favored over others for their egg-laying abilities, while others are bred for their meat (the Cornish hen) (via the University of Wisconsin-Madison).

Baked whole chicken with mushrooms and potatoes close-up on a plate on a table. Horizontal top view from above
Chicken meat goes well in all kinds of savory dishes, soups, and stews.

©AS Foodstudio/Shutterstock.com

There are simply so many dishes that involve chicken meat. Not to mention the sheer number of baked goods, savory dishes, and interesting dishes that use chicken eggs in their recipe. Let's take a look at some recipes involving the use of chicken meat:

The Food Substitutions Bible
  • The must-have convenient reference guide for every home cook!
  • Includes more than 8,000 substitutions for ingredients, cookware, and techniques.
  • Save time and money on by avoiding trips to grab that "missing" ingredient you don't really need.
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

Nutritional Value Comparison of Cornish Hen vs. Chicken

For the record, both Cornish hens and other breeds of chicken are healthy choices. However, there are some nutritional differences worth comparing. Cornish hens are younger in the maturation process when they're butchered. Therefore they have a lower calorie count and lower fat content than larger chickens. Comparing a whole Cornish hen to one piece of chicken, you can see that Cornish hens are higher in cholesterol, and in iron than chicken. Recipe ingredients can impact nutritional content.

Cornish Hen vs. Chicken: Are They The Same Thing?

While the Cornish hen is a type of chicken, not all chickens are Cornish hens. The two differ in size and meat tenderness. There are also some nutritional differences in terms of calories and fat content. Cornish hens and chicken are cooked in much the same way. Though some people swear they can taste a difference between the two. You'll have to try out a recipe and see for yourself.

Possible Alternatives To Cornish Hen And/Or Chicken

If you're looking for other options for meat-based dishes, try out other types of poultry. There's duck, turkey, pheasant, and quail. For other meat selections, try out recipes involving pork, beef, lamb, or veal. There's also lots of seafood that can provide protein and a nice base for savory dishes. Try out fish, prawns, crab, mussels, lobster, scallops, or clams. And of course, for those who don't eat meat of any kind, there are lots of options like tofu, seitan, tempeh, and beyond meat to substitute out in dishes.

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