Cornish Hens Over Fire
This recipe is great for camping and overnight float trips or just in your backyard, nothing taste better than Cornish hens cooked over a fire. I have never felt sorry for the cowboys that had to cook over their campfire at night and you won’t either after tasting this great meal full of flavor.
Cornish hens are just the right size for this recipe and is just right so each member of the trip gets their own hen. The hens can be frozen and packed in newspaper to last up to a day in a canoe or kayak and several days in a cooler with ice. When packing them inside a kayak or canoe be sure to place them on the bottom so the cool water will help keep them from thawing too quickly. We have kayaked for 12 hours and the hens were still half frozen. They could have made it until the second evening but we couldn’t wait to cook our Cornish hens cooked over a fire, so we got started.
Cornish Hen Preparation
Your hens should be at least 90% thawed before cooking to be sure it cooked through. The best thing to do is unwrap your hens first thing so if they need to thaw a little more they can do so while the fire is burning down. You can tell if your hen is thawed by feeling inside the cavity. This is the last place the hen will thaw and if you find ice then it needs a little more time to thaw, but it will thaw quickly once exposed to the ambient temperature.
If the weather is cool or you keep your hens in a cooler, on a camping trip, then you might want to unwrap the hens well before dinner time or have them the second night. You can prepare a fancy rub for your hens but honestly I use absolutely nothing to season my rotisserie hens. Not even salt and pepper. Cornish hens are just naturally delicious or maybe I am just half starved after a long day of paddling. Either way feel free to create a rub to your liking as it is easy enough to take along and can add that personal touch to your hens.
Preparation For Cooking Cornish Hens On A Stick
It is important, when cooking over an open flame, to be sure there are plenty of red hot coals so start your fire early. The best way to get the proper amount of coals is to start a large fire and let it burn down leaving lots of hot coals. You never want to start the cooking process without enough heat or you will find yourself adding too much wood to the fire while the hens are in place and the resulting flames will burn the outside of the bird while leaving the inside raw. Not good!
To test the heat hold your hand a couple feet from the coals and be sure there is very little or no flame just coals. If you can keep your hand there then you need more coals. Once the cooking begins you can add a stick at a time to replenish the coal bed but you never really want a full on fire when you are cooking, at least not directly under the hens.
The Cornish Hen Stick Rotisserie
You can purchase rotisserie kits from camp stores or even rig the rotisserie from your grill to work over a campfire. If you are paddling and would rather not pack a rotisserie here are the steps to making your own. You will need two solid sticks to hold the rotisserie with your hens. You can assemble a tripod if you have some cord to lash three sticks together. I just use two forked sticks. Sharpen the end of the forked sticks and push or drive them on each side of the fire. Stack a few large rocks around these sticks to prevent them from falling over if you like.
Now find a straight stick. Preferably green and long enough to span the two forked sticks. Peel the bark off for a cleaner spit. Two reasons for using a live limb for the spit. One is they are usually stronger with less weak points which could be disastrous. If that weak point broke as you turned your delicious hens they would dump right into the fire. Not good! The other reason is that a green stick is less likely to burn while over the heat resulting in the above mentioned catastrophe.
Once your spit is clean you can now skewer your hens. Sometimes the hens will turn on your spit. If they spin you can use cording to secure the hen to the spit. Tie your hens tightly then wrap around the spit to secure them.Place the hen loaded spit onto the forked sticks and you are in business. Some say to set the spit to the side of the heat. With hens I place it directly over the heat.
Cooking Your Cornish Hens Over Fire
Cornish hens cooked over a fire is easy, just watch and rotate the spit occasionally. To evenly heat the meat and get the process started, slowly rotate your hens for several minutes. Once the skin starts to get shiny you can leave the hens in one position for a minute. Watch and listen to your hens. The fat will begin to drip as the hen cooks. This helps you determine when to rotate. It all depends on the intensity of your heat.
Cooking over an open flame takes a lot of instincts which improves with each attempt. If your hens aren’t dripping fat within 5 minutes move the hens closer to the heat. You can also add a couple sticks to make more hot coals. This is in the initial stages. As the hens begin to brown keep rotating every couple minutes. The dripping may stop as the skin begins to brown. This seals the juices inside. A small Cornish hen should fully cook within a couple hours. It’s important to take your time and slowly brown your hens to perfection. Again it all depends on the heat intensity.
Enjoying Your Hens Cooked Over A Fire
Who says you have to rough it in the outdoors. This is a simple way to bring a delicious meal to your campfire. Great times spent with friends and family. If you want to connect with your kids just start a fire and let them partake in the cooking. Watch your kids and see how enthusiastic they become. It’s amazing. So on your next paddle trip or camping trip give this recipe a try. You won’t be disappointed in the results. I promise.
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