How to Split a Cornish Hen


The petite Cornish hen makes an elegant but simple meal. Although their small size and European-sounding name make them sound exotic, Cornish hens are a cross between Cornish chickens and Plymouth Rock chickens. They typically weigh around two pounds and serve two people easily. Cornish hens may be cooked by grilling, roasting, baking or any of your favorite chicken recipes.

Things You'll Need

  • Paper towels
  • Cutting board
  • Knife
  • Kitchen shears
  • Remove the hen from its packaging. If there are giblets in the body cavity, remove them. Rinse the hen under cool water and pat dry with paper towels. Discard the packaging and paper towels.

  • Lay the hen on the cutting board so that the back of the chicken faces up.

  • Feel for the breastbone by pressing down in the center of the hen at the edge of the opening. When you have located it, make a slit along its length to loosen the meat from the bones.

  • Insert the kitchen shears on one side of the breastbone and cut through the bone all the way to the other end. Cut along the other side of the breastbone until it is completely free from the hen. This allows you to open up the halves of the hen like a butterfly. Discard the breastbone.

  • Place the opened hen on the cutting board with the skin side facing up. Just as you did in Step 3, find the backbone. Cut along both sides of the backbone with the shears. Discard the backbone.

Tips & Warnings

  • The discarded pieces can be frozen for later use in making chicken stock.
  • For best results, use a non-serrated knife with a thin blade.
  • Cornish hens may also be split after cooking. To do this, omit Step 1 and begin with Step 2.
  • Cook hens with the skin on to keep them moist.
  • Remove the skin before serving to reduce fat and calories.
  • Raw poultry can carry dangerous bacteria -- wash you hands, the work surface, the sink, the cutting board and all utensils with hot soapy water when you are finished.
  • Be careful when using kitchen shears and knives -- they are sharp.

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