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Greek-Inspired Grilled Cornish Game Hens

photo: Scott Phillips

Servings: 4

Oregano, lemon, garlic, and red wine give these grilled birds a sun-kissed Mediterranean flavor.


For the seasoning

  • 1 Tbs. granulated garlic
  • 1 Tbs. granulated onion
  • 1-1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1-1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil; more for the grill
  • 2 game hens (about 2 lb. each), spatchcocked


For the glaze

  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 2 Tbs. honey
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper


For the butter

  • 2 tsp. finely chopped garlic
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 1/4 tsp. packed finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 oz. (4 tbs.) unsalted butter, softened


For the garnish

  • Finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Flaky salt (optional)

Nutritional Information

  • Calories (kcal) : 790
  • Fat Calories (kcal): 470
  • Fat (g): 53
  • Saturated Fat (g): 18
  • Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 8
  • Monounsaturated Fat (g): 22
  • Cholesterol (mg): 300
  • Sodium (mg): 480
  • Carbohydrates (g): 18
  • Fiber (g): 2
  • Sugar (g): 12
  • Protein (g): 48


Season the birds

  • In a small bowl, combine the granulated garlic and onion, oregano, paprika, cinnamon, and salt.
  • Rub the game hens all over with the oil, then with the seasoning, using most of it on the meatier side of the birds.


Make the glaze

  • In a small saucepan, whisk the wine, tomato paste, honey, salt, and pepper over high heat, and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and cook, whisking occasionally, until reduced to about 1/2 cup, 10 to 20 minutes. Set aside.

Make the butter

  • In a small bowl, combine the garlic, honey, lemon zest, salt, and pepper, and allow to sit for 5 minutes for the flavors to develop. Add the butter, and stir to combine. Set aside.

Grill and glaze the game hens

  • Prepare a high (500°F to 600°F) gas or charcoal grill fire. Oil the grate.
  • Grill the game hens, breast sides down, until the skin has nice grill marks; 10 to 15 minutes. Flip the birds over, brush with the glaze, and cook for an additional 1 to 2 minutes on that side.
  • Finish grilling the birds over indirect heat: For a gas grill, simply turn off all but one of the burners and adjust the heat as necessary to maintain a temperature of 350°F.
  • For a charcoal grill, briefly remove the birds from the grill, then remove the grill grate. Use long-handled tongs to bank the hot coals to one side. Put the grate in place. Place an oven thermometer on the grate over the cooler area, close the lid, and let the coals burn down until the thermometer reads about 350°F.
  • Transfer the birds to the cooler side of the grill and continue cooking, breast side up, brushing with the glaze every couple of minutes until cooked through (160°F), 45 to 50 minutes. (It’s fine if you run out of glaze before the birds are cooked.) You may want to rotate the position of the birds so the same sides are not always closest to the heat.

Butter, garnish, and serve

  • Transfer the birds to a cutting board, breast side up, and spread with some of the butter. Tent with foil for 5 minutes. Cut into halves or quarters, garnish with the chopped parsley and salt, and pass the remaining butter at the table.


You can substitute 8 whole or semiboneless quail, 4 poussin or squab, or even 2 small chickens for the game hens, though cooking times will differ. (If using semiboneless quail, consider skewering them, using two skewers threaded through each side for easier handling.) The seasoning rub and glaze can both be made several hours ahead; keep covered at room temperature until ready to use. The butter can be made up to 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate, then bring to room temperature before serving.


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Reviews (1 review)

  • springs9 | 04/27/2018

    Beautiful, delicious easy and elegant. What more can I say!

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