I’ve gone almost my entire adult life walking past Cornish hen in the market. In fact, I had blinders on when it came to Cornish hen, but now I have my eyes wide open. I love Cornish hen! And I’m going to show you a technique to ensure a fabulous bird….Spatchcocking – How to Butterfly a Cornish Hen.

Spatchcocking-how-to-butterfly-a-cornish-henGrowing up in a home with a Japanese grandmother, who did most of the cooking, meant Cornish hen was never on the menu. Ever. So Cornish hen was something that I never learned to cook, until last week when I made Grilled Cornish Hen with Zesty Soy & Mayo Dip. Yum!


Since I was grilling the Cornish hens, I did some research and learned about spatchcocking. Yes, spatchcocking is a real word that means “to butterfly a bird”…any bird. Now you’re wondering, do I need to spatchcock? The answer is “no”, but here are a few reason why you may want to spatchcock, especially if you choose to grill your bird.

Why Spatchcock?

  • Crispy skin all over
  • Even cooking
  • Make stock from the spine
  • Cooks quicker

If you’re like me, having more crispy skin is enough to seal the deal on spatchcocking. So let’s get to it!

Spatchcocking – How to Butterfly a Cornish HenCornish Hen


  • Kitchen shears
  • Cutting board

Remove the spineSpatchcocking: 

  • Place hen breast side down on cutting board with the neck facing you.
  • Place the kitchen shears on one side of the spine and cut towards the tail. Use the tail as a guide.

Remove Cornish Hen Spine

  • Repeat step 2
  • Remove the spine. Discard or use it to make stock (I hate wasting, so I use the spines to make stock).

Cut fat

  • Check for areas of excessive fat and cut off

Press Down Cornish Hen

  • Flip the Cornish hen over
  • Using both hands, apply pressure and push down to flatten the bird. You may hear cracking and that’s ok.

You can stop here and marinate your chicken or cut the wings off.

Cut Cornish hen wings

  • For the wings, there are several options:
    1. Leave the wings on. This makes a pretty presentation.
    2. Cut the wing tip off to prevent burning. Add this to chicken stock.
    3. Cut the entire wing off. Cook the wing separately or add to chicken stock.

The Cornish hens are now spatchcocked and ready to be cooked! Just marinate or season to your liking! Easy, right?

Spatchcocked Cornish HensHere is a picture of my birds on the grill after marinating for 24 hours. I cut the wings off one Cornish hen and left the wings on the other. You can see from the picture, that the removed wings cooked much faster than the body and I removed those after a few minutes of cooking, while there was a little charring on the attached wings. Either way, the skins come out crispy and the Cornish hens were tender and moist.

I hope you give spatchcocking a try. You can spatchcock chickens, duck, turkey, and any game bird. Have you spatchcocked a bird?



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  1. Thank you for this! I was at a loss for how to follow my recipe, since it required cutting the backbone out of the hen. Your tutorial was a recipe saver!

  2. I’m so glad you shared your tutorial on how to butterfly a Cornish hen. I do the same with chicken. When I was growing up Cornish hens were one of the cheap meats at the commissary so my mom made them all of the time. I never marinated them, but I’ll surely give your recipe a try:-)

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