Are you getting bored of serving the same old things for dinner on a Sunday?
Whether it’s a special meal or a standard family dinner, occasionally we want to make more of an effort and try out something new.
Cornish game hen is commonly seen on the menu of a fancy restaurant, but it is becoming more mainstream and working its way into grocery stores or butcher counters.
Whether you’re a self-taught foodie or a professional chef, you might be wondering what it’s like to cook with this small bird and what the big deal is.
In this article, we are going to explore the differences between a Cornish game hen and a chicken.
What Is A Cornish Game Hen?
If you’ve not heard of a Cornish game hen before, or you aren’t sure what they are, we can explain.
These birds have been bred as a result of crossing a standard Cornish chicken with a White Plymouth Rock hen.
As you may have guessed from the name, these chickens are from Cornwall, England.
The outcome is a smaller bird that matures quickly, developing large breasts and fatty skin.
Cornish game hens are slaughtered at around five weeks old, usually weighing around two pounds.
These birds are popular to breed for meat due to their quick growth, requiring less feed.
Despite the word ‘hen’ indicating a female chicken, both sexes of the bird are commonly eaten.
How Does The Hen Compare To A Chicken?
Let’s compare the two birds to give you a better idea of what the difference is.
The main difference between a Cornish game hen and a chicken is the size.
Chickens are left to mature for longer to produce a good portion of meat, which means they are typically larger in size on our plates.
Hens have shorter legs and broader breasts than chickens which makes them more suited to eating.
As a result of their smaller size, the Cornish game hen is often served as an individual portion of meat around the dinner table.
Chickens are thought to have a stronger flavor compared to the hen, this may be due to the fact they are left to mature for longer.
However, some people argue there is little difference in the taste of the two birds.
Due to the young age of the game hen when it’s slaughtered, the meat can be more tender than a chicken. As they’ve had less of a chance to mature their flavors are also less domineering.
Therefore, the hen is described as having a more delicate and sweet flavor with a texture that melts in your mouth.
The majority of the difference in the taste comes from the way the two are cooked.
In general, poultry is high in protein which is essential to maintain the healthy growth of our muscles and bones as well as give us energy.
As these birds are slaughtered at different times in their life, there are slight differences in their body composition.
Cornish game hens are lower in fat compared to a chicken and are very lean as a result of their younger bodies. Overall, hens are lower in calories than a chicken.
The fat content is the main difference in the nutritional value of the two birds. Both birds are rich sources of protein and vitamins such as vitamins A and D.
Vitamin A helps contribute to healthy eyesight, reproduction, and a well-functioning immune system.
Vitamin D helps to build strong and healthy bones as well as reduce inflammation and help fight infections.
How To Cook Them
Both of the birds can be roasted and served whole, which is a common way of serving both. As the hen is smaller, it will require a shorter cooking time compared to the chicken.
The shorter cooking time means that the game hen produces crispier skin and keeps the bird extra moist. Other than roasting, game hens can be braised, spatchcocked, or broiled.
Be that as it may, chicken is considered to be more versatile as it can be separated and used in many dishes from a variety of cuisines.
The hen is rather small to be able to split into sections and used in the same way you would a chicken. This is why it’s typically roasted and used to create a ‘wow factor’ for special occasions.
In terms of price, the hen will be more costly than the chicken as it is a rarity. Another factor that influences the cost of meat is the slow reproduction rate of the birds.
Female Cornish game hens can produce significantly fewer eggs a year than a chicken which means there are fewer birds available for human consumption.
Visit your local butcher’s shop or large grocery store meat counter to find a Cornish game hen.
These are typically sold as small birds, but some birds are left to fully mature and can be bought in a larger size.
However, you may need to visit a local farm or farm shop to find these.
What To Serve With Cornish Game Hen?
There are many options to pair with a Cornish game hen, similarly to a roast chicken.
The hen can be served with traditional roast accompaniments such as roasted potatoes, carrots, stuffing, and other vegetables.
A more modern approach may include serving the bird with rice or macaroni and cheese instead.
On the whole, the hen can be served with anything an individual pleases depending on how it is cooked and what flavors are added to it.
A simple internet search can help you find a ton of different game hen recipes that will ensure a delicious meal.
When To Choose Cornish Game Hen Vs. Chicken?
Now that you have all the information you need regarding the differences between the two birds, you might be wondering when it is most appropriate to serve them.
The main question to ask yourself ‘is how many people do I need to feed?’.
When feeding a larger group, it is a lot easier to cook one bird as you’ll be more likely to cook more accompaniments.
Therefore, cooking a chicken is a simple and more effective option. Trying to cook 10 different birds in one oven can be a bit of a challenge.
Choosing chicken is more sensible when you are cooking a dish that requires the separation of meats, for example, a curry.
As the game hen is smaller and more expensive than chicken, it would be unfeasible to use it for such a dish.
Intimate dinner parties and special small-scale family meals are the perfect settings to serve a game hen.
With a smaller number of birds to attend to, you can spend more time marinating them which will significantly enhance the flavors.
Is One Better Than The Other?
In terms of nutrition, it may be argued that the game hen is slightly better for you as it has a lower fat content.
On the other hand, as a chicken is larger it contains more nutrients and vitamins which is also a plus.
There isn’t one that is arguably better than the other, it all comes down to personal preference, budget, and how many people you are cooking for.
The Bottom Line
If you’re looking to try something new at the dinner table, Cornish game hen is a great option if you don’t mind spending a little more money.
Not only do they taste great, but serving your guests an individual bird will make them feel like they are getting a super special treat.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Game Hens And Cornish Hens The Same?
Game hens aren’t game birds, they are chickens that have been slaughtered at a young age and are therefore smaller than the standard-sized chicken.
If left to mature, they will reach the size of a normal fully grown chicken.
Cornish hens are heavy muscular birds with broad breasts that have been bred in the counties of Cornwall and Devon for the last few hundred years.
Do Cornish Game Hens Taste Like Game?
Despite the name of the bird, they don’t tend to typically taste like game.
Compared to chicken, the game hen does taste a little stronger and more similar to game but much less so than something like quail. Overall, the taste is light and savory.