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Traeger Smoked Cornish Game Hens

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Cornish game hens are incredible when smoked on the Traeger. Their miniature size compared to a regular broiler chicken makes them perfect for a quick family dinner. Since Cornish game hens are so small, they absorb more of the smoke from the Traeger, leaving you with a great smoky flavor throughout the entire bird.

A smoked Cornish game hen on a plate with peas and salad.

Small chickens or Cornish game hens

Cornish game hens are not actually specifically female birds. They are either female or male broiler chickens. Broiler chickens are bred specifically for their meat. They reach slaughter weight at a younger age and have more of that delicious meat than other types of chickens.

These Cornish game hens are a cross between Cornish and White Plymouth Rock chickens. Once they make their way to the butcher, they weigh in at less than two pounds and they have developed relatively large breasts in just a short period of time.

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Two Traeger smoked Cornish game hens on a cutting board.

Ingredients for the Traeger game hens

You only need a few simple ingredients to get some killer smoked Cornish game hens off your Traeger. The Cornish hens are rubbed with a simple dry rub and stuffed with citrus and garlic to help infuse some flavors into the meat.

  • Cornish game hens
  • Olive oil
  • Garlic
  • Lemon
  • Garlic powder
  • Pepper
  • Salt
Ingredients needed to make Traeger smoked Cornish game hens.

How to smoke game hens on the Traeger

Step 1: rub the game hens

In a small bowl, combine the garlic powder, salt, and pepper and mix thoroughly. Rub olive oil on the Cornish game hens. Be sure olive oil coats every crevice of the bird. Sprinkle the dry rub over the Cornish game hens, including inside the cavity as well.

Step 2: stuff them

Smash the garlic cloves just enough to break them open, they should remain mostly intact. Stuff the smashed garlic cloves in the cavity of the Cornish game hens along with the lemon slices. This will help to infuse flavors into the meat from inside the cavity as well.

Step 3: marinate

Cover the birds and allow them to rest in the fridge for at least 1 hour or up to 8 hours. The longer that you can leave them in the fridge, the more the flavors will infuse into the meat.

Step 4: smoked on the Traeger

Preheat your Traeger or other indirect smoker to 225°F. Once the smoker is up to temperature, place the hens on the grill. Smoke them for 45 to 60 minutes. Then, increase the temperature of the smoker to 375°F and cook for another 20 to 30 minutes or until the internal temperature of the birds reaches 160°F.

Step 5: cover and rest

Remove the smoked Cornish game hens from the Traeger. Cover the birds with foil and allow them to rest for 10 minutes. The carryover cooking will allow the internal temperature of the meat to rise to 165°F.

Step 6: serve!

When the birds are done resting and their internal temperature reaches 165°F, it is time to dig in! These can be served whole as an entire bird for each person, which makes for a fun family dinner! Or, you can cut each bird in half and share it.

Process photos showing how to make Traeger smoked Cornish Game hens.

Expert tips for success

  • Get your hands dirty and really ensure that the entire Cornish hen is coated in oil and seasoning, even making sure the seasoning is in the cavity of the bird.
  • Use a thermometer to ensure the bird is cooked thoroughly. My favorite thermometer is this Thermopro wireless thermometer so I can always check on the temperature no matter where I am in my house.


These Traeger smoked Cornish game hens can be kept in the fridge for 3-4 days or in the freezer for 2-3 months.

Reheating them is very simple. If you have an air fryer, throw them in for 15 to 20 minutes at 340°F and then 5 minutes at 400°F. This will help to re-crisp the skin and make them just as delicious as before. If you do not have an air fryer, you can reheat them in the oven at 380° for 20 to 25 minutes.

Sides for Traeger smoked Cornish game hens

These air fryer parsley baby potatoes are perfect! The parsley and salt infuse into the potato’s skins, which are fried to a crisp in the air fryer. Put your air fryer to work while the Traeger is working on your smoked Cornish game hens.

Since your Traeger is up and running, try out this jalapeño popper mac and cheese. Every bite tastes just like a jalapeño popper, and the smokiness from the Traeger is perfect alongside the Cornish game hens.

What else is cooking?

If your Traeger smoker is out of commission, try out these air fryer Cornish game hens with a dry rub. The air fryer works it’s magic to get a wonderful, crispy skin on the Cornish hens.

These Traeger smoked beef back ribs are to die for! The Traeger smokes them to perfection until they just about fall off the bone. This is how BBQ should be!

A smoked Cornish game hen on a plate with salad.


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A smoked Cornish game hen on a plate with peas and salad.

Traeger Smoked Cornish Game Hens

Yield: 2 to 4 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 25 minutes

These Cornish game hens are stuffed with garlic and lemon and smoked to perfection on the Traeger grill. The meat is juicy and the skin is perfectly brown and crisp.


  • 2 Cornish game hens
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 2 bulbs of garlic (20-24 cloves)
  • 1 to 2 lemons, sliced


  1. Rub olive oil on the game hens. Combine the garlic powder, salt, and pepper then sprinkle all over the hens. Make sure to sprinkle inside the cavity as well. 
  2. Smash the garlic cloves slightly then stuff them inside the cavity of the hens. Stuff the lemon slices in the cavity. 
  3. Cover the birds and place them in the fridge for at least 1 hour or up to 8 hours (see notes).
  4. Remove the birds from the fridge and preheat the smoker to 225°F
  5. Place the hens on the grill. Smoke for 45 to 60 minutes at 225°F then increase the heat to 375° and cook for 20 to 30 minutes or until they reach an internal temperature of 160°F
  6. Remove the hens from the grill cover them with foil and let them rest for 10 minutes. The temperature will continue to climb while the hens are resting. The final temperature of the hens should be 165°F. You can serve the Cornish game hens whole or split them in half.


  • Letting the birds sit after you season them will help the flavors soak into the game hens. It is an easy way to dry brine the birds and it will help them stay tender, moist, and much more flavorful. Let them brine for anywhere from 1 to 8 hours. If you have the time, I recommend giving them 8 hours. 
  • You can smoke them at 225° for longer than 60 minutes if you want. I like to increase the temperature in the final 20 to 30 minutes in order to get a nice brown crust on the skin. If you don't increase the temp, the hens will need an additional 45 to 60 minutes.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 419Total Fat: 30gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 21gCholesterol: 168mgSodium: 1671mgCarbohydrates: 7gFiber: 2gSugar: 1gProtein: 30g

Nutrition information is a guideline only, is calculated automatically by third party software, and absolute accuracy is not guaranteed.

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