The diminutive size of Cornish hens, which are actually a small breed of young chicken, makes them perfect for a dinner for one, or for when you want to serve everyone their own individual bird. Cornish hens are often roasted in the oven like chicken or cooked on the grill. Either way, searing the Cornish hens first not only helps to seal in the juices, it also gives the birds a deep golden brown color. In addition, you can also get the Cornish Hens to brown during cooking, with a few basic techniques.
Rub the outside of the Cornish hen with unsalted butter, then season with salt and pepper all over. Butter helps the Cornish hen brown better and evenly. You can also add pats of butter underneath the skin to help with moisture and add a little flavor.
Coat the bottom of a Dutch oven or large skillet with olive oil and place on the stove over high heat.
Place your Cornish hen breast side up into the hot oil and allow it to sear and turn a deep golden brown, about 4 to 5 minutes.
Turn the Cornish hen using tongs, and brown the breast side for about 4 to 5 minutes. Continue to turn the hen and sear all sides. The browned Cornish hen is now ready to go into the oven to finish cooking.
Browning While Cooking
Use a roasting rack. A roasting rack lifts the chicken off the bottom of the pan, allowing for the hot air to circulate around the entire bird, resulting in even browning all around. Fit a V-shaped roasting rack inside of your roasting pan, then set the hen in the middle of it before placing in the oven.
Baste the Cornish hen as it cooks. Basting small birds like Cornish hens is essential to prevent them from drying out, but it also helps brown them a little better as well. You can either use melted butter or create a marinade to baste your Cornish hen, making sure to spread it all over the bird with a basting brush. If you are roasting the Cornish hen, you can also baste with the drippings in the pan. Baste your Cornish hen roughly every 15 minutes, or anytime it's looking dry.
Place the Cornish hen under the broiler. If your hen is almost done cooking but hasn't browned to your liking, turn on the broiler in your oven. Put the Cornish hen on a baking sheet on the highest rack in the oven, closest to the broiler. Broil for 5 to 10 minutes to get the skin well browned and crisp.