game hens vs chickens
Chicken,  Food Preparation,  Meat

Serving Cornish Game Hens Vs Chicken – The Differences Explained!

If you’re looking for a chicken alternative for your next holiday meal, dinner party, or regular Sunday roast, it might be worth trying Cornish game hens. These little hens are a popular type of poultry similar to chicken though they are mostly white meat, making them very lean. But is that the only difference between these hens and chickens?

The main difference between Cornish game hens and chickens is their size. When fully matured, game hens are the same size as broiler chickens, but the former is slaughtered younger, at around 2 lb. (900 g). As a result, they are more tender when cooked and are generally more expensive.

This article explains how game hens are different from chickens in taste, nutrition, and cooking styles. You can also use videos and books discussed in this article to cook Cornish hens in various delicious ways.

Are Game Hens Just Small Chickens?

Game hens are not just small chickens, as they will grow to a similar size if allowed. Instead, they are slaughtered at a younger age, when they’re still very small. By USDA definition, Cornish game hens should weigh no more than 2 lb. (900 g) when they’re ready to cook.

Game hens are less than five weeks old when slaughtered, and they can be either male or female despite the name including hen, which implies they’re female. 

On the other hand, chickens have no weight limit to be categorized as a chicken. There’s also no age limit, although chickens you find in a grocery store or butcher shop are usually twice the age of a game hen. 

Cornish game hens are the youngest and smallest poultry category, making them more expensive per pound than chickens. Unlike chickens with different body parts to cook, like wings, legs, or breasts, Cornish game hens are so small that they’re cooked and served whole.

How Do Game Hens and Chickens Differ in Taste?

Game hens taste better than chickens, thanks to their juicier meat, even when cooked in similar ways. Plus, they’re more tender once cooked. Game hens and chickens also vary in taste and flavor, depending on whether or not they have the skin on them when cooked.

As for ways to cook them, you can season them both in the same ways for a similar taste, but the Cornish game hens will still taste better. That’s because game hens absorb marinades and seasoning better than chicken because of their size. 

Similar to chicken, game hens can vary in taste depending on how you cook them. You can refer to many YouTube videos to learn how to cook Cornish hens in different ways:

Which Is Better – Game Hens or Chicken?

Game hens are better than chicken if you’re serving an individual portion and looking to impress. However, chickens are better for feeding several people at once. Price-wise, game hens are more expensive per pound than chickens, so if you’re tight on budget, consider chickens instead.

Of course, there are instances when you’ll want to pick game hens over chickens.

For example, game hens look nice served as individual portions, and it’s easy to plate them since they’re all in one piece when plated. In addition, they’re nicer and fancier than other chicken dishes by most standards, so if you want to impress some dinner guests, they’re the better choice.

However, since they’re so small, it’s not the most practical dish to serve a large group of people unless you’re willing to spend more money than you would on a chicken. This is because you’ll have to cook and plate one game hen for every person you’re feeding. 

Therefore, one of the most significant benefits of chicken is that it’s bigger. A chicken can serve multiple people, but a game hen cannot. So if you serve a large group of people, say 20, you can buy a few chickens compared to at least 20 game hens. 

Furthermore, chicken has more ways to be cooked since the different parts of a chicken, such as the thighs, wings, and legs, can all be cooked and served separately if you so choose. 

Each part of a chicken’s body has more meat to it, so it’s possible to serve the different pieces separately.

Unlike a chicken, there isn’t enough meat on the body of a game hen to split into different parts or multiple servings.

Are Game Hens Cooked the Same Way as Chickens?

Game hens can be cooked in the same way as a whole chicken, but their cooking time should be shorter to account for their size. However, game hens cannot be split, where chickens can be cooked whole or in smaller portions. Either way, you can cook the chicken or game hen in various ways.

How you want to cook your chicken or game hen will depend on how you want it to be flavored and how crispy you want it to be. To keep your meat tender, don’t cut into the game hen until it’s ready to serve.

If you want to fill a large serving plate with the game hen, you can spatchcock the bird by cutting it along the spine and flattening the bird. This creates another impressive looking dish.

A Spatchcocked Game Hen

If you want to cook game hens at home, check out the Gotta Have It Simple & Easy To Make 37 Succulent Cornish Game Hen Recipes! (available on The book has 37 easy recipes for game hens, perfect for anyone who wants to host a dinner party or just wants to try something new. 

Are Game Hens a Healthier Option Than Chicken?

According to the USDA, you can make both game hens and chicken healthier by simply removing the skin or using a healthy seasoning or sauce.

Game hens are not a healthier option than chicken as the nutritional value will be the same if you compare them pound for pound. However, since chickens are larger when cooked, they have more nutritional value, making them a healthier option. Both game hens and chickens are high in protein.

Final Thoughts

If you want nicer meat and don’t mind spending more money than you would on chicken, serving Cornish game hens for your next meal or at your next event is undoubtedly the way to go. 

Cornish hens have the same nutritional value as chicken, but they’re more tender after they’re cooked, and they’ll marinate and season better than chicken. 

They also look more pleasing when plated since they’re served whole. You can serve them with any side that you would serve with chicken.