Cornish Hen Brine - Carolina Country

Cornish Hen Brine Bring on the brine!

3.0/5 rating (161 votes)
Cornish Hen Brine

Brining can greatly enhance some meats and seafood, making them extra juicy, and can even help with caramelization — especially on poultry skin.

The basic brine ratio is ¼ cup of salt per 1 quart of water. If more caramelization is a goal, add ¼ cup of sugar. Aromatics and seasonings can also be added. You will want to make enough to cover (plus a little) whatever you are brining.

Here is a brine you can use to make your Cornish hens extra juicy and enhance caramelization of the skin. 


  • 3 quarts water
  • ¾ cup salt
  • ¾ cup sugar


  1. Whisk salt and sugar with just enough hot tap water to dissolve.

  2. Add birds to container with solution and fill with remaining cold tap water until fully submerged. Add a little ice to chill faster. Cover and refrigerate several hours or overnight. Drain and discard brine.

  3. Prepare hens according to your favorite recipe! Try our Sesame Cornish Hens with Honey and Rosemary recipe.

Recipe courtesy of

Wendy Perry, a culinary adventurist and blogger, chats about goodness around NC on her blog at

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Comments (9)

  • Hello, hope you are well. I tried the brine on a cornish game hen. After cooking the hen was so salty we could not eat it. I revisited the recipe. I followed it exactly. The only thing I can think of is I should have used kosher salt? Please respond, and thank you, Terry

    terry brown |
    July 23, 2020 |

    • Hello Terry,
      We're sorry to hear about the overly salty cornish game hen! This brine recipe is fairly standard ... it's even less of a salt-to-water ratio than some suggest. When testing, our recipe expert used table salt, sea salt, pink sea salt and kosher salt and they all yielded a similar level of acceptable saltiness. It's possible that the game hen was in the brine for too long, but in addition to saltiness, you would have noticed an odd mushy texture to the meat. If you try again, you could decrease the amount of salt to be on the safe side, and/or decrease the brine time.

      Carolina Country |
      July 25, 2020 |

    • Alternative brine:

      4 cups water
      1tbsp salt
      1/2 cup vegetable oil
      1/4 cup Soy sauce
      2tbsp minced garlic

      You may have to double this. But it’s delicious. Not super salty. You can do 1/2 tbsp salt if you’re worried. This works great with chicken wingettes, chicken breast, and whole chickens too

      Aaron |
      November 14, 2020 |

      • It's also possible that the hens came pre-treated with a salt injection for flavor. Sometimes turkeys and other meats come with "up to 15%" injected liquids.

        su |
        December 26, 2020 |

    • Never use table salt for brine, it is too strong, always use kosher or canning salt, 1 cup per gallon of water, brine overnight.

      Kevin Jeske |
      January 01, 2021 |

  • The problem is not the brine recipe, it is the amount of time that you brine them. A full chicken should only be brined no more than 5 hours. So maybe only brine it like two hours.

    Andrew Williams |
    November 21, 2020 |

  • This happen to me one year with turkey (it was the 1st time I ever brined anything) frozen turkeys are typically injected with a sodium solution to help them freeze well. And this turkey had been injected with injected with a sodium solution, so along with brining it , the turkey was totally in inedible.

    Cynthia Lynch |
    November 23, 2020 |

  • After reading people saying to salty... I washed off my Cornish hens, threw away the brine... now looking for a new recipe

    Debra |
    November 24, 2020 |

  • I am new to brining and it might take some trial and error to get your brine right.
    Using this amount of salt and sugar here, overnight is much too long for cornish hens. I normally will brine a 5lb whole chicken about 6 - 6 1/2 hours and that's it. If it's cut up about 4 hours, if it's boneless, about 2 hours. If they are cornish hens I wouldn't brine them any longer than 2 hours.
    Don't give up on brining - it makes some delicious chicken!

    Tony Girard |
    January 01, 2021 |

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