Cornish Hen Brine Bring on the brine!

3.0/5 rating (236 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 (16)

  • 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 |

        • My first thought exactly.

          Donne |
          July 25, 2023 |

    • 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 |

    • Rinse thuroughly and pat drying after brining.

      Pat Mcgruther |
      September 09, 2021 |

    • One solution would be to "half" the salt and sugar

      Justin D Armstrong |
      November 25, 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 |

  • I will agree completely with both Andrew Williams and Tony's the time you brined that resulted in over saltiness. And I 2nd what Tony said..."Don't give up on brining-it makes some delicious chicken!" And to see if any chicken, turkey or Cornish hens have been injected with to get those that have NOT. Also, I will add that I always air dry on a rack in the fridge for at least 8 hours for awesome crispy skin (after brining). Read up about makes all the difference! Good luck!

    Cynthia |
    January 27, 2021 |

  • I brine things all the time. The problem is not that you left it in the brine for too long, the problem is that when you brine things you have to rinse the meat off inside and out before cooking. Just make sure you pat them dry with some paper towels and then cook it. I actually add herbs, peppercorns, garlic, onions, bell peppers, and lemon to my brine. I do this for thanksgiving all the time and it is always moist and everything you add to the brine flavors the bird. Just a tip, I only came on here because I was researching the ratios I always forget. You guys should definitely try it again before giving up, oh and I also soften some butter and mix herbs in it and put it under the skin and on the skin on the breasts.

    Toney |
    February 13, 2021 |

  • I used this ratio to brine 20 Cornish hens for Christmas. I dissolved brown sugar instead of white sugar but kept the same ratio. I added garlic and onion powders, cayenne pepper, and Italian seasoning to the brine. Our hens brined overnight and were smoked and deep fried the next day. They were quite the hit. Thank you for the recipe and tips.

    Delene |
    December 24, 2021 |

  • My standard brine is 1/2 cup KOSHER SALT and sugar per 3 quarts of water. I use it for all poultry. Also let your poultry drain for 1 hour and pat thoroughly to dry prior to rubbing and cooking

    LONNIE |
    December 23, 2022 |

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