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Lunch / Dinner

Grilled Game Hens with Rosemary Paste

Game hens are literally rock-hard when you buy them because they’re typically sold frozen. This makes them convenient for having on hand, but does require a little bit of planning ahead. To thaw, soak them in cold water for a couple of hours, or refrigerate frozen hens for a day or two.

Put the thawed game hens to good use in this recipe for juicy grilled chicken that involves a simple paste. Full of rosemary, garlic, and lemon juice, this fragrant paste sings with flavor. For the best results, really work the paste into the hens, then marinate them in the refrigerator at least an hour, or up to overnight, before grilling.


2 servings

Total Time

45 minutes + marinating

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Test Kitchen Tip

The lemon juice in the paste not only enhances the flavor of the game hens, it also tenderizes them and helps the skin get crispy once they hit the grill.


For the game hens, cut along both sides of backbone; remove and discard. Split hens in half through the breastbone.

For the paste, purée oil, lemon juice, rosemary, parsley, garlic, salt, and pepper in a food processor. Coat hens with paste; chill at least 1 hour.

Preheat grill to medium to maintain a temperature of 450–500°. Brush grill grate with oil.

Grill hens, covered, skin sides up, occasionally brushing with any remaining paste, 10 minutes.

Flip hens and grill, covered, until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part, but not touching bone, registers 165°, about 5 minutes more. Carefully transfer hens to a platter, tent with foil, and let rest 5 minutes.


To remove the backbone from the game hens, use kitchen shears to cut along each side of it.


Cutting through the breastbone takes some muscle, but a large, sharp knife helps ease the task

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