Jerk Cornish Game Hens


Bradford Thompson's jerk sauce is loosely based on his wife Kerry-Ann's excellent family recipe; the couple is hoping to bottle it and sell it in stores. The mix of fiery Scotch bonnet chiles, scallions and spices creates a complex, deep-flavored paste that's amazing on grilled chicken or game hens. More Grilled Chicken Recipes

Jerk Cornish Game Hens
Photo: © John Kernick
Active Time:
1 hrs
Total Time:
2 hrs


  • 4 Scotch bonnet or habanero chiles, stemmed and halved

  • 5 small scallions, cut into 2-inch lengths

  • 2 teaspoons chopped thyme

  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder

  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar

  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce

  • 1 tablespoon dark rum

  • 2 tablespoons water

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

  • 4 Cornish game hens (about 2 pounds each)


  1. In a blender, puree the Scotch bonnets with the scallions, thyme, garlic powder, brown sugar, soy sauce, dark rum and water. Season with 1 tablespoon of kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.

  2. Using kitchen scissors, cut out the backbone of each hen. Press down on the breasts to flatten the hens. Set them in a baking dish and coat them all over with the jerk paste. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

  3. Preheat the oven to 300°. Set the hens on 2 large rimmed baking sheets and bake for 45 minutes, until firm but not browned or cooked through.

  4. Meanwhile, light a grill. Grill the hens over moderately high heat, turning occasionally, until cooked through and lightly charred in spots, about 20 minutes. Transfer the hens to a platter and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Make Ahead

The jerk paste can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.

Suggested Pairing

Fiery jerk sauce obliterates the flavor of almost any wine. Instead, serve these hens with beer. Jamaicans would drink the local Red Stripe, a mild lager-style beer; for an American equivalent, look for the lightly malty Samuel Adams Boston Lager.

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