How to Truss a Cornish Hen

Cornish Hen should be trussed before roasting to ensure even cooking and supremely succulent, tender meat. Here’s how to do it; it only takes a minute and a length of kitchen twine.

Two trussed Cornish hens on a wooden cutting board.

Trussing notes: 

  • Cornish hen: Also known as a Cornish game hen or Rock Cornish Hen, this type of poultry is a bit smaller than a standard chicken, usually under 2 pounds. But you can use this technique on any type or size of poultry you like; just cut more twine.
  • Twine: Unbleached cotton kitchen twine, also known as butcher’s twine, is strong enough to hold a turkey together but won’t burn. Pro tip: You can ask your butcher for a long piece so you’ll always have some on hand. Sometimes I find it at HomeGoods or I buy this twine on Amazon (Culinary Hill may earn money if you buy through this link).

Step-by-step instructions:

  1. Place the raw hen breast up, drumsticks pointing toward you. Cut yourself about three feet of twine per hen (it’s better to have a little too much than not enough). Run the center of the string under the neck (or where the neck was) on the front of the bird. Bring the ends of the string towards you, the wings, and legs. Tuck the wings in under the string as you pull it towards you. Keep the string tight to force the wings firmly against the body. The string should roughly follow the contours of the breast, along the side of the hen.
    A Cornish hen being trussed.
  2. Run the string between the leg and breast on both sides, then give it one overhand knot and pull tight. The wings will stay pinned to the body, and the breast will pop up a bit. Don’t make a solid knot – you just want to be able to tighten up on the string. Bring the ends of string down between the hen’s legs, then cross the legs at the “ankles” above/behind the point of the chicken breast. Make sure your previous knot is still pulled tight.
    A Cornish hen being trussed.
  3. Wrap the ends of the strings around the outside of the hen’s ankles, then tie a square knot to finish it off. The legs should now be cinched in close to the body.
    A Cornish hen being trussed.

Recipe tips and variations:

  • Thaw completely: If you bought a frozen hen, make sure it is safely thawed before trussing and roasting. Thaw a frozen hen in a bowl of cold water for 1-2 hours (changing the water every 30 minutes) or in the refrigerator for 1-2 days before you need it. Make sure you place them on a tray to catch any juices that leak out of the packaging. Never leave frozen poultry out at room temperature, and never use warm water for thawing.
  • Stuff with herbs: Any roasted bird tastes even better with a few sprigs of fresh herbs and a lemon tucked inside the cavity.
  • Make ahead: It’s okay to truss the hen a day or two before you plan to roast it; just cover and store in the refrigerator.
  • Folded wings technique: This method is a little less tricky, and depending on the size of the hen, sometimes I do it this way, too: Working one at a time, grasp a wing and gently fold it away from you, tucking under the body to secure it. After that, just tie the drumsticks together with kitchen twine. (A bow helps so you can untie it after it’s roasted.)

Two whole Cornish hens on a gray plate with stuffing.

Recipes where trussing matters:

Two trussed Cornish hens on a wooden cutting board.

How to Truss a Cornish Hen

At first glance it may seem unnecessary, but trussing a cornish game hen for roasting ensures delicious, evenly-cooked poultry that looks as good as it tastes. Here I’ll show you how to truss a cornish game hen using twine, to make your best roast hen yet.
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 3 minutes
Total Time: 3 minutes
Servings: 1 serving
Calories: 907kcal
Author: Meggan Hill

Ingredients

  • 1 (1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pound) cornish game hen thawed (see note 1)
  • 2 feet unbleached cotton butcher's twine (see note 2)

Instructions

  • Place the hen breast-side up, with tail end facing you. Fold and tuck the wings against the bird, and run the center of the string under the neck in the front of the bird. 
  • Bring the string up towards the wings and legs.
  • Use your thumbs to tuck the wings back as you bring the string around towards the legs. Keep the string tight to force the wings firmly against the hen. The string should roughly follow the contours of the chicken breast.
  • Bring the string around between leg and breast, then give it one overhand knot and pull tight. The wings will be solidly pinned down, and the hen's breast will pop up. Note that this is NOT a solid knot - we just want to be able to tighten up on the string. 
  • Bring the ends of string down between the chicken's legs, then cross the legs at the "ankles" above/behind the point of the hen's breast. Make sure your previous knot is still pulled tight. 
  • Separate the strings, loop them around the outside of the hen's ankles, then tie a square knot to finish it off. The legs should now be cinched in close to the body.
  • Snip the extra ends of string, and discard them.

Notes

  1. Cornish hen: Also known as a Cornish game hen or Rock Cornish Hen, this type of poultry is a bit smaller than a standard chicken, usually under 2 pounds. But you can use this technique on any type or size of poultry you like; just cut more twine.
  2. Twine: Unbleached cotton kitchen twine, also known as butcher’s twine, is strong enough to hold a turkey together but won’t burn. Pro tip: You can ask your butcher for a long piece so you’ll always have some on hand. Sometimes I find it at HomeGoods or I buy this twine on Amazon (Culinary Hill may earn money if you buy through this link).
  3. Thaw completely: If you bought a frozen hen, make sure it is safely thawed before trussing and roasting. Thaw a frozen hen in a bowl of cold water for 1-2 hours (changing the water every 30 minutes) or in the refrigerator for 1-2 days before you need it. Make sure you place them on a tray to catch any juices that leak out of the packaging. Never leave frozen poultry out at room temperature, and never use warm water for thawing.
  4. Stuff with herbs: Any roasted bird tastes even better with a few sprigs of fresh herbs and a lemon tucked inside the cavity.
  5. Make ahead: It's okay to truss the hen a day or two before you plan to roast it; just cover and store in the refrigerator.
  6. Folded wings technique: This method is a little less tricky, and depending on the size of the hen, sometimes I do it this way, too: Working one at a time, grasp a wing and gently fold it away from you, tucking under the body to secure it. After that, just tie the drumsticks together with kitchen twine. (A bow helps so you can untie it after it's roasted.)

Nutrition

Serving: 1hen | Calories: 907kcal | Protein: 78g | Fat: 64g | Saturated Fat: 18g | Cholesterol: 458mg | Sodium: 277mg | Potassium: 1070mg | Vitamin A: 490IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 50mg | Iron: 4mg
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  1. Maria

    This will make things easy when I make them! Thank you!5 stars

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