Sometimes you just need to make a meal that is simple, but sure to impress. Enter: the Cornish Game Hen. A breeze to prepare with your Traeger and elegant enough to serve to the most important of guests, your family. These lovely little birds are tender, juicy, and delicious. The sweet Apricot BBQ Sauce is an amazing complement to the natural smoky flavor you get when cooking on a Traeger and it looks pretty too!
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 60 to 70 minutes
Pellet recommendation: Pecan or Apple
4 Cornish game hens, each 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 pounds, thawed if frozen
1 sweet onion, such as Vidalia, peeled and quartered
4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
4 sprigs thyme, parsley, or rosemary, plus more for garnish
4 tablespoons butter
1-1/4 cups Traeger Apricot Barbecue Sauce
2 tablespoons apricot brandy (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Line a rimmed baking sheet with heavy duty aluminum foil and top it with a wire cooling grid or roasting rack. Set aside. Remove giblets, if any, from the main cavities of the hens. Discard or save for another use. Wash the hens inside and out with cold running water. Pat dry with paper towels.
Put an onion quarter, garlic clove, and a sprig of thyme in the cavity of each bird. Tuck the wings behind the backs and tie the legs together with butcher’s string. Arrange the birds on the prepared baking sheet.
Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter and brush it on the hens. Discard any leftover butter to avoid cross-contamination. Season the birds with salt and pepper.
When ready to cook, start the Traeger grill on Smoke with the lid open until the fire is established (4 to 5 minutes). Set the temperature to 350 degrees F and preheat, lid closed, for 10 to 15 minutes. Put the baking sheet with the Cornish hens on the grill grate and roast for 30 minutes.
In the meantime, combine the barbecue sauce and the apricot brandy, if using. Brush the glaze on the hens after the hens have roasted for 30 minutes.
At the 50 minute mark, brush the hens with the glaze again, and continue to roast until the hens are beautifully browned and the internal temperature when read in the thickest part of the thigh with an instant-read meat thermometer reaches 165 degrees F, 10 to 20 minutes more. Remove the birds from the grill grate and let rest for 5 minutes. Remove the butcher’s string. Transfer to a platter or plates, and garnish with the roasted apricots and sprigs of fresh herbs.