Difference between a Cornish Hen and a Chicken

By: | Updated: Jan-29, 2024
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Because of their strong resemblance, it can be difficult to set a Cornish hen and a chicken apart. However, these two kitchen staples are far from being interchangeable as they each bear unique characteristics. This article draws the line between them.

Summary Table

Cornish Hen Chicken
A crossbreed between the Cornish and the White Rock chicken breeds A descendant of the red junglefowl family
Distinct for its red, white, or black feathers Available in a wide array of colors
Matures in about 4 weeks Matures in about 8 to 12 weeks
Slaughtered within 5 weeks Slaughtered within 39 to 42 days
Weighs around 2 pounds Weighs around 3 1/2 to 4 pounds
Packaged whole Packaged in whole or in tiny cuts
Commonly cooked whole or sliced in half Cut into smaller portions or cooked as a whole chicken

Descriptions

Cornish hen
A Cornish hen

A Cornish hen, also called a Cornish game hen or a rock Cornish hen, is a crossbreed between the Cornish and the white rock chicken breeds. Contrary to what its name implies, a Cornish hen is a broiler chicken that can either be a female or a male.

Cornish hens were first raised by Sir Walter Gilbert in Cornwall in about 1820. These birds were first referred to as “Indian Game Hens” and were recognized as an official chicken breed in 1893. Sadly, these birds were once used for cock fighting, as they didn’t produce eggs very well. However, later, these birds were raised only for their meat.

A chicken, on the other hand, is a type of domesticated bird that belongs to the red junglefowl family. Typically raised as livestock, chickens are the most common domestic animal with its population reaching around 19 billion in the year 2011.

Cornish Hen vs Chicken

The difference between a Cornish hen and a chicken may not be easily discernible, but the two possess highly distinct characteristics.

Species

A Cornish hen is a crossbreed between the Cornish and the white rock chicken breeds, while a chicken is a species that descended from the red junglefowl family.

Color

A Cornish hen is a heritage breed distinct for its red, white, or black feathers, while a chicken is available in a wide range of colors and feather patterns mainly because of extensive breeding practices that resulted in more diverse chicken breeds.

Maturity

Cornish hens pertain to a group of chickens that are raised and slaughtered at an early age. They mature in about 4 weeks and are butchered once they become 5 weeks old. Chickens, by contrast, mature in around 8 to 12 weeks and are usually slaughtered within 39 to 42 days, depending on the chicken breed.

Size and Weight

Sizes of chickens

One of the most notable differences between a Cornish hen and a chicken is their size. Since chickens are typically full-grown before being sold in the market, they are heavier than Cornish hens. While Cornish hens weigh around 2 pounds, the weight of domesticated chickens is usually 3 1/2 to 4 pounds.

Texture

Because Cornish hens are butchered at a younger age, their meat is more tender than chickens after they’re cooked.

Nutrition

Cornish hens, because they are young, are lower fat than chickens. In addition, they contain mostly white meat, compared to chickens, which have both dark and white meat.

Cornish hens are also a rich source of niacin, which is beneficial for lowering cholesterol and improving brain function.

Taste

Some people say that a Cornish hen and a chicken taste about the same. However, others say that chicken meat has a stronger flavor. So, when it comes to taste, it’s up to the individual to determine if there’s a difference between the taste of a Cornish hen and chicken or not.

Packaging

Cornish hens are packaged as a whole, while chickens are marketed in different ways. Other than being packaged in whole, chickens are usually sold into tiny cuts and pieces. There are also skinless chicken parts sold on the market.

Serving Size

Due to their relatively small size, Cornish hens are commonly cooked whole or cut in half. Chickens, by contrast, are either cut into smaller portions or cooked as a whole chicken.

The Best Ways to Cook Cornish Hens & Chickens

One of the best ways to cook a Cornish hen is by roasting. The fully cooked meat is tender, while the skin is crispy. Moreover, these chickens cook in about 20-25 minutes in a 450 F oven, while chickens take much longer.

Some of the best seasonings to use on Cornish hens include garlic, herbs, lemon butter, olive oil & rosemary, and more.

On the other hand, chicken is more versatile. For one thing, chicken can be cut into several different pieces. It can be baked, sauteed, grilled, cooked in a slow cooker, pressure cooked, broiled, poached, and more.

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