How Long Does It Take to Thaw a Cornish Hen?

Petite, flavorful, and succulent Chornish hens are ideal for setting a table where everyone gets their own personal chicken. They’re excellent for making a statement at a holiday gathering, but they can be enjoyed year round. 

When you’re preparing a big meal, you’ll need to prepare ahead of time, and that means a lot of defrosting. If your hens have been chilling in the freezer for some time, you’ll want to thaw them for the right amount of time. But how long does it take to thaw a cornish hen? 

If you’re thawing a cornish hen in the fridge, your best bet is to give it 8-14 hours overnight. It may take longer if you have a larger bird. Under cold water in the sink, it could take 30 minutes to one hour. In the microwave, you’ll need 8-10 minutes. 

How Long Does It Take To Thaw A Cornish Hen 

Unless you’re cooking your hens right as you get it home from the store, you probably stuck it in the freezer to keep it from spoiling. While that’s the best way to preserve it, it can make for a bit of hassle when you’re ready to cook. 

There are three ways you can thaw a cornish hen. You can use the fridge, the sink, or a microwave. The fridge will take the longest, but it is the safest. The microwave, meanwhile, is the fastest, but you run the risk of the meat beginning to cook. 

In The Fridge 

The fridge is, without a doubt, the best and safest way to thaw a cornish hen. It will be kept at a constant safe temperature the entire time, and will thaw evenly. It is also much less work on your part; once you’ve got it in the fridge, there’s nothing left to do but wait. 

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This method is called slack thawing, and it’s extremely effective. If you have a lot of frozen foods that you’re prepping for a grand feast, you can thaw multiple things at once. Alongside your hens, you can also thaw your sides, vegetables, or desserts. 

For an average sized cornish hen, it will take 8-14 hours to thaw in the fridge. It’s best to put it in the fridge the night before you want to cook it. If you forgot, your last window of opportunity would be in the morning of, presuming the meal is for the evening. 

To thaw a cornish hen in the fridge, remove your cornish hen from the freezer and place it in a bowl. Cover it with plastic wrap. If the hen is already wrapped tightly in plastic from where you bought it, this step might not be necessary.

However, regardless of if it was pre-wrapped or not, you should still venture to use a bowl. If there are any ice crystals on the outside of your hen, the bowl will keep them from leaking onto your fridge’s shelf as it melts. It is also more generally sanitary for the rest of the things in your fridge. 

Let it rest overnight. If it still feels frozen the next morning, it might just need a few more hours of time to sit. Once it’s thawed, cook it immediately. 

Using Cold Water 

Everyone has been in the position of having forgotten to take the meat out of the freezer the night before. If you’re short on time for one reason or another, you can try to thaw a cornish hen in the sink. 

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Thawing a frozen cornish hen in the sink with cold water will take 30-60 minutes. It could take longer if you have a bigger hen. 

Take the cornish hen out of the freezer and place it into a ziplock bag. Gallon bags will usually fit the entire hen. Seal the bag tightly and place it in a large bowl. Fill that bowl with lukewarm water, then turn the tap down to a trickle. 

The water will trickle onto the meat and run off into the bowl. This allows the laws of thermodynamics to work hard at thawing your hen. If you have more than one small hen, you might be able to do more than one at once. Let it rinse for 30 minutes and then check on it for doneness. 

Using The Microwave 

You can thaw cornish hen in the microwave, but it’s not the best, or most advisable way. However, if you’d like to thaw your hen in the microwave, you will find it is thawed through in 8-10 minutes. 

Thawing in the microwave will likely lead to uneven temperature distribution, which might lead to uneven cooking. You also have to worry that the cornish hen will start to cook in some places. It will, thankfully, not take very long at all, making it perfect in an emergency. 

To thaw a cornish hen in a microwave, line a microwave-safe dish with paper towels. This will catch any condensation or extra moisture. Unwrap the hen and place it into your container. 

If your microwave has a defrost setting, use it here. If you can adjust the power, look to have it only run at about 30%. Check the hen every two minutes to see if any parts have started to cook. If they have, move the hen so that another part that wasn’t thawed is closer to the heat source. 

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It’ll take 8-10 minutes per pound. The average weight of a cornish hen is 1 ¼ lbs, but check yours before you begin. Once it’s defrosted, cook it immediately. 


Cornish game hens are delicious when roasted or broiled, and perfect for a single serving. When you’re ready to take one from the freezer to the oven, you’ll need to plan out thawing time. Knowing how long it takes for cornish hens to thaw will help you keep your meal plan flowing easily. 

The safest way to thaw a cornish hen is in the fridge. All you have to do is put it in the fridge overnight. It will take 8-14 hours to thaw this way. In the sink is a bit faster, only taking about 30 minutes per pound. Finally, the microwave will have it done in 8-10 minutes, but you will have to check on it every 2 minutes. This will stretch that cooking time just a bit.