Honey butter roasted poussin has all the wow factor of a whole roasted chicken in way less time and for way less effort. The honey butter glaze comes together in seconds and gives you beautiful golden skin and a hint of sweet and spicy flavor.
There's no arguing with the wow factor of serving each diner their own individual portion of a whole roasted hen. It's enough to make anyone giddy.
Small hens have a bit of an exotic appeal, probably because they're rarer on our tables than whole chickens. Despite seeming uber sophisticated, they are amazingly easy to prepare. Faster than a whole chicken and with less guesswork - especially when prepared in the spatchcock style, also known as butterflying.
This post will give you all the information you need to prepare your own roast poussin with easy to follow step-by-step photos.
Ingredients for roasted poussin
Of course if you're going to have roasted poussin you need the poussin! This section is a brief summary of the ingredients you'll need. Keep scrolling to find more details information on how to make substitutions.
- Whole poussin
- Roasted sesame oil
- Fresh garlic and thyme
- Salt and cayenne pepper
What is poussin and are there alternatives?
Poussin is the butcher's term used in the United Kingdom, France, and some other Commonwealth countries to refer to a young chicken that's less than 28 days old and weighs around 450 grams / 1lb but no more than 750 grams / 1.5lbs. A poussin is also known as a coquelet. The term poussin is also used in the United States but it refers to a Cornish game hen which can be larger and older than a poussin in the European butcher's definition.
The important thing here is that you take note of the weight of the bird and adjust the cooking time accordingly.
How long to roast poussin
Assuming you roast at 200 C / 400 F, poultry generally needs about 18-20 minutes per half kilo / 1 pound plus 15 minutes. When finished the internal temperature should reach 75 C / 165 F.
A very small sized hen or a hen that's been cut open to lay flat like with this spatchcock style roast will have less volume for the heat to penetrate and so it will need less cooking time.
Being very small, poussin and other small birds like Cornish game hens only need an extra 5 to 10 minutes in addition to the normal 20 minutes per half kilo / 1 lb. So you should expect to roast for 25-30 minutes at 200 C / 400 F but these are just rough guidelines. Please be mindful of the internal temperature and make sure you follow your own judgment on whether they are done.
How many poussin can you cook at once?
It depends on the size of your roasting pan and the size of your oven. Most likely you can do about 6 at once, maybe 8 if you have a larger oven.
Keep in mind that if you have many hens placed closed together in a roasting pan, it can create an insulating layer which slows down roasting so you may need to add an additional 10 minutes or so. Again, be mindful of internal temperature and use your best judgment on whether they are sufficiently cooked.
Executing this recipe is very simple. All you need to do is spatchcock the poussin and then rub it with the honey butter.
The photos show you exactly what needs to be done.
1. How to spatchcock poultry
Spatchcock is just another term for a butterflied chicken. Butterflying is when you cut a whole piece of meat (poultry, fish or a filet) into two halves that are interconnected and pressed flat.
Doing this to chicken is great technique because it exposes more skin and surface area to the dry heat of the oven, which helps the skin roast more evenly. It also looks really nice!
These are the steps to spatchcock a whole poussin:
- If the poussin is trussed (i.e. tied with string), use a pair of kitchen shears to cut away any string.
- Place the bird on your worksurface with the stomach/breast facing down and the back facing up. Use kitchen shears to cut along the backbone from the bottom to the neck until the bird is cut all the way through.
- At the top of the bird near the neck you probably won't be able to cut a clean straight line through the neck bone itself so just cut along one side or the other.
- Flip the bird over so the breast is facing up and press the wings and back down until it flattens completely. You may hear a slight crunch in each of the wing bones before the hen can lay perfectly flat.
2. Mixing the compound butter
To make the honey butter you just need to mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. It helps if the butter is slightly softened to room temperature but it shouldn't be soft or melted at all or it won't be able to adhere in a thick layer on the poussin. It should be a thick paste. You can also start with cold butter - you may just need to mix a bit more.
The thyme should be destemmed and you can also give half of it a rough chop for a more varied flavor and aesthetic but this is optional.
Once the honey butter is mixed, smear it all over the poussin on both the exposed top portion as well as the bottom. Try to get it in a more or less even layer but it doesn't have to be perfect.
The flavoring in the honey butter is relatively neutral. It adds a hint of sweetness and spice with some nuttiness from the sesame oil. As a result, the roast poussin is really versatile. In the photos above I served it with whole pickled banana peppers and homemade parmesan aioli with roasted garlic.
More Side Dishes for Roasted Poussin
Here are some nice options for side dishes:
Looking for more meal inspiration? Try these:
Honey Butter Roasted Poussin (Spatchcock Style)
- 900 grams poussin 2 poussin or Cornish hens weighing 1 lb each
- 2 tablespoons butter slightly softened
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme destemmed and rough chopped
- 2 cloves garlic mashed or grated finely
- 1 tablespoon roasted sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 0.75 teaspoon salt
- 0.25 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Preheat oven to 200 C / 400 F.
- Mix the butter, fresh thyme, garlic, sesame oil, honey, salt and cayenne until evenly combined.
- If the poussin is trussed, use a pair of kitchen shears to cut away any string.
- To spatchcock the poussin, place the bird with the stomach/breast facing down and the back facing up.
- Use a pair of kitchen shears to cut along the backbone from the bottom to the neck until the bird is cut all the way through.
- Flip the bird over so the breast is facing up and press the wings and back down until it flattens completely. You may hear a slight crunch.
- Rub the poussin all over with the honey butter mixture.
- Roast in preheated oven for 30-35 minutes or until the skin is golden brown and the internal temperature is at least 75 C / 165 F.