Combine all the brine ingredients into a large one gallon container and stir.
Place cornish hens in a stock pot or container large enough to hold them and the brine. Pour brine over the hens and allow to brine for 1-2 hours in the refrigerator.
Smoked Cornish Hens
Heat up smoker to 225-250° using an indirect heat set up. Once it is heated, apply the wood of your choice. We used pecan this time.
Remove the hens from the brine and dry off with paper towels. Spray with olive oil spray (either the canned version or using a Mister) and spray all over. Then sprinkle with the seasoning/rub of your choice. Insert the ¼ orange and ¼ lemon into the hen cavity.
Smoke the hens straight on the grill grate until the internal temperature reaches 160-165°. The 160° is great as you will tent this for about 10 minutes before serving to allow the juices to settle and it will come up the remaining five degrees.
Remove lemon and orange prior to serving.
CrispySkin | If you want your skin to be crispy, don't brine it. Instead, rinse the hen and pat it dry. Put in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours to dry out and then season it before putting on the smoker. Smoke at a higher temp (275°) and don't tent it when you take it off of the smoker/grill.Allow Hens to Rest | Just like so many meats coming off of the grill, allowing these to rest for 10 minutes before cutting into them allows the juices to stay in the bird rather than spilling out onto the plate or cutting board. This allows the meat to be juicy instead of dry.Wood Choice | Always think of the wood you are using when getting ready to smoke your meat. Fruit woods like apple and cherry will always be a more mild choice vs mesquite or hickory which will give you a more powerful smokey flavor. All of the options are great so choose which ones your family loves. The Smoking Wood Cheat Sheet helps guide you through your choices.Smoke to Temp, Not Time | Although this isn't a long smoke, always cook this to temperature, not time. Start checking the hen at 45-60 minutes using a probe or internal thermometer.Storage: Store the cooled leftovers in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to three days.Reheating Instructions: Reheat the leftovers in the microwave for 1-2 minutes, depending on how much you are reheating. These hens reheat so well and retain the moisture even after reheating.