There’s nothing like a mouthwatering plate of crispy and juicy fried chicken to make you feel at home. It’s a dish than can win over even the pickiest eaters. But a lot of home cooks will agree that this crowd favorite is a lot more complicated to make than it seems.
Enter the air fryer. For years, we’ve been used to slaving over a hot stovetop or deep fryer, painstakingly checking the oil temp and flipping chicken pieces. Not to mention having to dodge unavoidable oil splatters. We’re happy to say that those days are over.
In this article, we’ll explore why an air fryer is a great addition to any kitchen. We’ll also go over some tips and tricks on how to make fried chicken using your very own. We see scrumptious air fryer fried chicken dinners in your future – minus the grease burns and the added calories. Yum!
Cooking Fried Chicken the Healthy Way
Does healthy fried food even exist? Chicken, by itself, is just a great source of protein. Deep frying it in oil, lard, or shortening is what makes it a cardiac nightmare.
With an air fryer, you can make fried food with only a fraction of the calories. Generally, air fried food has 80% fewer calories and fat than their deep-fried versions. Imagine having a beautifully golden air fried chicken being the main attraction of your Sunday spread. There will hardly be any hassle when preparing it, and everyone can enjoy it guilt-free.
Seems too good to be true, right? Not anymore. See, an air fryer works very much like a convection oven. There’s a metal coil inside that heats up the food that you put into the basket. A fan on top of the coil distributes the heat all over the fryer, making sure that the food cooks evenly.
We love being able to eat fried chicken regularly and still consider it a part of a healthy diet. It’s nothing short of a miracle. Air frying also makes for easier food prep and cleanup, which is a win-win for anyone on a busy schedule.
How to Air Fry Quick and Crispy Chicken Thighs
We’re all pretty familiar with the dilemma of having to whip up something edible in a short amount of time. Well, we’ve said goodbye to sad makeshift meals. With our new favorite kitchen appliance, a couple of chicken thighs, and your choice seasonings, you can have air fryer chicken thighs in 30 minutes. Here’s our basic foolproof recipe:
- The chicken thighs, of course. Four pieces with the skin on and de-boned. You can do this yourself or have your butcher do it for you
- Salt and pepper
- Whatever seasoning you’d like (garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, dried thyme, etc.)
- Preheat your air fryer to 400°F.
- While it’s getting nice and toasty in there, lay out the thighs on a pan and pat dry them.
- Sprinkle salt, pepper, and your other seasonings on the thighs.
- Once the air fryer is properly preheated, place the thighs in the food basket. Make sure the pieces are not too close together so that they cook evenly.
- Leave them in there for 18 minutes. By the end, you want the internal temperature of the thighs to be at 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Take them out of the air fryer. Let them rest for 2 minutes.
There you have it, crispy and juicy chicken thighs, ready to be eaten with a quick salad or some pasta. You probably noticed that there’s no oil in this recipe, which makes it healthy. It’s the salt that makes the skin crispy because it helps dehydrate it. The thighs look like they were fried on a skillet, but in reality, you were off doing something else. How’s that for a time-saver?
How to Make Perfect Air Fryer Chicken Breasts Without Drying Them Out
Chicken breasts are incredibly versatile, but they’re typically not most people’s favorite part. That’s because they can be boring. They dry out quickly and are usually thought of as diet food. By brining the breasts, you can eat them as is without feeling like you’re missing out on something yummier. It takes a bit of extra prep, but it’s straightforward enough. Here’s how you do it:
- ¼ cup kosher salt
- Olive oil
- 4 boneless chicken breasts
- Salt and pepper
- Whatever seasoning you’d like (dried parsley, smoked paprika, dried basil, dried rosemary, etc.)
- Place the pieces on a chopping board and pound the thicker parts to make them even.
- Grab a large bowl. Fill it with 6 cups of lukewarm water. Mix in the kosher salt until it dissolves completely.
- Submerge the breasts into the water and cover the bowl.
- Put the bowl in the fridge and let the breasts sit there for at least an hour.
- Take the chicken pieces out of the water and give them a good pat down with some paper towels.
- Preheat the air fryer to 380 °F.
- Combine olive oil and all the seasonings in a small bowl. This is going to be your spice rub.
- Coat the breasts with your spice rub. Make sure everything is covered.
- Put the coated pieces in the air fryer and let them cook for 5 minutes. When the time is up, flip them over and cook for another 5 minutes.
You can make chicken schnitzel by adding breading to this recipe. Either way, this makes for a fast and healthy meal. You can serve it with baked potatoes, some couscous for some added texture, or in a sandwich. One thing’s for sure – it’s not going to be dry nor dull.
Can You Air Fry a Whole Chicken?
Yup, you can skip the rotisserie take-out and make a tasty air fryer whole chicken at home. This is great for gatherings or planning meals for an entire week. With an entire chicken at hand, you can prepare multiple meals like chicken noodle soup and chicken salad sandwiches.
But first, we have to ask how long to cook chicken in an air fryer. If you’ve got a 5-pounder, it should take about an hour. Here’s our tried and tested method:
- 1 whole chicken. The bird can be up to 5 lbs. if you’ve got a sizeable 5.7-quart air fryer.
- 2 tbsp. dry rub. You can make your own and get the store-bought kind. It can be anything from Cajun, Creole, Italian, Jerk, Baharat, etc.
- Cooking spray.
- Preheat the air fryer to 350 °F.
- In the meantime, coat the entire chicken with your dry rub. Be generous with it and really massage it in. We’re going for a dry rub here instead of a liquid marinade to prevent your air fryer from smoking up.
- When the air fryer is ready to go, do a once over on the cooking basket with your cooking spray.
- Put the chicken in there, breast side down. This is to protect the breast from drying up. Let it cook for 50 minutes.
- Once the 50 minutes are up, flip the chicken breast side up and let it cook for 10 more minutes.
- To make sure there are no raw parts, check the internal temperature of the breast meat. It should be at 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Take the chicken out of the air fryer and let it rest on a rack or plate for a few minutes before carving.
Boom, an air fried whole chicken ready that’s sure to wow your family. It only takes an hour to cook. Plus, you don’t have to dirty your oven.
How Long Does It Take to Cook Chicken Wings in an Air Fryer?
About to host a super bowl party? Unsure about what to bring to a potluck? It’s time for some air fryer chicken. Make the crispiest wings while still staying on the healthy side. It only takes 30 minutes. Yup, you read that right. That’s how long to cook chicken wings in an air fryer.
You’ve probably of heard of double frying, which is a technique to really crisp up wings. We’ll pull the same thing off, but with an air fryer and minimal oil. Here’s how:
- Chicken wings
- Salt, pepper, and your choice of seasonings
- Your choice of coating (hot sauce, buffalo sauce, lemon pepper sauce, etc.)
- Cooking spray
- In a bowl, coat the wings with your choice of seasonings. This is the part where some people add baking powder to make their wings extra crispy. But with our technique, they’ll crisp up just the same. Best of all, they’ll still be okay for those who are on a Keto or Paleo diet.
- Spray the cooking basket with some oil to prevent the wings from sticking. Then put the wings in and set the temperature to 380 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Cook the wings for 25 minutes, flipping them every 5 minutes. The idea is we’re letting the fat from the skin render out.
- The overall cooking time is 30 minutes. So for the last 5 minutes, turn up the heat to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the second round of frying that makes the wings even crispier.
- Toss the wings in your choice of coating.
How to Cook Crispy and Tender Chicken Legs in an Air Fryer
Are you a dark meat kind of person? Then drumsticks are the way to go. First, how many chicken legs should you be putting your air fryer?
If you’ve got one that has a 6.8-quart capacity, you should be able to fit 10 pieces in there. For a 3.6-quart one, you can cook up to 5 drumsticks at once. Just eye it and remember not to crowd the pieces for even cooking.
Second, we have to ask what temperature to fry chicken in. For legs, we have to cook them in 400 degrees Fahrenheit. They’ll brown better, get crispier, cook faster, and turn out juicier. Here’s our simple air-fried drumstick recipe:
- Chicken drumsticks or whole legs (with the thigh)
- Salt, pepper, and your choice of seasonings
- Make a dry rub out of your seasonings and massage it into the drumsticks for about 3 minutes.
- You can skip preheating the air fryer. Just place the legs in the cooking basket. Remember to leave ample space between the pieces.
- Set the air fryer to 400 °F. Then cook the chicken for 15 minutes.
- Flip the pieces and let them cook for 10 more minutes.
- Finally, flip them again and cook for another 5 minutes. The entire cooking time is 30 minutes.
Can You Cook Frozen Chicken in an Air Fryer?
If we’re talking frozen chicken tenders or strips, then it should be fine. In fact, you can heat up just about any frozen food in an air fryer. However, for actual chicken pieces that are frozen, air fryer cooking times can vary wildly. To get perfectly cooked chicken every single time, it’s always better to thaw them out beforehand. If you try to cook frozen chicken in an air fryer, you run the risk of over or under-cooking them. The last thing you want is a browned exterior and a raw middle, especially when it comes to chicken.
Making fried chicken in an air fryer is a breeze. It’s also a healthier alternative to the dish that we all can’t say no to. Plus, cleanup is easier, and there’s absolutely no oil splatters.
We at mykitchenadvisor are always on the lookout for high-quality kitchen gadgets and appliances. Check out our top pick for the best air fryer under $100 here. Do you have any recipes or tips that you’ve come up with on your own? Share them below so others can get air frying too!