Everything You Need to Know to Cook Air Fryer Chicken
Chicken is one of the most popular meals on dinner plates all around the world due to its inexpensive and easily accessible nature. Chicken meat is less expensive than other meats because it is relatively easy and less costly to raise chickens compared to other animals. On the other hand, chicken flesh is very nutritious, tastes good and has a tender texture. All these features make chicken a very popular choice for people around the world.
The most famous traditional methods to cook chicken are boiling, roasting and grilling. Chicken meat is quite lean and it is not easy to have the same tender and juicy result from chicken meat each time. It involves a lot of guesswork to decide if it is sufficiently cooked or needs some extra time. However, air fryers have completely changed this situation and they have removed the guesswork out of the cooking process and they are really good at always cooking the same delicious chicken.
How to Cook Different Chicken Cuts in the Air Fryer
Chicken meat needs time to sufficiently cook if you do not use an instant pot or pressure cooker. Instant pot and pressure cooker efficiently cut the time required to cook chicken but they produce a skewed texture in it. However, a roasted texture goes better with chicken and is preferred by many people. Air fryers come into play exactly at this point and they cook the chicken in much less time while producing a roasted texture as well than the other roasted texture producing methods such as roasting, grilling etc.
You can cook a whole chicken and all kinds of chicken meat cuts in the air fryer: chicken wings, chicken breasts and tenderloins, chicken thighs and drumsticks. Depending on your recipe all will have a crispy outside and tender juicy inside texture at the end. On the other hand, most of the chicken recipes are very easy to make in the air fryer so you will serve delicious chicken meals and impress your loved ones using an air fryer even if you are a complete beginner in the kitchen.
Whole chicken in an air fryer
It is no exaggeration to say that one of the best uses of air fryers is to cook a whole chicken in them. To cook a whole chicken directly in the kitchen oven takes so long and if you boil it in a pressure cooker or instant pot before putting it in the oven for roasting to save some time, you cannot avoid the skewed texture it will have. However, an air fryer will produce a full roasted texture with very little time. The outside of the chicken will be crispy but not dried out and the inside will be tender and juicy, and cooked perfectly.
To make a fried chicken in the air fryer, you should marinate the whole chicken at least for one hour using buttermilk and Italian seasoning as marinades. This marinating phase will help the chicken be more juicy inside after cooking. You can also add a hot sauce into the marinade so that the outside will get more crispy and brown. After one hour you should coat the chicken with flour and cornstarch. Place the chicken in the air fryer preheated to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and cook it using rotisserie function. You will enjoy an evenly cooked, crispy and tender chicken meat after 30 minutes.
Having this being a general recipe to make a fried whole chicken in the air fryer you can also try the Simple Salt and Pepper Roast Chicken Air Fryer Recipe for a plain chicken taste with some garlic flavor and the Lime and Cumin Roast Chicken with Salsa Verde Air Fryer Recipe to have some Mexican touches on your chicken.
By the way, you do not need a rotisserie function to make a whole chicken in the air fryer. You can use the air fryer’s basket or one of its trays to cook it. However, if you do not have or use the rotisserie function, then it is better to flip the chicken halfway through to be able to evenly cook it.
Air fryer chicken wings
Chicken wings are already high calorie food without any additional ingredients and 60% of their calories comes from fat if they are eaten with the skin. Deep frying chicken wings or covering them in breading and sauce to make them crispy adds additional calories to the chicken wings. However, hot air circulating at high speed in air fryers makes them crispy already without requiring any high calorie coating over the wings. Air fryers also need so little oil as to mist the basket or the rack so do not add excess calories to the chicken wings.
To make chicken wings in the air fryer you should first preheat the air fryer to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Meanwhile, you should dry the wings and rub them with some seasoning of your choice. Then you should add them in the air fryer basket or place them on an air fryer rack. They should be a single layer and should not go over each other. Cook them for 5 minutes and then flip them over and cook for another 3 minutes. Enjoy your air fryer wings with no additional calories.
You can also try the Honey Garlic Chicken Wings Air Fryer Recipe for a more crispy texture if additional calories is not a concern for you.
Air fryer chicken breasts
Chicken breasts are very finicky to cook, especially in the oven. If you do not make it correctly, what you get at the end will be a rubber-like, tough meat, very difficult to chew and swallow. And to make it correctly requires a lot of guesswork. However, air fryers take the guesswork out of it and yield a delicious chicken breast that is crispy on the outside and juicy and tender inside. In addition, the lean nature of chicken breast benefits a lot from high-temperature cooking in less time and air fryers exactly do so.
Braining the chicken breasts in water-salt mix for some 15 to 30 minutes before cooking will help them to have a more juicy texture at the end. But this is not a must when you are to cook chicken breasts in the air fryer. To simply make chicken breasts in the air fryer, you should dry the chicken breasts, rub them with some seasoning of your choice and buttermilk or olive oil, and put them in the air fryer preheated to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. You should cook the chicken breasts for 7 to 16 degrees depending on the size of the breast. The Air Fryer Chicken Cooking Chart below will help you figure it out correctly. When you remove the chicken breasts out of the air fryer you should let them rest a little before eating.
Besides the basic chicken breast recipe above, there are many other famous dishes that are made using chicken breast meat: chicken nuggets, chicken cutlets, chicken steak, chicken fingers, also known as chicken strips, chicken katsu, schnitzel, and chicken cordon bleu. All are made based on chicken breast. These dishes are so famous that you can easily figure out how to make them in the air fryer by doing some research on the internet.
If you look for a different taste, you can also try the Mozzarella-Stuffed Chicken Bites Air Fryer Recipe, the Asian Sesame Chicken Kebabs Air Fryer Recipe, or the Buffalo Chicken Sliders Air Fryer Recipe. These are less common recipes than the ones mentioned above but very special and delicious dishes with chicken breast base. Hope you’ll enjoy them all!
Air fryer chicken tenderloins
Chicken tenderloins, or chicken tenders, are the most tender part of the chicken breast and located under it. They are more tender because chickens do not use them so often as the other parts of the breast. You can find tenderloins sold separately in the markets. The recipes which need chicken tenderloins can also be made with chicken breast by slicing it into thin strips. However, the dish at the end will be more delicious if you can use chicken tenderloins.
You can cook chicken tenderloins in the air fryer very easily by seasoning them with olive oil and herbs of your choice and then directly putting them in the air fryer preheated to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Let them cook for 20 minutes, flipping over halfway through.
You can also try the Jerk Chicken Tenders Air Fryer Recipe if you prefer a more sophisticated taste and texture in your tenderloins.
Air fryer chicken thighs
Thighs are the upper part of whole chicken legs and have higher meat content than the drumsticks, the lower part of chicken legs. The meat in chicken legs is darker than the breast meat and considered unhealthy by some because of the misbelief that darker meat is not good for health. In fact, the meat in chicken legs, in both thighs and drumsticks, is more juicy and flavorful, and thus it is easier to make a tasty meal using parts of chicken legs than using chicken breast.
Air fryers are really good at cooking chicken thighs. They need less time to cook thighs and save you from all the splatter on the stovetop. You can directly cook chicken thighs in the air fryer without using any special recipe. To do so, preheat the air fryer up to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, dry the thighs, rub them with olive oil and then with some seasoning of your choice, and put them in the air fryer basket. Depending on the chicken thigh sizes it will take up to 30 minutes for them to cook perfectly. You can use the Air Fryer Chicken Cooking Chart below for detailed cooking times. You should flip over the thighs halfway through.
Air fryer chicken drumsticks
Drumsticks are the lower part of the chicken legs. They have a darker but very flavorful and juicy meat and many people prefer them over chicken breast because of the taste. Chicken thighs and drumsticks have very similar taste and texture but drumsticks have less meat content. While chicken thighs are mostly sold boneless and skinless, drumsticks are usually sold and cooked with bone and skin.
To cook chicken drumsticks in the air fryer, pat them dry, rub with olive oil and with some seasoning of your choice and then add them into the air fryer basket. The air fryer should be preheated to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. You should cook them for almost 20 minutes, flipping them over halfway through. It is that easy to cook drumsticks in the air fryer. You may also prefer marinating the drumsticks before cooking instead of dry rubbing. But in this case, you should leave the marinated drumsticks in the fridge at least for four hours to make them absorb the marinades thus the flavors.
How Long Does It Take to Cook Chicken in an Air Fryer?
The time that chicken cuts need to stay in the air fryer mainly depends on the size of the meat cut. The Air Fryer Chicken Cooking Chart below will give you the general temperature and timing requirements to cook different chicken cuts at different sizes. However, you should also check your air fryer’s user manual because there might be some differences between different air fryer brands and models in terms of temperature and timing.
Air Fryer Chicken Cooking Chart
Another method to understand if the chicken is sufficiently cooked or not is to use an instant-read thermometer to observe the inner heat of the meat cut. If the temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit, then it means the chicken cooked sufficiently. This heat is needed to burn off all the bacteria in the meat so lower temperatures cannot be accepted but you can cook more if you prefer more well done chicken meat.