How to Cook Chicken in the Air Fryer
We have everything you need to know for how to cook chicken in your air fryer right here. From why you want to cook it in the air fryer to the tools and accessories that make your life easier to cooking temperatures and times for every cut, we’ve got you covered.
How to Cook Chicken in the Air Fryer
Like most of the continent, I’m pretty obsessed with chicken. I can’t even tell you how often it’s on my plate. That’s why I’m always looking for new ways to prepare it, especially ways that are quicker and/or make it taste better.
In terms of the quicker-chicken situation, I thought I had it down with my Instant Pot. And while I do love cooking chicken in the Instant Pot, it’s not always the best it could be. It has more of a stewed texture. That’s great for things like soups and stews but less good on sandwiches or pasta, or for eating on its own. I think I’m realizing that I prefer more of a roasted texture for those things.
And voilá, I found just the thing in my air fryer! I’m loving it so much! Here’s why I love cooking chicken in my air fryer so much…
Why Cook Chicken in the Air Fryer?
- It has great texture. Air fryer chicken has a nice firm, but juicy texture, much like roasted or baked chicken. So, if you like roasted/baked chicken, you will like this.
- It takes less time to cook. We’re not talking tons less, but quite a bit less, especially for larger pieces. A whole chicken, for instance, can be done in 40 minutes in the air fryer but that same size chicken would be closer to an hour in a regular oven. Chicken breasts take around 15 minutes in the air fryer but 20+ in the regular oven.
- It’s energy efficient. You don’t have to heat up your whole oven to cook a batch of chicken. That’s less energy used and less heat generated in your kitchen. It’s also great if you want to cook other things in your oven. Then the chicken gets done separately.
- Quick preheat time. The air fryer preheats in 2-3 minutes. You can put it on to preheat and by the time your chicken is out of the fridge and seasoned, you can put it right in. This saves time and also energy.
- Oh, the caramelization! While the texture of the meat is similar to roasted, you get more browning, and thus more flavor, on the outside and it happens in a shorter amount of time. This is because the air fryer circulates the heat so well.
- All that crispy skin! If you’ve got any chicken skin going on, like with these wings or leg quarters, oh-my-god does it ever get crispy and amazing. I will admit that this isn’t always a good thing. Why? When chicken skin is more limp, I tend to just pull it off and throw it out. When the skin is all golden and crisp, I pull it off and eat it in one bite! Mmmm. But also Ugh!
- It’s somehow just generally perfect. I am not usually a gadget girl and tend to stick to traditional cooking utensils and techniques. But I’m seriously in love with my air fryer. I can’t even remember when I last turned my regular oven on! It preheats so quickly, it turns itself off if you forget about it, it’s easy to clean, things cook quickly, everything gets so nice and brown and delicious. It’s the perfect method for cooking so many things, and for chicken, it’s the best. The. Best.
General Tips for Cooking Chicken in the Air Fryer
OK, so now that you know why to cook chicken in the air fryer, it’s time to find out how. In general, you can do pretty much anything that you would do in a regular oven. The main difference is that you will not be using a pan. The chicken or chicken pieces go straight into the air fryer basket.
However, if you have something really saucy or with a lot of cheese that could melt, you can totally use a tray. The air fryer manufacturers sell a lot of accessories and accessory kits like this so you can find just the right pan for your air fryer. Or, you can use aluminum foil with the edges folded up. If you’re going to use foil, make sure you read these important tips first.
In addition to not needing a pan, the other main difference between the air fryer and the oven is that the air fryer tends to cook things more quickly. What I typically do is to set my timer for 30-40% less time than I would for a regular oven. Then I check the food and decide if it needs longer or not. For meat and poultry, I use an instant read thermometer to check the internal temperature. You want it to read 165°F for poultry. Some people take poultry out at a bit lower temperature, like 155°F and let it rest to come up the remainder of the way. I do think you get juicier chicken this way but it is not recommended for food safety reasons, as you can see here on the foodsafety.gov website.
How to Cook Chicken in the Air Fryer
For all chicken, the basic way I cook it in the air fryer is to first preheat the air fryer to 400°F. Then I mist the chicken with olive oil all over. I use this oil sprayer. Alternatively, you can drizzle with oil and then use your hands to rub it all over. Next, season it liberally with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Finally, it goes directly into the basket of the air fryer to cook until it reaches 165°F internally.
I do usually flip the chicken over once halfway through. I prefer to start with the chicken or chicken pieces nicest-side-down. Then after it’s flipped the nicer side is on top to finish browning (with whole chickens, starting with the nice side down has a good added bonus that you can read more about here).
I have tested cooking times for most kinds of chicken pieces in three different air fryers and this is now my air-fryer-chicken-cooking-times cheat sheet. It contains the type of chicken, the temperature to use, the amount of time on each side, and also links to fuller recipes for each type.
Air-Fryer Chicken Cooking Times and Temperatures
|Type of Chicken||Air Fryer Temp||Time on Side #1||Time on Side #2||Link to Full Instructions|
|whole chicken, 3-4 lb.||400°F||30 minutes||12-22 minutes||Instructions|
|breast, boneless, 8 oz.||400°F||10 minutes||5-8 minutes||Instructions|
|breast, bone-in, 10 oz.||400°F||15 minutes||12-15 minutes||Instructions|
|thigh, boneless, 4-5 oz.||400°F||10 minutes||5-7 minutes||Instructions|
|thigh, bone-in, 5-6 oz.||400°F||15 minutes||10-15 minutes||Instructions|
|drumstick, bone-in, 5 oz.||400°F||10 minutes||10-12 minutes||Instructions|
|leg quarter, 1 lb. each||400°F||20 minutes||10-12 minutes||Instructions|
|wing, 5 full wings cut into 2 pieces each||360°F then 400°F||12 minutes at 360°F||12 minutes at 360°F, then 5-6 minutes at 400°F||Instructions|
- Whether the skin is on or not is not specified here. This is because the skin doesn’t affect the specified cooking times. Therefore, “thigh, bone-in” means both “skinless bone-in chicken thighs” and “skin-on bone-in chicken thighs”.
- Start cooking chicken with the nicer-side-down and then flip when specified. Why? So that the nicer side, the side you want up for serving, is facing up after you flip it. That means that the nicer side gets the final browning time in the air fryer. For the whole chicken, start it breast-side-down. This not only results in the nicer side up for the final cooking but also allows the extra juices from the back of the chicken to trickle towards the breast meat, and it protects the breast meat from over-drying, see here.
- All chicken should be cooked to 165°F. Test the internal temperature using an instant read thermometer. I usually take my chicken out at 155-160°F and let it rest for 3-4 minutes. It’s juicier that way. However, this is not recommended by me nor by gov so you should make sure your chicken is at 165°F before you stop cooking it because any lower is unsafe.