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How to Air Fry Chicken: A Beginner’s Guide

Are you looking to switch things up in the kitchen, up your chicken cooking game, while keeping your meals light? Do you want fast, easy recipes with minimal cleanup? Look no further, because we’re here to introduce you to the magical world of cooking chicken in an air fryer.

High angle shot of a dish of air fryer salt and pepper chicken pieces.

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That’s right, no more greasy, oil-drenched poultry. With an air fryer, you can still get that crispy, crunchy texture without all the added fat. Plus, it’s quick, easy, and most importantly, delicious. So without further ado, let’s get cooking!

My favorite air fryers to air fry chicken

There are numerous air fryers on the market these days that work great and come at affordable prices. You’ll first need to decide if you want a basket style air fryer or an oven style air fryer. Basket style AFs tend to cook faster and more evenly, but oven style air fryers are more versatile as they can be used as toasters, convection ovens, or regular ovens, as well as for air frying.

Either style will work with all your favorite air fryer chicken recipes. Here are my favorite air fryers.

COSORI MAX XL AIR FRYER

This large basket-style air fryer from Cosori is super popular and it’s not hard to see why. It’s on the large size, so it is great for cooking medium-size batches of food. It has a nonstick basket, which makes cleanup easy. The price for this air fryer is great, too.

NINJA FOODI DIGITAL AIR FRY 13-IN-1 AIR FRYER COUNTERTOP OVEN

I love this air fryer oven! I love that it has a larger capacity than my basket air fryer, so I can often cook things in one batch instead of two. It also goes up to 450°F while most basket air fryers go up to 400°F. I also like the stainless-steel basket. 

The ingenious low-profile, flip-up design of the Ninja Foodi air fryer oven also makes it easier for me to find room for in my tiny kitchen.

What You’ll Need to make air fryer chicken

  • Air fryer: See my favorites above if you need guidance on purchasing your first air fryer.
  • Chicken: I use boneless skinless chicken thighs for most of my air fryer chicken recipes. For me, dark meat chicken has the best flavor and doesn’t dry out the way white meat does. And cooking chicken off the bone is quicker, plus I think it’s easier to eat. If you prefer white meat, you can substitute boneless skinless chicken breasts in just about any recipe.
  • Seasonings: Salt, pepper, and any other seasonings of your choice.
  • Coatings: You can air fry chicken with only seasonings and, if you like, a bit of oil. But if you want really crispy, crunchy air FRIED chicken, it’s best to add a coating. I like to use skinless chicken for this type of preparation. And I coat the pieces with both egg and either potato starch or cornstarch or a combination. Oil spritzed on after coating will ensure a nicely browned crust.
  • Oil (optional): I like to spritz or spray the chicken for air frying. A little bit of oil helps the chicken crisp up and develop the nice browning that makes it appetizing. You can use any kind of oil you like cooking with (canola, safflower, olive, avocado, etc). Use a basting brush to apply the oil or put the oil in a reusable spray bottle (I like this oil sprayer).
    A note about nonstick cooking spray and air fryers: If your air fryer has a nonstick basket, don’t use aerosol nonstick cooking sprays. The accelerant (an additive to nonstick cooking spray that allows the oil to flow freely through the spray nozzle) will cause the nonstick coating on the basket to break down. Instead, use an oil sprayer bottle filled with your choice of oil. If you don’t have an oil sprayer bottle, use a basting brush to brush oil onto the chicken pieces while they are in the basket.

What type of chicken is best for air frying?

I use boneless skinless chicken thighs for most of my air fryer chicken recipes. I like the flavor of dark meat chicken and also like that it stays juicy. If you prefer white meat, you can also cook breast in the air fryer. Just substitute boneless skinless chicken breast in just about any recipe.

The majority of my recipes use skinless boneless chicken, but you can use bone-in chicken if you like. The cooking times will generally remain the same whether the chicken is on the bone or not.

Most recipes will start with raw chicken. But some recipes like Air Fryer Taquitos or Air Fryer Chicken Enchiladas start with cooked, shredded chicken.

If you like, you can air fry a whole chicken! This is my favorite way to roast a whole chicken because the skin gets very crispy and beautifully browned, while the meat remains juicy and tender. It also contains any splatter and doesn’t heat up the kitchen. If you’re cooking other items to go along with the chicken, it also keeps your oven free.

overhead shot of breaded chicken in an air fryer basket ready to air fry.
into the air fryer (don’t forget to brush or spritz with oil here!)

Prep the Chicken

Before you get started, it’s important to properly prepare your chicken. If you’re using frozen chicken, thaw it first by refrigerating it overnight.

For really flavorful chicken, it’s best to marinate for at least 20 minutes. You can leave the chicken in your marinade as long as overnight. Use any marinade you like. The key is to ensure that it contains salt, acid, a bit of fat, and any flavorings you like such as garlic, ginger, herbs, or spices.

Next, pat the chicken dry with a paper towel to remove any excess moisture. This will help ensure that your chicken gets nice and crispy in the air fryer.

Season the chicken to your liking with salt, pepper, and any other seasonings you desire. If you want an extra crispy crust, you can also lightly coat the chicken with oil, either using an oil sprayer bottle, a basting brush, or even just drizzling the oil and rubbing it all over the chicken with your hands.

BBQ chicken wings in an air fryer basket

How to cook the best air fryer chicken recipes

Now it’s time to fire up that air fryer! Place the chicken in the air fryer basket, making sure not to overcrowd it. You want to give the chicken plenty of room to cook evenly.

I air fry a whole chicken at 370°F for about 30 minutes per side (starting with the breast side down and flipping after 30 minutes. For chicken pieces, you can do them at 370°F as well, but cook for about 10 minutes, then flip and cook for maybe 4 or 5 minutes more. Be sure to check the chicken during cooking because small pieces will cook faster, while large pieces make take a bit longer to fully cook through.

You can use a digital thermometer to make sure your chicken is cooked through. It should reach an internal temperature of 165°F. Once the internal temperature of the chicken is 165°F, remove the chicken from the basket. And remember to let the chicken rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing. This will allow the juices to redistribute, ensuring that your chicken is juicy and flavorful.

My Favorite Crisp, Tender and Juicy Air Fryer Chicken Recipes

Basic Air Fryer Fried Chicken

Air Fryer Fried Chicken is easy to make and so good. It’s crispy on the outside and tender and flavorful on the inside. These step-by-step instructions show you how.

Air Fryer Buttermilk Fried Chicken

Air Fryer Buttermilk Fried Chicken is a dream come true. I mean, what could be better than juicy, tender, hot-sauce-and-buttermilk-infused chicken with a crispy, crunchy crust? Air frying it makes it easy and healthy.

low angle shot of air fryer korean fried chicken. There is a hand holding a piece of the chicken.

Air Fryer Korean Fried Chicken

This Air Fryer Korean Fried Chicken is one of my most popular recipes. And it isn’t hard to see why! It’s crispy, crunchy, spicy, and sweet. It’s easy to make and you won’t be able to stop eating it.

Air Fryer Sesame Chicken

Air Fryer Sesame Chicken is air fried to a crispy golden brown and then tossed in an addictive sweet-savory sesame sauce. My family begs me to make this dish all the time!

High angle, closeup shot of barbecue chicken wings piled on a white platter

Air Fryer BBQ Chicken Wings

Air Fryer BBQ Chicken Wings taste like they’re fresh off the grill. They’re spicy, sweet, a little smoky, and absolutely delicious. And they’re so easy to make any time in the air fryer!

Air Fryer Whole Chicken

I’m thoroughly convinced that air frying is the absolute best way to cook a whole chicken. Rub it with some spices and olive oil. Cook this Air Fryer Whole Chicken in the air fryer for 30 minutes, flip the chicken and air fry for 30 minutes more. Finally, enjoy super tender, flavorful, juicy chicken with crackling skin.

High angle shot of a bowl of air fryer kung pao chicken with a spoon.

Air Fryer Kung Pao Chicken

This Air Fryer Kung Pao Chicken is full of spicy flavor from dried chiles and Szechuan peppercorns. Toasted peanuts add the perfect crunch, too. It’s so quick and makes a full meal if you pair it with steamed rice.

Air Fryer Chicken 65

Chicken 65 is a spicy, crispy fried chicken recipe from South India. It’s loaded with intense flavors of ginger, garlic, curry leaves, cumin, and chilies. I love to make it in the air fryer because it has all the delicious flavor, but it’s quicker, easier to clean up, and healthier, too!

Air Fryer Orange Chicken

Air Fryer Orange Chicken is crunchy on the outside, tender on the inside, and tossed in an addictive sweet-savory sauce made with orange juice and zest. Based on the popular Chinese takeout dish, this healthy and easy air fryer version is a total crowd-pleaser.

overhead shot of an air fryer whole chicken

Air Fryer Chicken Taquitos

These Air Fryer Taquitos are loaded with shredded chicken, refried beans, cheddar cheese, and green chile salsa. With salsa, sour cream, and guacamole for dipping, they make a great light dinner or hearty appetizer.

Air Fryer Salt and Pepper Chicken

Skip the hassle of deep frying and get crispy-on-the-outside, juicy-on-the-inside delicious Sichuan style Air Fryer Salt and Pepper Chicken! This version gets a hit of mouth-tingling spice from Szechuan peppercorns and a topping of sizzled hot chiles and sliced garlic.

Low angle shot of an air fried spicy chicken sandwich

Air Fryer Fried Chicken Sandwich

What’s better than a crispy, spicy, fried chicken sandwich? An Air Fryer Fried Chicken Sandwich!

Air Fryer Chicken Shawarma Wraps

Air Fryer Chicken Shawarma Wraps are infused with the intense flavors of the Middle East. Authentic Shawarma is spit-roasted for hours, but this quick air fryer chicken breast version captures those delicious shawarma flavors and can be on your table in under 30 minutes. Don’t skip the rich, tangy Lemon Tahini Sauce!

low angle shot of 3 filled chicken tikka wraps.

Air Fryer Chicken Tikka Wraps

This Air Fryer Chicken Tikka Wrap is a delicious change-up to boring sandwiches. Chicken tikka kebabs are infused with a flavorful marinade and then quickly cooked in the air fryer, keeping them tender and juicy.

Air Fryer Turkey Legs (okay, I know it’s not chicken, but it’s close!)

Air Fryer Turkey Legs deliver impossibly crisp skin and succulent, juicy meat on the inside.

sesame chicken on a plate with pea shoots and chopsticks

And that’s all there is to it! Cooking chicken in an air fryer is a quick, easy, and delicious way to enjoy all your favorite poultry dishes. So next time you’re in the mood for some crispy chicken, give the air fryer a try. Trust us, your taste buds (and waistline) will thank you. Happy cooking!

Close up, low angled shot of air fryer fried salt and pepper chicken.

Air Fryer Chicken

Robin Donovan
Are you looking to switch things up in the kitchen, up your chicken cooking game, while keeping your meals light? Do you want fast, easy recipes with minimal cleanup? Look no further, because we’re here to introduce you to the magical world of cooking chicken in an air fryer.
5 from 1 vote

Ingredients
  

  • Whole chicken chicken breasts, chicken legs, chicken wings, or chicken thighs
  • oil
  • Seasonings
  • Coatings if desired

Instructions
 

  • Prep Your Vegetables. Before you start air frying, wash and chop your vegetables into uniform pieces. This will ensure that they cook evenly. If you’re using denser vegetables like potatoes or carrots, you may want to soak them in cold water for a few minutes before cooking to help them crisp up. Make sure to dry them well before air frying them.
  • Preheat the Air Fryer. Most air fryers have a preheat setting, so be sure to use it before adding your vegetables. This will help to ensure that they cook evenly and get nice and crispy.
  • Add a Light Coat of Oil. To help your vegetables crisp up, lightly coat them in oil before adding them to the air fryer. You can use any type of oil that you like, but olive oil or avocado oil work well. Just be sure not to use too much, as this can lead to soggy vegetables.
  • Cook Your Vegetables. Once your air fryer is preheated, add your vegetables to the basket in a single layer. Close the air fryer and set the timer for the recommended cooking time. Most vegetables will cook in about 10-15 minutes, but denser vegetables like potatoes may take a bit longer.
  • Enjoy! Once your vegetables are cooked to your liking, remove them from the air fryer and serve immediately. You can season them with your favorite herbs and spices, or enjoy them as is.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
By on November 2nd, 2022

ABOUT ROBIN DONOVAN

Hi, I’m Robin! I am a full-time food blogger, recipe developer, and cookbook author. I spend my days cooking, writing about, and photographing food.

I’m the author of more than 50 cookbooks, including Ramen for Beginners5 Ingredient Cooking for TwoSushi at HomeThe Baking Cookbook for Teens, and the bestselling Campfire Cuisine.

My food writing has also been featured in major print and online pubications including Cooking Light, Fitness, San Jose Mercury News, San Francisco Chronicle, and others. → More about Robin

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