It does not take long before that smell starts to fill the kitchen with this crispy air fryer fried chicken!
If the weather is just right and the windows are open, anyone in the vicinity is starting to catch a whiff of what’s cooking on your stove. And it is making them hungry. It’s making them want to rush home and do the same thing – fry up some chicken for dinner.
How To Make Air Fryer Fried Chicken
To come up with the best air fryer fried chicken, I’ve tested 3 different techniques to cook chicken in the air fryer which I will describe in detail below.Ultimately, the recipe that came out the tastiest and visually appealing is quick and simple to follow. In a nutshell, chicken is marinated in buttermilk and hot sauce mixture. After marinating, dredge the chicken in a flour mixture which contains potato starch, garlic powder, black pepper, salt, chili powder, and paprika.Set in the air fryer and spray peanut oil. Cook for 30 minutes at 370F, flipping halfway through cooking time.
Exact ingredient measurements and bonus cooking tips are in the recipe section below. Check it out!
The result? Warm and crispy, tender and juicy air fried chicken!
Why Air Fryer?
An air fryer is like a smaller version of a convection oven. It will cook your food at a very high temperature using dry, hot air that circulates around the food by using a fan that’s built into the fryer.
You can easily set an air fryer on top of your kitchen counter while you’re letting it cook for you. One benefit of an air fryer is that you will not be using a large amount of oil that stove-top fried chicken uses. That will save you money but more importantly, you will not be putting all that grease into your body.
If you ever ‘fry’ your chicken in the oven, you know just how hot that oven will leave your kitchen. Gone are the days of an overly hot oven and house when you fry your chicken in an air fryer.
My air fryer is so versatile I use it to cook my favorite air fryer meatloaf. I even cook pork belly in the air fryer. Love steak? I cook my steak in the air fryer these days. How about seafood? I cook several kinds of seafood in this machine such as my air fryer fried shrimp or air fryer tilapia.
An air fryer will let your chicken turn out crispy on the outside but still tender and juicy on the inside. You won’t believe the result of this air fryer fried chicken!
What You Will Need To Make Fried Chicken In The Air Fryer
Few common ingredients:
Chicken – I like chicken drumsticks but you can use any cuts you want. You can also use chicken breast, thighs, wings or leg quarters. You can cook a combination of each just like what I did.
Buttermilk and Hot sauce – Both combined and used for marinating the chicken for a few hours. The hot sauce helps add color to the coating and obviously adds a bit of spiciness to the flavor.
Potato Starch – I like using potato starch instead of regular flour. This will give you a crispier coating!
Spices – Common spices that you probably already have in your pantry such as salt, white pepper, garlic powder, chili powder, and paprika.
Peanut Oil – Normally used for high-temperature deep frying. I put this in a spray bottle and spray it on the chicken. It helps crisp up the coating resulting in a crunchy delicious air fryer fried chicken.
Testing Different Methods Of Air Frying Chicken
We’ve all been there. You look up a recipe online with beautiful pictures. You try out the recipe and it comes out not the same as the pictures on the website.
I wanted to test different methods of cooking chicken in the air fryer. I’ve researched online and I’ve come up with three popular chicken recipes for air frying. I came up with my own spice mixture to use.
No Breading Recipe – A straight forward recipe with no breading or coating on the outside. I used the same flour mixture but different amounts because of the lack of breading or starch. I did marinate the chicken for a few hours with a simple salt and water brine.
Panko Breading Recipe – Chicken is coated with panko breading along with the same flour mixture I put on the other recipe. I also marinated the chicken with salt brine solution so the prep time is the same.
Buttermilk Recipe – I marinated the chicken in buttermilk and Red Hot sauce mixture for 2 hours. Chicken is then dredge in starch and spice mixture.
Note: All three air fryer fried chicken were cooked for the same amount of time and temperature which was at 370F for 30 minutes cook time.
The main criteria I was looking in a perfect air fryer chicken:
Flavor – This is obvious but the chicken needs to taste good and not just the coating.
Crispiness – This is a must for fried chicken! I want to feel the crunchiness when I bite into the chicken.
Visual Appeal – The chicken must not only taste good but also LOOK tasty like your favorite restaurant fried chicken.
Let’s go over how each recipe turned out:
Let’s start with my least favorite of the three. Panko breading method was not visually appealing because of the coating burning quickly. Although the chicken meat itself was flavorful because it was marinated, the burnt coating ruined the flavor. This recipe did not pass the visual and taste test.
No breading method was actually not bad. It was tender, juicy, and flavorful on the inside. It lacked the crispy coating and visually it just was not appetizing. This one passed the taste test but failed the visual test.
Buttermilk air fryer fried chicken method was the clear winner! It had a nice and tender meat on the inside while the outside was crispy and flavorful. Visually, this was the closest one to a deep fried version. Golden crispy coating!
How To Bread The Chicken For Air Frying
Keep the coating light, just enough to cover the outside of the chicken. This is not your normal deep oil frying where it penetrates and cooks the thick coating. With air frying, just a thin coating is enough.
Do I Need To Preheat The Air Fryer
This is optional but you need to preheat your air fryer, just like an oven. I find that it takes a minute or so for the inside to warm up. Unlike a traditional oven, though, the timer on the air fryer will turn off the machine, causing the hot air to stop circulating as soon as the cooking process is finished. This keeps the chicken from becoming dry or burning if you don’t turn it off immediately.
How long do I cook air fryer chicken?
For about 30 minutes. I say approximately 30 minutes because air fryers come in different sizes and some cooks faster than others. It will also depend on the cut of chicken you are cooking and the number of pieces you are cooking at one time. Always check the internal temperature to make sure the meat is thoroughly cooked.
Can I stack chicken in an air fryer?
I do not recommend stacking chicken on top of each other as this will cause uneven cooking. Just cook one layer of chicken at a time. This will also make it easier to flip the chicken when cooking.
Can you use batter in an air fryer?
No, I don’t recommend using wet batter coating normally used on chicken cooked in a deep fryer. This is too thick for air frying. Follow my steps on my recipe, which coats a thin layer of spice and starch mixture followed by a spray of olive oil. This creates a thin semi-wet batter on the chicken which cooks perfectly on an air fryer.
What’s The Best Chicken To Use?
It really doesn’t matter. This recipe will go well with any kind of cut. I’ve tried this recipe with:
This recipe on air fryer chicken wings:
This recipe on air fryer chicken tenders:
Air frying your chicken is really going to make a big change in your outlook on frying chicken. After you prepare the pieces of chicken and place them in the basket, you can get on with making the rest of your meal, or maybe you can put your feet up and chill out for half an hour before dinner. Wouldn’t that be a nice change?
Alright, here’s the winning air fryer chicken recipe!
Crispy Air Fryer Fried Chicken
This tender and juicy air fryer fried chicken is super delicious with crispy skin on the outside and healthy.
- 4 pieces Chicken Legs/Drumsticks, Breast, Thighs, Wings, or Leg Quarters
- 1 cup Potato Starch (You can substitue it with cornstarch)
- 1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
- 1/2 tablespoon Salt
- 1/2 teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon Paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon Chili Powder
- 1/4 cup Hot Sauce (I used Red Hot)
- 1 cup Buttermilk
- Peanut Oil (In a mister or spray bottle)
Prepare the marinate by combining hot sauce and buttermilk in a bowl big enough to fill with chicken. Add the chicken pieces and marinate for a minimum of 2 hours to overnight.
Combine potato starch, salt, ground black pepper, garlic powder, chili powder, and paprika in a bowl. One piece at a time, add the marinated chicken pieces into the flour mixture. Chicken should be covered completely but not too thick.
Using a spray bottle, spray each chicken pieces with peanut oil. Be sure that each piece gets sprayed completely. (You can use store bought cooking spray)
Place chicken pieces in the air fryer basket. I am using the Power Air Fryer Oven Elite which is a bigger air fryer with different levels you can insert the tray. I inserted the tray at the bottom to prevent from burning the coating quickly. For regular small air fryers, just place the chicken at the bottom of the compartment.
Set the air fryer to cook at 370F for a total time of 30 minutes. Flip chicken pieces when time hits 15 minutes. Take your cooking spray and spray additional oil.
Depending on the size of the chicken and air fryer, you may need to add a few minutes to the cooking time for the chicken to completely cook. Always check the meat temperature that it reaches 165F.