Air fryer chicken thighs

How to Bake Chicken in an Air Fryer

Last Updated on December 21, 2020

An air fryer works as a countertop convection oven that cooks food faster than in a typical oven, thanks to its compact size. The rapid circulation of hot air also yields uber-crispy food like amazing baked chicken that usually requires a long time to roast.

In this guide, we’ll break down everything you need to know for baking chicken in the air fryer. We’ll cover:

  • Why we love using the air fryer for baking chicken
  • How to marinate or brine chicken
  • How to bake chicken in the air fryer
  • And frequently asked questions on air fryers

We hope this guide helps you make the most of your air fryer, whether you’re new to cooking with it or a seasoned air fryer chicken vet.

Why Use an Air Fryer?

All appliances have their place, but we love cooking chicken in the air fryer for a few reasons. Here’s why:

  • It’s so crispy: It’s hard to achieve the level of crispiness you get with an air fryer unless you use a deep fryer. The air fryer allows you to cut out excess oil while retaining ultra-crispy skin or delicious caramelization on chicken cuts.
  • It’s fast: Compared to an oven, chicken cooks quite efficiently in the air fryer. Typically, you’ll shave off about 30 percent to 40 percent of the cooking time by using an air fryer. Again, this is thanks to its compact size, which allows hot air to circulate more rapidly.
  • You don’t have to turn on the oven: If you don’t feel like warming up the house, an air fryer is a great option. Plus, the air fryer preheats in a few minutes, while an oven takes a good bit longer.

How to Prep Air Fryer Chicken

The air fryer will yield crispy and caramelized chicken every time. Use a marinade to pack in some flavor or brine the chicken before cooking to make it extra tender and juicy. If you’re looking for super-crisp chicken, you’ll want to pat it dry after marinating or brining. Don’t worry; it will still have absorbed all those delicious flavors.

Here are some great recipes to get you started. Borrow the brine or marinade instructions and air fry your chicken instead:

How to Bake Chicken in an Air Fryer

Baking chicken in the air fryer couldn’t be easier. Preheat the air fryer, place the prepped chicken in the fryer basket and let the appliance do the work. Be sure to flip your chicken part of the way through the cooking process.

How long you cook your chicken will depend on how large it is, whether it’s boneless, and more. This primer on chicken cook times in the air fryer from The Cookful is a helpful resource. Here are the cook times and temperatures for a few common chicken cuts:

  • Whole chicken: 400°F, 30 minutes on the first side, 12–22 minutes on the other
  • Boneless chicken breast: 400°F, 10 minutes on the first side, 5–8 minutes on the other
  • Bone-in chicken thighs: 400°F, 15 minutes on the first side, 10–15 minutes on the other
  • Chicken drumsticks: 400°F, 10 minutes on the first side, 10–12 minutes on the other

Chicken should always be cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F. Use a meat thermometer to check for doneness.

Frequently Asked Questions

Now that you understand the steps for baking chicken in the air fryer, you may be wondering if there’s anything else you should know. Check out these common air fryer questions to make sure you’re baking your chicken to caramelized perfection every time.

Should I use oil to bake chicken in the air fryer?

One of the benefits of an air fryer is that it will yield crispy results without the use of oil. Of course, you can opt to use a little oil if you’d like to make things extra crispy and delicious. Make sure you coat your chicken in oil first; don’t add oil into the fryer basket.

How much can an air fryer hold?

The standard air fryer is 3–5 quarts and has enough space for 2–4 servings of food. This means that it could hold two chicken breasts, or roughly, one pound of meat. If you’re looking to cook a whole chicken, you’ll want to use an air fryer that is at least one quart larger than the weight of the chicken. For instance, a four-pound chicken would fit in a five-quart air fryer.

Can you stack chicken in the air fryer?

While most air fryers have a maximum fill line, it’s best not to stack chicken up until you reach that point. Air circulation is key to getting the crispy chicken you crave, and stacking meat limits air flow, often resulting in unevenly cooked meat. Stick to baking a single layer of chicken at a time to get the best results.

We hope this easy guide to baking air fryer chicken inspires your kitchen adventures. Enjoy all that crispy chicken!

Courtney Hamilton is a writer and editor with over seven years' experience in journalism, blogging, communications, and other media. She has written for publications like PaleoHacks, PaleoPlan, The Center for American Progress, OC Weekly, and more. 
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