Crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside, Air Fryer Fried Chicken is the move if you want loads of texture and flavor without dealing with a pot of used oil and a greasy stovetop. It’s all of the yum with less of the fuss! The hardest thing about frying chicken in an air fryer is not eating the crunchy, golden skin before it hits the table.
Why Cook Chicken In An Air Fryer?
An air fryer is just a countertop convection oven with a cute name. It doesn’t actually fry food. Instead, it circulates hot air around whatever’s in the basket, creating a crispy outer layer while keeping the inside moist and tender. There’s no oil splatter all over your stove (or you), no grease-filled pot to scrub, and you only need a small fraction of the oil used in traditional frying. It’s the perfect vehicle for crispy chicken, and the results will absolutely blow your mind.
What You Need To Air Fry Chicken
I butcher a whole chicken because it’s cheaper, but you can fry any kind of chicken you want: wings, breasts, or thighs. Here’s what you’ll need to make crispy Air Fryer Fried Chicken:
- Chicken – this recipe is for 3 pounds of chicken. Use whatever combination you like. If your air fryer basket is small, it’s best to fry similar-sized pieces in batches.
- Buttermilk– is the foundation of your brine. It tenderizes your chicken while also adding tanginess.
- Spices – help build earthy flavor and soft heat. I use smoked paprika, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, and cayenne pepper. Feel free to substitute this mix with three tablespoons of your favorite spice blend.
- Egg – helps the flour mixture stick to your chicken.
- Flour– Helps to build the iconic crispy outer layer of fried chicken.
- Corn Starch– helps deepen the color of the batter as it cooks and creates a crispy texture.
- Baking Powder– Helps create an airy batter with loads of crispy nooks and crannies.
- Oil Spray – you need oil to fry chicken, even in an air fryer. If you don’t have oil spray, put corn oil or vegetable oil in a spray bottle, and use that.
How To Fry Chicken In An Air Fryer
- For deep flavor and juicy, tender results, brine your chicken. Even a short thirty-minute dip will make a huge difference, but if you can, brine it for at least 2 hours.
- Preheat the air fryer. Your air fryer is a countertop oven; like most ovens, you need to preheat it. You may not need to do so for every recipe, but for crispy chicken that’s cooked throughout, it’s a must.
- When you’re ready to fry, shake off the excess brine and thoroughly dredge the chicken in seasoned flour mixed with cornstarch and baking soda. The last two ingredients will help crisp the skin.
- Spray the floured chicken with enough oil to cover it completely, once before cooking and once mid-cook.
- Use a lower temperature (300°F) to give the chicken time to cook without burning the batter, then increase the heat (400°F) to finish cooking the chicken and create a crispy, golden outer layer.
- Cook the chicken to 160°F. The chicken will continue to cook after it’s out of the air fryer and that carry-over cooking will take you to the recommended 165°F.
How Long Do I Air Fry Chicken?
Your cook time depends on the cuts of chicken used. The thicker the cut, the longer it takes to reach the required 165°F. Use a thermometer and pull the chicken once it hits 160°F. It will continue to cook outside of the air-fryer, and the temperature will reach 165°F. If you do not have a thermometer, cook the chicken until the juices run clear.
How To Reheat Air Fryer Fried Chicken
Try not to leave the chicken out at room temperature for longer than two hours. Harmful bacteria start to multiply soon after. Refrigerate fried chicken in an air-tight container for up to 3 days. Freeze it for up to 4 months, though the sooner you eat it, the tastier it will be. To reheat it, bring it up to room temperature. Preheat your air fryer to 350°F and cook the chicken until it’s steaming, about 5 minutes.
Air Fryer Fried Chicken
- 3 lbs chicken, about 10 pieces* $7.10
For the brine:
- 2 tsp smoked paprika $0.20
- 1/2 tsp black pepper $0.05
- 2 tsp garlic powder $0.20
- 2 tsp onion powder $0.20
- 2 tsp oregano $0.20
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper $0.10
- 1 Tbsp salt $0.15
- 1 cup buttermilk* $0.32
- 1 egg, beaten $0.17
For breading the chicken:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour $0.28
- 1/4 cup cornstarch $0.12
- 2 tsp baking powder $0.12
- 1 tsp salt $0.08
- 1/2 tsp onion powder $0.05
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder $0.05
- 2 oz cooking spray $1.00
- Mix the smoked paprika, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, cayenne pepper, salt, buttermilk, and egg in a large bowl.
- Place chicken in the bowl and mix until all of the chicken is covered. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the chicken. Marinate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, preferably 2 hours.
- Preheat your air-fryer to 300°F. Mix flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt, onion powder, and garlic powder in a large bowl. Remove one piece of chicken from the brine, shake off the excess brine, and dredge it in the flour mixture. Set it aside and repeat with the remaining pieces of chicken.
- Spray cooking oil in your air fryer basket until it is completely covered. Place the chicken in the basket in a single layer, making sure no pieces overlap. Spray the top of the chicken with cooking oil until thoroughly covered. Cook for 20 minutes at 300°F.
- Carefully flip the chicken pieces so as not to destroy the crust. Spray the top surface of the chicken again with cooking oil until thoroughly covered.
- Cook for 15 to 20 minutes at 400°F, or until chicken skin is crispy and golden and the internal temperature is 160°F. Insert the thermometer in the thickest part of the chicken without touching the bone. Then try not to eat that crispy skin before serving. Forgive yourself if you fail miserably!
See how we calculate recipe costs here.
*We butchered a whole 3 pound chicken into 10 pieces, but feel free to use 3 pounds of whatever pre-cut chicken you desire, thighs, breasts, wings etc.
How to Make Air Fryer Fried Chicken – Step by Step Photos
Mix 2 teaspoons smoked paprika, 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, 2 teaspoons onion powder, 2 teaspoons garlic powder, 2 teaspoons oregano, 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1 tablespoon salt, 1 cup buttermilk, and 1 beaten egg in a large bowl.
Place 10 pieces of chicken in the bowl and mix until all of the chicken is covered. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the chicken. Marinate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, preferably 2 hours.
Preheat your air-fryer to 300°F. Mix 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1/4 cup cornstarch, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon onion powder, and 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder in a large bowl. Remove one piece of chicken from the brine, shake off the excess brine, and dredge it in flour mixture. For a very thick layer of breading, dunk the chicken in the brine again and dredge it in the flour mixture, shaking off the excess. Set it aside and repeat with the remaining pieces of chicken.
Spray cooking oil in your air fryer basket until it is completely covered. Place the chicken in the basket in a single layer making sure no pieces are overlapping. Spray the top of the chicken with cooking oil until thoroughly covered. Cook for 20 minutes at 300°F.
Carefully flip the chicken pieces so as not to destroy the crust. Spray the top surface of the chicken again with cooking oil until thoroughly covered.
Cook for 15 to 20 minutes at 400°F, or until chicken skin is crispy and golden and the internal temperature is 160°F. It might take a few minutes longer, depending on the size of your air-fryer basket and the amount of chicken in the basket. Insert the thermometer in the thickest part of the chicken without touching the bone. Then try not to eat that crispy skin before serving. Forgive yourself if you fail miserably!