If you’re planning on making chickens with your air fryer, you should know how to cook chicken in an air fryer. Cooking for the appropriate amount of time will ensure that your chicken comes out juicy and delicious rather than drying out or burning.
Fortunately, it’s not as difficult as it may seem to get the timings right. Here’s how to do it.
Steps to Take Before Cooking
The first thing that you should do before cooking is heat the air fryer to the proper temperature. Specifically, set it at 375°F (190°C) for five minutes.
Preheating ensures that your food will begin to cook the moment you put it in. By ignoring this step, you’ll run the risk of getting soggy chicken at the end.
Marinating the meat before cooking can drastically improve its taste and quality. However, a lot of people prefer chicken’s natural flavor without extra marination, so this step is optional.
For those who are looking for a nice marinade, the following Italian-esque recipe will do the trick nicely.
The first ingredient is Italian seasoning, which is a flavor-boosting blend of several kinds of herbs and spices. A full mix includes oregano, thyme, rosemary, Italian parsley (flat-leaved parsley), and basil. There are a few recipes that also call for adding marjoram, though you can generally go without it.
Mix the seasoning in with olive oil, salt, black pepper, and turmeric and add a dash of lemon juice. If you like your chicken with a light spice, you can also throw in a bit of chilli powder and paprika.
To get the best flavors and texture out of this marinade, the chicken should be steeped in it for five to six hours. As a result, you really should think ahead and plan the meal out accordingly. If you’re short on time, about 10 to 30 minutes will still significantly improve the overall taste.
Things to Know About Chicken Cuts Before Cooking
Depending on the cut (breast, thigh, etc.), the time to cook will also differ. This is because each part of the chicken is different in size, fat content, and muscle type. Thus, each cut will have a different optimal cook time.
The larger the cut you are attempting to serve up, the longer it will take to cook. Naturally, that is because there is more skin, fat, meat, and bone in the way. The heat of the air fryer will take longer to fully penetrate the chicken and cook it all the way through.
2. Fat Content
Fattier cuts like wings take longer to cook because the heat needs time to break down the fat layer. There isn’t much you can do about the fatty cut itself. However, if you want to either reduce cooking time or reduce your overall fat intake: remove the skin. The skin contains more fat than any other part of the chicken. Fortunately, the skin can be easily removed if need be.
Keep in mind, though, that while chicken skin is indeed very fatty, most of the fats there are unsaturated fat. Unsaturated fat — unlike trans fat and saturated fat — is an essential part of a healthy diet. It helps reduce risks of disease and lowers your cholesterol level. So contrary to popular belief, it might actually be quite healthy to keep the skin on.
3. Muscle Type
Poultry is generally known as a type of “white meat”. However, chicken contains two different sorts of meat: white meat and dark meat. Each has markedly different properties and nutritional content.
White meat is lean and does not contain a lot of fat. As a result, it has fewer calories and is the healthier of the two. It can be found in parts of the chicken that don’t get a lot of exercise or activity like the breast or the wings.
Dark meat, on the other hand, exists in parts like the thighs that are more active. They are generally fatter and juicier. Because dark meat contains a higher percentage of oxygen-storing myoglobin, it is also an excellent source of iron and zinc.
In terms of cooking time, white meat cooks quicker because of its low fat content. Dark meat, on the other hand, takes more time because it’s fattier.
How Long to Cook Chicken in Air Fryer
1. Chicken Wings in Air Fryer
The meat of a chicken wing is considered white, which is lean and not fatty by itself. However, because the wings are where fat deposits get concentrated, they are one of the fattiest parts of a chicken, second only to the skin.
Thus, you need to cook them for much longer than other parts. The following instructions are for a single large, defrosted wing (about 4.85 ounces) with bone in and skin on.
Because the fryer needs time to break apart the fat, cooking usually takes 26 to 30 minutes. If you want to crispen the skin to make it more appetizing, toss the basket in for another 10 minutes.
Once the cooking is done, use a digital thermometer to check the chicken’s core temperature. It should be at least 165°F. According to the USDA, 165°F is the safest temperature for poultry. Bacteria cannot live or reproduce at this temperature, so you’re simultaneously tenderizing and sanitizing the food.
Also, while you’re at it, make sure that you cook it using low heat. While higher heat is going to cook the wings quicker, it can also dry the meat out too much. That will leave you with chewy rather than tender and succulent meat.
Check out our: How to Reheat Chicken Wings
2. Chicken Thighs in Air Fryer
Chicken thighs are considered dark meat, which is fattier than white meat. They provide more calories per gram from the higher fat content and more iron and zinc due to oxygenation. Dark meat like thighs are juicier, too.
Because of the higher fat content, your fryer will take longer to cook the thigh. Don’t be surprised when some recipes tell you to cook for 25 minutes. It may even occasionally take up to 30 minutes.
An 8.75-ounce thigh with the bones and skin on will take about 25 – 30 minutes to cook.
Place the rounder side of the thigh down and cook for about 15 minutes. Then flip to the other side and cook for another 10 – 15 minutes until its core temperature reaches 165°F.
If you have a smaller, filleted cut (about 6 ounces), 10 – 15 minutes in the fryer will suffice. The techniques are the same as cooking bone-in, skin-on thighs. Only this time, the rounder-side cooking phase should only take about 10 minutes. The other side will only need an extra 5 minutes to cook.
Allow the chicken to rest for about 2 minutes before serving.
3. Chicken Leg Quarters
Chicken leg quarters are quite popular among cooks. That is because you essentially get a 2-in-1: a thigh plus a drumstick in a single cut. A leg quarter is the most time-intensive cut of the chicken to prepare. Not only is it a type of dark meat (thus, fatty, which extends cooking time), it is also larger than other cuts.
Most leg quarters are sold with the skin on. While it’s going to give the chicken a nice, crispy texture, the skin can also add cooking time. If you don’t like eating the skin or just want the chicken to be ready as soon as possible, feel free to remove the skin.
One 9-ounce leg quarter (bone-in, skin-on) will take about 30 to 35 minutes to cook.
The first 20 minutes are devoted to cooking the leg quarter with the skin side down. That’s the part that’s trickiest for the fryer to cook. After 20 minutes, flip the chicken and cook for another 10 to 15 minutes until the thermometer reads 165°F.
A 7-ounce filleted leg quarter will cook much quicker (only about 10 – 15 minutes). There aren’t many changes in the technique. Rounded-side-down cooking steps can be done in only 5 or 10 minutes. The other 5 minutes can be used to cook the other side to completion.
4. Chicken Tenderloins
Chicken tenderloins (or just “chicken tenders”) are a fan-favorite snack, especially when combined with a nice dipping sauce like honey mustard. If you’ve got enough of them, chicken tenders can even substitute for a full meal.
Chicken tenders are usually filleted and come in small cuts, so they can be cooked very quickly. It also helps that tenders are quite lean, so there’s no significant fat concentration to drag out the cooking time. All in all, expect a 5-minute wait before the tenders are ready.
Cook for 2 ½ minutes, flip, and continue for another 2 ½ minutes until golden brown.
Do not overfill the fryer. Arrange all of the pieces inside the fryer so that there’s ample space for hot air to pass between them. If you have too many to fit in the fryer in one go, separate them into batches to be cooked separately.
Check out our Air Fryer Chicken Tender Recipe
5. Chicken Legs
Chicken drumsticks — essentially the bird’s calves — are the leaner portion of the legs. They will only need about 10 to 15 minutes to be fully cooked in the air fryer. Any longer and you will run the risk of excessively drying out the meat.
For a 4-ounce bone-in skin-on chicken leg, the fryer will usually take 15 minutes to do its job. Cook the leg for 10 minutes, flip, and cook for another 5 minutes. Use the thermometer to check the core temperature. If it reads 165°F or higher, pull it out of the fryer, let it sit for 2 minutes, and serve.
A filleted chicken leg (about 3.15 ounces) takes roughly 10 minutes to cook since it lacks the thick, hard-to-cook skin. Techniques are the same, but either side of the chicken leg can get an equal 5 minutes to minimize drying.
See our perfect, crispy-on-the-outside chicken legs to achieve a mouthwatering dish.
6. Chicken Breast in Air Fryer
The two halves of a chicken’s breast are often the most desirable and expensive cuts that can be extracted from a chicken. They have a very low fat content (thus, lower calories) and are an excellent source of lean protein and important minerals.
Most of the fat found in a cut of chicken breast is concentrated in the skin. As a result, the majority of breasts sold in butcher shops and supermarkets are skinless and boneless.
Because of its leanness, the breast is also one of the trickiest to cook. It is not uncommon for even seasoned chefs to undercook or accidentally overcook and dry it out.
A single 7.5-ounce skinless chicken breast takes approximately 15 minutes to cook in the air fryer.
Set the chicken rounded-side-down inside the fryer and cook for 10 minutes. Once this initial time has elapsed, open up the fryer and flip the breast. Cook for another 5 minutes, then check the core temperature for a reading of 165°F. If the temperature is still not optimal, keep cooking for another two to five minutes until it’s ready.
After cooking, transfer the chicken breasts to a plate and let them rest for two minutes before serving.
We hope this short guide on how long to cook chicken in an air fryer has helped! Go ahead and whip up something nice for yourself and your family with the air fryer.
Luna Regina is an accomplished writer and author who dedicates her career to empowering home cooks and making cooking effortless for everyone. She is the founder of HealthyKitchen101.com and HealthyRecipes101.com, where she works with her team to develop easy, nutritious recipes and help aspiring cooks choose the right kitchen appliances.