The Perfect Fried Chicken: Mastering The Art With An Air Fryer

fried chicken air fryer recipe

Fried chicken has always been a favorite comfort food for many, but traditionally, deep-frying it can be a messy and unhealthy endeavor. However, thanks to the invention of air fryers, we can now enjoy deliciously crispy, golden fried chicken without the guilt. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the fascinating food science behind frying, culinary details, selection of ingredients, necessary cleaning techniques, step-by-step preparation instructions, helpful tips, variations to spice up your recipe, essential doneness checks, and finally, the coveted perfect fried chicken air fryer recipe!

Understanding the Food Science of Frying:

Before diving into the details of making fried chicken in an air fryer, it’s important to understand the science behind the cooking process. When we fry chicken, the hot oil causes moisture inside the meat to evaporate rapidly. This creates steam which not only cooks the chicken but also forms a thin layer of crust made up of moisture, flour coatings, and other ingredients. The Maillard reaction then takes place, resulting in the golden brown color and delicious flavor.

Culinary Details:

  1. Choosing the right chicken: Opt for skin-on, bone-in chicken pieces, such as drumsticks, bone-in thighs, or wings. These cuts retain more moisture and offer better flavor.
  2. Marinade or brine: To enhance the tenderness and flavor, marinating the chicken in buttermilk or a seasoned brine for a few hours or overnight is highly recommended.
  3. Coating and breading: A typical Southern-style coating may consist of flour, cornstarch, spices, and baking powder. The baking powder helps create a crisper texture by increasing the alkalinity and pH balance during frying.

Selection and Cleaning of Air Fryer:

fried chicken

  1. Choose the right air fryer: Look for a model that offers sufficient capacity to accommodate your chicken pieces comfortably. Options with adjustable temperature control and pre-set cooking functions are ideal for various recipes.
  2. Clean the air fryer: Before starting, ensure your air fryer is clean and free from any lingering grease or food particles. Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for specific cleaning guidelines.

Preparation Steps:

fried chicken

Step 1: Preheating the Air Fryer:

To achieve the perfect crispy fried chicken, preheating the air fryer is essential. Set the temperature to 400°F (200°C) and allow it to heat for about 5 minutes.

Step 2: Coating the Chicken:

  1. Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade or brine, allowing any excess liquid to drip off.
  2. In a shallow dish, combine the flour, cornstarch, spices, and baking powder, ensuring an even distribution of flavors.
  3. Roll each chicken piece in the coating mixture, pressing it gently to ensure a thick and even coating.
  4. Shake off any excess coating and place the chicken pieces on a wire rack to rest for a few minutes before air frying.
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Step 3: Preparing the Air Fryer Basket:

  1. Lightly brush or spray the air fryer basket with cooking oil to prevent sticking.
  2. Arrange the coated chicken pieces in a single layer in the basket, ensuring they do not touch each other. You may need to cook in batches, depending on the size of your air fryer.

Step 4: Air Frying the Chicken:

  1. Place the loaded air fryer basket in the preheated air fryer. It’s important not to overcrowd the basket to allow for proper air circulation and even cooking.
  2. Set the temperature to 375°F (190°C) and the timer to 20 minutes.
  3. Halfway through the cooking time, carefully remove the basket and give it a gentle shake or turn the chicken pieces using tongs. This ensures even browning on all sides.
  4. Return the basket to the air fryer and continue cooking until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) while maintaining an appealing golden color.

Tips and Tricks for Perfect Fried Chicken:

close up view of air fried fried chicken

  • Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the chicken, ensuring it’s cooked through.
  • Experiment with different spice blends in your coating mixture to create unique flavor profiles.
  • For an extra crispy crust, spray a light coating of cooking oil on the chicken before air frying.
  • Resist the temptation to open the air fryer frequently, as this may cause heat loss and uneven cooking.
  • When cooking in batches, keep the cooked chicken warm in a low-temperature oven while the remaining pieces cook.

Delicious Variations to Spice up Your Chicken:

close up view of air fried fried chicken

  1. Honey Mustard Glaze: Brush on a honey mustard glaze during the last few minutes of air frying for a delectable sweet and tangy twist.
  2. Spicy Buffalo: Toss the cooked chicken pieces in a spicy buffalo sauce once they are done for a fiery flavor.
  3. Korean Style: Coat the chicken in a mixture of gochujang (Korean chili paste), soy sauce, ginger, and garlic before air frying for a delicious Korean-inspired fried chicken experience.

Essential Doneness Checks:

  1. Internal Temperature: Always ensure the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) to guarantee it is safe to consume.
  2. Crispiness: The coating should be golden brown and crispy, indicating that the chicken is cooked and ready to be enjoyed.
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The Perfect Fried Chicken Air Fryer Recipe:


  • 6 chicken drumsticks
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • Cooking oil spray


  1. In a large bowl, combine the drumsticks and buttermilk. Make sure each piece is well coated. Cover the bowl and let it marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or overnight for best results.
  2. In a shallow dish, mix the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, garlic powder, paprika, salt, and black pepper until well combined.
  3. Take each drumstick out of the buttermilk, allowing any excess marinade to drip off. Roll the drumsticks one by one in the flour mixture, pressing gently to adhere the coating evenly.
  4. Preheat the air fryer to 400°F (200°C) for 5 minutes.
  5. Lightly brush or spray the air fryer basket with cooking oil.
  6. Arrange the coated drumsticks in a single layer in the basket, making sure they don’t touch each other.
  7. Place the basket in the preheated air fryer and cook at 375°F (190°C) for 20 minutes, flipping the drumsticks halfway through.
  8. Check the internal temperature of the chicken using a meat thermometer – it should read 165°F (74°C).
  9. Once done, transfer the drumsticks to a wire rack and let them rest for a few minutes.
  10. Serve hot and enjoy the deliciously crispy and tender air-fried chicken drumsticks!


Mastering the art of making perfectly crispy fried chicken using an air fryer takes time and practice, but the results are well worth it. By understanding the food science behind frying, choosing the right ingredients, properly cleaning the air fryer, following the step-by-step preparation instructions, and experimenting with variations, you can create a mouthwatering dish that will impress your family and friends. With this comprehensive guide and the perfect fried chicken air fryer recipe, you are well on your way to culinary success!

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    FAQS On Fried Chicken Air Fryer Recipe

    What Are The Ingredients Needed To Make Fried Chicken In An Air Fryer?

    To make delicious fried chicken in an air fryer, you will need chicken pieces (such as drumsticks, thighs, or breast), flour, eggs, bread crumbs, and your choice of seasonings and spices.

    Can I Use Boneless Chicken For This Recipe?

    Yes, boneless chicken can be used for this recipe. You can use chicken breast or thigh fillets for a boneless option.

    How Long Should I Preheat The Air Fryer Before Cooking The Chicken?

    It is recommended to preheat the air fryer at 400°F for about 5 minutes before adding the chicken. Preheating helps to ensure even cooking and a crispier texture.

    How Long Does It Take To Cook Fried Chicken In An Air Fryer?

    The cooking time for fried chicken in an air fryer can vary depending on the size and thickness of the chicken pieces. However, a general guideline is to cook at 400°F for 20-25 minutes, flipping the chicken halfway through the cooking time.

    How Can I Ensure That The Fried Chicken Is Crispy And Golden Brown?

    To achieve a crispy and golden brown exterior, you can lightly spray or brush the chicken with oil before placing it in the air fryer. Additionally, flipping the chicken halfway through the cooking process can help to ensure even browning on all sides.

    Can I Use A Marinade Or Brine For The Chicken Before Air Frying?

    Yes, marinating or brining the chicken before air frying can add flavor and moisture to the meat. However, be sure to pat the chicken dry before coating it with flour and bread crumbs to ensure a crispy exterior.

    What Are Some Recommended Seasonings And Spices For The Fried Chicken?

    You can customize the seasonings and spices to your preference, but popular choices for fried chicken include salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne pepper for a bit of heat. Feel free to experiment with different flavor combinations to suit your taste.