How do you air fry a whole chicken? Just plop it in there

air fried chicken
Photo: Dennis Lee

Here at The Takeout, we appreciate our air fryers very much. While we have used these appliances to make vegetable-heavy dishes, desserts, and even gnocchi, we haven’t focused nearly as much on how well it can cook meat. My fiancée got me an air fryer for my birthday (as some of you may recall, my previous air fryer died because of a giant sweet potato), and I made sure to ask for a bigger model this time. In fact, I asked for one that was big enough to fit an entire chicken in it.

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Cosori air fryer
Photo: Dennis Lee

So, lo and behold, I got the Cosori Air Fryer Max XL, which has 5.8 quarts of space. If you want to know how I decided on this one, it’s probably the same way you all do it: By reading lots of reviews. This version is the one without any of the extra bells and whistles, and that’s just fine by me.

I love roast chicken in all of its forms, and the fact that I could in fact fit a whole chicken into this thing is such a delight to me. I don’t hide the fact that I love store-bought rotisserie chicken, and though I know I probably can’t perfectly replicate the fluid-injected version from the store, I wanted to see if roasting one in the air fryer was a sure bet. I can report that making a whole chicken in an air fryer is not only possible, but easy, delicious, and better than what I make in a conventional oven. 

raw chicken in air fryer
Photo: Dennis Lee

This is a three-pound chicken. If you plan to air fry, I’d err on the side of buying a smaller bird until you get to know your device. Some models are shaped like toaster ovens, and even come with an impressive rotisserie contraption on the inside, but I figured (correctly) that the basket model is just fine. The basket is raised above the bottom of the machine so that hot air circulates entirely around whatever you’re cooking, and it helps to separate the grease that drips off the food. My guess is that my air fryer can hold up to a four-pound chicken comfortably, and anything beyond that, I’d revert to the conventional oven method.

First, preheat your air fryer for a few minutes. Mine has a preheat function that picks a time for you automatically (which auto-adjusts depending on the temperature, but typically 4-5 minutes). While it’s preheating, season your chicken. My preferred rub is a simple combination of salt, black pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder, because I always have those things on hand, but pre-mixed rubs work well too.

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Then carefully grease the basket. While it’s easier to use canned cooking spray, some bloggers say that the aerosol versions will eventually strip away the nonstick coating. I can’t vouch for this personally, because I haven’t had my air fryers for long enough, but I’m erring on the side of caution for now.

You’re fine swiping the inside of the air fryer basket with an oiled paper towel or you can get a mechanical spray bottle just for oil. Everyone in the (delightful) Cosori air fryer Facebook group seems to agree that avocado oil is best due to its high smoke point, which is well beyond the max temp of the air fryer.

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Then plop your seasoned bird right in there, breast side down (you’ll be flipping it later). Set the air fryer for 30 minutes on 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and go play for half an hour. Starting with the breast side down keeps that breast meat from cooking too quickly, as the heating element on my model sits above the basket, and the convection fan blasts the heat directly downward.

Trussing the legs with kitchen twine is optional. I don’t truss because I’m lazy and I haven’t seen any negative results from not doing it, but if you like tying knots, go for it right before you put the raw chicken in.

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half cooked chicken
30 minutes into cooking
Photo: Dennis Lee

After the first 30 minutes, this is what the chicken will look like (above). You can tell the skin’s already getting crisp at this point. Use tongs and gently flip the whole thing over, taking care not to puncture the skin if possible (it’ll probably happen; forgive yourself), and turn the air fryer on again for 25 minutes at 350 degrees.

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That’s honestly it. Once you’re done, you’re done. In order to be completely sure it’s done, you’ll want to use a thermometer and check to see if the meat is at 165 degrees; that’s the only guarantee that it has cooked long enough. There are ways to eyeball a cooked whole chicken for doneness, but none of them are as certain, or as safe, as a meat thermometer.

The finished product
The finished product
Photo: Dennis Lee
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You might have done the math here and figured out that the air fryer method isn’t necessarily faster—in fact, it takes about the same amount of time as roasting a chicken in the conventional oven. But the conventional oven doesn’t have that same steady blast of hot air circulating around your chicken. That means the air fryer chicken will not only be uniformly cooked, but the skin will be crisp all the way around. If you still prefer to use the conventional oven, food writer Helen Rosner’s secret to perfect chicken skin is ingenious.

Quick note: the finished chicken in my photos isn’t burnt on top, as it might appear; I accidentally sprinkled too much rub on that part of the chicken, and it happened to be closest to the heating coil inside my air fryer. I can assure you that the entire thing was delicious and juicy all the way through, from white meat to dark meat.

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TL;DR Air Fried Whole Chicken

Serves 2-4

  • 1 whole chicken, 3-4 lb.
  • Salt and pepper (or rub of choice)

Preheat air fryer to 350 Fahrenheit for 5 minutes. In the meantime, season the chicken to your liking.

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Place seasoned chicken in the (greased) air fryer basket, breast side down, and roast for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, flip chicken and roast for additional 25-30 minutes. Use a meat thermometer to make sure the chicken is at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit, then remove from air fryer. Let it rest on a cutting board for 10-15 minutes, then go to town.

Staff writer at The Takeout. Also: Saveur Humor Blog Award Winner, professional pizza maker, and insufferable troublemaker.

DISCUSSION

Great. I’ll take four fried chickens and a coke.