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Making a Whole Chicken in the Air Fryer Is the Best Cooking Hack I've Found all Year

Air fryer chicken cooks quicker, with crispier skin and juicer meat. The only question is, What took me so long?

David Watsky Senior Editor / Home and Kitchen
David lives in Brooklyn where he's spent more than a decade covering all things edible, including meal kit services, food subscriptions, kitchen tools and cooking tips. Before, during and after earning his BA from Northeastern, he toiled in nearly every aspect of the food business, including as a line cook in Rhode Island where he once made a steak sandwich for Lamar Odom. Right now he's likely somewhere stress-testing a blender or the best way to cook bacon. Anything with sesame is his all-time favorite food this week.
Expertise Kitchen tools | Appliances | Food science | Subscriptions | Meal kits
David Watsky
3 min read
roasted chicken on cutting board

This beautiful bird took less than 50 minutes and almost no effort to make. 

David Watsky/CNET

When it comes to cooking hacks and kitchen tricks, I'm always ears-open to receive. The best cooking hacks are time- or effort-saving but still produce optimal results, and cooking a whole chicken in the air fryer is the best kitchen hack I've discovered all year. Speed-roasting a whole chicken results in crispier skin and juicier meat and takes about 20% less time than using a large oven

In short: I can't stop making these delicious birds.

ingredients for roast chicken on table

Air fryer chicken is one of the easiest and most satisfying recipes I've made lately.

David Watsky/CNET

I'm well versed in the joys of air fryer cooking, but air fryer chicken might be the best discovery I've made while tinkering with the speedy convection cooker. 

Why air fryer chicken works so well

The secret to great roasted chicken is high heat while not overcooking the bird for a crispy skin with moist, tender meat. An air fryer is the perfect vessel for this method since it envelops the food inside with hot quickly moving air and manages to crisp outer layers better than a full-size convection oven that features more widely dispersed heat. The smaller air fryer cooking chamber also means more consistent temps throughout a single session.

Air fryers are typically smaller than wall ovens, but many models are capable of handling a 3- or 4-pound chicken. I cooked a full 4-pound roaster and it fit comfortably inside my Dreo 6-quart ChefMaker smart air fryer oven.

Read moreGrill, Bye. Make Your Next Burger in an Air Fryer and Thank Me Later

What size air fryer do you need to make a whole chicken?

This fancy souped-up air fryer has a steam feature and smart cooking programs, but I didn't need or use them. I cooked the chicken on basic air fryer mode at 360 degrees Fahrenheit for 55 minutes, flipping the bird (ha!) after 25. You won't need a fancy air fryer, either. This $120 Instant air fryer (on sale for $90) will get the job done. As will this $60 Gourmia model. 

There was minimal prep in this air fryer chicken recipe, which I adapted from a few found online and my go-to oven-roasted chicken recipe. I whisked together a quick marinade with olive oil, grain mustard, salt, pepper and some of my favorite Mediterranean seasoning blend. I stuffed the chicken with half of an orange, some green onion and a bunch of fresh parsley that was down to its final days in the fridge.

roasted chicken in air fryer

About 10 minutes before I pulled it from the air fryer.

David Watsky/CNET

What to serve with air fryer chicken

I served the chicken with rice made quickly in my trusty rice cooker, but I could have just as easily dropped some root vegetables in the air fryer with the chicken and had myself with a full dinner to feed four or five, all cooked in the confines of one nonstick air fryer basket.

It's easy to burn your air fryer chicken so pay close attention

My only suggestion when making an air fryer bird is to keep a close eye on the chicken, especially toward the end. The heat from an air fryer is intense and could easily burn the skin if you have it cranked up too high or leave it in too long. If your skin is getting brown faster than the chicken is coming to temp inside, pull back on the heat and continue monitoring.

You'll know the meat is cooked when a meat probe reads 160 degrees Fahrenheit when plunged into the thickest part of the breast.

uncooked chicken rubbed with marinade in air fryer basket

You'll need at least a 5-quart air fryer to make a roasted chicken.

David Watsky/CNET

What you'll need to make whole chicken in the air fryer

  • 4-pound chicken, giblets removed
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons grain mustard
  • Seasoning blend (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Lemon or orange
  • Fresh herbs
chicken in air fryer basket

Almost done...

David Watsky/CNET

How to make air fryer roast chicken

  1. Preheat air fryer to 360 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Whisk olive oil, mustard, seasoning blend, salt and pepper together
  3. Rub mustard marinade over the entire chicken
  4. Place chicken in air fryer basket breast down on top of the wire rack and cook for 25 minutes
  5. Flip the bird breast up and cook for the remaining 25 minutes
  6. Remove when juices run clear or an internal thermometer reads 160 degrees Fahrenheit
  7. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving and pour juices from the air fryer basket over sliced chicken
roasted chicken on cutting board

There it is. 

David Watsky/CNET