Welcome to AirFryDay, where — you guessed it —every Friday Mashable covers the latest trends, dispenses advice, and reviews recipes for your air fryer.


The fried chicken wars have been raging for years now, with no end in sight. You know, Popeyes vs. Chick-fil-A, that whole deal?

And, to be fair, sometimes there’s nothing quite as delicious as a fried chicken sandwich. What’s not to love?

I cook a lot and, on occasion, I deep fry chicken. Not to toot my horn, but if I’m being honest, my fried chicken is good as hell. I’ve had family sheepishly request it like “Tim…would you mind maybe frying…”

Here: Gaze upon my works, ye mighty — which were deep fried in a ton of oil in a Dutch oven — and despair.

So, when my editor suggested we attempt to homemake an air fried chicken sandwich for AirFryday, I was all about it.

The question was, could air frying compare to its deep fried cousin? The short answer: not really. The slightly longer answer? Kind of, especially if convenience matters to you.

When I make regular fried chicken, I roughly follow this amazing Lang Whitaker recipe at GQ, with modifications here and there. The very basic idea is you marinate boneless, skinless chicken thighs in buttermilk, dredge in seasoned flour using the marinade as binder, then fry. The recipe my boss suggested as an air fryer baseline — a Chick-fil-A dupe — involved a similar process.

Basically it called for marinating in a mixture of pickle juice and buttermilk, dredging seasoned flour, then air frying. I effectively took a mixture of the air fryer recipe, the GQ recipe, what my boss does, and what I do, to test out air frying a chicken sandwich. The result was very good, if not quite as crispy or tasty as a deep fried chicken sandwich. But, in a pinch, it’s a tasty meal. And hey, maybe it’s even a little be healthier for you. At least you won’t be left with a huge pot of nasty oil at the end.

Ingredients:

  • Boneless, skinless chicken thighs (I made four because all the grocery store had was a 4-pack. But you can scale up or down as needed.)
  • Buttermilk, roughly 2 to 3 cups, depending on how much chicken you’re making.
  • Pickle juice, about 1 to 2 cups, again depending on how much chicken you need to marinade.
  • Hot sauce. Any kind will do.
  • Garlic, peeled, roughly chopped.
  • Flour, at least two cups, probably more.
  • Nonstick spray. You absolutely need this.
  • Salt, pepper, and other favorite seasonings. I use garlic powder, chili powder, paprika, and cayenee.
  • Potato rolls.
  • Pickle slices.
  • Optional ingredients: corn starch for dredge. Mayo, mustard, ketchup, sriracha, chopped pickles for sauce.

How to make fried chicken in an air fryer

1. Marinate the chicken

The basics: buttermilk, pickle juice, garlic, hot sauce.

Because it was convenient for me, I marinated my chicken overnight. I’d say give yourself at least an hour, and I don’t think you can overdo it. I started the marinade with a base of one-third pickle juice and two-thirds buttermilk. This will help keep the chicken juicy and give it that briny taste folks love. It will also later act as a binder for the seasoned flour.

A bunch of garlic in pickle juice.
A bunch of garlic in pickle juice.

To that liquid mixture, I added a whole mess of garlic cloves — a scientific measure — that I roughly chopped in half to release some of the flavor. Then I dumped a bunch of hot sauce (use whatever, but I like Valentina Extra Hot) into the mixture. I added enough hot sauce to turn the marinade pink, but you do as much or as little you prefer. I like my chicken sandwiches spicy.

The marinade, now with buttermilk and hot sauce. From here you'd mix it all up then add your chicken.
The marinade, now with buttermilk and hot sauce. From here you’d mix it all up then add your chicken.

From there, plop as many boneless, skinless chicken thighs as your heart desires in the marinade.

There are a few reasons for using boneless, skinless thighs. One: Boneless thighs will cook faster than bone-in thighs, allowing the chicken to cook through while not burning the crust. Two: Thighs are superior to breasts and will stay juicier. Three: You do not need chicken skin for this recipe.

From there, refrigerate until you’re ready to air fry some chicken.

2. Prepare your

OK, sorry for the French lesson, but I’m a big believer in the cooking term mise en place, which basically means prepping everything before you cook. For this recipe that means:

  • Toast your buns: I just tossed them in a preheating air fryer for a few minutes and it worked fine
  • Place pickles on one side of a toasted bun.
  • Make a sauce, if you desire, and put it on your buns
  • Prep your seasoned flour mixture, including a bunch of salt, pepper, and whatever else your heart desires

For the quick sauce, I whisked together mayo, finely chopped pickles, sriracha, Valentina, ketchup, and mustard to make a spicy, fake aioli. It was tasty.

Mise en place in action. On the left, flour with seasoning before mixing it in. You need lots of seasoning, trust me. In the middle, the components of a sauce. On the right, the finished sauce.
Mise en place in action. On the left, flour with seasoning before mixing it in. You need lots of seasoning, trust me. In the middle, the components of a sauce. On the right, the finished sauce.

Now the flour. In a large bowl, I combined more flour than I’d ever think I’d need to coat my thighs, tons of salt (seriously, more salt than you think), black pepper, garlic powder, chili powder, paprika, and lots of cayenne because I like it hot. I also tossed in some corn starch because I was low on flour and corn starch will help you get an extra crispy crust when you’re not deep frying. You can season with whatever you prefer, but it’s key to remember that, beyond the marinade, this flour mixture is how you’re seasoning your chicken. Season, season, season.

Here’s how my prepped plates looked after all my mise en place was knocked out.

All that's missing is the chicken.
All that’s missing is the chicken.

3. Dredge your chicken

Piece by piece, take your thighs and dredge them in flour. This is not a delicate process. You basically want to push the flour into every nook and cranny of the chicken.

Chicken, before getting flour'd up.
Chicken, before getting flour’d up.

The marinade should absorb the seasoned flour and your fingers should be a mess. The better you adhere this flour, the better your sandwich will turn out.

You want those suckers to look like this. Shake off any excess flour.

Find the nooks and crannies. Really get in there.
Find the nooks and crannies. Really get in there.

4. Preheat the air fryer to 340 degrees

While the air fryer preheats, do dishes. Clean as you go and life will be far easier.

5. Place your chicken in the air fryer

Wait, wait, wait! Did you spray the your basket? Take nonstick spray and blast your cooking basket and/or grate. Then, right as you lay down your chicken on the grate, spray the chicken itself. You might loose some excess flour in this process, and it might make a little mess, but it’s better than losing your crispy coating.

Here’s what the chicken looks like in the basket, sprayed to all hell.

Doesn't look pretty, but the more nonstick the better.
Doesn’t look pretty, but the more nonstick the better.

6. Air fry the chicken for 12 minutes, flipping half way

Ok, from there. Cook the chicken for six minutes at 340 degrees, then flip it — spray the chicken again — and cook the other side for six minutes at 340 degrees.

Note: All air fryers are different. Treat this as a general guide. For reference, I have an Instant Pot six-quart air fryer, which just barely fit four thighs.

Here’s what the chicken looked like after 12 minutes in the air fryer.

The chicken is pretty much cooked through. But the crust obviously needs more time.
The chicken is pretty much cooked through. But the crust obviously needs more time.

6. Blast the chicken with heat

OK, so it’s been 12 minutes and the chicken doesn’t look super crispy. Don’t worry. We’re going to blast it with heat.

But first, use a meat thermometer and check where you’re at. (If you don’t have a meat thermometer, Mashable has a recommendation and, trust me, they’re super useful.)

Chicken need to be cooked to at least 165 degrees, and thighs, because they’re dark meat, can go higher and still taste amazing. My thighs were pretty close to cooked through after just those 12 minutes at 340 degrees. But they weren’t crisp enough.

So, to finish cooking the coating, ramp the heat of the air fryer up to 400 degrees. I cooked the thighs for four minutes on one side, then flipped and cooked for four more minutes.

But keep an eye out and check your chicken more frequently at this point. They could be ready to go at any moment. It may take a few minutes less, or a few minutes more depending on your air fryer, the thickness of your thighs, or other factors.

7. Place a thigh on your prepped bun and eat

Here’s what the chicken looked like, all finished.

Not bad for not using oil.
Not bad for not using oil.

To be honest, you’re almost certainly going to lose some of the crust in the basket. An air fryer circulates hot air, which is great, but it just doesn’t have the heating capacity of hot oil in a deep fryer, which adheres the flour amazingly well. Don’t fret about losing some faux-skin. Such is life.

But look at the finished product, placed on a bun, and ready to go. Pretty dang good.

Lunch.
Lunch.
Mmm.
Mmm.

The verdict

An air fried chicken sandwich can be very tasty. At no point, while eating it, did I think “Wow, this is not good.” But it is not as tasty as deep fried chicken. To be fair, that is a very high bar.

In the end, an air fryer is basically a super-charged convection oven. That can make great faux fried chicken but it is not going to be as good as if you took the same thing and dropped it in hot oil. The air fried version will be healthier, however, and it will save you a ton of time, clean-up, and hassle.

Deep frying takes a lot of prep, and attention, and stress, because you have a bubbling vat of scorching oil inside your home. You may get better chicken, but deep frying also leaves your house smelling like a KFC and then you have to find a way to throw away a bunch of used oil.

I’d say, in an air fryer, you can do a decent job of copying Chick-fil-A, which has a softer, briny coating. You will not be able to recreate the craggy, incredibly crispy coating in the spirit of Popeyes, which is what I achieve while deep frying.

Still, using all the same basic principles, an air fryer can make you a tasty fried chicken sandwich in 20 minutes of cook time. It seems living during the great Fried Chicken Wars does have its advantages.

None


From : pk.mashable.com

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