Ever wanted to air fry a whole chicken? The good news is that if your air fryer is big enough, you can. But should you? I was sceptical. Sure air-fried chicken wings are sensational, but a whole chicken, air fried or otherwise, is a very different beast. Well, it's the same beast, but there's more of it. I took the fowl plunge nonetheless.
I really do love me an air fryer, which is just as well given that they are seemingly all I write about. Living in this weird little air fryer niche that I’ve crafted for myself though, I do come across a lot of suspect marketing. Does an air fryer actually fry? Well, no. Is is healthier? It kinda depends on what you cook in it. I’d previously turned my nose up on the energy-saving claims, too. Yes, it probably uses marginally less energy than an oven, but if you buy one, you’ll have to cook quite a few meals to make your money back in energy savings. And that's especially true if you use T3's labour-intensive best air fryer chips recipe. Sorry about that.
Even so, if there’s one major selling point of the best air fryers list right now, it’s that it will save you from turning on the oven. Although it’s no longer 40 degrees, temperatures are set to rise again, and my fan is still on full blast most nights. So I’m in no rush to pump extra heat into my top-floor flat. Why will an air fryer keep your kitchen cooler than an oven? Well, it’s a lot smaller, which means it will need to create a lot less heat to bring its cooking basket up to temperature. In my experience, it also cooks in a fraction of a time of an oven, meaning you’ll be able to switch it off and crack open a window to cool down your kitchen far sooner.
There are still those dishes you’ll still depend on an oven for though, and until recently (last night, to be exact) I’d assumed that I’d have to wait for the winter months to cook another roast chicken. That’s a shame, because roast chickens are brilliant for stretching out your meal planning and can often provide easy salad toppings long after you’ve served it up next to your air fried roast potatoes – although unless your air fryer is enormous, you may have to settle for using your oven for those.
Can you roast a chicken in an air fryer?
I’m here to tell you the good news, which is that as long as there's room to make it fit, you certainly can an air fry an entire chicken. Whether you want to call it air fried chicken or roast chicken is up to you.
The process of doing a whole chicken in an air fryer is less labour intensive than doing air fried chicken wings but it involves more heavy lifting and the result is definitely closer to roasted chicken than fried, as there's so much more moisture in a whole chicken.
Even so, not only are the results really tasty, cooking also takes less time than a standard oven. Would I do it again? For sure. Although I might feel obliged to break out a second air fryer to cook my potato wedges, which arguably goes against the one-pot cooking ethos of air frying.
How to cook a roast chicken in an air fryer
When I cook a roast chicken in the oven I go all out: trivet, spice rubs, even shoving a lemon up it. For this article, I went back to basics and simply prepped my chicken by rubbing it in some BBQ spice (I was serving with slaw and some flatbreads) and chucking it inside my pre-heated air fryer. I used the Philips Airfryer XXL for this task. As the name suggests, it’s got a lot of internal cooking space, although my small chicken was still a pretty snug fit. I’m not sure if a large one would’ve fit inside it quite so well.
According to Sainsbury’s, this chicken needed to be cooked for an hour and a half. I never listen to those instructions though, because they always leave me with dry meat. If I was cooking inside the oven I’d have popped it in for an hour and 15 minutes and checked on it after an hour to see if it was ready. Given the air fryer’s reputation for speeding up cooking times though, I set the timer for 60 minutes and returned after half an hour to flip the chicken over for crispy skin all-round.
I won’t lie, the turning part was flipping tricky. It took two spatulas and some perseverance to turn the chicken over, and I took a bit of the skin off the top of the chicken as I did it. Probably some meat lifting forks (opens in new tab) would have been a better bet.
I’m not sure if it was worth flipping it, to be honest, because the bottom side of the chicken wasn’t crisp after I finished cooking it. It potentially gave a more evenly-cooked result though, as the chicken was sitting pretty close to the upper heating element of the air fryer.
According to my meat thermometer, the chicken was done after 53 minutes. Very juicy it was too – I was even able to pour out the juices that had gathered in the bottom of the basket and turn them into an improvised sauce for my flatbreads.
Should you cook a roast chicken in an air fryer?
You should definitely give it a go. I’m a convert, speaking as someone who enjoys a roast chicken for a number of dishes and not just a Sunday lunch.
What if you are cooking a Sunday lunch though? Since you’ll probably end up using the oven for at least part of the meal – roasties, stuffing, etc, you would probably be better off popping the chicken in there as well. It cooks well in an air fryer, but it’s more fiddly than piling it onto a roasting tray. However, if you want succulent chicken to go with rice or a salad, air frying is nigh on perfect.
You should also start on the smaller side when choosing the chicken you want to cook. Despite its 6.2 litre capacity, my Philips air fryer would’ve struggled to fit a large chicken inside, especially if it sat any closer to the heating element.
- More air fryer info
- How to use an air fryer – a beginner's guide
- Absolutely everything you need to know about air fryers
- How to clean an air fryer