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This article was written by Charlie LaRosa of Prepared Cooks. Prepared cooks is a husband and wife team working to educate people on the best practices to follow in the kitchen so they can become "prepared cooks!"
If you’ve recently got an air fryer, you are probably already wowed by how crispy and delicious it makes foods, but you might be wondering if there are any tricks you are missing that could make your cooking life simpler.
For example, can you put frozen chicken in there and still get a deliciously cooked meal?
You don’t have to thaw chicken before you put it in your air fryer. You can simply season the frozen chicken and put it in the fryer without any need to mess around with defrosting it.
This makes cooking so much faster and simpler, and it’s an ideal way to rustle up a quick dinner if you’ve forgotten to defrost the meat - like with these air fryer frozen meatballs, air fryer pizza rolls or air fryer frozen french fries!
Can You Cook Frozen Chicken in an Air Fryer?
Frozen chicken cooks beautifully in an air fryer, and many people skip the thawing step when using this kind of cooker. You should use a meat thermometer to determine when the meat is cooked, because frozen chicken will take longer to cook properly than thawed chicken.
If you have forgotten to take chicken out of the freezer in advance, you don’t need to worry about thawing chicken before you put it in your air fryer, but you should use a meat thermometer, and expect to increase the cooking time.
The meat will need to defrost before it starts cooking, so it will take longer to be ready.
You want your chicken to reach 165 degrees F. Make sure that you are measuring the meat at its thickest part, as this will take the longest to cook.
If it hasn’t reached 165 degrees F in that spot, cook the chicken longer because it won’t yet be safe to eat.
An internal temperature of 165 degrees F is needed to ensure that bacteria have all been killed, so don’t ignore this requirement. It is easy for air fried chicken to look done on the outside long before it reaches this internal temperature.
How Should You Cook Frozen Chicken in the Air Fryer?
It’s a good idea to season and lightly oil your frozen chicken. Place it on a cutting board and mix your chosen spices into some oil. Use a brush to apply a thin layer over the chicken, covering all sides so that the meat will turn crispy and delicious.
When your chicken is ready, put it in the air fryer basket and cook it at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes.
You should then take it out, coat it with some more oil, and put it back in the air fryer. It should take another 10 or 15 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken.
Try to choose chicken pieces that are approximately the same size so they will cook at the same rate. If you have one noticeably bigger piece, make sure you are taking the temperature reading from this one, so that it is fully cooked before serving.
Will Your Chicken Dry Out If You Cook It When Frozen?
Dry chicken is a risk, but as long as your chicken piece sizes are reasonably even (no very thick or thin parts) and you do not overcook them, they should be fine.
Be more generous with the seasoning if you have thick and thin parts on the flesh, because the thin parts will dry out if they are cooked for too long.
You won’t be able to flatten the chicken before air frying them if they are frozen, so be aware of this problem. Very misshapen chicken breasts can be challenging to cook well in an air fryer, although it can still be done.
Do You Need to Preheat the Air Fryer?
This depends on your appliance. Some air fryers need to be preheated before you use them, while others do not.
Check the manufacturing instructions or look your model up online to determine the answer. However, you don’t need to preheat specifically because the chicken is frozen.
Why Can You Air Fry Frozen Chicken Safely?
It’s safe to air fry frozen chicken because the meat will be cooked quickly enough for the “danger zone” not to be an issue. Meat that is kept between 40 and 140 degrees F will quickly start to breed bacteria, and this makes it unsafe to eat.
However, an air fryer is considerably hotter than this and will take the food out of the danger zone very quickly.
The problem with defrosting chicken at room temperature is that the outside of the chicken defrosts and sits between 40 and 140 degrees F for a long time, while the inside remains frozen.
This means that bacteria can quickly spread through the outside of the meat and will make it unsafe to eat before the internal meat has defrosted.
However, the air fryer provides a constant blast of hot air that will mean the outside of the meat is heated to over 140 degrees quickly, and the inside thaws out fast.
The meat will not stay frozen for long, because of the high temperatures involved, and therefore there is no opportunity for bacteria to grow.
How Should You Position Chicken in the Air Fryer?
You want to maximize the air circulation within the fryer, so make sure that you place the chicken in a single layer in the basket, with a little space between each piece. This will help it to cook quickly and evenly, because the air can travel over all the meat.
If you crowd the chicken in the basket, the meat that is touching other pieces of meat will cook more slowly, because it isn’t being exposed to hot air.
It’s therefore crucial to space the chicken out and maximize its surface area to ensure quick, even cooking.
It is perfectly safe to air fry chicken that is still frozen; you do not need to spend time thawing it out.
Instead, season the frozen chicken with herbs and oil and place it in a single layer in your air fryer’s basket, and then cook it until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.