How Long To Air Fry Chicken Thighs For Tender Results

The air fryer is an excellent option for cooking various types of chicken, yielding tender, juicy meat with less oil and in less time than a conventional oven. This efficiency is due in part to the air fryer's compact cooking space and the hot air circulated by these convection-style ovens.

However, chicken does require more careful timing than most meats due to the risks associated with undercooking. While undercooking a steak might result in a medium-rare cut rather than a medium one, consuming undercooked chicken could lead to food poisoning. This is due to common pathogens like salmonella found in raw chicken, according to the CDC. Despite this, conservative estimates indicate that an air fryer generally cooks faster than an oven. Even if you need to put the chicken back in for a few extra minutes, the cooking time is still reduced. For example, chicken nuggets usually require only about 10 to 12 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit, while drumsticks may take up to 14 minutes at the same temperature.

Chicken breasts and thighs, on the other hand, require slightly more cooking time. Larger chicken breasts usually take between 12 to 16 minutes at approximately 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Chicken thighs take between 20 and 25 minutes. Just remember to use a meat thermometer to ensure your chicken reaches a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Factors that affect air fryer cook times

Considering that can take between 40 to 50 minutes to bake chicken thighs in an oven — a time range that accounts for the size of the cut — an air fryer essentially cooks them twice as fast. However, the exact amount of time required to air fry your chicken thigh depends on several factors.

One factor, already mentioned, is the size of the chicken thighs, including whether they are bone-in or boneless. The thickness of the meat directly correlates with the cooking time required. Air frying more than one thigh at the same time can also affect the timing. Air fryers, of course, famously have relatively small food baskets, and overloading them can not only increase cooking times, but also affect how evenly the food cooks.

Preheating, or the lack thereof, is another factor. If you preheat your air fryer — up to six minutes is recommended for food that will be cooked at 400 degrees Fahrenheit — the cooking time for your chicken thighs will typically be reduced to the lower end of the estimated range (about 20 minutes).

Tips on preparing air fryer chicken thighs

When cooking with an air fryer, it's generally necessary to flip foods halfway through the cooking time to ensure they cook evenly. This holds true for chicken thighs, and there are a few other tips to help make sure your meat turns out tender and juicy. Oil and seasonings are always recommended, such as the buttermilk marinade in this buttermilk baked chicken recipe. Remember, you only need a small amount of oil in air fryers — just enough to coat the skin and prevent sticking.

This assumes your chicken thighs have skin, as some are sold boneless and skinless. For bone-in chicken thighs with skin, they should initially be placed in the air fryer basket skin-side down. For both types, you'll usually pull the basket out around the 10-minute mark to flip the chicken. If you've preheated the air fryer, check the internal temperature at 20 minutes to assess the level of doneness and add a few more minutes to your timer if needed.

Be aware, however, that bone-in chicken thighs typically take longer to cook than the boneless variety. This is because the former are both thicker and heavier.