Air Fryer Chicken
Fried chicken is one of my favorite foods, although I treat it more as a treat. The best fried chicken I ever had was at Ben’s Chili Bowl’s sister restaurant Ben’s Next Door in Washington, DC. The skin and breading were perfectly crisp, and the hint of spices turned the dish up a notch. Being the chef and dietitian that I am, I knew I had to come home and recreate this delicious dish in a healthier way. So I created my own recipe for air fryer chicken, which is quite literally a winner winner chicken dinner!
Please scroll down to see my How to Use an Air Fryer – What is an Air Fryer Introduction.
How to Make Air Fryer Chicken
This air fryer takes just a few steps for a large payoff. First in a bowl combine 1 teaspoon of salt, ½ teaspoon of pepper, and the buttermilk together. Add the chicken to the bowl and marinate for at least 1 hour or overnight. When you’re ready to cook, preheat the air fryer to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the flour and spices in a bowl or baking dish, and coat the chicken with the flour mixture. Spray the chicken with oil spray and cook for about 20 minutes!
The versatility of this air fryer chicken is one of my favorite things about it! You can make this dish at the start of the week and use it in different meals. Below are some meal ideas:
- Air Fryer Chicken Sandwich: On the bottom slide of wheat bread, place 1 tablespoon of aioli, pickles, lettuce, onion, tomato and ¼ of avocado. Add the air fryer chicken and top it with the other piece of wheat bread!
- Air Fryer Chicken Dinner: Make the air fryer chicken the star of the meal and pair it with your favorite veggies or a fresh salad!
- Air Fryer Chicken Caesar Salad: Follow the recipe for my Shredded Kale & Brussels Sprouts with Vegetarian Caesar Dressing add some air fryer chicken strips
- Air Fryer Chicken Nuggets: Use the same recipe but cut chicken breasts into smaller pieces for this kid-friendly variation. Pair it with homemade honey mustard or coat with my Honey Sriracha Sauce for a take on boneless chicken “wings!”
All About Protein
This air fryer chicken is a great way to incorporate protein into your diet. Protein is one of the three necessary macronutrients in our diets (the other macronutrients being carbohydrates and fat). According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, adults should be getting about 5 ½ oz equivalents of protein per day.1 Aside from chicken and poultry, other types of protein include, but are not limited to, red meat, nuts/nut butters, dairy and legumes.1
Role of protein in the body
Although protein has many roles within the body as enzymes are made up of protein, there are three major roles that protein has.2 Research has shown that protein is necessary for bone health (increasing bone mass) and the prevention of osteoporosis.3 Additionally, protein is needed for wound healing.4 So it’s important, especially as we age, to get adequate amounts of protein in the diet, although not much of an issue for the average American diet.3
Other nutrients in chicken
Aside from protein, other nutrients found in chicken and other poultry include iron, zinc and niacin.1 The type of iron found in chicken is heme iron (plants sources of protein contain non-heme iron).1 Heme iron is more absorbable and usable in the body than non-heme iron.1
Together, these nutrients work to carry oxygen to the blood, immune protection, cell health, and energy production.5,6,7 There are so many benefits in such a scrumptious meal!
- Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020: Eighth Edition. Health.gov. https://health.gov/sites/default/files/2019-09/2015-2020_Dietary_Guidelines.pdf. Accessed May 12, 2020.
- Haurowitz F, Koshland DE. Enzymes. Encyclopædia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/science/protein/Enzymes. Published March 18, 2020. Accessed May 12, 2020.
- Bonjour J-P. Dietary Protein: An Essential Nutrient For Bone Health. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2005;24(sup6):526S-536S. doi:10.1080/07315724.2005.10719501
- Russell L. The importance of patients nutritional status in wound healing. British Journal of Nursing. 2001;10(Sup1). doi:10.12968/bjon.2001.10.sup1.5336
- Marcin J. Iron: Recommended intake, benefits, and food sources. Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/287228. Accessed May 12, 2020.
- Zinc in diet: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002416.htm. Accessed May 12, 2020.
- Office of Dietary Supplements – Niacin. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Niacin-HealthProfessional/. Accessed May 12, 2020.
Have you heard about the Air Fryer?
You may have seen commercials advertising air fryers, or you may have seen them lining the aisles of your local Target, Walmart or Bed Bath and Beyond. With different models on the market, you may be asking yourself, “what is an air fryer?” According to the Kitchn, the air fryer works as a convection oven, however, the fan that circulates the air spins quicker.1 The process of air frying differs from traditional frying as in the air fryer, all portions of the food are cooked at the same rate versus needing to turn the food to cook all sides.1 Additionally, air frying usings less oil than traditional frying, which brings me to my next point!
Why use an Air Fryer?
As I previously mentioned, air frying uses a lot less oil, which reduces calories and saturated fat making whatever we cook healthier, without impacting the taste or texture! When we traditionally deep fry foods, as little as 8 percent or as much as 25 percent of the oil will be absorbed into the foods.2 This is in the form of saturated fat, which also adds 9 calories per gram of oil absorbed. Research has shown that a diet high in saturated fat can lead to heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and death.3 By using the air fryer, you can use an oil high in polyunsaturated fat (i.e. olive oil), and the excess oil will fall to the bottom of the air fryer. In fact, the American Heart Association presidential advisory notes that replacing saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat results in about a 30% reduction of heart disease.4 Cooking in the air fryer allows us to enjoy some of our favorite (now not-so-guilty) guilty pleasures.
Air Frying Tips
- Use a light coating of oil (or oil spray) on either the basket and food item to achieve the golden-brown exterior of the food item you are cooking. This also imparts great flavor to the food.
- Do not over-crowd the air fryer. This can lead to uneven cooking, and/or soggy texture of the food item.
- Check the appropriate cooking times and cooking temperatures, as these factors will differ from cooking food items in a standard oven.
- A rectangular air fryer allows for easier spacing of the food items (and more food cooked at once) compared to the air fryers that are more circular.
- Franke S. How Does an Air Fryer Work? Kitchn. https://www.thekitchn.com/how-do-air-fryers-work-265185. Published May 1, 2019. Accessed May 9, 2020.
- Dunford N. Deep Fat Frying Basics for Food Services – Oklahoma State University. Deep Fat Frying Basics for Food Services | Oklahoma State University. https://extension.okstate.edu/fact-sheets/deep-fat-frying-basics-for-food-services.html. Accessed May 9, 2020.
- Souza RJD, Mente A, Maroleanu A, et al. Intake of saturated and trans unsaturated fatty acids and risk of all cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes: systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. BMJ. August 2015. doi:10.1136/bmj.h3978
- Sacks FM, Lichtenstein AH, Wu JH, et al. Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease: A Presidential Advisory From the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2017;136(3). doi:10.1161/cir.0000000000000510
- air fryer
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt divided
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper divided
- 1 ½ cups buttermilk
- 2-2 ½ pounds chicken thighs and drumsticks
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon mustard powder
- Olive oil cooking spray
- In a bowl, add 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, and buttermilk and whisk together. Add chicken to the bowl, combine well, and marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour or overnight.
- In a second bowl, add remaining salt and pepper, flour, garlic powder, onion powder, and mustard powder and mix well.
- Preheat air fryer to 400 degrees F.
- Remove chicken from marinade, coat with flour mixture, spray with oil spray and place in air fryer basket in a single layer. Cook for 20-22 minutes depending on your preferred level of golden brown and crispiness.