This air fryer chicken breast is seasoned with sesame oil and spices, then cooked to perfection in a little gadget that I never thought I'd enjoy this much. Yes, I absolutely love my air fryer. What do you think can be better than a perfectly caramelized, delicious pan-fried chicken breast? Or a crispy oven-roasted chicken breast? That's right, an air fryer chicken breast beats them both. And I am not afraid to say it. Of the air fryer recipes that I've tried so far, this one is the most impressive.
Lately, I've been experimenting with convection baking and have had a lot of success with it. I love the results that fast-moving hot air produces. Well, an air fryer is just that, a small convection oven. Only it's compact and requires no preheating. How cool is that? True, you can't do large batches in an air fryer but, oh boy, it's so worth it.
What makes an air fryer chicken breast so good?
It's the crispy and super crunchy skin on the outside and the incredibly moist interior on the inside. The skin on this chicken is so crispy that you can literally hear a crunching sound as you bite into it. That's what intense and constantly moving heat does - it caramelizes the surface without drying out the meat. It's all because of quick cooking and, most importantly, lack of contact with a hot surface.
So, how do you fry these delicious chicken breasts in an air fryer?
After some experimenting, what worked best for me was to fry chicken breasts skin up for 20 minutes, then flip and fry for another 10 minutes. Flipping is a must. You can't get away without flipping. First of all, it prevents one side from browning way too much. Secondly, the top part always browns much better than the bottom part in an air fryer, so flipping make the bottom nice and crispy. Just like the top. Check out this picture below, do you see what I am talking about? You really want that crispy, crunchy goodness on both sides. It's never too much.
How many chicken breasts can you fry at the same time?
My 6.5 quart air fryer can easily fit two chicken breasts. They shrink during cooking too. I strongly recommend leaving some space, at least a 3/8" between breasts for best results. The most I can fit in my air fryer is four chicken breasts. When making four, I place two in the opposite corners and line up the other two diagonally. I also push the sides in and under, sort of like when tucking in a blanket. This creates more room between chicken breasts. After a little while they will shrink and there will be even more space.
Which chicken breasts, bone-in vs. boneless, skin-on vs skinless?
Surprisingly, bone-in and boneless chicken breasts resulted in identical texture and moistness of the meat. As such, I strongly recommend removing the bones as they are such a nuisance when slicing chicken breasts. Skin-on vs skinless turned out to be an entirely different matter. It was very apparent that skin protected the delicate white meat in my tests and the meat tasted noticeably better. The skin and the rendered fat made the meat taste much more flavorful too. So, my recommendation is to definitely use skin-on chicken breasts for air frying.
Letting the chicken rest
It's common knowledge that you should always let meat rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing to let the fiber re-absorb some of the liquids that were forced out by heat. An air fried chicken breast is no exception. Let it rest for 5 minutes, and you will be rewarded with succulent meat enveloped into delicious, crunchy chicken skin.
Looking for more tasty air fryer recipes? Make sure to check these out:
- Air Fryer Chicken Wings
- Air Fryer Chicken Thighs
- Steak In an Air Fryer
- Air Fryer Shrimp
- Crispy Air Fried Brussels Sprouts
Equipment used and shown on the pictures above: Chefman 6.8 Quart Air Fryer.
- 2 chicken breasts (skin-on, boneless or bone-in)
- 2 Tbsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp kosher salt (plus more to taste)
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1 Tbsp sweet paprika
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
- 1 Tbsp granulated garlic (or garlic powder)
- 1 Tbsp granulated onions (or onion powder)
- Rub the chicken breasts with sesame oil. Sprinkle salt, pepper and the rest of ingredients all over. Pat down and rub gently to ensure even coverage.
- Place chicken breasts on the rack inside the air fryer, ensuring some space between the chicken breasts, skin side up.
- Plug in your air fryer, set the temperature to 380F and the time to 20 minutes. When the 20 minutes of cooking is up, flip the breasts and continue cooking for another 10 minutes. See notes.
- Remove chicken breasts from the air fryer and set on a plate. Let rest for 5 minutes, then serve.