The Best Way to Make a Roasted Chicken Is Not in the Oven

Some things just seem too good to be true. A perfectly roasted chicken in 45 minutes with almost no prep or cleanup after? It’s true and it’s all thanks to the speedy and efficient air fryer. Cooking a whole chicken in the air fryer is the best kitchen hack I’ve found this year and it’s my new go-to recipes for lazy Sunday meal with leftovers to use for the rest of the week. 

ingredients for roast chicken on table

Air fryer chicken is one of the easiest and most satisfying recipes I’ve made lately.

David Watsky/CNET

I’m well versed in the joys of air fryer cooking, but air fryer chicken is perhaps the best discovery I’ve made while tinkering with the speedy convection cookers.

Here’s why air fryer chicken is the best chicken. 

Can you cook a whole chicken in an air fryer? Oh, yeah 

The secret to great roasted chicken is high heat while not overcooking the bird for a crispy skin with moist, tender meat. An air fryer is the perfect vessel for this method since it envelops the food inside with hot quickly moving air and manages to crisp outer layers better than a full-size convection oven that features more widely dispersed heat. The smaller air fryer cooking chamber also means more consistent temps throughout a single session.

Air fryers are typically smaller than wall ovens, but many models are capable of handling a 3- or 4-pound chicken. I cooked a full 4-pound roaster and it fit comfortably inside my Dreo 6-quart ChefMaker smart air fryer oven.

Read moreGrill, Bye. Make Your Next Burger in an Air Fryer and Thank Me Later

What size air fryer fits a whole chicken?

This fancy souped-up air fryer has a steam feature and smart cooking programs, but I didn’t need or use them. I cooked the chicken on basic air fryer mode at 360 degrees Fahrenheit for 55 minutes, flipping the bird (ha!) after 25. You won’t need a fancy air fryer, either. This $120 Instant air fryer (on sale for $90) will get the job done. As will this $60 Gourmia model. 

There was minimal prep in this air fryer chicken recipe, which I adapted from a few found online and my go-to oven-roasted chicken recipe. I whisked together a quick marinade with olive oil, grain mustard, salt, pepper and some of my favorite Mediterranean seasoning blend. I stuffed the chicken with half of an orange, some green onion and a bunch of fresh parsley that was down to its final days in the fridge.

roasted chicken in air fryer

About 10 minutes before I pulled it from the air fryer.

David Watsky/CNET

What to serve with roasted chicken

I served the chicken with rice made in my speedy and effortless rice cooker, but I could have just as easily dropped some root vegetables in with the chicken and had myself with a full dinner to feed four or five — all cooked in the confines of one nonstick air fryer basket.

An air fryer can burn your chicken so pay attention

My only other note when making an air fryer bird is to keep a close eye on the chicken, especially toward the end. The heat from an air fryer is intense and could burn the skin if you have it cranked up too high or leave it in too long. If your skin seems to be getting brown faster than the chicken is coming to temp inside, pull back on the heat and continue monitoring. 

You can always fire it up again once the meat is cooked to get a crispy skin before serving. You’ll know the meat is cooked when a meat probe reads 160 degrees Fahrenheit when plunged into the thickest part of the breast.

uncooked chicken rubbed with marinade in air fryer basket

You’ll need at least a 5-quart air fryer to make a roasted chicken.

David Watsky/CNET

What you need to make air fryer chicken

  • 4-pound chicken, giblets removed
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons grain mustard
  • Seasoning blend (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Lemon or orange
  • Fresh herbs

chicken in air fryer basket

Almost done…

David Watsky/CNET

How to make air fryer roast chicken

  1. Preheat air fryer to 360 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Whisk olive oil, mustard, seasoning blend, salt and pepper together
  3. Rub mustard marinade over the entire chicken
  4. Place chicken in air fryer basket breast down on top of the wire rack and cook for 25 minutes
  5. Flip the bird breast up and cook for the remaining 25 minutes
  6. Remove when juices run clear or an internal thermometer reads 160 degrees Fahrenheit
  7. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving and pour juices from the air fryer basket over sliced chicken

roasted chicken on cutting board

There it is. 

David Watsky/CNET