Crispy skin, juicy meat, and classic at-home flavor make roast chicken one of the most pleasurable dinners you can cook. This Air Fryer Whole Chicken speeds the process along and makes for quick clean-up!
Thanks to its intense, high-heat cooking power, the air fryer is ideal for cooking lean proteins like chicken; it gets them to the perfect temperature quickly, before they can dry out.
(Air Fryer Chicken Wings I cook more for special occasions, though I’m sure Ben would for love me to make that a weekly thing too, ha!)
I adore cooking a whole chicken in the oven.
- It makes our kitchen smell homey,
- Appeases the white and dark meat lovers alike, and
- I feel a little bit like Ina Garten or Julia Child every time I do it.
The downsides to roast chicken are the roasting pan gets messy, I have to run the oven for a long period of time, and if there’s anything else I want to cook to go along with the chicken (like Oven Roasted Vegetables), the oven is crowded.
Enter, the air fryer. Problems, solved!
Benefits of Air Fryer Whole Chicken
- It takes just 45 to 50 minutes for a 3-pound chicken or 55 to 60 minutes to roast a 4-pound whole chicken in the air fryer at 360 degrees F.
- The air fryer is super easy to clean—no scrubbing needed.
- Your oven stays free for other endeavors (or keep it turned off entirely!).
- The leftovers are the best. For meal prep, swap out classic Shredded Chicken or Baked Chicken Breast for this rotisserie-style air fryer chicken; use it in any of these shredded chicken recipes.
- Endless seasoning options! Any of your favorite rubs work well here. Keep it simple with salt and pepper, or try one of the seasoning ideas I have for you below.
How to Make Whole Chicken in the Air Fryer
When roasting chicken in the air fryer, look for a bird that is between 3 ½ and 4 pounds; any larger and it will be a struggle to fit into most air fryer baskets.
- After a few tests, we determined that 360 degrees F is the perfect temperature to make chicken with crispy skin and juicy, tender meat that finishes cooking in the same amount of time.
- For even cooking and browning, start the chicken breast-side down for 30 minutes, then flip it over and continue cooking until it comes to temperature.
- Chicken. Beloved for its versatility and crowd-pleasing appeal, chicken is a healthy meal rockstar. With lean protein, vitamins, and calcium, it’s a nutritious choice.
- Salt + Pepper. This simple combo ensures that the chicken is perfectly flavorful. The salt also helps make the chicken juicy (this is all Jaques Pepin uses to season his chicken!).
- Lemon + Garlic + Thyme. The cavity gives you another way to flavor the chicken. I stuffed mine with lemon, garlic, and thyme.
- Olive Oil. Coating the chicken in olive oil before cooking creates crispy, delicious skin.
- Remove the giblets and pat the chicken dry with a paper towel. Salt the inside of the cavity.
- Stuff the cavity.
- Brush oil on the outside of the chicken.
- Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Place the chicken in the basket of an air fryer, breast-side down.
- Air fry whole chicken at 360 degrees F for 30 minutes, then flip the chicken over.
- Air fry for another 25 to 30 minutes.
- Remove it from the air fryer, then let it rest. DIG IN!
- Use the ever-appropriate, little-black-dress combo of lemon, garlic, and herbs I’ve suggested here.
- Spice it up with a BBQ rub (and dip it with Homemade Barbecue Sauce).
- Go rotisserie style air fryer chicken (a la Costco) with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika.
- Try a Chinese-inspired air fryer chicken by brushing the outside of the chicken with a mixture of soy sauce, honey, and garlic powder.
- Channel my Honey Mustard Chicken Tenders and coat the outside of the chicken with Dijon mustard, honey, garlic powder, and onion powder for honey mustard air fryer chicken.
- For a delicious Italian seasoning-inspired chicken, use the ingredients listed in the recipe and add some basil and oregano.
No matter which seasoning option you choose, make sure to use kosher salt or sea salt (assuming your seasoning blend doesn’t include it already), NOT table salt, as it tastes metallic and it is harder to control the amount.
Season the bird liberally, both on the outside and inside the cavity.
Tips for Juicy Chicken
- Use an Instant-Read Thermometer. It’s the absolute best (and I’d argue only) way to make sure you don’t overcook your meat. Cook the chicken to 155 degrees F (the chicken will continue cooking to the FDA’s 165 as it rests).
- Check Early. You can always keep cooking, but once it’s overdone, it’s overdone (Need to save dry meat? Top it with Mushroom Gravy).
- Let the Meat Rest. MANDATORY. 10 minutes rest will give the juices time to reincorporate into the meat (vs. running out all over your carving board).
- Brine. While not mandatory for great chicken, if you want to take your meat to the next level, take a note from Roasted Thanksgiving Turkey and treat your chicken to my Dry Turkey Brine or Wet Turkey Brine.
- Don’t Waste the Drippings! You can pour them over veggies (Chicken schmaltz veggies?! YUM). Try Air Fryer Brussels Sprouts or make a spin on air fryer chicken and potatoes with Air Fryer French Fries. Roast them in the air fryer while the chicken rests.
- To Store. Refrigerate chicken in an airtight storage container for up to 3 days.
- To Reheat. Gently rewarm leftovers in a baking dish in the oven at 350 degrees F or in the microwave.
- To Freeze. Freeze chicken meat in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
Meal Prep Tip
Up to 1 day in advance, prepare the chicken through Step 3. Cover the chicken and place it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to finish the recipe. Let the chicken stand at room temperature for 15 minutes before starting the cooking time.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Air Fryer. This model is perfect for this air fryer whole chicken recipe.
- Instant Read Thermometer. A meat thermometer is the most reliable way to check your chicken for doneness. Insert it into the thickest part of the chicken to check the internal temperature.
- Sharp Knife. A sharp knife is essential for easy carving. Any sharp boning or chef’s knife should do the trick.
Skip the grocery store rotisserie chicken tonight…and every night.
With air fryer whole chicken, you don’t need it!
Frequently Asked Questions
Chickens that are close to 4 pounds are a tight squeeze in most air fryer baskets. If your chicken pokes out of the top a little or is touching the air fryer’s heating element, do not proceed. Press down on the breast bone firmly to crack it slightly, which will allow the chicken to flatten a bit. A 3 ½- to 3 ¾- pound chicken just fit in my 5.5-quart Ninja XL air fryer.
While you can cook a 5-pound chicken in the air fryer, it will likely be too big for most air fryer models. If you have a larger oven-style air fryer or one that is 6-quarts (or larger), then you may be able to comfortably fit a 5-pound bird (always ensure it is not touching the heating element before proceeding with cooking). About 60 minutes is how long to cook a 5-pound whole chicken in the air fryer. You’ll still cook the chicken at 360 degrees F.
For a larger amount of meat, check out my Air Fryer Turkey Breast.
No! Rinsing the chicken does little to deter bacteria; in fact, it is more likely to spread it around your kitchen.
Air Fryer Whole Chicken
- 1 3- to 4-pound roasting chicken* giblets removed
- 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt divided
- 1 medium lemon cut into quarters
- 6 whole garlic cloves no need to peel
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- Remove the giblets from the chicken and pat very dry (no need to rinse). Season the inside of the chicken cavity with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt.
- Stuff the chicken cavity with the lemon, garlic, and thyme.
- Brush the outside of the chicken all over with the oil.
- Sprinkle with the remaining 2 teaspoons salt and the black pepper.
- Preheat the air fryer to 360 degrees F. Place the chicken in the air fryer breast-side down.
- Air fry for 30 minutes, then slide out the basket and flip the chicken over.
- Continue air frying until the chicken reaches 155 degrees on an instant read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the breast, about 25 to 30 minutes more. Remove from the air fryer. Cover and let rest for at least 10 minutes before carving.
- *Make sure your chicken fits in your air fryer basket without touching the heating element before you begin. I have a 5.5-quart air fryer and it holds a chicken that is between 3 1/2 to 3 7/5 pounds. If the chicken is a little larger, you can press down on the breast bone firmly to crack it a little so the chicken flattens out (if your chicken is tied, untying it can help).
- TO STORE: Refrigerate chicken in an airtight storage container for up to 3 days.
- TO REHEAT: Gently rewarm leftovers in a baking dish in the oven at 350 degrees F or in the microwave.
- TO FREEZE: Freeze chicken meat in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
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