Air Fryer Chicken Fingers: The Ultimate Guide
Chicken fingers are a beloved classic snack and side dish enjoyed by people of all ages. Traditionally deep fried, chicken fingers can be high in fat and calories. However, using an air fryer is a much healthier way to enjoy crispy, crunchy chicken fingers without compromising on flavor.
In this comprehensive guide, we will cover everything you need to know to make delicious, golden brown Air Fryer Chicken Fingers. We’ll discuss ingredient and cooking method options, provide a detailed recipe, and answer some frequently asked questions about preparing this crowd-pleasing dish in your air fryer. By following the guidelines outlined here, you can feel good about serving up a guilt-free version of this comfort food favorite.
Ingredients for Perfect Air Fryer Chicken Fingers
The sky’s the limit when it comes to customizing your chicken fingers. Here are some classic ingredient combinations to try:
Boneless, skinless chicken breasts – Cut into 1/2-inch wide strips.
Boneless chicken thighs – Cut into 1/2-inch wide strips. Thigh meat stays moister than breasts.
All-purpose flour – For a light crust.
Panko breadcrumbs – For an extra-crisp outside.
Parmesan cheese – Adds flavor and crunch to breadcrumbs.
Seasoned breadcrumbs – Pre-mixed herbs and spices.
Tempura batter – A beer-based batter for super crunchy coating.
Salt and pepper – Always use fresh ground salt and pepper.
Herbs – Try Italian seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder, dill, ranch powder.
Spices – Paprika, cayenne, curry powder, cajun seasoning.
Experiment to find your family’s favorite combination of flavors. You can’t go wrong with the classic breadcrumb and parmesan cheese coating.
Cooking Method Options for Air Fryer Chicken Fingers
There are a few different methods you can use to prepare air fryer chicken fingers depending on the type and thickness of coating:
Toss Method: Toss chicken pieces in a Ziploc bag or bowl with desired breading/coating. Shake off excess. Place in basket in single layer, do not overlap.
Dredge Method: Dip chicken pieces in flour, then egg wash or milk, then coat with breadcrumbs. Place coated side up in basket.
Press Method: Press breading firmly onto chicken with spatula or bottom of glass to adhere. Place breaded side up in basket.
Spray Method: Lightly spray each piece of chicken with oil before adding breading. Helps coating adhere and brown evenly.
No matter which coating method you choose, it’s important not to overcrowd the air fryer basket. Leave space between pieces so hot air can circulate for crisp all-over cooking.
Authentic Air Fryer Chicken Finger Recipe
Ready to get cooking? Here is a classic Air Fryer Chicken Finger recipe that produces perfectly golden brown, crispy chicken every time:
1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 cup milk or buttermilk
1 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
Oil spray (vegetable or olive oil)
Cut chicken into 1/2-inch wide strips. Season both sides with salt and pepper.
Set up a breading station with 3 shallow plates or dishes. Place flour in the first plate and season with additional salt and pepper. Whisk milk in the second plate. In the third plate, mix panko and Parmesan cheese.
Working with a few pieces at a time, dredge chicken strips in flour, pat off excess, then coat in milk. Let excess drip off, then coat in breadcrumb mixture, pressing gently to adhere.
Lightly spray basket of air fryer with oil. Place coated chicken strips in single layer, not overlapping.
Air fry at 370°F for 12-15 minutes, flipping halfway, until golden brown and internal temp reaches 165°F.
Serve hot with your favorite dipping sauce. Enjoy!
Cooking Times and Temps for Air Fryer Chicken Fingers
When air frying chicken fingers, it’s important to use the proper temperature and cook time to ensure they are cooked through while achieving ideal crispy tenderness. Here are some general guidelines:
Thinner chicken strips: 370°F for 12-15 minutes
Thicker chicken strips or patties: 380°F for 15-18 minutes
Bone-in chicken pieces: 390°F for 18-22 minutes
Always check for165°F internal temp with a food thermometer
Times can vary slightly depending on your air fryer wattage and model. Monitor closely during cooking and shake or flip basket halfway for even browning. For extra crispness, you can increase the temperature during the last 5 minutes by 10-20 degrees.
The thickness of any breading or coating will also impact cooking. Thicker breading may require 1-2 extra minutes. Adjust as needed until golden and crispy all over.
Tips for Perfect Air Fryer Chicken Fingers
Here are some additional tips for achieving restaurant-quality chicken fingers every time:
Pat chicken dry before breading to help coating adhere
Use fresh breadcrumbs for maximum crunch
Chill breaded chicken in fridge 15-30 mins before air frying
Lightly mist basket with oil before adding chicken
Toss cooked chicken in a paper lined basket for serving
Check for doneness early – overcooking will dry out
Cook in batches if needed to not overcrowd the basket
Reheat leftovers at 350°F for 5-7 minutes
With a little practice, you’ll be an expert at air frying this comforting dish at home without all the fat and calories of deep frying. Now let’s look at some frequently asked questions.
FAQs About Air Frying Chicken Fingers
To further optimize your air fryer chicken finger technique, here are answers to some common questions:
Can I bake the chicken fingers instead of air frying? Yes, you can bake chicken fingers. Bake at 375°F for 20-25 minutes, flipping halfway, until crispy and 165°F internally. Air frying is healthier overall since it uses little to no oil.
What if I don’t have panko breadcrumbs? Regular dried breadcrumbs or crushed up cornflakes or potato chips work well too. Avoid very fine crumbs which can burn easily.
Can I use different cuts of chicken? Feel free to substitute bone-in chicken thighs, chicken tenderloins or ground chicken patties in place of strips. Adjust cooking times accordingly.
How do I reheat leftovers? Pop leftovers in the air fryer basket at 350°F for 5-7 minutes until hot and crisped up again. You can also reheat in a preheated oven. Microwaving is not recommended as it steams them.
Can I bread the chicken and freeze it uncooked? Yes, you can bread and freeze uncooked chicken fingers lined on a baking sheet, then transfer to a labeled freezer bag once frozen solid. Air fry directly from frozen at 400°F for 5 extra minutes of cook time.
What dipping sauces pair best? Ketchup, ranch, honey mustard and barbecue sauce are classic pairings. You can also serve with marinara or a spicy buffalo sauce for more flavorful dipping.
With some practice, you’ll soon be an expert at throwing together these comforting chicken fingers anytime with minimum effort using your air fryer. Enjoy!
Official Recipe Links
For an authentic experience, here are some official links to recipes from trusted sources:
Air Fryer Chicken Fingers – Allrecipes – Highly rated recipe from Allrecipes with over 800 reviews.
Crispy Air Fryer Chicken Fingers – Taste of Home – Beloved recipe site Taste of Home shares their version using buttermilk for extra tang.
Air Fryer Chicken Fingers with Ranch Sauce – Simply Scratch – Step-by-step photos and homemade ranch sauce recipe included.
Oven Fried Chicken Fingers – Explore Dish – Certified