Using an air fryer to make breaded chicken is a quick and easy way to get crispy, crunchy results without deep frying. However, a common issue people run into is that the breading falls off the chicken during cooking. There are a few tricks you can use to help the breading adhere better to the chicken in an air fryer.
Soaking chicken in buttermilk before breading helps the breading stick to the chicken better. The proteins in buttermilk create a tacky surface on the chicken that causes the breading to adhere more. Simply soak chicken pieces in buttermilk for 30 minutes to an hour before breading. The longer you soak, the stickier the surface of the chicken becomes.
You can use regular or low-fat buttermilk. Make sure the chicken is fully submerged in the buttermilk during soaking. Remove the chicken from the buttermilk and let any excess drip off before breading.
Double dipping the chicken creates an extra thick breading layer that is less likely to fall off. After soaking in buttermilk, dip the chicken into the first layer of breading ingredients. Gently press the breading onto the chicken. Then dip the chicken back into the buttermilk. Finally, coat it again in the breading mixture.
The buttermilk acts as a glue between the two layers of breading. Having two coats of breading makes for a very secure crust on the chicken. Let the double breaded chicken sit for 5-10 minutes before air frying so the breading can adhere even better.
Use Egg Wash
An egg wash is another great way to help breading stick to chicken. Whisk together an egg and a tablespoon or two of water or milk. After soaking chicken in buttermilk, dip it into the egg mixture. The egg proteins help the breading cling to the chicken.
Let any excess egg drip off before putting the chicken into the breading. You can also double dip using egg wash instead of buttermilk for the second dip. The egg wash ensures the breading sticks securely to the chicken.
Press the Breading
After coating the chicken in breading, take a few extra seconds to press the breading onto the surface of the chicken. Gently press down so the breading adheres tightly to the chicken. Pay special attention to the edges and any crevices in the chicken.
Pressing helps compact the breading layers and creates a tighter bond with the chicken. It reduces the chances of air pockets forming between the chicken and breading which can cause the breading to detach.
Let It Rest
Let breaded chicken rest for 5-20 minutes before air frying depending on thickness. This short resting time allows any moisture on the surface of the chicken to be absorbed so the breading can stick better. It also lets the breading start to adhere to the chicken.
You can rest breaded chicken on a baking rack over a baking sheet. Flip it over halfway through so both sides can rest. Do not rest breaded chicken for longer than 20 minutes or the breading can become soggy.
Use a Binder
Adding a binder ingredient to your breading mix can reinforce it and help it cling to the chicken. Common binders used in breading include:
- Flour – 1-2 tablespoons per cup of breading
- Cornstarch – 1-2 tablespoons per cup of breading
- Eggs – 1 egg per 2-3 cups of breading
- Mayonnaise – 1-2 tablespoons per cup of breading
Work the binder into the breading mixture until well incorporated. It will act like a glue, helping the breading better adhere to the chicken. Too much binder can make the breading gummy or doughy, so only add a small amount.
When air frying breaded chicken, do not overload the air fryer basket. Overcrowding can cause the breading to fall off. Make sure there is adequate space around each piece of chicken for air circulation.
Work in batches if needed to avoid packing the chicken into the air fryer. The hot air needs to be able to flow around the chicken surface to properly crisp up the breading. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for capacity.
Use a Wire Rack
Cooking breaded chicken on a wire rack in the air fryer promotes airflow and prevents the breading from sticking to the fryer basket. The rack elevates the chicken so air can circulate above and below.
A wire cooling rack designed for baking fits well in most air fryer baskets. Lightly spray the rack with oil before adding the breaded chicken. Check frequently while cooking in case any breading happens to drop through the rack.
Spray with Oil
Lightly misting breaded chicken with oil before air frying helps keep the breading crunchy. Brush or spray chicken on all sides with a thin coating of olive oil or vegetable oil after breading.
The small amount of oil provides a crisp outer layer to protect the breading as it cooks. Without any oil, the exposed breading can dry out in the hot air and become more prone to falling off.
Lower the Temperature
High heat can cause breading to loosen up and separate from chicken. Try lowering the air fryer temperature 25 degrees Fahrenheit from the recipe instructions when cooking breaded chicken.
The more moderate heat allows the chicken to cook through without over-drying the breading. Check for doneness a few minutes early since the breading will brown slightly slower at the reduced temperature.
Air fried breaded chicken is delicious, but the high heat of an air fryer can cause breading to fall off during cooking. Soaking chicken in buttermilk first, double dredging in breading, and letting it rest before cooking are all useful tips to get the breading to adhere better. Small tricks like pressing the breading onto the chicken, misting with oil, and not overcrowding the air fryer also prevent the breading from becoming detached. Follow these simple guidelines for perfectly crispy and crunchy breaded chicken every time you air fry.
|Tip||How it Helps|
|Soak in buttermilk first||Creates a tacky surface for breading to stick to|
|Double dip in breading||Provides an extra thick crust|
|Use an egg wash||Helps the breading adhere tightly|
|Press on the breading||Compacts the breading against the chicken|
|Let breaded chicken rest||Allows breading time to stick before cooking|
|Add a binder to the breading||Reinforces the breading so it stays on|
|Do not overcrowd the air fryer||Allows air circulation to crisp the breading|
|Use a wire rack||Promotes airflow around all surfaces|
|Lightly spray with oil||Keeps the breading from drying out|
|Lower air fryer temperature||Avoids over-drying the breading|
Detailed Steps for Breaded Chicken in an Air Fryer
Follow these step-by-step instructions for perfectly breaded chicken every time:
Prepare the Chicken
- Cut chicken breasts into strips, cubes, or tenders. Pat dry thoroughly with paper towels.
- Place chicken in bowl and pour over buttermilk. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes to 1 hour.
- Remove chicken from buttermilk, allowing excess to drip off. Discard used buttermilk.
Bread the Chicken
- Place dry breading ingredients like flour, spices, and panko in a shallow bowl. Mix well.
- Dip chicken pieces in breading to lightly coat all over. Gently press breading onto chicken.
- Dip chicken back into buttermilk, then again in breading mixture for second coat.
- Press breading onto chicken again, ensuring even coverage.
Air Fry the Chicken
- Let breaded chicken rest on a rack for 10-20 minutes before cooking.
- Lightly spray both sides with oil. Arrange chicken in a single layer on air fryer rack.
- Cook at 375°F for 10-15 minutes, flipping halfway through. Chicken is done when juices run clear.
- Let chicken rest 5 minutes before serving. Enjoy crispy breaded chicken!