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Should I air fry or pressure cook chicken?

Chicken is a versatile and healthy protein that can be prepared in many ways. Two increasingly popular methods for cooking chicken are air frying and pressure cooking. Both have their advantages and disadvantages when it comes to taste, nutrition, and convenience. This article will compare air frying and pressure cooking chicken to help you decide which is best for your needs.

Air Frying Chicken

Air frying has become a very popular way to cook chicken in recent years. Air fryers use rapid air circulation and top-down heat to crisp up the outside of foods. The technology allows you to achieve a fried texture without submerging foods in oil.

Here are some of the benefits of using an air fryer for chicken:

  • Crispy texture – The circulating hot air crisps up the skin nicely.
  • Reduced fat – Air frying uses little to no oil compared to deep frying.
  • Fast cooking time – Small batches of chicken cook quickly in an air fryer.
  • Easy cleanup – With minimal oil, air fryers are easier to clean up than deep frying.

Air fryers can fit smaller pieces of chicken like wings, tenders, and boneless thighs with ease. Larger chicken breasts may need to be cut in half to fit. Here are some tips for the best air fried chicken:

  • Cut uniform sized pieces for even cooking.
  • Brush or spray chicken with a small amount of oil to promote browning.
  • Flip halfway during cooking for crispy coverage.
  • Brush chicken with sauce in the last 5 minutes if desired.
  • Check internal temperature to ensure doneness.

One downside of air frying chicken is that the skin may not get quite as crispy as deep fried. Moisture released from the chicken creates steam inside the air fryer basket. You may need to periodically remove excess liquid during cooking.

Air Fryer Chicken Thighs

Chicken thighs are juicy and tender, making them a perfect choice for the air fryer. The skin gets deliciously crispy. Here is a simple recipe for air fryer chicken thighs:

  • 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1⁄2 tsp salt
  • 1⁄4 tsp pepper
  1. Pat chicken thighs dry and coat all over with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
  2. Place thighs skin side down in air fryer basket. Work in batches if needed.
  3. Air fry at 380F for 8 minutes.
  4. Flip chicken and air fry for 6-10 minutes more until crispy and cooked to 165F internal temperature.

Air Fryer Chicken Wings

Chicken wings get crispy and browned without the need to submerge them in oil. Use a dry rub or sauce for flavor. Make sure to flip wings over halfway during cooking.

Air fry chicken wings at 380F for 18-22 minutes until browned, flipping halfway.

Pressure Cooking Chicken

Pressure cooking uses steam under pressure to cook foods very quickly. Today’s electric pressure cookers like the Instant Pot are safe, convenient appliances. Here are some benefits of pressure cooking chicken:

  • Very fast cooking time – Cooks chicken in as little as 15 minutes.
  • Tender and juicy meat – Pressure maximizes moisture retention.
  • Flavors infuse – Sauce ingredients deeply permeate the chicken.
  • Bone broth – Pressure cooked bones make flavorful broth.
  • Set and forget – Walk away hands-free once cooker is sealed.

Pressure cookers can accommodate whole chickens as well as pieces. Make sure liquid covers the bottom of the pressure cooker inner pot before sealing. Here are tips for the best pressure cooked chicken:

  • Brown chicken first for flavor if desired.
  • Use aromatics like onions, garlic, and herbs.
  • Add a small amount of oil to prevent sticking.
  • Cut uniform sized pieces to ensure even cooking.
  • Use natural release to allow pressure to come down gradually.

The downside of pressure cooked chicken is that you won’t achieve crispy skin. The meat may also be slightly less firm in texture.

Pressure Cooked Chicken Breasts

Chicken breasts come out juicy and tender in the pressure cooker. The chicken gently cooks in the steam environment. Try this easy recipe:

  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1⁄2 tsp pepper
  1. Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat olive oil in pressure cooker pot over medium high heat. Brown chicken lightly on both sides.
  3. Add chicken broth to cover bottom of pot. Place chicken in a single layer.
  4. Seal pressure cooker. Cook at high pressure for 8 minutes for fresh chicken (15 minutes frozen).
  5. Allow natural release for 10 minutes.

Pressure Cooker Whole Chicken

It’s easy to cook a whole chicken in the pressure cooker. The meat gets very tender and pulls right off the bone:

  • 1 whole chicken (3-4 pounds)
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1⁄2 tsp dried thyme
  1. Rub chicken all over with olive oil, salt, and thyme. Stuff cavity with onion and garlic.
  2. Pour chicken broth into pressure cooker pot. Place chicken breast side up on a trivet.
  3. Pressure cook on high for 25 minutes. Allow natural release for 15 minutes.

Comparing Air Fryer and Pressure Cooker Chicken

Here is a comparison of some key factors when cooking chicken in the air fryer vs. pressure cooker:

Air Fryer Pressure Cooker
Typical cooking time 15-25 minutes 8-30 minutes
Skin texture Crispy if not too crowded Not crispy
Meat texture Can be slightly dry if overcooked Very moist and tender
Fat content Lower if minimal oil is used Can use broth instead of added fats
Flavor infusion Light seasoning penetrates meat Deep flavor infusion into meat
Convenience Set cooking time and walk away Needs releasing pressure after
Ease of use Open cooking so easy to flip and check Sealed cooking so can’t check progress
Common pieces cooked Wings, tenders, thighs, breasts Breasts, thighs, whole chicken, quarters

As you can see, each appliance has strengths and weaknesses when it comes to preparing chicken. For the juiciest meat possible, the pressure cooker is hard to beat. But if you want crispy skin and overall ease of use, the air fryer excels.


So should you air fry or pressure cook your chicken? Here are some final recommendations based on your goals:

  • For quick weeknight meals – Air fry small batches of boneless thighs, tenders or breasts. The air fryer heats up rapidly and cooks faster than pressure cooking.
  • For crispy skin – Air fryers will produce better skin texture. Brush chicken with oil before cooking.
  • For convenient meal prep – Use the pressure cooker to quickly cook a batch of moist, shreddable chicken breasts or thighs for the week.
  • For maximum flavor – Pressure cooked chicken absorbs seasoning and becomes very tender in the moist environment.
  • For whole birds or bone-in pieces – It’s easier to cook larger chicken cuts in the pressure cooker where they have room.
  • For lower fat – The air fryer lets you cook chicken with minimal oil. In the pressure cooker use broth instead of oil.

Air frying and pressure cooking both have benefits when cooking chicken. For best results, consider which texture and flavor you prefer. The air fryer works well for quick crispy chicken meals while the pressure cooker shines for flavorful tender meat. Try out both appliances and enjoy delicious chicken cooked to perfection!