Colm O’Gorman: How to cook perfect Southern Fried Chicken in the air fryer

Colm O’Gorman: How to cook perfect Southern Fried Chicken in the air fryer

My air fryer went kaput just before Christmas. It was awful timing, given that I use it pretty much every day. It is the perfect tool when you need a second oven or are cooking for a lot of people. 

I tried to replace it before the holidays, but the model I wanted, a Ninja two-drawer one, was sold out everywhere for months. The general response, whenever I called a shop to inquire if they had any in stock, was a sigh or a wry laugh before explaining that they were impossible to source, out of stock for months at that stage. 

I felt like a desperate Dad trying to find this year’s in-demand toy for Christmas, except of course I was also the expectant child who really, really wanted to wake up to find one under the tree on Christmas Day.

I did not find one in time for the holidays, but I finally got my hands on one last week. This is my third air fryer, I ‘upgraded’ my first after about a year, which was not my best-ever decision given the one I upgraded to did not last long at all before breaking down. I learnt my lesson though. 

This time I did all the research and got lots of advice, and I am delighted with my new Ninja.

Air fryers have become incredibly popular over the last year. I wrote a short series of air fryer recipes for this column last year, featuring recipes for chicken wings, loaded wedges, whole roasted spiced cauliflower and a gorgeously indulgent chocolate fondant. You will find all those on ieFood, so do check them out.

This week, given my recent purchase, I have been experimenting with a recipe for air-fried chicken – think KFC, but air fried rather than deep-fried. Air fryers are no good with wet batters, but perfect with a dry flour coating or crumb, so perfect for ‘fried’ chicken.

I am delighted with how this recipe worked out. I think this is even better than deep-fried chicken! It is also very easy to make and does not take a lot of time. Use boned, skin on chicken portions for maximum flavour. I portioned a 1.2kg chicken into eight pieces, which was perfect, but you can use pre-portioned chicken for convenience if you prefer.

For tender, juicy chicken, marinade the portions in buttermilk, with some hot sauce added if you like your fried chicken a little on the spicy side. If you can, let the chicken rest in the buttermilk for 2-3 hours, but at a push, one hour will do. Serve your fried chicken with your favourite sides, corn on the cob, coleslaw, chips, or baked potatoes are perfect.

Southern Air-Fried Chicken

recipe by:Colm O’Gorman

An American classic – adapted for your air-fryer!

Preparation Time

3 hours 20 mins

Total Time

3 hours 40 mins


  • 1kg chicken portions, bone in and skin on

  • 500 ml buttermilk

  • 80 ml Franks hot sauce (optional)

  • 200g plain flour

  • 1 tbsp baking powder

  • 50g cornflour

  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika

  • 2 tsp garlic salt

  • 2 tsp dried thyme

  • 2 tsp dried basil

  • 2 tsp dried oregano

  • 1 tsp ground ginger

  • 1 tsp ground cumin

  • 2 tsp ground white pepper

  • 2 tsp fine sea salt

  • Some olive oil spray


  1. If you are using a whole chicken, break it down into eight portions. Beginning by removing the backbone, then flatten out the chicken and cut away the thighs and legs from the breast. Separate the thighs and drumsticks and then finally, remove the rib bones from each of the breasts and cut them into two, leaving the wings attached to one piece, to give you eight portions in all. A 1.2kg chicken will give you about 1kg of portions, but as above, you can use pre-portioned chicken pieces if you prefer.

  2. Put the chicken pieces in a large bowl and add the buttermilk and the hot sauce if you are using it. Stir to coat the chicken thoroughly, it

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