How Long To Cook Chicken Nuggets In The Air Fryer? What To Know

Mayank Kansal

Cuisinart Air Fryer Cooking Chicken Nuggets

While growing up or even now as adults, at one point or another in time we have all enjoyed some delicious chicken nuggets. 

These bite size chicken delicacies are great for a quick snack, as appetizers, or even a good source of protein depending on how they are made. 

Although there are plenty of ways to cook a chicken nugget, one of the best ways is to use an air fryer. After all, it’s a quick process that doesn’t take much to use and will create perfectly delicious chicken nuggets for everyone to have.

Sometimes using an air fryer can be a bit tricky as it’s still a relatively new creation and people are still puzzled by it. Which is why if you’re wanting to know how to use an air fryer to cook chicken nuggets, then fear not.

In this article, we’ll be telling you exactly how long to cook chicken nuggets in the air fryer, how an air fryer works as well as anything else you need to know about chicken nuggets or air fryers. So with that being said, lets get started!

What Are Chicken Nuggets Made From?

Chicken Nugget Options At HEB

Chicken nuggets which are essentially small pieces of chicken meat that is breaded or battered and the finished product is ultimately baked or deep fried. 

The deep frying actually occurs more than once in certain locations but we will discuss that in the next section. 

Most if not all of the fast food chains like McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, etc, claim to use only white meat chicken, which comes mainly from the chicken breast. 

Until we have had the chance to see the entire process first-hand, it is pretty safe to assume consumers know that is not the case. 

I mean unless we are taking what these companies say at face value, it is not too far fetched to think the final chicken meat that is grinded to make the nuggets would include fat, skin, connective tissue, etc.   

Chicken Nugget Options At HEB

A possible exception to this can be McDonald’s, as I recall one time Grant Imahara actually visited a Tyson plant in Tennessee to see the entire process on how they made their chicken nuggets. 

Tyson is a food supplier for McDonald’s and in that video they showed that in addition to the breast, there is rib meat and tenderloins that are used as well. Later down the line they do add some chicken skin back for flavor. 

In addition to white chicken meat(s), most if not all fast food chains and factory made nuggets use thickening agents and emulsifiers to retain thickness as well as moisture in chicken nuggets. 

There is one alternative to know exactly what all is going into your chicken nuggets, and that is if you are making them at home from scratch. 

It is not the most convenient method, but you can be rest assured if you are only using chicken breast and rib meat, along with seasonings, then those are the only ingredients you will be consuming when you eat them. 

Now that we have a general idea on what chicken nuggets are made from, let us see where we can get our hands on some chicken nuggets.

Where Can You Go To Get Chicken Nuggets?

Chicken Nugget Options At HEB

Getting chicken nuggets at least in the US has got to be one of the easiest tasks ever! 

I mean you can open up your navigation apps like Wyze, Google Maps, or Apple Maps and even within any 5 mile radius, you will find at least 10 locations that offer chicken nuggets. 

The most common places you will find any nuggets are likely fast food chain restaurants like McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, KFC, and Chick-Fil-A. 

Besides fast food chains, you can also purchase factory premade chicken nuggets from grocery stores such as Costco, HEB, Kroger, and Walmart among other spots. 

They all claim on their respective websites that they use chicken breast meat and rib meat as the only chicken related ingredients. 

Chicken Nugget Options At HEB

The one thing about fast food or store bought chicken nuggets is that they are all already deep fried at least once. 

I mentioned at least once because before the nuggets arrive at fast food chains, they are partially fried and immediately frozen before being sealed off in packages and shipped to respective fast food locations where they will be fried again upon customers orders.

For that reason there are plenty of individuals that choose to make their own chicken nuggets at home. Main ingredients needed would be chicken breast meat from your local supermarket, desired seasoning ingredients, bread crumbs, and butter among possible other items. 

The best part about getting either frozen nuggets or making homemade chicken nuggets is that you do not have to necessarily deep fry them! Rather you can either bake them in the oven or even better you can air fry them! 

As we move forward in the chicken nugget discussion, our main focus will include how does the air fryer cook the nuggets as well as how long should you cook them.

How Does An Air Fryer Cook A Chicken Nugget?

Cuisinart Air Fryer Cooking Chicken Nuggets

A common question that comes up is the comparison of cooking an item in the air fryer as opposed to the standard oven. Air fryers are basically mini convection ovens. 

While they both work in a similar fashion, the smaller, more compact size of the air fryer allows you to cook the same product in a fraction of the time compared to the oven. 

Normally when we cook chicken nuggets or any item in an standard oven, we raise the temperature to the desired setting but it takes time for the heat to move around and eventually cook our food to the desired temperature.

Imagine cooking those same nuggets or items in one fourth of the area. Now imagine there are fans which moves the hot air evenly throughout that small space.

The end result is simple, you force the heat to make faster contact with your food, raising its temperature, and voila the dish is done in a mere fraction of the time.

Another way to think about this is if we use the example of raising the heat inside the house during winter. Once the house heater is turned on, the vents are only pointing in certain directions.

If you are sitting in your room, you are not going to feel the full heat because it will also be distributed throughout the house and ultimately make it to your room.

Compare that to having a rotating heating fan in your room. The rotating motion of the fan will allow the hot air to come in contact with you much sooner as it circulates in your closed room.

Hill Country Fare - Heat & Eat White Meat Chicken Nuggets - Air Fryer Basket

You also save money on electricity by default. How an air fryer actually cooks the food can be further divided based on the type of air fryer you have. 

There is a classic version which has a pull out basket, versus the oven style which has 2 racks and looks literally like your oven. 

I personally feel that the basket is not ideal when making items like chicken nuggets because they tend to sit on top of one another. 

This overlap does not allow for proper heat circulation and distribution which means you will likely end up with soggy areas on your food. 

In the oven style air fryers, you have a wire rack that can be placed on top of a solid tray. The wire rack ensures the heat will be evenly distributed and you do not necessarily have to flip the contents midway to ensure a thorough cook. 

I personally still flip items in my oven air fryer wire rack to get that extra level of crisp texture. It is still important to know how long should you cook the nuggets on each side.

You have multiple modes in the oven style air fryer that you can choose from such as bake, broil, toast, air fry, and grill. 

By chance if you were to cook the nuggets directly using only the flat metal tray, the heat circulates throughout the entire space providing a perfect and even cook. Only thing is that you would need to flip it midway through.

How Long To Cook Chicken Nuggets In The Air Fryer?

Cuisinart Air Fryer Toaster Oven and Grill

Just about every bag of frozen chicken nuggets, regardless of which supermarket you buy them from, will have some sort of instructions as to how long to heat the chicken nuggets. 

To prevent your nuggets from getting burned it is important to follow directions on how long to cook the nuggets in the air fryer.

I looked through multiple frozen chicken nugget brands like Tyson, Hill Country Fare, and even the supermarket in-house brands like those from Kroger, Great Value from Walmart, etc. There seemed to be a general range on how long to cook the frozen nuggets.

The cooking time recommended by most was 9 to 10 minutes with a few suggesting as long as 13 minutes. The cooking temperature also ranged between 370 degrees to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Additionally, if you are preparing the nuggets from scratch, the common cooking temperature was 400 degrees Fahrenheit with a cook time of about 8 – 10 minutes.

This time I was in a little bit of a rush so I personally decided to buy frozen chicken nuggets from my local HEB. I bought the Hill Country Fare – Heat & Eat breaded chicken nuggets. 

The air fryer I used to cook these nuggets was my Cuisinart Air Fryer Toaster Oven and Grill. 

Yes, it is as amazing as it looks and yes I would totally recommend you buy one as well! 

My air fryer did have some general directions for cooking frozen chicken nuggets, but I went with what was on the packaging just to be on the safe side. The following are the steps I did while preparing my nuggets.

  1. Place the desired amount of chicken nuggets on wire tray (I used 12)
  2. I set my air fryer at 400 degrees fahrenheit for 12 minutes (2 minutes to preheat)
  3. Once the 2 minutes were done, I place the tray and wire rack inside the lower section of the air fryer 
  4. Around the 5 minute mark (I set a separate timer as well) I took the nuggets out for about 30 seconds to flip each one once and placed them back in the air fryer.
  5. Once the remaining 5 minutes were done, I took the nuggets out and let them rest for 1 – 2 minutes before digging in!
Chicken Nuggets After Being Cooked in Air Fryer Tray

A few things to note here is that flipping the nuggets was not necessary as they would have been heated evenly on both sides thanks to the wire rack. I only flipped them because I like them to be crispy. 

If you do not have a wire rack, I would definitely recommend doing a light spray of canola or olive oil on the tray and flipping them halfway. Both of those steps will prevent the nuggets from turning soggy at the bottom and overdone at the top. 

If you are making homemade chicken nuggets, then you may have to play around with your air fryer settings (temperature and timing) as your cooking times may vary. There are plenty of recipes out there that you can use as a reference. 

There is still one question that I am sure many contemplate, whether it is worth cooking items in an air fryer because honestly, some of those air fryers are not cheap. So let us try to address that.

Is It Better To Cook Chicken Nuggets In The Air Fryer?

Chicken Nuggets On Air Fryer Tray Flipped halfway to heat both sides evenly

Air fryers are an amazing invention because we can use less oil, and we get to save time and money.

A lot of oven style air fryers and pretty much all air fryers can provide us with the same delicious tastes without having to use excessive amounts of oil.

A light spray of oil can still get you that crispy texture on your foods, comparing to getting chicken nuggets in fast food restaurants that have been deep fried! 

We save time as these are just basically mini convection ovens so we can cook or bake items like fish, vegetables, fries, and chicken nuggets among various other items. 

The smaller compartment heats up a lot faster than your traditional oven, which results in items being prepared in half or even a third of the time it would normally take. 

Frozen Chicken Nuggets on Air Fryer Tray - before being heated

By reducing our cooking time, we are going to use up less electricity and will be confronted with a smaller electricity bill. 

I am also not a big fan of opening the standard ovens after food has been cooked, as I do not like being blasted with that hot air. 

Some chicken nuggets packaging also has the option to microwave for a set time. The main problem with this is that I can almost guarantee that those nuggets will come out soggy on the bottom, completely ruining the taste. 

The benefit of using the air fryer is that it will provide an even cooking experience, especially on the wire rack. 

Many air fryers like the one I used have multiple functions. If the nuggets you purchased from the fast food chain have gotten cold, you can easily air fry them back into their original crispy state! 

Cuisinart Air Fryer with Tray

While air fryers are indeed an amazing product, there are some limitations to them. If you are making quick bites or even dinner just for the family, air fryers are perfect for the job. 

However, if you are preparing items for a party or a larger group, then the convenience concept kind of flies out the door. 

No one will care to do 10 rounds of chicken nuggets batches in an air fryer to feed 15 – 20 kids as it would be too time consuming.


So far we have had a chance to review what chicken nuggets are made from, where can we buy the nuggets, how an air fryer cooks nuggets as well as how long we should cook the nuggets, and lastly if it is worth cooking them in an air fryer. 

There is no reason to avoid these delicious snacks as they can be cooked or reheated in a much quicker method thanks to the air fryer.

If you are planning on cooking chicken nuggets for yourself or for the family, an air fryer can be extremely convenient by preparing the items in under 15 minutes for the whole family to enjoy!