How Long Do You Cook Frozen Chicken Tenders in an Air Fryer

Air fryers have become one of the most popular kitchen appliances for their ability to make foods crunchy and crisp using little to no oil. Cooking frozen chicken tenders in an air fryer is a fast, easy, and healthy way to enjoy a delicious meal or snack. But exactly how long should you cook frozen chicken tenders in an air fryer to heat them through and make them golden brown and crispy? Read on for tips, guidelines, and step-by-step instructions for perfectly air fried chicken tenders every time.

What are Frozen Chicken Tenders?

Chicken tenders, also called chicken strips or chicken fingers, are thin strips of chicken breast meat that have been breaded or battered and seasoned. They can be purchased fresh or frozen, but frozen chicken tenders are a convenient and budget-friendly option for quick weeknight dinners and snacks. The thin shape helps them cook up fast and crispy.

Frozen chicken tenders just require a short time in the air fryer to transform from frozen to hot, juicy, and crispy. Air frying frozen chicken tenders requires no need to thaw them first for delicious results. The air fryer circulates hot air around the chicken tenders to cook them through while crisping up the outside.

How Long to Cook Frozen Chicken Tenders in an Air Fryer

Cooking times can vary slightly based on the size and capacity of your air fryer model. But in general, the recommended air fryer cooking time for frozen chicken tenders is 10-12 minutes at 360°F (182°C).

Here are some more specific air fryer chicken tender cooking guidelines:

  • Small or thin chicken tenders: 9-11 minutes
  • Larger or thicker chicken tenders: 11-13 minutes
  • Preheat air fryer: 5 minutes
  • Air fry at 360-400°F (182°C-204°C)

Always check that the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165°F (74°C) using a meat thermometer for food safety. The chicken tenders should be golden brown and crispy on the outside when fully cooked.

Factors Affecting Chicken Tender Cooking Time

Several factors can impact the exact cooking time needed for frozen chicken tenders in an air fryer:

  • Air fryer capacity – Smaller air fryers may cook faster than larger models. Follow manufacturer guidelines.
  • Amount of chicken – Cooking time may need to be increased if air frying a large batch of frozen tenders.
  • Tender thickness – Thicker frozen tenders take longer to cook through than thinner ones.
  • Flipping – Flipping halfway through promotes even browning and cooking.
  • Crispiness preference – Add 2-3 minutes for extra crispy chicken tenders if desired.
  • Temperature – Higher heat above 400°F speeds the cooking process. Lower heat increases cooking time.

Monitor cooking progress to prevent burning. Increase cooking time as needed if the chicken is not fully cooked through.

Step-by-Step Guide to Air Fryer Frozen Chicken Tenders

Follow these easy steps for perfect air fryer chicken tenders every time:

1. Wash Frozen Chicken Tenders

Rinse the frozen chicken tenders under cool running water to remove any ice crystals or food debris. Pat dry with paper towels.

2. Oil the Chicken Tenders

Lightly brush or spray both sides of the frozen chicken tenders with oil to promote browning and crisping in the air fryer. Vegetable, canola, olive, and coconut oil all work well.

3. Preheat Air Fryer

Preheat air fryer at 360-400°F (182°C-204°C) for optimal cooking. This takes about 3-5 minutes in most models.

4. Add Chicken Tenders

Place chicken tenders in a single layer in the air fryer basket, without overcrowding. Overcrowding can increase cook times.

5. Air Fry for 10-12 Minutes

Cook at 360°F (182°C) for 10-12 minutes, shaking the basket or flipping tenders halfway through. Small tenders may take less time than larger pieces.

6. Flip and Rotate (Optional)

Flipping the chicken halfway through promotes even browning and cooking. Also rotate the basket to ensure all sides are exposed to the hot circulating air.

7. Check Temperature

Test the internal temperature by inserting a meat thermometer into the thickest part. Chicken is safe to eat once it registers 165°F (74°C).

8. Increase Heat for Crispiness

If a crisper coating is desired, increase heat to 380-400°F (193°C-204°C) and cook for 2-3 more minutes. But watch closely to avoid burning.

9. Remove and Enjoy

Once fully cooked, remove immediately from the air fryer basket to a serving plate. Enjoy the hot, juicy chicken tenders right away for the perfect crisp texture.

Following this simple air fryer method results in frozen chicken tenders that are crispy on the outside and tender and moist on the inside in just 10-15 minutes! Adjust cook times based on the size of your tenders and personal preference.

Tips for the Best Air Fryer Frozen Chicken Tenders

  • Use single-layer cooking – Avoid overcrowding for even cooking
  • Flip halfway through – Promotes browning and heat circulation
  • Brush or spray with oil – Helps make the coating crispy
  • Preheat properly – Allows air fryer to fully heat for faster cooking
  • Don’t overcook – Leads to dried out, rubbery texture

Common Air Fryer Chicken Tender Questions

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about cooking frozen chicken tenders in an air fryer:

Can you put frozen chicken tenderloins in an air fryer?

Yes, frozen chicken tenderloins cook well straight from frozen in an air fryer. No need to thaw first. Follow the recommended cooking guidelines above for tenderloins.

How long should I cook frozen chicken strips in an air fryer?

Cook frozen chicken strips or fingers for 10-15 minutes at 360°F (182°C) in an air fryer, depending on thickness. Check internal temperature to ensure doneness.

How to tell when frozen chicken is done in air fryer?

Chicken is fully cooked and safe to eat once the internal temperature reaches 165°F (74°C). The outside will be crispy and golden brown. Clear juices will run when pierced with a fork.

Should I flip chicken tenders when air frying?

Flipping halfway through is recommended for evenly cooked chicken tenders. It helps ensure both sides get evenly exposed to the circulating hot air.

Do you need oil to air fry frozen chicken tenders?

Using a small amount of oil is recommended when air frying any frozen foods, including chicken tenders. Lightly oiling promotes browning and makes the breading crisper.

Is air fried chicken healthier than oven baked?

Yes, air frying is healthier than oven baking. The rapid hot air produces a crispy texture with little to no oil. Air fried chicken tenders are lower in fat and calories than their deep fried or oven baked counterparts.

Summary: Enjoy Golden Crispy Air Fried Chicken Tenders

Cooking frozen chicken tenders in an air fryer makes for a fast, easy, and delicious meal or snack. In just 10-15 minutes, you can enjoy crispy, crunchy chicken tenders cook straight from frozen with no thawing required.

Be sure to preheat properly, lightly oil the tenders, cook at the recommended temperature, and use a meat thermometer to verify doneness for food safety. Adjust cook times based on the size of the tenders.

With the simple tips and guidelines above, you can treat yourself to quick and healthy air fried chicken tenders any night of the week. Enjoy this tasty, budget-friendly meal from the convenience of your air fryer!

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