Ah, yeah! It’s time for wings! They’re one of my favorite treats to enjoy when I eat out.
The problem is that while you & I both love fresh chicken wings it takes time & money to dine out. Even worse, I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve been disappointed by the ones I paid good money for.
In my detailed guide, I’ll show you how to make fantastic frozen chicken wings in an air fryer. It’s simple, cheap, and they’re delicious!
Infographic – Air fryer frozen wing basics
Basics first: Steps for cooking air fryer chicken wings
Making your own frozen wings at home with your air fryer is simple. But there are a few things to know to get the best flavor for your effort and to avoid the hassle, too.
First things first: Here’s a layout of the basics steps to cook delicious chicken wings you’ll be proud of.
How & why to preheat your air fryer
Top: Preheating an air fryer with digital controls. These often have a preheat mode button. Bottom: For standard models, you can preheat the fryer by adjusting it to the 380 degree temperature and setting the cooking timer for 5 minutes.
Just as we do with ordinary ovens, air fryer manufacturers recommend warming up the fryer before. Why, you may ask?
Preheating an air fryer does several things:
- The heating element is brought to a ready (hot) state
- Interior surfaces which help cook food are heated and ready to work properly
- Preheating removes the warming delay that would happen otherwise when cooking
Basically, this just means you’re getting your air fryer ready to begin cooking right away. You won’t have the cooking process slowed by having to heat up while you’re cooking. It’s sort of like how we let a car warm up in the wintertime before driving it.
For food that’s heated properly and cooks well, you’ll need to let your air fryer warm up. Doing this allows your meals to cook consistently and reliably.
Even though air fryers are small and don’t take a long time to warm up like traditional ovens, they still need a few minutes time before they’re ready.
How to preheat your air fryer
I measured the preheat times to 380°F for both of my air fryers before I cooked wings. Even though they reach their full cooking temperature in under 5 minutes, as a rule it’s best to use that amount of time. The internal surfaces should be hot and ready to cook food on contact so you’ll want to be confident they’re up to temperature.
Preheating is really easy! The way you go about doing it depends on the type of air fryer you’ll use.
Preheating is done two ways:
- Digital controls/push buttons: Most have a preheat button to take care of this. When used, the unit will heat itself for the time required then shutoff. You can also set the temperature and cooking time manually to do the same thing.
- Air fryers with dial controls can be set to the cooking temperature then set for 5 mins cooking time. When the timer is done you’re ready to add food and start the cooking process.
In either case, 5 minutes is a typical preheat time that works well. Use a preheating temperature that’s the same as you’ll use for your food (380°F is recommended for frozen wings).
Getting your wings ready to cook
Getting your wings ready is really simple and takes just a moment or two, so don’t worry! Fill your fryer container with the frozen wings (no higher than the top edge of the basket). Next, shake the wings to help even them out and space them apart for best exposure to the hot cooking air. Tip: To help crisping on the outside you may want to lightly coat the wings with a cooking oil such as canola.
Next, you’ll need to get your wings ready. It’s easy and fast, so don’t worry – in fact, you’ll need to do this same routine for french fries, tater tots, and other foods you’ll enjoy with an air fryer.
- Add the frozen wings to the fryer basket. Wings shouldn’t go above the top edge of the container.
- Shake the basket container until the wings “even out.” That is, shake them until they’re more evenly spaced inside the container. This helps them cook well as they get more exposure to the hot air around them.
- (Optional) For help with crisping the outside of the wings, add a light coating of cooking oil like canola or other oil of your choice.
- Place the container back inside the air fryer.
When it comes to using an air fryer, it’s important to cover up the food as little as possible. Food that’s stacked on each other cover portions and won’t cook as well.
It’s also one reason you’ll need to shake the wings during cooking (I’ll cover this below).
Using a cooking spray
A helpful bit of advice is that you can use a cooking spray like canola oil, available in any supermarket to spray the food with. Doing so helps the food crisp better while cooking.
That goes not just for meats but french fries, tater tots, and other foods that are more enjoyable when crunchy on the outside. It’s a tip I picked up from my Cuisinart toaster oven/air fryer owner’s manual.
To do so, spray enough to lightly coat the outside of your wings or other food. You won’t need much – just enough to cover the top surfaces.
How long should I cook frozen chicken wings?
To be very careful and get the best info, I measured cooking times for both larger and smaller air fryers. The larger model (a 3.7 quart Cosori unit) had the wings crisp & ready in 25 minutes. The smaller one, a 1.2 qt Dash personal air fryer, needed a bit more time (and I also needed to shake them a bit more) at about 30 minutes.
I carefully checked my wings and measured cooking times for wings prepared in 2 sizes of air fryers many people will use: One more suitable for families (3.7 quart capacity) and one for individuals (1.2 quart capacity).
What I found was interesting. Even though some other foods like frozen hamburger patties cook with about the same amount of time, in testing the times were slightly different for wings.
Basically what you need to know is that you’ll need to cook frozen wings for about 25 to 30 minutes.
Here’s a timeline of what happens when making wings:
- 0-10 mins: Thawed out, starting to warm up inside the wings
- 10-15: Cooking more inside, outside (on top) begins to brown. At 15 minutes be sure to shake and turn them over.
- 20 mins: Last exposed sides of wings are browning
- 25 mins: Some air fryers will be done!
- 30 mins: Should be enough time for others fryers to finish
Don’t forget to check & shake!
Shaking the wings is important for getting great results. You’ll want to shake them to turn the uncooked sides over so they’ll be exposed to hot cooking air. In only takes a few seconds – just gently shake & stir them (or optionally you can use a fork or tongs) to move them around as needed.
It’s important to remove and shake the wings after 15 minutes. You’ll want to do this to turn them over and expose the uncooked sides to the hot air. If you wish, add more cooking oil spray again.
Put the wings back into the fryer and check again at 25 minutes. For some air fryers, the food will be fully cooked now.
Others (like the smaller Dash compact air fryer I own) may need a few more minutes. At 25 minutes cooking time, also check if you need to shake them again.
If you find that there are still some parts of the wings left uncooked, be sure to shake them again and continue cooking until 30 minutes are done.
Once cooking time is up, you’re ready!
Tip: You can be confident how well food is cooked by using a digital temperature gauge with a probe to check. When the temperature inside reaches 165° and above the food should be safe to eat and nearly done (depending on the outside too). I use a nice little ThermoPro TP03A digital kitchen gauge that’s very affordable and works great.
Last touches and we’re done. Time to eat!
While you can directly pour the wings onto a plate after cooking I recommend using a fork or tongs (even better!) When dumping the food out it’s easy to accidentally spill the leftover liquified fat or grease. I’ve also dropped wings on to the floor, sadly.
When done cooking, I recommend you don’t just dump out the wings on to a plate or bowl as it’s easy to spill the leftover grease/liquid fat or drop wings on the floor.
In my experience, it’s easier to use some inexpensive food tongs (or a fork as well). They’re also helpful for keeping your hands away from the hot fryer basket.
After emptying the fryer container, add your favorite dry sub seasoning, sauce, or whatever you prefer. I recommend serving them immediately as the taste just isn’t the same after reheating.
After cooking and adding the flavoring or favorite sauce you can have fresh, hot, and most of all delicious wings just like these! Restaurant-style quality that’s cheaper, healthier, and in less time. Even better – you can do it yourself any time you like!
I’m pretty amazed at how great mine turned out. The amount of time, money, and hassle I saved by cooking them at home is fantastic!
Not only that, but it’s a really great feeling to have cooked your own healthier and fresher food yourself.
Clean up & last notes
Check out what’s left over after cooking in an air fryer! Wow. Even though it looks terribly messy, clean-up is easy. After letting the cooking basket cool down in only takes a moment or two to wash the parts in your kitchen sink.
You’ll have some liquified fat (oil) and grease left after cooking your wings. I was really interested to see what it was that I wouldn’t be eating, unlike grease-fried wings from a restaurant.
Not to worry, though: clean up is easy. Give the cooking basket & parts some time to cool down. Drain the grease and fat out and dispose of it.
After that, just add warm water and a few drops of dishwashing detergent. Clean with a non-abrasive item like a soft sponge to avoid damaging the nonstick surface. It only takes a few moments and you’re done.
Allow the parts to air dry or dry with a towel if you prefer.
(Note: Most air fryer baskets are dishwasher safe so you could do it that way as well)
More air fryer cooking guides
Want even more delicious food you can cook in minutes? Check out my other guides based on hands-on testing, measurements, and most of all….taste!