Colorado warms up with air fryer hot chicken

Nashville hot chicken cooked in an air fryer.

I recently purchased the Ninja Foodi Smart Grill to use as an indoor grill. One of its other functions is an air-crisp feature (same as an air fryer), but I already had an air fryer that I liked, so I’d dismissed this feature on the new grill.

However, I gave it a second look after spotting a recipe for spicy buttermilk ranch chicken in the cooking instruction booklet that came with the grill. It sounded much like “hot chicken,” a type of fried chicken unique to Nashville, Tenn., that’s spiced with cayenne pepper and quite wonderful.

So I gave the recipe a try and found that Ninja’s air-crisp feature works really well.

The brown, crispy outside skin was near perfect, better than when I’d used my air fryer, and I was super happy with the juicy results of the buttermilk marinade. And all of this was possible without the mess of splattered hot fat or the lingering odor of fried food.

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But it wasn’t spicy enough for our taste buds, so I decided to up the heat — and made some other changes to the process for my second batch.

First, I bought a packet of Nashville Hot Fried Chicken Spices from Savory Spice Shop. Half of it went into the buttermilk marinade and the other half went into the flour for coating the chicken pieces. I used chicken thighs.

After the thighs had marinated overnight, I drained and patted them lightly with paper towels. Instead of dusting them just in flour and then cooking them, as the recipe had said to do, I floured the thighs, then dipped them into an egg and milk mixture, and then rolled them in the flour again before cooking.

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Next, I borrowed a tip from the chef at Jax Fish House and Oyster Bar: I chilled the battered thighs.

I placed them on a cake rack set in a rimmed baking sheet and refrigerated them for a couple of hours. This slightly dries the batter so it’s less likely to stick to the crisping basket and be pulled off when the chicken is turned during cooking. When I was ready to cook, I sprayed the chicken pieces with cooking oil, which also helps with browning.

It all worked perfectly. Once the air-crisp was preheated, it took 25 minutes to crisp and brown the skin and thoroughly cook the inside of the chicken. It was super juicy, and the spice level was spot-on. There was maybe a tablespoon of spray oil used.

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I served them with spicy pickled okra, which I found at Gather Food Studio, and Red Bell Ranch dip, made from a packet purchased at Savory Spice Shop.

Here’s the modified recipe.

contact the writer: 636-0271.

Food editor

Food writer for features life section and columnist for Go! Entertainment - Table Talk column

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