Learn how to cook frozen chicken legs in the air fryer: it’s easy and fast and will save dinner on many occasions. This delicious recipe is a family favorite, perfect for busy weeknights.
Quickly cook frozen chicken legs or drumsticks in the air fryer – a hassle-free method for delicious results. Skip the thawing process and follow this straightforward cooking method for a quick and satisfying meal that your whole family will enjoy.
Using your air fryer to cook frozen chicken drumsticks is a handy way to make a yummy meal without spending lots of time. Follow this simple recipe and enjoy an easy dinner with minimal effort. Check out more Air Fryer Recipes for Beginners. Or make some Air Fryer Frozen Chicken Tenderloins.
Check out more delicious drumstick recipes: Honey Mustard Legs, Air Fryer Chicken Legs, Cast-Iron Skillet Drumsticks, Butterflied Drumsticks, Mexican Chicken Legs, Honey Soy Drumsticks, or Slow Cooker Drumsticks.
Jump to recipe
Why should you cook frozen drumsticks in the air fryer?
- Time-saving: The air fryer cooks frozen chicken legs faster than traditional methods.
- Convenience: No need to defrost the chicken pieces in advance. Just place them directly in the machine's basket, saving you planning time.
- Crispy texture: The air fryer's circulating hot air creates crispy chicken legs, similar to deep frying but with less oil, thus making the meal healthier, too.
- Versatility: You can customize the seasoning to suit your taste and incorporate the drumsticks in many other dishes.
- Minimal cleanup and no splatter.
- Frozen chicken legs, also known as drumsticks, that have been frozen individually.
- If your frozen chicken legs are stuck together, don't worry; you can still use this kitchen appliance to cook them. Just remember that it might take a bit more time to cook, and you'll have to separate the legs after they begin to thaw a little in the air fryer.
- Vegetable oil helps the seasoning stick to the meat and also helps to make them crispy. You can use another type of oil, like canola, sunflower, olive, or avocado oil.
- Spices: Feel free to use your favorite spices or rubs. I find it easy to use a good store-bought chicken seasoning (around 3 teaspoons). If your rub or seasoning has salt, consider that when adding salt to your mix.
- Optional: Your favorite sauce to glaze the legs towards the end of the cooking time, for instance, BBQ, hot, or teriyaki sauce.
- Try our dry rub for chicken wings, lemon pepper seasoning, Cajun seasoning, all-purpose or Italian seasoning, any other favorite mix, or dry rub for chicken. Or check out Baked Chicken Drumsticks for more ideas.
Other seasoning ideas
- 2 tablespoons oil + ½ teaspoon salt + ¼ teaspoon black pepper + ½ teaspoon turmeric powder + 1 grated garlic clove
- 2 tablespoons oil + ½ teaspoon salt + ¼ teaspoon pepper + ½ teaspoon garlic powder + ½ teaspoon onion powder + ½ teaspoon smoked or hot paprika
- 2 tablespoons oil + ½ teaspoon salt + ¼ teaspoon pepper + 1-2 teaspoons dried herbs of your choice + 1 grated garlic clove
- 2 tablespoons oil + ½ teaspoon salt + ¼ teaspoon pepper + ¾ teaspoon ground cumin + ¾ teaspoon ground coriander + a pinch of cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes
- Air Fryer (the Amazon affiliate link opens in a new tab)
- Instant-read thermometer (the Amazon affiliate link opens in a new tab)
- Tongs (the Amazon affiliate link opens in a new tab)
How to cook frozen chicken legs in the air fryer?
- Preheat the air fryer to 360°F/180°C; mine needs 3 minutes.
- Season: Pat dry the chicken legs with paper towels (there’s no need to wash it). Place them in a large bowl and coat them with the oil. Rub them with the seasoning mixture to cover them all over (1).
- Place them in the air fryer's basket in a single layer (2).
- Cook the drumsticks for a total of 30 minutes, flipping halfway or until the skin is crispy and the pieces are cooked through (3).
- Optional: Brush the drumsticks with a bit of barbecue sauce, teriyaki, or hot sauce 5 minutes before the end of the cooking time. In this case, you will have rather sticky than crispy skin, but they will be equally delicious.
- Check doneness with an instant-read thermometer; the internal temperature should be 165°F/ 74°C.
- Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.
- Pat dry: If your frozen chicken thighs have lots of ice, gently dry them using a paper towel before adding seasoning.
- Please don’t wash the chicken; it can spread bacteria in your sink. The USDA advises (link opens in a new tab) against washing poultry because it's ineffective and risky. Only heat can properly eliminate any bacteria that could be present on the chicken.
- Add a touch of cooking oil: Even though air fryers use less oil, a tiny bit on the chicken boosts crispiness and flavor and helps spices stick.
- Don't overcrowd the basket. Leave some space for air to move around for cooking.
- Unstick drumsticks: If they are stuck, let them defrost a bit in the machine. Then, separate them for even cooking.
- Flip halfway so both sides get equally browned.
No, it can be cooked directly from frozen.
Yes, this guarantees consistent cooking. Give them a slight defrost in the air fryer, then gently pull them apart. Cook for around 5 minutes (or until you can separate them) without oil or seasoning. Gently separate, then brush with oil and add spices on both sides. Follow the cooking instructions, considering they might need a few extra minutes.
An instant meat thermometer is the top choice, but you can also check without it. Cut a small opening close to the bone. The meat should be opaque, not pink or red, and the juices should be clear, not bloody.
To start, cooking frozen chicken parts in the machine usually leads to less dry meat. Yet, it's still possible to have dryness. Prevent overcooking and excessive heat. Stick to the suggested cooking times and add a bit of oil to help keep the meat moist.
Refrigerate cooked chicken legs in an airtight container for 3-4 days.
Freeze in an airtight container or a freezer bag for up to 3 months. Defrost in the refrigerator.
Reheat in the preheated air fryer at 350°F/ 180°C for 4-5 minutes or until heated through.
What to serve with drumsticks?
More ideas for cooking frozen food
- How to Cook Frozen Corn (on the Cob and Kernels)
- Roasted Frozen Cauliflower
- How to Bake Frozen Chicken Breast
- Instant Pot Frozen Chicken Legs
- Instant Pot Frozen Ground Beef
- Instant Pot Frozen Chicken Breast
- How to Boil Chicken Legs (Thighs, Drumsticks, Quarters)
- Cooking Frozen Chicken Breast (The Ultimate Guide)
Frozen Chicken Legs in the Air Fryer (Drumsticks)
- 6 chicken legs drumsticks, Notes 1, 2
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or canola or olive oil
- 3 teaspoons chicken seasoning Notes 3, 4
- sauce BBQ, teriyaki, hot sauce, etc, optional
- Preheat the air fryer to 360°F/180°C as instructed by its instruction manual (mine needs 3 minutes).
- Season: Pat dry the chicken legs using paper towels. Place them in a large bowl and coat them with the oil. Sprinkle the seasoning on top and rub well to coat all over. Place the drumsticks in the air fryer basket in a single layer.6 chicken legs + 2 tablespoon oil + 3 teaspoon seasoning
- Air fry the drumsticks for 15 minutes. Flip and cook for 15 minutes more or until the skin is crispy and the legs are cooked through.
- Optional: Brush the legs with some BBQ or another sauce 5 minutes before the end of the cooking time.
- Check doneness with an instant-read thermometer (the Amazon link opens in a new tab); the internal temperature should be 165°F/ 74°C (Note 5).
- Rest for 5 minutes before serving.
- Chicken legs or drumsticks: You can cook as many as they fit in the air fryer basket in a single layer without being overcrowded.
- If frozen in a block, defrost them shortly in the air fryer and then separate them. Cook them for about 5 minutes (or until you can separate them) without oil and seasoning. Separate the legs, brush them with oil, and rub them with the spices. Cook them as instructed, but remember they will need a bit longer.
- Seasoning: Use your favorite store-bought chicken seasoning or dry rub. Alternatively, use only salt and pepper, all-purpose seasoning, our homemade seasoning for chicken wings, or any spices you like (check the blog post for more ideas).
- Salt: If your store-bought seasoning has salt (like mine), there’s no need to add extra salt. But if it doesn’t contain salt, mix ½ teaspoon fine sea salt with the seasoning.
- Cooking time depends on the size of the chicken legs. Typically, it's 25 to 30 minutes. I had large ones, and it took 30 minutes for them to be cooked through. For smaller ones, check sooner. If larger, extend their time in the air fryer. The internal temperature should be 165°F/ 74°C.