Skip to content

How To Make the Perfect Turkey in an Air Fryer

A chef gives his step-by-step guide for cooking an amazing air fryer turkey.

Figuring out how you're going to cook your Thanksgiving turkey and then executing your plan can be the most stressful part of preparing your holiday feast. You have to find the right turkey, determine what size you need, decide what you're going to use to cook it, and then plan out how you're going to coordinate all of the other moving parts of the meal. To make your life easier, you can actually cook your turkey in an air fryer.

Why would someone want to cook an air fryer turkey? For starters, frying a turkey the traditional way can be dangerous and difficult to pull off, so an air fryer can still deliver a crispy exterior more easily. Another factor to consider is that if you bake your turkey in the oven, you'll be taking up the majority of your oven space while you're trying to manage cooking your appetizers, sides, and dessert, so you can leave the oven available by air frying your turkey instead.

You may be wondering how you can pull this off, especially if you're used to only using your air fryer for smaller foods like chicken wings, fries, or vegetables. To learn exactly how to make the perfect air fryer turkey, we talked with Chef Chris Nirschel of NY Catering Service.

Read on, and for more tips on how to prepare the best and most seamless Thanksgiving meal, check out these 40 Thanksgiving Sides That Will Have Everyone Raving.

First, make sure your turkey can fit in your air fryer.

air fryer raw turkey

The first step in making the perfect air fryer turkey is to make sure you have the right tools. That is of course the first step in any sort of cooking process, but with air frying something as large as a turkey, you'll need to make sure your turkey is going to work with the air fryer you have.

You'll first want to determine the size of the turkey you need. You can find turkeys as small as 6 pounds, while the larger ones in stores are usually around 20 pounds. A general rule of thumb for determining the appropriate turkey size for your feast is to calculate about one pound of turkey per guest.

Once you've decided on your turkey, you'll next need to figure out if it works in your air fryer. Chef Nirschel's favorite air fryer to use for cooking turkey is the Fritaire Glass Bowl Air Fryer, which is perfect for smaller-size turkeys. You can air fry a large turkey, but it will require a larger appliance like the Masterbuilt 20-Quart Outdoor Air Fryer or the Kalorik MAXX 26-Quart Air Fryer.

12 Thanksgiving Side Dishes You Can Make in the Air Fryer

Brine and season the turkey

According to Chef Nirschel, the next step in air frying a turkey is to properly brine and season.

"To brine, submerge the turkey in a solution of salt, water, and aromatics for several hours or overnight," he says. "Once brining is complete, pat the turkey dry and generously season it with your favorite herbs and spices for a flavorful turkey."

 7 Tips to Expertly Brine a Turkey, According to Chefs

Find the right cooking temperature and time for your turkey

Once you've brined and seasoned your turkey, you can "Preheat your air fryer to 350 degrees Fahrenheit," says Chef Nirschel. "This ensures that the turkey cooks evenly and achieves that perfect balance of crispy skin and juicy interior.

Finding the best time for your turkey also depends on the size, but Chef Nirschel's general rule is to "cook at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately 20 minutes per pound, and regularly check the internal temperature with a meat thermometer for accurate cooking."

Baste for moisture

air fryer turkey basting

"To maintain moisture in your turkey, periodically baste the turkey with its own juices," says Chef Nirschel. "This step adds an extra layer of flavor and succulence."

You can use a traditional turkey baster, or if you don't have one of those you can use a soup ladle. You'll just need something to get the juices from the bottom of the air fryer.

Many people also cook a turkey using a turkey bag, which is known for helping to lock moisture in, but Chef Nirschel says you don't need one with the air fryer. "The air fryer's circulating hot air efficiently crisps the exterior while sealing in the juices for a moist turkey," he says.

The Best Way to Cook a Baked Potato in an Air Fryer

Utilize the rotisserie feature

Not all air fryers have one, but if your appliance has a rotisserie feature, Chef Nirschel recommends utilizing it.

"My personal favorite air fryer is the Fritaire Air Fryer because I can take advantage of the rotisserie chicken feature, which can rotate the turkey for even cooking, resulting in a golden-brown, crispy skin," he says.

Check the temperature, then carve and enjoy your air fryer turkey

Thanksgiving turkey

When you're cooking an entire bird, especially something as large as a turkey, you'll need a meat thermometer on hand so that you can ensure it's been fully cooked through.

"Ensure the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit," says Chef Nirschel. "This guarantees that your air-fried turkey is not only safe to eat but also perfectly cooked."

Now for the fun part! "Once the internal temperature is reached, your air-fried turkey is ready to be carved and served," says Chef Nirschel.

Samantha Boesch
Samantha was born and raised in Orlando, Florida and now works as a writer in Brooklyn, NY. Read more about Samantha