Can you cook a turkey in an air fryer? A chef weighs in.

Everyone loves their air fryer these days, but can you cook this year's Thanksgiving turkey in it? (Photos: Getty)
Everyone loves their air fryer these days, but can you cook this year's Thanksgiving turkey in it? (Photos: Getty)

We air fry everything else, so why not turkey?

Every year families around the U.S. gather at a table filled with carb-laden side dishes, cranberry sauce and a golden turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. While prep often starts days in advance, cooking the star of the show on the big day takes up precious oven room and can take hours depending on how big the bird actually is.

To make more room inside their oven, some people fry or even smoke their turkey outside. But on TikTok, a big turkey trend is air frying the main dish, leaving some asking Is this new turkey trend safe?

Yahoo Life reached out to a chef to find out if air frying is really the way to go this Thanksgiving, and how you can make a delicious turkey in the air fryer with just a few adjustments from the traditional oven cooking method.

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Can you cook a whole turkey in an air fryer?

As the old saying goes, just because you can do something doesn't mean you should. "Cooking a whole turkey in an air fryer is a difficult and labor-intensive process," says Brian Jupiter, executive chef at The Frontier and Ina Mae Tavern in Chicago, Ill.

Jupiter explains the biggest problem with most air fryers is they are small compared to the size of a whole turkey. "Even cooking a whole chicken in an air fryer would be complicated," he says. "Also, each part of the turkey cooks at different temperatures for different times. This is often why the turkey legs may be perfectly cooked after roasting the bird, but the breast is beyond overcooked."

Can you cook a turkey breast in an air fryer?

If your family is smaller, or you're just cooking for yourself this year, Jupiter says you may want to find a turkey breast. "Using just a turkey breast will work even better than a whole turkey," he explains, "because it can fit in the air fryer and you can cook it to the exact temperature you desire."

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How do you cook a whole turkey in an air fryer?

If you can find a whole turkey small enough to fit into an air fryer (or an air fryer large enough to fit a whole turkey), cooking the bird is similar to the oven method.

Just like a turkey cooked in the oven, you'll want to add some flavor to the meat before putting it into the air fryer. "Rub the area in between the skin and the meat with butter and herbs," says Jupiter. "I like to use rosemary and thyme for this step. The butter will seep into the meat as it cooks and saturate it so that if you do happen to overcook [the turkey] slightly, the fat provides a small buffer window. This technique is complicated, so take your time and be gentle."

Jupiter says to truss (tie poultry with kitchen twine to keep the wings and legs of the bird close to its body) a whole turkey to promote even cooking. "Trussing the turkey may seem complicated, but once you do it enough times, it is extremely simple," he says, "Look up 'trussing chicken' on YouTube and follow the exact same steps for the turkey."

If you're cooking just the breast, you can do the same butter-spreading technique, but you won't need to truss the meat.

What temperature should you cook the turkey at?

Just like an oven, you'll want to start your air fryer turkey at a higher temperature to get crispy skin, then turn the temperature down to finish the cooking process. Jupiter suggests starting your turkey at 350 F for about 30 minutes, then turning it down to 300 F for the remainder of the cooking time.

How long do you cook a turkey in an air fryer?

It's recommended that an unstuffed turkey be cooked for 13 minutes per pound at 350 F. For a 10 to 12-pound turkey, which can serve six to eight people, the total cooking time is about two to two and a half hours, though a digital thermometer will greatly help with knowing when your turkey is done.

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What should the internal temperature of the turkey be?

Jupiter says that the internal temperature should hit 165 F. "Because of this, you should pull your turkey out at 155 F and let it come up to temperature during the resting period," he explains.

The best way to check the internal temperature of a turkey is with a digital thermometer, which can give an accurate reading in just a few seconds. Put the thermometer in the crease between the leg and the breast to get your reading, being careful not to hit the bone, which will give an inaccurate temperature.

Is cooking a whole turkey in an air fryer safe?

"Cooking a whole turkey in an air fryer is safe, but using an oven may be the easier route," he says. While Jupiter does say the oven and air fryer will give the same results in the end, he suggests if you really want to use your air fryer for your turkey to break it down into ten pieces, which he lists as the two breasts split in half, two legs, two thighs and two wings.

"Each component can be cooked in different methods and at different temperatures," he says.

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