The Extra Step To Make Your Breaded Air Fryer Chicken So Much Better

If you own an air fryer, then you know it's hard not to love this handy countertop appliance. First introduced in 2010, the air fryer quickly became a favorite among home cooks, who laud the appliance for its ability to produce crispy "fried" items — from sweet potato fries to flaky Indian samosas — using hot air, not oil (via Kalorik). As of 2020, the New York Times reports, about 36% of American households owned an air fryer, with that number estimated to be higher today.

Far beyond fries and onion rings, the air fryer can handily cook up everything from pork chops to chicken wings, and it's also a great choice for reheating leftovers. But the appliance truly does shine when it comes to breaded items, especially when you're not in the mood to fry on the stovetop or would prefer to avoid using large amounts of oil in your cooking. From breaded coconut shrimp to jalapaño poppers, the air fryer has got it down, but there's one extra step you might want to take before air frying your favorite breaded chicken cutlet recipe.

Toast your panko breadcrumbs in the microwave before air frying

If you've got a microwave at home in addition to the air fryer, then listen up, because your breaded air fryer recipes are about to get a whole lot more delicious. According to America's Test Kitchen, breaded items such as chicken cutlets, pork chops, and fish filets are all great options for the air fryer — except for the fact that the appliance doesn't always brown all sides of the breadcrumb coating evenly. This can lead to patches of breadcrumbs that remain pale and not very crispy, especially because not all recipes will call for flipping the proteins midway through cooking.

An easy solution that you can take before breading your protein of choice, according to the outlet, is toasting your panko breadcrumbs in the microwave before cooking. All you have to do is toss one cup of panko with two tablespoons of oil in a shallow, microwave-safe dish until evenly coated. Then, microwave the crumbs, stirring frequently, until they're light golden brown. The process should take between one and three minutes, and when you've got the toasted crumbs, you can bread your desired item and go straight to the air fryer — knowing that when your cutlet or chop is done, it will be golden, crispy, and "fried" on all sides.