Pollo Campero-Style Air Fryer Fried Chicken

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Pollo Campero-Style Air Fryer Fried Chicken

Nothing screams comfort food like fried chicken. The popularity of fried chicken has spread throughout the world, even reaching Latin America.

The last few decades have seen a huge boom in fried chicken restaurant chains in South and Central America, thanks to the popular Latino fried chicken joint Pollo Campero.

There are now numerous copycat recipes for Pollo Campero fried chicken. These recipes often use a blend of citrus and spices to mimic the popular food chain version.

The premise of my own copycat recipe is the same as South American Fried Chicken, but has a different flavor and spice profile.

The recipe uses lemon juice instead of buttermilk for the brine and incorporates herbs and spices like oregano, Cayenne, seasoning and marinade.

And we adjusted the cooking method: instead of fried chicken, a deep fryer is used so that the chicken skin is perfectly crispy.

It's perfect for a weeknight dinner, picnic, or trying a new way to cook a classic.

Origins of Central American Fried Chicken

This Latin-spiced tropical chicken supposedly originated in Guatemala in the 1970s and was popularized by the Latino fried chicken chain Pollo Campero.

Pollo Campero now also has several locations in the United States.

The differences between air frying and deep frying

So how does an air fryer create that crispy crunch? An air fryer works like a small convection oven that produces the effect of frying, without excess oil.

Hot air fryers have become a popular kitchen appliance for anyone looking to reduce their oil consumption.

Technically, a deep fryer (despite the name) doesn't fry.

It's actually a small convection oven that uses hot air circulating from a fan to create a crispy texture through the Maillard reaction.

Which makes food brown and crisp as a result of heating sugar and protein.

I'm not sure where the name originated from, but an air fryer has a much nicer, tighter ring than a "mini convection oven".

Why do we salt chicken (even when air frying it)?

This brine is a combination of fresh lime juice, fresh garlic, and Latin spices like sazon (a blend of cumin, cilantro, garlic powder, annatto, salt, pepper, and oregano).

The lemon juice acts like an acid, breaking down the fibers of the chicken and helping it absorb citrus and spicy flavors and retain moisture.

While some lemon chicken marinades say you can marinate for up to 12 hours, I don't recommend marinating for more than two hours; otherwise the acid in the lemon will make the chicken too tough.

An accidental 4-hour marinade produced a chewier, tougher (but still delicious) air fried chicken.

Choose chicken with skin and bone

For the crispiest, juiciest fried chicken, do yourself a favor and go for skin-on-the-bone chicken. The skin will give the marinade and coating a better surface to adhere to.

Shaking off any excess marinade before coating will give better results (the drier the skin of the chicken, the better it will crisp when cooked).

Another thing to keep in mind for crispy skin in the air fryer is to make sure the chicken skin is flat after removing it and ready to go in the fryer.

You can also use kitchen shears to cut off the excess skin, if necessary.

You need a little oil to fry

It is important that the battered chicken is well sprayed with nonstick cooking spray; any flour stains that dry out during the hot circulation process will burn rather than crisp.

If you see areas of dried flour during baking, simply spray the area.

Ingredient Swaps and Substitutions

Not in love with any particular spice? If you don't like the fiery heat of cayenne pepper, skip it or switch to a milder pepper like chili powder or a bit more paprika.

If you don't have marinade on hand (despite its popularity!), you can make it yourself at home or swap it out for garlic or onion powder.

Also, lemons can double as lemons in a pinch.

What to serve with Fried Chicken Pollo Campero

Southern-style fried chicken is usually eaten with sides like coleslaw and crackers, but popular side dishes among Latin Americans include French fries, tortillas, or beans.

Whichever side you decide to go with will make a great accompaniment to this Crispy Citrus Fried Chicken recipe.

Storage and reheating

Air fryers are not only wonderful for their shredding capabilities, but also for reheating leftovers.

Cooked fried chicken can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 5 days and reheated in the deep fryer for 4 minutes at 375°F.

Alternatively, you can reheat in the 300°F oven on a cookie sheet until heated through, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Ingredients

For the marinade:

  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons sazon (homemade or store bought)
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 4 fresh lemons, squeezed
  • 8 pieces of chicken, skin and bone (4 thighs, 4 drumsticks)

For the flour dredge:

  • 2 cups of wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon marinade (homemade or purchased)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

To cook chicken:

  • nonstick cooking spray

Method

Prepare and marinate the chicken:

In a small bowl, combine salt, garlic, pepper, cumin, seasoning, oregano, and lemon juice. Pour into a gallon size resealable plastic bag.

Add chicken and massage to coat well. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 2 hours.

Prepare the flour dredge:

In a large bowl, combine the flour, pepper, marinade, salt, cumin, and cayenne pepper.

Pass the chicken through the flour dredge:

Remove the chicken from the refrigerator. Shake off any excess marinade and scrape up any solids, such as large garlic granules.

Dip the chicken pieces into the flour scraper and mix well.

Let the chicken rest:

Transfer the battered chicken pieces to a clean plate or rack with a tray to rest for at least 10 to 15 minutes.

Air Fried Chicken:

Spray a fryer basket with nonstick cooking spray.

Working in batches, depending on the size of the fryer, place the chicken pieces in the fryer basket (it doesn't matter if the chicken is skin side up or skin side down).

Be sure to avoid stacking or overlapping the chicken pieces and make sure the chicken pieces are not touching each other.

Spray chicken pieces lightly with nonstick cooking spray, making sure no streaks of dried flour remain.

Place the basket in the air fryer and turn the fryer on to 400°F.

Cook for 20 minutes, then flip the fried chicken with tongs, spray lightly with nonstick spray, and cook for another 10 to 15 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted into center of chicken reaches 165°F.

Serve:

Let the chicken rest on a plate for a few minutes before serving.

Serve with coleslaw, fried yucca, beans, tortillas, or crackers.

Cooked fried chicken can be stored in the refrigerator for 5 days and reheated in a 300°F oven for 8 to 10 minutes.

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