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Pandemic supply chain issues have come for America’s comfort food, chicken tenders. Due to “labor shortage and illegal price-fixing,” the cost of chicken tenders is rapidly rising, according to WGN9. The prohibitive price may eventually lead restaurants to remove the item from their menus.
To avoid high prices at your favorite restaurant, try making chicken tenders at home. Using an air fryer is one of the easiest ways to do this. But which model makes the best chicken tenders? We tested four contending options for this specific task: the Ninja Foodi Air Fryer, the GoWise Air Fryer, the Dash Air Fryer and the COSORI Air Fryer. One of these models stands above all others.
What are chicken tenders and why are they so tasty?
There are three popular types of tasty chicken snacks: chicken fingers, chicken nuggets and chicken tenders. The difference in these foods goes beyond the name. Chicken fingers, for instance, are strips of breast meat, while chicken nuggets are chopped and/or processed meat that could come from any part of the chicken.
Chicken tenders, on the other hand, come from a very specific part of a chicken. The chicken tenderloin is a strip of muscle that runs along the inner side of the breast, making it closer to the bone. A chicken only has two of these muscles, and they are not used as much as the breast. So chicken tenders, as the name implies, are the most tender chicken meat. Because of the higher fat and sodium content, many people prefer the taste of chicken tenders over chicken breasts. However, since they are not available in abundance, the cost is significantly higher than other chicken snacks.
How to cook chicken tenders
According to the USDA, chicken requires the highest cooking temperature of all meat products at 165 degrees. Unfortunately, you cannot tell by looking at chicken whether it is fully cooked, and if you overcook it, it becomes tough and rubbery. To keep this from happening, it is recommended that chicken tenders are of uniform thickness before cooking. To ensure even thickness, you can place the chicken between two pieces of plastic wrap and hit it with a meat mallet. You should also cook the chicken quickly with relatively high heat to keep the meat from drying out and use a meat thermometer to check the temperature and verify the chicken is completely cooked. Coincidentally, this is where a quality air fryer excels.
The 4 top air fryers for making chicken tenders
Dash Air Fryer
At roughly $50, Dash is the budget option. This model is simple to use, featuring just two controls: temperature and time. With only a 2.6-quart capacity, it is also the smallest option on the top product list, meaning it heats up quicker than other options, is easy to store and is ideal for making snack-sized meals. The Dash Air Fryer cooked the chicken quickly enough to seal in flavor while keeping the meat moist and tender. However, due to its size, this model is best for one or two individuals, not a family.
Ninja Foodi Air Fryer
This deluxe 12-in-1 product is ideal for a foodie. If you want to eat it, Ninja Foodi can make it. The abundance of features allows even a kitchen novice to quickly make a variety of dishes, ranging from reheated fries to roasts. However, if you are new to air fryers and pressure cookers, there may be a bit of a learning curve with this model. At 5 quarts, it is suitable for a family of four. Also, because of the unit’s versatility, it is on the higher end of the price scale, costing roughly $249.99 at most retailers.
GoWise Air Fryer
The 5.8-quart GoWise Air Fryer is a modern-looking countertop appliance that is easy to use and clean. The preset features allow you to cook a wide variety of foods at the touch of a button, while the Teflon-coated drawer and basket can be cleaned with a soft sponge and minimal effort. There is a preset for cooking chicken, which takes about 20 minutes. The chicken can turn out crispy on the outside and moist on the inside, though it might take some trial and error to get it perfect. On the downside, this unit can get a little hot, so be careful when using it. At roughly $90, this model costs considerably less than the Ninja Foodi Air Fryer.
COSORI Air Fryer
COSORI’s air fryer has a 5.8-quart capacity and costs only slightly more than the GoWise Air Fryer. Like the other models, it features a number of preset buttons. This unit comes with a 100-recipe cookbook to help get you started. While many foods, such as chicken, can be cooked at the press of a button, you need to take extra care in the food prep stages to make certain your cuts are the proper size. If you follow all directions precisely, you get fantastic results: super juicy chicken with a crispy crust. However, it is easy to overcook your chicken if you try to modify the recipe.
Which air fryer is best for making chicken tenders?
While all four of these air fryers are top models, when it comes to cooking chicken tenders, the Dash Air Fryer is superior. Although the other options are larger and have one-touch cooking features, Dash is the easiest to use — if you have a toaster oven, you’ve already mastered all the required skills needed to operate this countertop appliance. It is effortless to fine-tune your cooking, so you can achieve optimum results. Additionally, its smaller size means it is not only perfect for heating up snack foods, such as chicken tenders, but also it will heat up faster and cook more efficiently. Lastly, at just a fraction of the cost of the Ninja Foodi Air Fryer, you will save almost $200, which you can spend on even more chicken tenders.
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Allen Foster writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them a lot of time and money.