AirFryday: Zesty and honeyed – my best air fryer roast chicken yet

AirFryday: Zesty and honeyed – my best air fryer roast chicken yet
Delicious bird: Tony Jackman’s air fryer roast chicken with orange, oregano, ginger and honey. May 2024. (Photo: Tony Jackman)

This is by far the best outcome I’ve had with a chicken roasted in an air fryer. Golden, crunchy skin. Delightful flavour. Succulent meat. It even made its own delicious pan juices.

The cherry on top of this roast chicken recipe for me was that it made its own ‘pan’ juices, so, yes, you can do that in an air fryer, just as you can in those black roasting dishes that come with your big old conventional oven. But it was the flavour profile that I loved the most. 

It starts with a single ingredient, often. And I don’t mean the chicken. It’s a given that a recipe for roast chicken will have at least one chicken in it. But how to flavour it? My eye went straight to the oranges in a basket on the kitchen table.

But that first ingredient is only the start. It’s a savoury dish (and oranges can go in savoury recipes as well as desserts), so my second thought was: a herb, to contrast with the zesty sweetness of orange. But which herb? It seemed obvious to me: oregano, because it has a darkly herby flavour, even a hint of bitterness, that would be a nice counterpart to the sweetness of the orange. Contrast and balance are important in cooking, just as darkness and light are essential to drama. Then I spied the spice rack and the third ingredient seemed obvious to me too: dried ground ginger. And a recipe was on its way.

So I chose both dried and fresh oregano, the zest of the orange, and dried ginger to start with, and mixed them into a lovely spice rub for the outside of the bird. It had good colour too, and smelt wonderful. I added salt and black pepper.

I did not use any orange juice in the rub. Instead, I cut the zested orange into four quarters, with three of the quarters heading for the chicken’s cavity and the juice of the fourth quarter to be added to half of the rub along with a bit of raw honey. This would be brushed on top of the chicken halfway through its roasting.

As for timings, the sizes of chickens vary, and so do the sizes of air fryer baskets. This was a medium fowl, and I cooked it in my 5.7 litre Instant Vortex Plus, which is reasonably roomy, at 200℃ for 20 minutes uncovered, then covered it with foil and roasted it for another 30 minutes at 180℃, covered.

The size of your bird is something you have to figure out when choosing a chicken: get to know the dimensions of your air fryer basket (width as well as height), because the element of an air fryer is above what’s cooking, and that, logically, is where the chicken breast skin is going to be. So, you have to use tin foil too, though only for part of the roasting. Just enough to get the bird cooked through and browned without the top of the skin burning. You also need space on all sides of the bird for the hot air to flow around it.

I removed the rack at the bottom of the air fryer to allow the chicken more height below the element. If you think about it, the air fryer basket is just a pot you’re cooking something in. So there are times when you don’t need that rack.

Air fryer roast chicken with orange, ginger and oregano

(Serves 4, or 2 with leftovers for chicken mayo sandwiches next day)


1 medium chicken that can fit your air fryer basket, wing tips snipped off

Salt and black pepper

Cooking oil spray

2 or 3 fresh oregano sprigs

3 Tbsp melted butter

For the rub:

Zest of 1 orange

1 heaped tsp dried oregano

1 scant tsp ground ginger

Salt and black pepper

To adapt the remaining rub:

Half of the above rub

Juice of ¼ of an orange

1 tsp raw honey


Spray the bottom of the air fryer with cooking oil spray, after removing the rack.

Season the cavity of the bird with salt and black pepper. Season the skin all over with salt.

Zest the orange into a small bowl. Mix this with 1 heaped tsp of dried oregano, ½ a tsp of ground ginger, and salt and black pepper to taste.

Cut the zested orange into quarters and shove 3 of these quarters inside the cavity. Save the fourth quarter for later. And 2 or 3 sprigs of fresh oregano to the cavity too.

Rub HALF of the zesty herb, spice and ginger mixture into the breast skin and on the leg and thigh skin. Retain the other half.

Melt 3 Tbsp butter in a pan and drizzle it over the spice-rubbed chicken.

Preheat the air fryer. I used the ‘roast’ setting on mine, but use air fry if yours does not have that option. Roast, breast side up, at 200 for 20 to 30 minutes. 

Otherwise, after 20 to 30 minutes cover the bird with foil, tucking it in underneath, so that the foil does not float and to prevent burning near the element. Check now and then to see if the top of the bird is browning too quickly, in which case cover it with foil sooner.

Cook at 180 for another 30 to 40 minutes or until the bird is cooked to the bone. 

Mix the raw honey and juice of a quarter of an orange into the remaining rub and brush over the top of the fowl. Remove the foil, brush the honeyed rub mixture over and roast uncovered at 200 for 5 more minutes or until the skin is perfectly browned.

Test for doneness by inserting a skewer all the way to the bone, and press down to see if the juices are clear.

Spoon the pan juices from the bottom of the air fryer drawer over the chicken when serving. Garnish with fresh oregano. DM

Tony Jackman is Galliova Food Writer 2023, jointly with TGIFood columnist Anna Trapido. Order his book, foodSTUFF, here

Follow Tony Jackman on Instagram @tony_jackman_cooks.

This dish is photographed on an olive-hued platter by Mervyn Gers Ceramics.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Thys B says:

    Sounds delicious. Love reading your posts and this time gonna try this one out. My airfryer has a rotiserie I’ve never used so will adapt. Thx!

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