How to Cook Perfect Chicken Wings, No Matter How You Like Them
Whether you prefer them crispy, sticky, grilled or baked, take stock of these expert tips.
America consumes a lot of wings. In fact, according to The National Purchase Diary, Americans consume around one billion servings of wings a year. And it isn’t just the number of wings consumed that’s staggering – America’s wing preferences are just as varied as they are polarizing. At Food Network Kitchen, we respect all chicken wing styles (as long as you don’t leave any meat on the bones). So we’ve gathered some expert tips to make the best chicken wings, however you like them.
If You Like Them Crispy …
Whether you’re Team Flats or Drums, sweet or spicy, there’s one thing we can all agree on – nothing beats a perfectly crispy chicken wing. Seeing as our test kitchen experts have cooked their fair share of wings both at home and at work, they’ve surely got a trick or two up their sleeves that can help you achieve that shatteringly crispy skin on your wings.
Food stylist Richmond Flores’ go-to method is marinating the wings and then steaming them before frying. This method, he says, imparts tremendous flavor and tenderizes the meat, but more importantly, the steaming helps render the fat from the skin which then allows the wings to crisp up perfectly. He recommends dredging the wings in flour afterwards and deep frying for the ultimate crunch.
But the path to crispy skin starts even before the marinating process, according to sous chef Vincent Camillo. Whether you’re baking or frying, “a step for achieving a very crispy exterior is to leave the chicken uncovered on a rack in the refrigerator at least for an hour or overnight,” says Vincent. The chilling process draws the moisture out of the wings and dries out the skin which ensures a crispy skin when fried or baked.
For recipe developer Khalil Hymore, however, there’s only one appliance he relies on for optimal crispness without fail – the trusty air fryer. According to Khalil, “Cooking wings in the air fryer always results in ultra-crispy skin while the inside remains moist and tender.” And you should know that Khalil knows a thing or two about air fryers considering he spent the last few years developing air fryer recipes for Food Network Magazine.
If You Like Them Baked …
Deep frying can be intimidating, and even if you’re an expert at it, you may not always be up to the task. Luckily for us all, baking chicken wings in the oven can yield just as delicious and crispy results. One way to ensure perfection in the oven is to avoid overcrowding your baking sheet. Be sure to spread your wings so each one has enough space around it to prevent steaming and ensure optimal crispness.
Another misstep home cooks often take is underestimating how long it really takes for chicken wings to bake in the oven, according to recipe developer Melissa Gaman. “Wings aren’t prone to drying out,” says Melissa. “So it is key to bake them until the skin is crispy and the meat easily falls off the bone.” This can take close to an hour and if you try to rush the process you will likely end up with unappetizingly chewy skin.
If You Like Them Grilled …
Grilling wings sounds like a no-brainer, but using your grill to smoke wings is something we should all be doing in 2022! Although recipe developer Amanda Neal typically resorts to the oven or deep fryer when she’s making chicken wings at home, smoking wings are by far her favorite way to prepare them. “If you have an outdoor grill or received a smoker as a gift this past holiday season, smoked wings are a great and easy project to take on,” says Amanda. The key to this process, she explains, is to start at a low temperature and cook for a long period of time. Because the grill is naturally prone to high temperatures, you have to carefully adjust and monitor the heat so it remains low. Just place the wings on indirect heat and let the smoke do its magic! “This way the chicken becomes fall-off-the-bone tender while staying super moist and juicy.” And, if you want to crisp up the skin to your liking, you can always transfer the wings to the broiler for a couple of minutes.
If You Like Them Saucy and Sticky …
A big part of the joy of eating wings is the mess that comes with it. Sure, the cleanup can be a bit of a pain, but let’s not dwell on that. Instead, let’s discuss a few tips that can help you achieve the sauciest, stickiest wings imaginable.
A common mistake is not warming sauce up before tossing in cooked wings. It’s both tempting and easy to douse your wings with barbecue sauce or buffalo sauce straight from the bottle, but doing so can not only make your wings soggy but also result in poorly sauced wings altogether. Warming up your sauce and emulsifying it with some butter can ensure an even, shiny coating without compromising the crispy skin.
Of course, if you’re using a wet marinade for your wings, it is always a great idea to reduce that marinade in a pan until it reaches a thick, saucy consistency like Giada does in her Sticky Baked Chicken Wings recipe. Here, she removes the wings from the oven just before they are done and brushes them with the reduced sauce before sticking them back in the oven for five more minutes. This allows the meat to soak in all the flavor from the marinade while the skin gets perfectly caramelized on top. Alternatively, you can also cook your wings directly with the marinade in a pan on a stove top, until the sauce has thickened and the chicken is cooked through. This method may not render a crispy skin, but for fans of saucy mess, it’ll be sure to please. But, if you’re baking or grilling your wings with a marinade that has a high sugar content, be sure to monitor the temperature of your appliance – high temperatures can cause the sugary marinade to burn and ruin your wings completely.
If You Like Them Spicy …
Buffalo may be the flavor that reigns supreme when it comes to America’s favorite game day app, but there are so many ways to get creative using ingredients that may already be in your pantry or are easy to find at the grocery store. One such ingredient is canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce. Adding just a tablespoon or so of the pureed chiles to your marinade – like Bobby Flay does in this Hot Wings recipe –
can punch up your wings with delicious heat and smokiness. Plus, you can use the adobo sauce to make a dip or dressing! Or, you can follow Tyler Florence’s advice and add a little Thai red curry paste for a welcome (and surprising!) kick. Dry spices like garam masala, Chinese five spice powder or jerk seasoning are also great ways to turn up the heat on your wings. But if pain is what you’re after, go ahead and add some habaneros to your marinade – just do so with caution.