What makes a good chicken wing? Tender on the inside, crispy on the outside, and a world class sauce. If you’re going to take the time to make the best chicken wings, here’s how to do it right.
About the recipe
I did not invent the recipe for the best chicken wings. My husband found it on his favorite website for science-tested food, Serious Eats.
If you’re at all interested in the science-tested best way to make food, I really recommend the related book, The Food Lab, written by one of the website’s authors.
Even though it is not my recipe, I have made it so many times that this recipe is one that I have easily memorized. There are several steps, but I think it was very easy to memorize.
Of course, I have added my own take on it. Or, rather, my husband did. The sauce in the original recipe is very basic, so my husband created an even better sauce. The best wings need the best sauce, right?
I’ll cover the details of that amazing sauce in the next post, but for today I am going to go over the details of how to make the best baked chicken wings. If you are curious about the science behind why this recipe works so well, check out the article written by the original recipe’s author here.
Getting started on the chicken wings
The original recipe goes by pounds and ratios and other sciencey numbers. I memorized some simpler numbers.
First, you need about 10-15 chicken wings. That’s about 20-30 pieces of pieces that are already divided. I’ve only seen fresh chicken as whole wing pieces, so I just stick with the first number.
Since I buy them as complete wings, the first step is to divide them. There are three pieces on a wing:
- The drumette looks like a mini chicken drumstick. If you are cutting up a whole chicken, this is the part that attached to the rest of the chicken.
- The flat is the piece that has two semi-parallel bones.
- The wing tip is not used in a wings recipe. Don’t throw it away though. That usually useless piece of chicken is perfect for making your own chicken broth.
The easiest way to divide the wings into pieces is to saw through the two joints with a very sharp knife. My knife can easily cut through the bone, so it takes me a bit more time than I would like since I have extra careful.
Once the pieces are divided, you can either move on to the dry brining step or freeze the wings for a later time. I usually freeze them for time’s sake.
There are a couple of tips that I have figured out for freezing the wings.
One: if the pieces are laid out evenly in your freezer bag, they will defrost a lot more efficiently.
Two: for the best taste, make sure they are either very well stored in a proper freezer bag (a vacuum seal bag is best), or freeze for less than a month. But even the vacuum bag shouldn’t be kept for more than three months.
Dry brining the chicken wings
This next step creates that crunchy exterior we’re looking for. Instead of checking the original recipe’s ratios, I stick to my memorized amount.
Put 1 Tablespoon of kosher salt and 1 Tablespoon of baking powder in a small prep bowl and set aside.
We need to pat the wings dry before adding the dry brine. I pull off 5 paper towel sheets so I don’t have to touch the roll once I start. My paper towels are divided into half sheets, and each half sheet can dry 4 wing pieces.
The last thing I get ready before I dry the wing pieces is a large bowl with a tight-fitting lid. You don’t want that lid popping off while shaking around a bowl of raw chicken.
Now to the dry brining. Pat each wing piece dry and put in the bowl. Sprinkle the kosher salt and baking powder over the wings, and then seal the bowl. Shake the bowl to completely coat all the pieces.
Once that’s done, lay out the wing pieces on a cooling rack placed in a rimmed cookie sheet. I make this recipe often enough that I have a cooling rack and cookie sheet designated specifically for the wings.
Eventually I will need to replace the cooling rack, so I have chosen this raised silicone baking mat for that replacement. I wish I had used it from the beginning to prevent the damage done to my baking sheet.
With the wing pieces all laid out, put the baking sheet in the refrigerator.
Leave it uncovered. The wings will rest for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours.
I rarely have a full fridge shelf empty (especially in my apartment sized refrigerator), so I balance the sheet on top of other items.
Bake instead of fry
When you are ready to cook the wings, preheat your oven to 450°F. Any hotter and the wings can burn or overcook, any cooler and you might not get the crisp skin you need. A cheap oven thermometer is really helpful here.
Once the oven is preheated, transfer the baking sheet in the oven and cook for 20 minutes.
My husband starts making his really good wing sauce during this first cooking time.
Next, flip the wings. As you flip, keep in mind that if you are using a metal cooling rack like mine, some of the meat might stick.
After flipping the chicken wings, put the sheet back in the oven for 15-30 minutes until the wings are golden brown and crisp. This is exactly 25 minutes with my setup.
Enjoy your baked chicken wings!
With the second baking time, the wings are just about ready to eat! My mouth is always watering by this point.
Take the wings off of the cooling rack and transfer to a bowl or even directly to your sauce pot. Some meat will stick, and we always put those little pieces into the bowl too.
Coat the wings with the sauce and eat away. They will be pretty hot, so I always set out tongs to serve with.
Leftovers are great reheated. My favorite way to reheat the wings is on a small stone baking sheet in the toaster oven at 400°F until hot. The sauce will caramelize a little, which can make the leftovers even better.
- 10 chicken wings
- 1 Tbsp kosher salt
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- Your favorite wing sauce
- Divide the wings into drumettes and flats. Put the tips into a freezer bag to make broth with later.
- Dry the wing pieces with paper towels, put in a large bowl, and toss with the kosher salt and baking powder until evenly coated.
- Place on a wire rack set inside of a baking sheet and rest uncovered between 8-24 hours in the refrigerator.
- Preheat the oven to 450°F. Add the wings and cook for 20 minutes. If you are making your sauce, now is a good time to start it.
- Flip the chicken wings and cook 15-30 minutes longer until they are golden brown and crisp.
- Toss the wings with your sauce in a bowl and serve with additional toppings as desired.
You can find the original recipe with a basic wing sauce at Serious Eats.