Me: OHMUHGAH, I read THE most amazing, life-changing article on BAKING chicken wings in the oven that are actually CRISPY!
Beth: Me too!
Me: Can you believe the secret is to… Wait. You’re making fun of me aren't you?
Jessica: I knew something was up because when does Beth read??
Me: I know, right?!
Beth: Hey! Don’t make fun of me, Mandy’s the only dork who would get that excited reading about chicken wings.
Me: This is true.
So, I came across this article months ago and it just blew my mind! I love chicken wings but I hate cooking them because frying them is a major time-consuming, expensive, messy undertaking and baking them has always yielded gummy, sticky, fatty wings. Wings have to be crispy! But ain't nobody got time to fry them!
And yes, I am a total dork when it comes to food. If I found a marathon of Alton Brown’s Good Eats on TV I wouldn't be able to leave the couch. Learning the whys of cooking is just fascinating to me. And the scientific approach that chefs like Alton Brown and websites like Serious Eats take have taught me how to create better recipes.
So, anyway, this article from Serious Eats goes into all the technical reasons why, but ultimately, to get crispy wings from the oven, you have to desiccate them or dry them out first. You do this by coating them in baking soda or baking powder (both natural desiccants) and leaving them in the refrigerator, uncovered for several hours (refrigerators dehydrate). In the article the wings doused in the baking soda browned much more than the baking powder so I decided to used baking soda. The Serious Eats recipe also calls for salt but I found my first batch to be waaaaay too salty (and I only used half of the amount they call for). Since baking soda is already salty and the salt was only a minor player in the drying out process, I omitted it in my second batch. The second batch was still perfectly crispy and not too salty. Yay!
I know many of you will feel weird about leaving chicken out in the open in your refrigerator. Just remember to have everything else sealed up so no smells or germs are floating around and I think you’ll be good.
I bought this 3-tier cooling rack at Wal-Mart for less than $10 to dry my wings. I needed one anyway and using a stackable rack made it much easier to find room in the fridge for all these wings.
Now, about the sauce! Remember that little honky tonk I worked in waaaaay back in college? Well, we had ah maze ing wings! And I've never had anything like them anywhere else. The story goes that the recipe came from one of the bigwig wing places that hit the scene during the Buffalo Wing explosion in the early 90’s. Our hot wing sauce wasn't the typical, cloying, orangey-red chili pepper based sauce, but more of a glaze that was a little sweet. I've always thought of it as sort of a sweet Asian hot wing sauce so that’s what I’m going to call it!
Crispy Baked Chicken Wings
4 pounds chicken wing sections
1 tablespoon new baking soda*
Equipment: cooling racks
Carefully dry chicken wings with clean kitchen towels or paper towels (really do a good job at this – there can’t be any moisture left on the wings). Arrange wings on cooling racks in a single layer. Sprinkle wings with half of the baking soda (I added mine to an old spice jar to make easy work of the sprinkling). Flip wings and sprinkle the other side with the remainder of the baking soda. UPDATE: Do NOT use more than one tablespoon of baking soda (see below).
Place wings, on racks, uncovered, in the refrigerator for 18-24 hours.
Season wings with black pepper (do not add salt – the baking soda is plenty salty) then arrange in a single layer on one extra-large or two normal baking pans sprayed with cooking spray.
Bake wings at 450 degrees for 15 minutes. Flip wings then continue baking for 15-20 minutes longer or until crispy and golden brown.
Toss wings with wing sauce and serve immediately.
*Baking soda picks up odors once opened so I think it’s a good idea to play it safe and buy a new box. New baking soda is also much easier to sprinkle.
UPDATE: Someone contacted me a while back saying the wings put off a terrible ammonia odor when they were cooking so they were afraid to eat them (I would have been too!). After talking with her I was convinced she just had a bad batch of chicken wings. But then a good friend of mine told me the exact same thing happened to her. So I started doing some investigating and found out she'd a) used a ton of baking soda (waaay more than 1 tablespoon) and b) didn't dry her wings. I did some research and learned that too much baking soda can give off an ammonia-like smell and soapy taste. So don't use more than one tablespoon. It really will coat four pounds of wings. I've made these several times now and they've turned out perfect every time! I don't know if the fact that she didn't dry her wings factored into this or not but it might be possible the water intensified or "activated" whatever's in baking soda that causes this.
Sweet Asian Hot Wing Sauce
makes enough for about 30 wings
2/3 cup hot sauce (such as Texas Pete or Frank’s)
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup soy sauce
1-2 cloves garlic, smashed
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and simmer over medium heat for 20 minutes. Discard garlic when ready to serve.
I like to add fresh ginger and red pepper flakes also.
This recipe was featured at the Weekend Potluck!