Crispy Chicken Wings Are My Kryptonite
When it comes to comfort food, crispy chicken wings will consistently rank on my top five list. While frying is one way to achieve a mouth-watering crunch on the outside and tender meat on the inside, I’m not a fan of the grease or bloating feeling later that night. Not to mention the hassle of heating oil and cleaning up the oil splatters on your stovetop. A few years ago, I stumbled upon a chicken wing hack, and it was a game-changer. That hack came in the form of baking powder.
Why Baking Powder?
The idea of adding baking powder to wings sounds like it may create a bitter taste and not something you’d want to eat. However, when using the correct amount, the result is a crispy skin, moist center, and none of the fat or grease from frying. But why baking powder, and how does it work? The exterior crisp is thanks to the acid from the baking powder reacting with the juices of the chicken wings. When the reaction occurs, carbon dioxide is released, creating air bubbles in the skin. Those air bubbles form more surface area when baking, crisping like in oil, without the grease.
If you don’t have baking powder on hand, do not substitute baking powder for soda! Baking soda is pure sodium bicarbonate which is not an acid. While baking powder does contain sodium bicarbonate, there are acids and drying agents added to it. Those added ingredients are what make the chicken wings crispy. Once coated in baking powder, the seasoning blend I’ve experimented with creates a smoky and slightly spicy flavor that is mouth-watering on its own.
Use Fresh Wings, Not Frozen
For the best crispy chicken wings, I do recommend using fresh chicken if available in the meat department. I’ve used this recipe with previously frozen wings, and they crisp perfectly once thawed and dried before coating in baking powder.
If still frozen when coated and baked, the water thaws while cooking and saturates the skin. For a golden crisp, the chicken wings need to be as dry on the outside as possible. The natural juice in the skin is enough to react with the acids of the baking powder. Drying your wings can be achieved in one of two ways.
Drying is the Key to Crispy Chicken Wings
With overall prep time in consideration, the quickest way is to dry the wings with paper towels right before coating. I dry one wing at a time with a paper towel, patting each side dry. Once the towel feels damp, I tear off a new towel and continue. As the wings dry, I transfer them to a glass bowl that has a tight-fitting lid. If you don’t have a bowl and cover, a gallon-sized slider bag works.
- 4 lbs chicken wings
- 2 Tbsp baking powder
- 1 ½ tsp dried thyme leaves
- 1 ½ tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp salt optional
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp cumin
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- Thoroughly dry your chicken wings, either with paper towels or allowing them to airdry overnight in the fridge.
- Once the wings are dry, preheat your oven to 250 °F
- While the oven is heating, place the wings in either a large bowl with a tight-fitting lid or a gallon-sized slider bag. Add two tablespoons of baking powder, and seal the bowl or bag. Shake to coat the wings with baking powder evenly.
- Once evenly coated, add the thyme, chili powder, salt, pepper, paprika, onion powder, cumin, and garlic powder. Seal the container again, and shake until evenly coated.
- Place a wire rack inside of a raised edge baking sheet. First, spray the wire rack with cooking spray to avoid sticking. Then, arrange the wings onto the wire rack in a single layer.
- Bake the wings for 30 minutes.
- Raise the temperature of the oven to 425 °F
- Bake the wings for 20 minutes. Remove the wings from the oven, and flip each wing over to help crisp the underside fully.
- Bake the wings for an additional 15 to 25 minutes. The skin should be golden brown with bubbles formed, and the middle of the thickest wing 165 °F
- Serve immediately with serving cups of your chosen sauce for dipping.
The second option is to dry them overnight on the bottom shelf of a fridge. Place a wire baking rack inside of a raised edge baking sheet. Remove the wings from their package and lay them in a single layer on the wire rack. Place the wings on the lowest shelf in your fridge, never above ready-to-eat food. After 24 hours, remove the wings from the rack and transfer them to a gallon slider bag or bowl with a tight-fitting lid.
Do You Prefer Dressed, or Undressed?
I love these chicken wings, not only for the crispiness of the skin but also for the flavor of the seasoning by itself. It’s a slightly salty and spicy flavor profile, balanced by the earthiness of the thyme, onion, and garlic. By itself, the seasoning blend can make your mouth water, but it won’t compete with a coating of sauce. I’ve used hot sauces, blue cheese, and even barbecue. So what are some of your favorite dipping sauces to pair with chicken wings? Also, check out tips below for altering the quantity baked and tips on how to reheat leftovers for the best crunch.
Crispy Chicken Wing Tips
- While this recipe calls for four pounds of chicken wings, you can adjust the amount if you want to make a larger or smaller batch. When planning a party and these wings aren’t the featured entree on my menu, I usually plan a half-pound per person. If the wings are my only main dish, I bump the amount up to one pound per person.
- If you change the weight of chicken wings, be sure to change the amount of baking powder added. Luckily, there’s an easy formula to use to calculate the amount of powder needed. For every pound of chicken, add a teaspoon and a half of baking powder.
- Once out of the oven, I don’t recommend tossing the entire batch in the sauce. When refrigerating leftovers coated in sauce, the skin absorbs the liquid and loses all crispness. Instead, dipping the wings in the sauce as you enjoy them helps to retain the crispiness.
- Using condiment cups works well if you have family members or roommates that have different sauce preferences. For example, I love hot sauce, but my roommate opts for sweet instead of heat. Also, because these are dry wings, you don’t need to worry about multiple batches of glazed wings.
- When reheating leftover wings, I always use the oven rather than the microwave. It helps to cook off any moisture the skin absorbs during refrigeration, re-crisping the exterior. I set the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and bake the wings on a wire rack for about 10 to 15 minutes. Probe the thickest wing in the middle with a thermometer to ensure the temperature has reached 165 degrees Fahrenheit.