We found the ultimate hack for crunchy-on-the-outside, juicy-on-the-inside chicken wings, and it doesn't include a drop of oil.
My world was turned completely upside down when I found a trick that allowed me to achieve wondrously crispy chicken wings without breaking out a vat of oil. I was previously convinced that the best way to prepare wings at home involved deep frying them and immediately tossing them in one’s sauce of choice. Baking wings in the oven was never an option in my mind—not if I wanted truly crisp, restaurant-quality wings, that is. However, in researching a new sauce (for wings I intended to fry), I happened upon the ultimate chicken wing hack for the home cook: Lightly tossing your wings in *baking powder* and salt and baking them at a high temperature yields the crisp glory we all desire. Multiple sources, such as this recipe and this one, site the trick… and again, my mind was utterly blown by the possibility. I headed straight to the kitchen to find out if this too-good-to-be-true trick was fact or fiction. And I am pleased to report... ladies and gentleman, tossing your wings in baking powder actually works. And it saves you gallons of oil, along with the headache that comes with cleaning up after frying anything.
The combination of baking powder and salt breaks down the protein and draws out the moisture in the wings’ skin, leaving it crispy while the flesh remains super moist. Be sure to pat the wings dry before mixing them with the baking powder; you’ll create a paste on the wings if they are wet, which means they won’t crisp up nicely. Basically, the key is to reduce moisture on the exterior of the wing as much as possible.
The other crucial part of this equation is your baking set-up. You’ll want to bake the wings on a baking rack placed on a rimmed baking sheet so that the chicken drippings can fall away from your wings (rather than having your wings cook in a pool of their own drippings… which would not be conducive to crisping the skin). This set-up also helps with circulation. As I do with fried wings, I immediately tossed the freshly baked wings in a Honey-Sriracha sauce and it coated the wings beautifully. The skin remained crispy and clung onto the sauce effortlessly. I made another batch with a Sweet Orange Chili Sauce the next day to test the cooking method again. Sure enough, they came out just the same—juicy, tender, and wrapped in a perfect layer crisp of crispy goodness.
This baking technique is perfect when you want grade-A wings at home, but don’t want to stand over the stove frying them. Just set a timer for the halfway point (so that you can flip ‘em), go about your business. Another major benefit is that the clean up is a breeze. If you line your baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper, the lining will catch your chicken drippings. Simply toss the foil or paper and chicken fat in the trash once it’s cooled. Plus, going the oven route is arguably a less fatty way of preparing wings as you are not adding additional fat to the dish via deep frying—which means extra celery with blue cheese is totally in order.
For anyone with sensitive taste buds, it is recommended that you find a brand of baking powder without sodium aluminum sulfate. Baking powders containing sodium aluminum sulfate can have a metallic aftertaste that is easily detectable to some. That said, I actually tested with a baking powder that contained sodium aluminum sulfate and found no overwhelming aftertaste. I made a small 2-pound batch, so it is possible that if you prepare a bigger batch of wings, a metallic taste will be more prominent. If you have any hesitation, go head and use the aluminum sulfate-free baking powder.