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I do not have a deep fryer (and do not plan to purchase one), but I have made chicken wings successfully in the oven. (My mom, --from Buffalo, NY-- even approves of this method.)

The problem is that my results are not consistent. The first time I made them, they were perfect - they tasted just as though they'd been fried. The second time, they were way over-cooked. And the third time, I could not get them done enough, even after nearly tripling the cook time.

Here's what I'm doing...

  • Remove wings from refrigerator about 30 minutes before baking.
  • Preheat oven to 425 F.
  • Pluck out any feather bits remaining in the wings.
  • Use a knife to separate the full wing into little drumstick pieces (one length of bone) and little wing pieces (remaining two lengths of bone).
  • Line up the pieces on a baking sheet. I didn't have very much space between them. (Is there recommended spacing?)
  • Bake for 45 minutes.
  • Toss with desired hot sauce (I used Frank's Red Hot Wing Sauce).

Does the cook time change depending on how many wings you're cooking? Is there a certain size wing that works better? Should I be making sure the wings are room temperature before baking them? I can imagine endless factors that could be causing my poor results.

EDIT: I'm not deep frying b/c I don't want to buy another appliance - my kitchen is about as big as the monitor you're looking at. Maybe a little bigger, but not much. Anyway, it's about having space for appliances.

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Is this the recipe for Buffalo Chicken Wings? –  kiamlaluno Sep 3 '10 at 0:49
    
@kiamlaluno Yes, these are Buffalo chicken wings that I'm looking for help with. –  JustRightMenus Sep 3 '10 at 1:03
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The steam-chill-bake method is better than deep fried anyway, in my experience. –  Aaronut Sep 3 '10 at 1:09
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+1 for mom's approval –  Jay Sep 3 '10 at 1:55
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5 Answers

up vote 9 down vote accepted

The key to oven-cooked chicken wings is, basically, don't rely on the oven to do all the cooking for you! It won't get them anywhere near crispy enough. Bake too long and they'll dry out, too short and they'll be soggy. You can't win that way!

Here's how I prepare "baked" chicken wings. Once I learned this preparation method I never went back, not even to frying!

  1. Pull out your steamer or steaming basket.

  2. While your steaming apparatus is coming up to temp, split and trim the wings as you normally would.

  3. Steam the wings for 10 minutes. Don't crowd them - make sure you allow for proper airflow. Steam in batches if necessary.

  4. Get out a cookie sheet and cover it with something to catch any drippings (paper towel is fine). Then put one or two oven racks on top and lay the steamed wings on that. You need this to allow the grease to fall, and you need the cookie sheet covered below the rack because if you let those juices fall directly onto the sheet, they'll boil and burn during the baking process and leave a nasty bitter taste.

  5. Season the now-moist wings on both sides (while on the rack, on the covered cookie sheet). A liberal amount of salt and pepper is the foundation. For general flavour, I generally add garlic powder and paprika as well. If you like a smokier flavour, substitute smoked paprika, and if you want hot wings, add some ground hot pepper or chili powder (I like to use approximately equal amounts of cayenne, ancho, and chipotle).

  6. Place the entire rack as-is in the refrigerator and cool for at least one hour. This is crucial, it will help to "set" the wings, locking in the juices and seasoning and making for a much crispier and juicier result at the very end.

  7. Preheat the oven to 425° F (220° C).

  8. Remove the rack from the refrigerator, remove the paper towel covering the cookie sheet (don't forget to do this!), and place in the oven.

  9. Bake for 20 minutes, then turn and bake for another 20 minutes. It may seem like this is going to dry them out. It won't. It will crisp them up perfectly. You'll see.

  10. While you're baking the wings on the second side, start making the sauce. Your basic hot wing sauce (which should be hot "enough" but still tolerable for most palates) is equal amounts of Frank's red hot (not the wing sauce) and melted butter. The butter serves two purposes; it cuts some of the heat (for those who can't stand it) and it helps to bind the sauce to the wings when you mix them, helping to bring together all the flavours and prevent sogginess. For more heat, just up the ratio of Frank's to butter.

  11. Add your own twists to the sauce as you like; I like to do this with additional garlic & smoked paprika, sage, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, and a thickener (usually corn starch). But that's just one of a thousand recipes; some people stick to the basic hot sauce, other people add an Asian twist... this is entirely up to you.

  12. Make sure you've got the sauce up to a nice smooth emulsion and then toss the wings and sauce together.

  13. Serve with chopped carrots and celery, blue cheese dip, and plenty of beer.

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1  
The bleu cheese and rabbit food is for appearances and children only. Do not consume any of this or face great shame. –  hobodave Sep 3 '10 at 2:22
    
@hobodave, I do have to say that although I would never dip one of these precious wings in a store-bought blue cheese dip, you can make a homemade one that's really quite an excellent accompaniment (especially if you really ramp up the spices and heat in this technique). I think a lot of the bad press on blue cheese comes from the fact that they call it blue cheese when it's really ranch dressing with half an ounce of blue cheese blended in. –  Aaronut Sep 3 '10 at 2:48
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@hobodave: blue cheese, or fromage bleu, please. bleu cheese just grates. (apologies for the pun). –  daniel Sep 3 '10 at 3:44
    
I don't want to down vote this, but we really need to draw attention to sarge_smith's answer. –  Chris Cudmore Sep 8 '10 at 13:32
    
@chris: It just needs to summarize the technique, then I'll upvote it myself. –  Aaronut Sep 8 '10 at 14:36
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This link is the preparation. This link is the blah, blah, blah about why it works.

I have never found better baked wings than these but aaronuts are close second.

UPDATE: The first link is to serious eats' Kenji Lopez-Alt's chicken wing article and reciope.

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Very interesting, I'm not familiar with this technique (nor did I know that the one I was using was advocated by Alton Brown). The only downside I can see is that it doesn't seem to allow for any additional seasoning before baking (I suspect too much seasoning on the raw chicken would interfere with the effects of the baking powder). –  Aaronut Sep 3 '10 at 17:11
    
By the way, there's nothing wrong with outbound linking but you should try to summarize the contents in your answer. Otherwise the answer's no good if the URL breaks later on. That's the only reason I didn't upvote. –  Aaronut Sep 3 '10 at 17:13
    
@aaronut gotcha, will do in the future, fixing this one now. –  sarge_smith Sep 6 '10 at 14:16
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I agree with roux, 45 minutes is insanely long at 425. I bake chicken breasts at 400 for 25 minutes tops.

How reliable is your oven? Are you sure that your oven is actually 425 when you think it's 425? You can buy a little thermometer to hang from the rack, I have one of these in my oven at all times. (My oven is off by 75 degrees).

BTW, unless you're opposed to frying, you don't need to deep fry them. You could pan fry them in 1/4"-1/2" of oil 3-4 mins on one side, 2-3 mins on the other, then finish them in the oven at 400 F for 10-15 minutes. This will give you that crispy exterior without completely toasting it. It also helps to place them on a wire rack set in a baking pan so that the oil can drip off them while they bake.

With wings you don't really need to let them get to room temperature for cooking, they heat up rather quickly.

Regarding your sauce, I find that Franks "wing sauce" is kinda meh compared to the real thing. The real thing is simply equal parts melted butter and Frank's Red Hot sauce. The "wing sauce" uses some margarine-esque oily compound in place of butter.

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nitpick: if the problem with deep frying is concern about oil absorption, you will actually get less absorbtion via deep frying than shallow. –  daniel Sep 2 '10 at 23:11
    
I actually agree about the wing sauce; I was taught to use Frank's Red Hot + butter, but though the wing sauce would be worth a try. It's not as good! –  JustRightMenus Sep 3 '10 at 0:46
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Crank up the oven temp to max. with the oven sheet inside the oven. When the oven is hot, take out the oven sheet and dump the chicken on it (it will sizzle). Depending on the size and preferred doneness, cook for 15-25 min. If your chicken pieces are of different sizes, first cook the bigger pieces and add the rest halfway.

If you have a thermometer, when it hits 72ºC (160F) take it out (carryover must take it to 75ºC - 165F)

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45 minutes???

You are cooking for way, way, way too long. Unless we're talking Flintstonian sized wings here. Whole bone-in breasts won't even take more than 1/2 hour at that temperature. No way would wings need that long.

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Ah, but when you bake a chicken breast, you don't want a crispy texture. That's exactly what you want with wings. –  Aaronut Sep 2 '10 at 23:09
    
Dunno about you, but I do mine skin-on and definitely want the crisp. That being said.. 45 minutes at 425 is stil way, way too long. –  daniel Sep 3 '10 at 1:46
    
It's actually not. Chicken breasts don't have much fat and will dry out if you bake them that long. Wings have much more fat and are being constantly "basted" in their own juices. It might be non-intuitive but contrary to what several people are implying, breasts are best with shorter oven cooking times because of their leanness. –  Aaronut Sep 3 '10 at 2:11
    
wings do not have that much more fat than breasts, –  daniel Sep 3 '10 at 3:45
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