THE MASTER RECIPE(S) FOR CHICKEN WINGS

I think that chicken wings should be moist and tender - and also have some sort of delicious sauce - either on them or for dipping. Most wings in my experience are tough, often dry; the sauce may be tasty, but the texture is just not right.

 I originally decided that brining was the answer - just making a simple salt water and sugar solution, and soaking the wings for about 4 to 6 hours before rinsing, drying and cooking them seems to do the trick. There are several brine recipes in our Recipe Archives if you choose to do this. HOWEVER, one of my favorite bloggers, J. Kenji López-Alt, author of “Serious Eats” (who is a fan of “naked” wings, or wings that are cooked first and then sauced (like the classic Buffalo Wings) has conducted a HUGE series of experiments and has come up with an even better way to achieve perfect texture.

 He is of the opinion that brining adds the desired moisture, alright, but pre- cooking the wings slowly in the oil - as in the French method of “confit” - gelatinizes the collagen (the tough fibers) in the wings - offering a much superior result - not only juicy, but also tender. This pre-cooking requires about 20 minutes on the stovetop or 40 minutes in the oven. The best part is that this slow cooking can be done hours, or even days, in advance of the final cooking of the wings - the pre-cooked wings can even be frozen for up to 2 months, then slightly thawed and cooked. Another cool advantage is that, while you can only fry a few wings at a time to finish them (remember the “don’t crowd the pan” rule, which makes sure that the oil stays at the right temperature to crisp the wings), the pre-cooking can be done with any number of wings filling the pan - because the slow cooking has a different  purpose than does the finishing (crisping) method.

 This being a “Master Recipe,” I feel it necessary that I include oven roasted and grilled basics and cooking times, as well. A couple of interesting recipe ideas follow the techniques - there are dozens to be found online, and, of course, you can make up your own or use a bottled sauce - use the sauce as a marinade before cooking, brush it on while cooking or use any sauce for dipping “naked” wings.

J. KENJI LÓPEZ-ALT’S ULTIMATE

CHICKEN WINGS TECHNIQUE

 SERVES 4 to 8

3 quarts peanut or canola oil

4 pounds chicken wings, cut into drumettes and flats

(discard wing tips, or save for stock)

 

Stovetop method: Place the oil and chicken wings in a large wok, stock pot or Dutch oven. Heat over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the oil registers 225 to 250°F on an instant-read or deep-fry thermometer (chicken should be gently bubbling).

Continue to cook, stirring and flipping the chicken pieces occasionally. Adjust the heat as necessary to maintain a temperature of 225 to 250°F, until the chicken is cooked through and the skin is tender but not crisp or browned – about 20 minutes total.

Using a wire mesh spider, strainer or slotted spoon, transfer the chicken pieces to a rimmed baking sheet lined with paper towels. Allow the chicken to rest at room temperature for at least 1 hour, or cover and refrigerate for up to three nights.  Sauce (or not) and finish cooking as desired.

Oven Method: Adjust the oven rack to a lower-middle position and preheat the oven to 225°F. Place the oil and chicken wings in a large oven-safe pot or Dutch oven.

On top of the stove, heat the contents of the pot over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the oil registers 200°F on an instant-read or deep-fry thermometer. Cover the pot and transfer it to the preheated oven.

Cook until the chicken wings are tender but not browned – 40 minutes to 1 hour (chicken should be tender but not falling apart). Remove the pot from the oven. Using a wire mesh spider, strainer or slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to a rimmed baking sheet lined with paper towels. Allow the chicken to rest at room temperature for at least 1 hour, or cover and refrigerate for up to three nights. Sauce (or not) and finish cooking as desired.

COOK’S NOTES:

The stove-top method is faster and easier for some folks, but the oven method will produce a slightly moister result.

Chicken wings can be frozen after the slow cooking step.

TO FREEZE CHICKEN: place the wing pieces on a large plate or rimmed baking sheet, separating each piece. Freeze until solid, then transfer  the chicken pieces to a zipper-lock freezer bag. Keep frozen for up to 2 months.

TO COOK FROM A FROZEN STATE: remove as many wing pieces as you’d like to cook from the freezer and allow them to thaw at room temperature for at least 20 minutes and up to 2 hours before continuing by frying, roasting or grilling.

TO DEEP-FRY CHICKEN WINGS

In a deep pot, filling no more than halfway with oil, heat peanut or other light-colored oil of your choice oil to 400°F. Carefully add a pound or so of chicken wing pieces (do not crowd the pan, so oil will recover temperature easily after chicken is added) and cook, stirring and turning over the chicken pieces occasionally.

Adjust the heat as necessary to maintain a temperature of 375 to 400°F. Cook the wings until they are golden brown and crisp – about 10 minutes total. Transfer to a bowl containing sauce, toss to coat – or serve sauce separately for dipping. Repeat with remaining batches of wing pieces.

COOK’S NOTE: You may coat the chicken wing pieces with seasoned flour before deep-frying, if such a crusty coating is desired. You will need about 1 1/2 cups of flour for each dozen wings (24 pieces) – season with salt and pepper, and/or add other spices as desired.

 

TO OVEN ROAST CHICKEN WINGS

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cover a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil, non-stick (“release”) foil, or a silicone baking mat. If regular aluminum foil is used, spray with nonstick cooking spray, or oil lightly.

Coat the chicken wings lightly with olive oil, season with salt and pepper – or coat each chicken piece with the sauce of your choice. Oven roast for 35-40 minutes.

TO GRILL CHICKEN WINGS

Prepare a gas or charcoal grill for direct-heat grilling. Preheat (or allow the coals to burn down) to a medium-hot grilling surface.

Coat the chicken wings lightly with olive oil, season with salt and pepper – or coat each chicken piece with the sauce of your choice.

Place the wings on the grill and cook, turning frequently, for 15 to 20 minutes.

EASY ASIAN STICKY WINGS

Finished in the Slow Cooker

 18 chicken wings cut into drumettes and flats

(discard wing tips, or save for stock)

1 cup, hoisin sauce (found in Asian section of market)

1 cup, apricot preserves

1 teaspoon, dry mustard powder

4 cloves, garlic – chopped fine

2 tablespoons, orange zest

1/4 teaspoon, cayenne pepper or chili oil (optional)

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cover a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil, non-stick (“release”) foil, or a silicone baking mat. If regular aluminum foil is used, spray with nonstick cooking spray, or oil lightly.

 Place the chicken pieces on the baking sheet and bake them in the preheated oven for 20 minutes.

 In a slow cooker, combine all the remaining ingredients and stir well to incorporate. Place the baked wings in the slow cooker and gently toss them to coat all the wings with the sauce.

Cook on “low” heat setting for 3-4 hours – or on “high” setting for 2 hours.

SMOKED PAPRIKA DRY RUB FOR CHICKEN WINGS

 12 chicken wings cut into drumettes and flats

(discard wing tips, or save for stock)

3 tablespoons, smoked paprika

(this is usually from Spain and has a fabulous flavor – unlike “regular” paprika)

1 teaspoon, light brown sugar

3/4 teaspoon, cayenne pepper

3/4 teaspoon, ground black pepper

3/4 teaspoon, kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon, ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon, ground cloves


In a small bowl, combine the smoked paprika, the sugar and all of the dry spices and stir to thoroughly combine. Rub the wing pieces liberally with this mixture, and allow them to stand for 20 minutes or longer.

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cover a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil, non-stick (“release”) foil, or a silicone baking mat. If regular aluminum foil is used, spray with nonstick cooking spray, or oil lightly.

 Place the chicken pieces on the baking sheet and bake them in the preheated oven for 30 minutes.

Additional source material from: Wings by Debbie Moose (Wiley)