Fried chicken wings are the perfect combination of crispy and juicy, but they are high in fat and may be messy to cook. Oven-baked chicken wings reproduce the crispness of a fried wing with less oil and attention. Wings may be coated or left plain but often are sauced afterward for more flavor. Wings crisp up best when cooked after thawing, even though they can be safely cooked from frozen.
Whole wings need to be cut into three pieces before baking. This ensures even cooking and less crowding on the pan, helping keep the skin crisp. Cut along the two joints of the wing, where the tip to the forearm meet and where the forearm to the upper arm or drumette meet. Use a sharp chef’s knife to cut through the hinge of the joint. The wings then may be marinated if you like. Even just salting the wings for 20 minutes — giving time for the salt to penetrate — adds extra flavor. Stab the wings a couple of times with a fork to allow seasonings to penetrate more quickly. Steak spice makes for a fast and easy seasoning option, even if you also plan on saucing or coating the wings.
Fried chicken wings develop a crispy coating from being coated in flour or breadcrumbs before cooking. To replicate the texture of flour-coated fried wings, toss the wings in a mix of flour and baking powder; the alkalinity helps the wings brown and crisp up. Coated wings are key for making classic oven-baked Buffalo wings. Add no more than 1 to 2 teaspoons of baking powder per 1/3 cup of flour, which is the amount you need to lightly coat 1 pound of wings. Mix the flour and baking powder well before adding in the chicken, then let the coated chicken rest overnight in the fridge before baking for optimal crispness. If you are not coating the wings with sauce after baking, add in other dried spices with the flour, such as garlic powder, paprika, cayenne powder or cumin to taste.
Baking the Wings
To bake coated wings, heat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit and arrange the wings on a baking tray or broiling rack. Do not let the wings touch. Place the wings on a rack in the top half of the oven and bake for 20 minutes before flipping and cooking for another 15 to 25 minutes. Chicken wings are fully cooked when the internal temperature reaches 165 F, but it may take a little longer for the coating to crisp fully.
Seasoning and Sauces
Fried chicken wings most often are sauced after frying, as the flour coating is relatively neutral. Classic Buffalo chicken wings use a blend of vinegary hot sauce and melted butter to achieve the spicy, savory rich taste that goes so well with beer. However, you may toss crispy baked wings in a range of sauces, including teriyaki sauce or a mix of honey and garlic powder. Toasted ground spices and freshly minced herbs such as a mix of Sichuan peppercorns, dried chilies, anise, cumin, minced green onion and cilantro may be added to freshly oven-fried wings as a savory “sauce” that doesn’t soften the crisp exterior of the wing.
References and Resourcesthe kitchn: How to Make Buffalo Chicken Wings in the Oven
serious eats: The Food Lab -- In Search of the Best Oven-Fried Buffalo Wings
serious eats: The Food Lab -- Crispy Oven-Fried Chicken Wings With Xi'an Flavors Bring the Heat
serious eats: Really Good Oven-Fried Buffalo Wings
Eating Well: How to Marinate Chicken
What's Cooking America: Internal Temperature of Chicken and Turkey