recipe: Roasted Chicken Wings
I’m not sure when I came around on wings. When I was a kid, they were sold as “Drumettes” and my mom might make them if we were camping or at a group picnic, but in general I always thought they were too much work, too little food. And when I’d have them in later years, they were drowned in a sauce that made them soggy and a total mess to eat. Frankly, if it hadn’t been for Pan-Asian take out places that straight up fried the wings with no sauce, I might have given up on them forever.
Unfortunately… the wings were fried. It became a great comfort food for me… and my belly… and my waistline. So I tried doing them myself at home, baking them didn’t have the mojo at all, smoking them was hit or miss and roasting them was good, but the main method I followed–Alton Brown’s–was a little more tedious than I liked. It still became a go-to recipe, however, until a little more browsing around online resulted in my new method.
To put it simply: brine, nuke (par-cook), roast. I use whole wings instead of separated ones as they’re cheaper–especially in a value pack–and I think they come out juicier as a finished product than “party wings”. I brine the wings for 6-8 hours, par-cook them in the microwave and then roast them to doneness and further to desired crispness.
And I should note: chances are if you’re already going to roast chicken wings, you’re not squeamish, but many of us who have ordered wings from take out places have found… feathers. If you buy a value pack of wings, you are pretty likely to find a few here and there, so give the wings a once-over before cooking, just to be sure. There’s nothing worse than tucking into comfort food and finding something that gives you pause, no matter how much your brain knows it’s a perfectly normal part of a bird.
Roasted Chicken Wings (Whole)
Most methods for wings–save frying–are going to involve a bit of time and attention, but a lot of the prep for these can be done in advance up to and including the par-cooking, which would make it easy to pack them up for cooking at a destination. Additionally, they reheat very well, so could be completely cooked in advance and reheated on the spot.
- whole chicken wings (smaller packs can contain 6-10 wings, value packs may contain up to 16 or more)
- basic poultry brine
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup kosher salt or ¼ cup table salt
- 2-3 quarts water
- (optional) seasonings to add to brine or sprinkle over wings
- To prepare the brine, dissolve salt and sugar in 1 quart hot water, then add 1 quart cold water to cool. If you desire any additional flavors in the brine, add them in with the hot water. (a)
- After the brine has cooled, add the wings, adding more water to cover as needed. (b)
- Stir the wings in the brine to distribute them evenly, then refrigerate for 6-8 hours. (c)
- After desired brining time, drain the wings and rinse them in cold water to wash off any remaining seasonings from the brine.
- Preheat oven to 450°.
- Place the wings on a large microwavable platter, or directly on a sheet of parchment paper in the microwave (d) and cook for 3 minutes on one side, then flip and cook for 2 minutes on the other side.
- Spray a rack with non-stick cooking spray or brush with oil, and place it on a baking pan that has been covered with foil. For large batches of wings, you may need multiple pans.
- Arrange the wings on the rack with some space between them, no more than an inch is necessary.
- Reduce oven heat to 350°.
- Roast the wings on one side for 40 minutes, then flip them and roast for 20 minutes on the other side.
- For crispier skin, continue to bake in 15-minute increments until desired crispiness. (e)
There are some "your miles may vary" options in this recipe, primarily the strength of the brine and the length of roasting/finishing time. Additionally, I encourage you to find the best means of par-cooking that works for you. If putting raw chicken in your microwave isn’t your thing, you can par boil or even steam them, but the microwave method is the fastest and easiest I’ve found.
- The brine is mainly to make the chicken juicier, but also to add flavor. In addition to salt and sugar, you could also add: minced garlic or garlic paste, seasoning salt, peppercorns, cayenne pepper, apple cider vinegar, etc.
- The wings should be thawed, if they’re frozen, the brine won’t take as well until they do. The wings I brought home from the store still had a bit of ice on them, but still worked ok.
- 6-8 hours will produce nicely seasoned/salty wings, so you probably won’t need much salt or seasoning later except for looks. If you want less salty wings, reduce brine time to 4-6 hours, or reduce salt and sugar in initial brine. The water is the key, but it makes a great medium for flavor.
- If you have a large platter, you should be fine, but I found it easier to cover the microwave floor with parchment paper, turn off the turntable/rotation and do that instead. If your microwave has optional racks, you could use those too, just be mindful that you’ll have to reach in to flip the wings.
- Making sure to keep an eye on the wings, you could increase the oven temperature to 375° for this step, or use the broiler to finish them off.
You may notice that I said nothing about sauce in the recipe. I’m apparently “weird” in that I like my wings unsauced. The brine does give them a lot of flavor and I think sauce messes up the nice chewy/crispy skin they get. However, I would suggest that you: brush the wings with sauce while roasting, serve the sauce on the side or if you really want to, just toss the wings with the sauce once cooked. Sauce or no sauce, be sure to have a wet-nap handy as this dish is not for the prim, proper or proud. Enjoy!