Crispy, Baked Buffalo Wings

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I love buffalo wings, but I hate deep frying at home. It’s a huge pain in the ass to maintain the temperature of the oil, drain the fried food, and then strain and re-bottle the excess oil. It takes up a ton of counter space and generally results in a lot of dirty dishes. That’s why I rarely deep fry anything anymore.

I stumbled upon an oven-fried wings recipe at Serious Eats and have been experimenting with it for a while.

The recipe calls for using corn starch, kosher salt, and open refrigeration to mimic the crunch you get from deep-frying chicken skin. I’m pretty sure the technique was pioneered by America’s Test Kitchen. As long as I’m not impulsively craving wings, this is the recipe I’ve come to rely on.

The original recipe calls for using equal parts baking powder and kosher salt, but I’ve found that combination produces overly salty wings. Over several batches, I tried reducing the amount of salt until I pretty much omitted it. As long as the wings were allowed to dry out properly in the refrigerator, they came out perfect every time.

Baked Buffalo Wings

  • 4 pounds chicken wings, cut into drumettes and flats
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon (a total of 4 teaspoons) baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt

Toss the baking powder and wings in a bowl until the powder is evenly coated. You may have to divide the wings into batches to do this.

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Line a baking tray with foil. Spray a heavy layer of non-stick cooking oil on a grate and arrange the chicken so that no two pieces touch.

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Place in the refrigerator for at least 18 and up to 30 hours. I let some wings go for 48 hours once and they were unpleasantly dry. 18–30 hours seems to be the sweet spot. Here they are after drying out in the fridge.

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The rendering fat from the chicken skin creates a lot of smoke when cooking, so I cook the wings outside on my gas grill. I just preheat it to around 450° and plop the baking sheet right on the grates. After 20 minutes, I flip the wings and rotate the tray. After 15–20 more minutes, the wings are cooked to an internal temperature of 165°.

This Vine shows you how crispy the wings come out. If you enable the audio, you can hear the crunch. If you didn’t tell people that you baked these, they would assume they were deep fried.

What really turns chicken wings into buffalo wings is the sauce. The original buffalo sauce was invented at Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY. It was made up of 3 parts Frank’s Red Hot Cayenne Pepper Sauce combined with 2 parts melted butter. You can play with the heat level of the sauce by changing the butter ratio. I’m partial to Crystal Hot Sauce myself, so I usually use that insread of Frank’s.

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There are other sauces that make great chicken wings. I keep a squirt bottle of Sambal sauce in my refrigerator when I want a sweet and spicy kick. It gives crispy, buffalo-style wings a thai flavor. Sometimes I hot-smoke the wings on my charcoal grill and toss them with some Alabama-style white sauce that I also keep in my refrigerator. They all taste great and provide different flavor profiles.

Crispy, Baked Buffalo Wings
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