These Crispy Baked Chicken Wings are so shatteringly crisp that your guests will hardly believe that they’ve never been battered, breaded, or fried. This healthier and hassle-free chicken wing recipe is a major must-make for parties, and it’s all thanks to one simple, special ingredient.
Alright, internet skeptics. I know the deal, I’m one of you myself. Truly crackly, crispy-skinned wings– the kind that make a tk tk sound when you tap them with your fingernail– that are baked in the oven and not breaded at all… they don’t sound real.
But if you’ll allow me to provide you with a little evidence in text, photograph, and video forms, I’ll do my best right here, right now, to show that these baked wings are truly the crispiest, most amazing chicken wings you’re likely to ever make at home. Pinky promise.
Not only are these chicken wings easier and less messy to make (because there’s no fiddling with a hot fryer full of oil and bowls full of dredging ingredients), but believe it or not, you won’t even have to feel guilty when you devour a dozen all by yourself before letting your friends know they’re ready to eat. (Side note: I may or may not be speaking from personal experience here.)
There’s absolutely no added oil in this recipe. In fact, the fat from the actual chicken wings is rendered out to aid in the crisping process, meaning that the chicken wing you wind up eating is actually less oily than it was naturally, before it went into the oven. Talk about an added bonus, right?
The best thing about these baked chicken wings, though, is that they truly do taste fantastic. You don’t have to worry about adding a ton of crazy ingredients– they’re delicious with simple seasonings, straight from the oven. You don’t even have to toss them in any sauce!
That being said, nothing beats buffalo chicken wings in my book. If you feel the same way, go ahead and pour over that bottle of wing sauce my friend. You’re in for a delicious time.
SO HOW DO I MAKE ULTRA-CRISPY BAKED CHICKEN WINGS?
There’s one ingredient that makes all of the difference in the world in this recipe, and it’s probably going to surprise to you.
Are you ready for this? Okay. The special ingredient is… baking powder. Yup, the stuff you have in your pantry and use in cakes and cookies.
How does it work?
When the baking powder is sprinkled onto the chicken wings, it helps draw moisture from the skin to the surface. That moisture combines with the baking powder to produce carbon dioxide bubbles. The bubbles form a craggly, crispy crust around the chicken wing, much like you’d expect if you were using hot oil.
Meanwhile, the baking powder also raises the pH level of the skin itself, which allows the proteins to break down easily. This causes the proteins to vibrate violently in a process called denaturation. This process uncoils proteins into a random shape, which creates a rough, uneven exterior for the wings, much like you’d expect from fried chicken.
Keep in mind, you want to use baking powder for this recipe, not baking soda. That’s highly, highly important! Also, using aluminum-free baking powder will ensure that you don’t taste the baking powder at all in the final product.
WHAT ABOUT THE BAKING?
If you want your chicken wings to reach their ultimate, out-of-this-world crispy potential, it’s not only about the baking powder, it’s also about the actual baking process.
To start, it’s important not to place these wings directly on the baking sheet. Instead, set a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet, spray the rack lightly with nonstick spray, and arrange the wings on top. The rack will allow hot air to circulate around the wings, which crisps them up all over, and will force any rendered liquids to drip to the pan below. Because the wings won’t be sitting in the liquids, they don’t get soggy on the bottom!
For the best results, I actually bake these wings at two separate temperatures. First, at 250°F on the middle rack, then at 425°F on the upper rack. The first bake is to melt the fat and start the baking powder’s reaction, and the second is to hit the wings with high heat which allows the skin to fully crisp.
HOW TO ADD FLAVOR TO YOUR CRISPY BAKED CHICKEN WINGS
As I briefly mentioned earlier, you can absolutely eat these Crispy Baked Chicken Wings without sauce if you’d like. The combination of paprika, garlic powder, and salt adds a bit of extra flavor to the wings themselves, making them surprisingly tasty to eat sauceless.
That being said, you can also add extra seasonings, to taste. I purposely leave out black pepper, cayenne pepper, or any chili powders from my seasoning mix as hot sauces tend to be heavy in those ingredients, but if you’re eating them plain, want to kick up the spice, or you’re using a different sauce, feel free to add them to the mix. Onion powder, cumin, lemon pepper, and/or adobo seasonings would all be great options as well!
If you’d like to go the sauce route, buffalo sauce is king in my book. You can make your own buffalo sauce as I have in the past for baked boneless wings, or you can go with Frank’s buffalo sauce, which is a favorite of mine (and very low calorie). Baked buffalo wings are the best buffalo wings!
Some other sauces I love and have used in recipes before include:
- Smoky Chipotle Lime Sauce
- Honey Bourbon BBQ Sauce
- Orange Glaze
- Honey Chipotle Garlic Sauce
- Hawaiian Huli Huli Sauce
And feel free to get creative. Condiments in your fridge like honey mustard, barbecue sauce, sriracha, gochujang, or even prepared horseradish can all be made into great sauces without much fuss at all.
WATCH THE CRISPY BAKED CHICKEN WINGS VIDEO
Method adapted from America’s Test Kitchen
- 3 pounds chicken wingettes (or divided chicken wings)
- 2 tablespoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Buffalo sauce, blue cheese, ranch, or other sauces, to serve (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 250°F and move the oven rack to the lower-middle position. Line a baking sheet with foil and place a wire rack on top. Spray the wire rack lightly with nonstick spray to prevent the wings from sticking.
- Dab the chicken wings with a paper towel to dry them. In a large freezer bag or bowl, combine the chicken wings, baking powder, paprika, garlic powder, and salt, and toss to coat the wings well. Arrange the chicken wings on the wire rack, skin side up.
- Bake on the lower-middle rack for 30 minutes.
- Increase the temperature to 425°F, and move the oven rack to the upper position. Continue to bake the wings until crisp, about 45 minutes to an hour more, rotating the baking sheet halfway through.
- Toss with sauce, if desired, and serve warm.
Be sure to use baking powder, NOT baking soda. Also, make sure your baking powder is aluminum-free for best results.
Nutritional information does not factor in the loss of fat from the drippings going below the pan. Unfortunately, this would be very difficult to calculate.