No Fuss, No Muss: How to Oven-Fry Chicken Wings

[Photograph: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

There may be no more enticing sight in the world than a platter of freshly fried chicken wings. Straight out of college, I'd gladly tag along with my friends to watch football at bars, despite my profound disinterest in the sport, just because I knew I'd be able to order a pile of Buffalo wings. Even bad bar wings have the advantage of being deep fried, which I, in my ignorance at the time, thought was beyond my abilities as a home cook.

Of course, that was before I discovered how easy a wok makes deep frying at home, particularly if you've got a trick for efficiently cleaning your fry oil. But I completely understand that people generally remain a little leery about cooking with a pot of hot fat, and that sometimes, particularly when hosting a bunch of people for a game or a party, standing in front of a fryer for an hour or so isn't the most attractive idea. And that's when it's time to consider oven-frying your wings.

Oven-frying gets a bad rap, in part because the result rarely lives up to the name. Usually, oven-fried chicken is just breaded baked chicken. And in the rare recipes that call for adding a large quantity of hot oil to your baking dish, there's another problem: It's just a variation on the same hassle you were trying to avoid by using the oven in the first place.

But, as Kenji discovered when looking to create a truly good oven-fried wing, you can mimic the crisp skin and moist interior of a deep fried wing perfectly with little more than a rack, a baking sheet, and a very hot oven.

First off, you'll want to sprinkle your wings with a combination of salt, baking powder, and pepper, and then let them rest, uncovered, in the fridge for at least eight hours. This seasons the wings while dehydrating their skin and increasing their pH, ensuring extra-crispy results. Then, when you're ready to get cooking, just crank your oven to 450°F (232°C), place your wings on a rack set on a baking sheet and let them cook for about 40 minutes, flipping once midway through, until they're nicely crisped and browned.

And that's it! They're ready to be coated in Buffalo sauce, or tossed with a little oil in a hot wok with a blend of Xi'an-inspired spices.