The Definitive Guide to Perfect Air-Fryer Wings

Hot, crispy, and delicious every time.

Sponsored by:
What's this?

Well, it’s safe to say that we’ve fully jumped on the air-fryer bandwagon. Aside from making conventionally fried foods healthier, air-frying cooks food evenly and quickly, without requiring that you heat up a full-sized oven or pot of oil. But can air-fryer wings compete with their deep-fried counterparts? We set out to find the answer. (Spoiler alert: It's yes.)

Our air fryer of choice is the Cuisinart Digital AirFryer Toaster Oven. Unlike single-use air fryers, this is a true kitchen workhorse: It’s a spectacular air fryer with a generously sized basket, but it's also a toaster, oven, convection oven, broiler, and dehydrator. Plus, it comes loaded with a host of useful presets, including one for air-fryer chicken wings.

To start our wing journey, we referred back to The Food Lab. Years ago, Kenji discovered that he could make crispy yet juicy wings in the oven by first coating them in salt and baking powder, then letting them chill uncovered in the fridge overnight. The baking powder adds crunch by increasing surface area, while air-drying helps the wings crisp up faster in the oven.

To try this out, we did several rounds of tests, each involving multiple batches of chicken wings. One batch had been coated in kosher salt and baking powder and air-dried, one was coated in just salt and air-dried, and one consisted of wings straight from the package. To begin, we relied on the Cuisinart Digital AirFryer Toaster Oven wings preset, which air-fries the wings at 400°F (200°C) for 25 minutes.

They were all amazing—each version had perfectly crispy, salty skin, and each was delicious on its own or smothered in sauce (more on the sauce soon). There were small differences between the three versions. The two versions that had been air-dried had a crackly, almost paper-thin skin and a nice crunch. The third one, which we salted right out of the package and threw into the air fryer with no other prep, had a slightly meatier bite to the crisp skin and a nice crunch, but the meat inside was juicier.

One theory behind this is that since the air fryer specifically works to circulate air and draw out moisture as it cooks, you don’t need the extra step of coating the wings in baking powder and air-drying. The wings produced by this extra step weren't bad by any means, but why make the extra effort when the simplest path produces such stellar results?

Next, we set out to challenge the wings preset on the AirFryer Toaster Oven. Would an appliance really be smarter than us? As it turned out, the preset produced perfect wings every single time. Experimenting with different times and temperatures, or starting low and then cranking up the heat, produced subpar wings. The Cuisinart preset knows what it’s doing. Did we mention you don’t even need to flip the wings? Because air circulates all around the mesh basket, the wings get crisp on all sides, with zero extra work on your part.

Now that we’d nailed the wings (well, really, Cuisinart nailed the wings; we just did a bunch of tests to prove it), it was time to focus our attention on the sauces. There’s no going wrong with classic Buffalo, but if you’re looking to mix things up, we’ve got three different versions to try: chipotle-lime, pomegranate-cumin, and gochujang-honey. They're all super flavorful, with varying levels of spice—pomegranate-cumin packs some good tang; chipotle-lime is a tad spicy, with a refreshing citrus zing; and gochujang-honey is sweet yet fiery, with a slow burn. Dunk the wings in the sauce, or serve the wings plain and let people choose their own adventures.

Air-Fryer Chicken Wings

Active time: 5 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes
Yield: Serves 4

Ingredients

Nonstick cooking spray
2 pounds (900g) chicken wings, cut into drumettes and flats
2 teaspoons (8g) kosher salt

Directions

1. Line the Cuisinart AirFryer drip pan with aluminum foil. Place the Cuisinart AirFryer basket into the pan and coat with nonstick cooking spray.

2. Thoroughly dry chicken wings with a paper towel, then toss with salt.

3. Place chicken wings in prepared basket, leaving a tiny bit of space between each wing (cook in batches if necessary). Insert into the top position of the Cuisinart AirFryer. Select the AirFry – Wings preset function and cook.

4. When the time is up, the wings should be golden and crispy. Remove pan from Cuisinart AirFryer. Serve wings immediately on their own, or dip in a sauce of your choice.

Gochujang-Honey Wing Sauce

Active time: 5 minutes
Total time: 5 minutes
Yield: 2/3 cup (160ml)

Ingredients

3 tablespoons (40ml) gochujang (spicy Korean red pepper paste)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons (30ml) honey
2 teaspoons (10ml) rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons (10ml) fish sauce
3 tablespoons (45g) butter

Directions

1. In a small pot, combine gochujang, garlic, honey, vinegar, and fish sauce over low heat. Cook, stirring, until thoroughly combined, about 3 to 4 minutes.

2. Remove from heat and stir in butter. Serve.

Chipotle-Lime Wing Sauce

Active time: 10 minutes
Total time: 10 minutes
Yield: 2/3 cup (160ml)

Ingredients

3 chipotles in adobo, plus 1 tablespoon (15ml) adobo sauce
3 tablespoons (45ml) lime juice
1 teaspoon lime zest
2 tablespoons (30ml) maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon (2g) kosher salt
3 tablespoons (45g) butter

Directions

1. Using a food processor or blender, combine chipotles, adobo sauce, lime juice and zest, maple syrup, and salt until chipotles are fully puréed. Transfer to a small pot.

2. Heat chili-lime purée over low heat until just starting to simmer. Remove from heat and stir in butter. Serve.

Pomegranate-Cumin Wing Sauce

Active time: 20 minutes
Total time: 20 minutes
Yield: 2/3 cup (160ml)

Ingredients:

1 3/4 cups (414 ml) unsweetened pomegranate juice
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon (15ml) lemon juice
1 teaspoon (4g) kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
3 tablespoons (45g) butter

Directions

1. In a small pot, combine pomegranate juice, cumin, lemon juice, salt, and pepper over medium heat. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until reduced to 2/3 cup; the sauce should coat a spoon, but should not be as thick as molasses (and keep in mind that it will thicken as it cools).

2. Remove from heat and stir in butter. Serve.

Note: All the sauces can be made ahead of time and refrigerated. To serve, microwave for about 30 seconds to warm and loosen.