Yes, a truly crispy oven wing IS possible.

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Let's be real — there are few things that are better in life than a deep-fried chicken wing. It is no secret that dunking a battered chicken wing into a bubbling pot of hot oil yields a delightfully crispy result. That said, deep frying is always a bit of a process. Not only is it messy (apron is definitely required), but it's also such a headache to dispose of the dirty oil. So, if you're not in the mood to go through the whole procedure of deep-frying chicken wings (I don't blame you) but still want a super crunchy final product, there's one key ingredient that you need to add to your wings in order to yield a seemingly deep-fried snack from your oven.

Before I reveal my secret ingredient, let's talk about technique. In general, if you are roasting something (proteins or veggies) and you want it to be super crispy, you should always bake it in a HOT oven — we're talking 425°F and hotter. You should always bake the item on a rack that's set over a rimmed baking sheet. This way, the hot air in the oven will circulate around all angles of the product for optimal crispiness. You also want to remove any moisture that's on the product you're roasting. Washed veggies should be dried thoroughly and proteins should be patted dry with a paper towel. The items you're roasting should be spread out on the baking rack — if they're laying on top of each other, they'll steam and won't get crispy. (Sad!) If you need to, you can always spread the wings out between multiple racks/sheet pans.

Now that we have the basics out of the way, let's discuss our secret ingredient: Baking soda! Yep — it actually is as simple as that. For every five pounds of chicken wings that you're cooking, you should use 1 teaspoon of baking soda. When you think about it, that's really not a whole lot. This is because if you add too much, you will taste that alkaline flavor (the same flavor that makes a pretzel, a pretzel, you know?). Simply combine the baking soda with salt, pepper, and any other dried spices that you like on your wings — garlic powder, onion powder, and smoked paprika are all delicious.

Buffalo chicken wings with dip
Credit: bd.weld

Once you have this dry rub, you can then toss it all over the wings, thus ensuring that the baking soda is evenly distributed. This is best accomplished by putting your raw wings in a large bowl, sprinkling the dry seasoning mixture over top, and tossing until evenly coated. Then, arrange your seasoned and soda-d wings on the prepared rack and pop it into your 425°F (or hotter!) oven. Now all that's left to do is bake until they're browned and crispy. At 425°F, this will likely take around 40-45 minutes. 

So why does it work? Well, I'm no scientist, but it's pretty basic (punny). Baking soda helps to break down the exterior of the chicken skin, which means that when the wings are put in the oven, they will get browner and crispier much faster. Technically, you can also use baking powder if that's what you have on hand, as it also contains sodium bicarbonate (a.k.a. baking soda). It's the same reason you might add some baking soda to your potato boiling water — because it breaks down the starchy molecules and makes it much easier to rough up those spuds. If you're confused, well I am too, kinda. But trust me — it works.

While your wings are baking, go ahead and whip up a wing sauce, buffalo, barbecue, or whatever you like. Maybe break out the ranch and the blue cheese while you're at it. And rest assured, you're well on your way to the crispiest (roasted) chicken wings, ever. I mean, what's better than that?