Eight images of crispy chicken wings

I Tested All the Popular Internet Hacks for Perfectly Crispy Baked Chicken Wings and Here's the Hands-Down Winner

Master your game-day spread with this genius step.

Practically since football's leather-helmet era, people have tried to figure out the best way to cook chicken wings. . Deep fryers make magic, but also messes, so was there a way to use the oven to achieve that perfect crisp? We searched the internet (and of course TikTok) for the 5 most promising techniques and put them to the test. Here's what we learned.

The Importance of Crispiness in a Perfect Chicken Wing

The delight of a great chicken wing comes from the surprising textural combination of a wet sauce over a crispy skin, plus the tender meat inside. Keeping the skin crisp through the sauce-dunk, without overcooking the wing, is the challenge, especially without a commercial fryer. But it turns out that access to the most basic kitchen workhorses—an oven and a broiler—can get the job done. The magic lies in how you do it.

How We Tested Crispy Wing Hacks

In search of that perfectly crispy baked chicken wing, we tested five hacks that used the oven and broiler in a typical home kitchen. One method called for broiling only, and four involved baking. For every test, we left the wings uncovered in the fridge overnight to help dry out the skin and avoid excess surface moisture. Then, when we got to the baking step, we cooked the wings on top of cooling racks, to allow maximum surface area crisping throughout the cooking process. We also universally employed an online hack, which recommended opening the oven during the cooking process to allow steam (moisture) to escape. Genius.

When testing baked wings, we put them in a 475°F oven for 40 minutes, turning them around 25 minutes in, and leaving them longer if they didn't seem to crisp. When they exited the oven, we left some without sauce (both to test longevity and to feed my children, who sadly remain averse to spice). We gave the rest a first coating of sauce for deeper flavor, broiled them for five minutes, and then gave them a second coating of sauce just before serving.

Read on for how each hack performed.

Crispy Hack #1: Baking Powder

The most widespread trick on the internet involves sprinkling a little baking powder onto the wings before baking them. The kitchen science wizards at America's Test Kitchen and Serious Eats both found this worked best for them. This was the easiest of the hacks: Just toss the wings in a teaspoon each of salt and baking powder before baking. The wings came out of the oven quite crisp, and were the only wings that came out matte – with no oil sheen – which seemed to help them absorb the sauce, in both good and bad ways. The unsauced wings stayed crisp but had an "off" taste—we tested again with less baking powder, but that off taste remained, unfortunately. (Remember how the unsauced wings were for the kids? They wouldn't eat this batch.) Adding the sauce did eliminate (cover up?) that off taste, but the wings didn't hold their crispness as much as the other versions.

Crispy Hack #2: Skewered Broiling

The principal factors for crisp skin are keeping heat up, moisture down, and maximizing surface area. With that in mind, the folks at Epicurious had the idea of using metal skewers to stretch the wings out for grilling. Threading the whole wing (including the tip, which also saves time cutting the wings up) removes nooks and crannies that trap moisture and ensures the heat touches every square millimeter of skin. Brilliant, except that the peak wing season of championship football coincides with the peak city-paralyzing, winter-storm months. Nobody should have to shovel snow off the grill for a good wing, so we took the skewer stretching idea and tried to transfer it to the broiler.

As per Epicurious, we brushed on the sauce before cooking. The wings started to look nicely crisp around 15 minutes in, but the internal temperature still read 167°F, just a little too close to the minimum for my comfort. We left them in a few more minutes, until the smoke they created got to be too much (and set off the smoke alarm). Somehow, despite creating a ton of smoke, the crisping came out extremely uneven, with parts of the skin not getting dark enough, and others crisping up to a beautiful char. They tasted fine, but the texture issues, combined with the smoke, means that this great idea should stay on the shelf until baseball season.

Crispy Hack #3: Boiling

Every food hack on TikTok turns out to be either mind-blowingly cool or mystifyingly bad, and Mohammad Yasin's viral chicken skin trick seemed promising: "Boiling water tightens up chicken skin and makes your wings crispy after you cook them," the caption explains. Though he simply pours the water over, other online boiling advocates recommend dropping the wings in boiling water for a few minutes for less mess and to remove some of the fat. Perhaps this is where we went wrong? Removing chicken wings after simmering them for a few minutes is, hands-down, one of the most unappealing kitchen tasks I have ever performed. The gummy, pale meat leaves behind a slick of fat, and everything reeks of half-cooked meat. Still, we persisted.

After a half-hour waiting period, we baked them. But at 40 minutes, they still appeared quite pale, so we left them for 10 more minutes. They came out of the oven with the blistering skin that creates the craggy, crispy exterior for holding sauce, and were nicely even and consistent. In the broiler, they added much more color, coming out looking ideal. Unfortunately, the extra time cooking, from either the boiling and/or the 10 extra minutes, rendered the interior dry and bland, ultimately making for a disappointing wing.

Crispy Hack #4: Steaming

Another of the kitchen science crew, Alton Brown, suggested a method that seemed to get at the same idea as the boiling, but with a gentler touch. For this, we steamed the wings, then let them dry out before baking. Like the boiled wings, they needed extra time to crisp. They also developed those great blisters, these ones much bigger. Again, they seemed promising in terms of crunch, but while they were only half as dry as the boiled ones, it was still too dry to merit the hack.

Crispy Hack #5: Butter

While browsing recipes, we noticed one small idea float by a few times, including in this Butcher Box recipe: Add butter. Thinking it more of a quick little prep step than a hack, we brushed a set of wings with melted butter and tossed them in the oven. But when it came time to eat, the pile of bones made it clear these were the winners. The wings came out of the oven covered in uneven blistering, crisp, and still shiny with fat. After saucing and broiling, the crisp faded only a little, while the tender meat inside slid off the bone, full of flavor.

The Best Crispy Hack? Butter!

Never doubt the power of butter. While the baking soda and boiling methods rivaled (or even edged out) the crisp exterior in isolation, the butter method deserves a seat in the VIP suite for the best balance between tender meat and crispy skin that holds up to sauce.

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