The Secret to the Best Chicken Wings
Mmm, that crispy skin though.
Chicken wings bring us together. Perhaps it's the silent understanding that we're all going to momentarily abandon any social grace and etiquette at first bite, but there's just nothing quite as American as grabbing a sauced-up, perfectly crisped chicken wing and diving into the messy, soul-pleasing experience of eating it hot and fresh, preferably while watching a football game. Southerners love their wings, sharing that love between classic buffalo, barbecue, and even teriyaki variations of the delicacy; and with Super Bowl Sunday upon us, it’s time to get ready for the real showdown. (And we aren’t talking about the football.)
We mean the longstanding rivalry between the physiological counterparts of the chicken wing: the drums and the flats. To us, it’s no contest; but we aren’t trying to ruffle any feathers. This divisive debate arises at Super Bowl parties throughout the South as much as, say, who deserves the title of best SEC quarterback of all time (Herschel? Cam? Peyton?). However, no matter which side you’re on, we can all agree that a flavorless, rubbery chicken wing has no place on our Super Bowl snack lineup.
Seasoning raw chicken wings and simply throwing them in a pan of hot oil is not the path to perfectly crispy wings, friends. It’s more like a one-way ticket to slick, rubberized wings that basically let the sauce just slide right off. Furthermore, condemning yourself and your loved ones to oven-baked wings at your Super Bowl party is not the can-do attitude we like to see. To cook the best chicken wings you’ve ever made, there’s a simple process we like to call double frying. (Frying once is for the complacent, frying twice is for the winners.)
It involves frying the wings first in lower temperature oil, around 250˚F, to get juicy, tender meat on the inside. Then, you have two options. You can pull them out and let them cool before the second frying; or, as some chefs swear by, you can freeze these wings overnight before frying them again the following day. It’s a technique used to dry out the skin, which helps get the crispiest skin later. Worry not: Opting to just let the wings cool in between fryings will not make a huge difference.
Next, the second instance of frying occurs at a higher temperature, around 350-375˚F, to get that perfectly crispy skin on the outside. Don’t crowd the pan, as you’ll risk lowering the temperature of the oil. Finish by tossing in the sauce of your choice; we’re partial to our Alabama White Sauce, Buttery Nashville Hot Sauce, and Vietnamese Peanut Sauce.
We asked our favorite Southern barbecue expert and author of South's Best Butts, Matt Moore, to lay out his technique for getting the best chicken wings. He also followed the double-cooking strategy, but in his own barbecue-loving way. If you like a smokier flavor, this is the tweak you need.
“I typically smoke mine low and slow at 200˚F for about 45 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches about 120˚F. This allows me to gently cook the meat and render off some of the fat to promote a crispy skin when frying, while keeping it moist and imparting a great smoky flavor,” Moore said. “From there, I like to fry in 350˚F oil until skin is extra crispy and the internal temperature is 165˚F.”
There you have it. Tweak the details, but respect the process. Beginning with low heat, taking a breather, and then finishing with high heat makes all the difference.
WATCH: Beer-Battered Fried Chicken Wings
When it comes to getting those perfect chicken wings, whether for the Super Bowl or tailgating in the fall, don’t just wing it! This double-frying technique will save you from setting out slippery, rubbery, or subpar chicken wings ever again. If you’re grilling instead of frying, try our Wonder Wings to get that same crispy skin!