We’d heard good things about coating wings with baking powder and cooking them in the oven to produce the equivalent of fried without the deep fryer. With National Wing Day, aka the Super Bowl, coming up it was time to do a taste test.
According to Serious Eats, this “slightly alkaline mixture raises the skin’s pH levels, which allows proteins to break down more efficiently, giving you crisper, more evenly browned results. Simultaneously, it combines with the bird’s natural juices, forming carbon dioxide gas that leaves you with a layer of tiny bubbles. It’s these bubbles that increase the skin’s surface area, allowing it to develop a crunchy texture once cooked.” Be sure to use a baking powder that does not contain aluminum, which produces a bitter aftertaste for some people. We used Argo brand though would have preferred Rumsford, the original baking powder which like many other things was invented in Troy, NY.
We tested the Serious Eats formula of 1 part baking powder to 3 parts salt, the Kenji Lopez-Alt blend of 1 part baking powder to 1 part salt, and a recipe we found on Yummly with 3 parts baking powder, 1 part salt. You don’t need a lot of the mixture to coat the wings; a couple tablespoons for a couple pounds of wings is ample. After dredging they were transferred to a wire rack sitting on a half sheet pan, then cured uncovered in the refrigerator for 24 hours—the equivalent of dry brining. Then they were cooked in a preheated 450 degree oven for 30 minutes, flipped over, and cooked another 15-25 minutes to golden but not burned doneness.
You can see the fresh-out-of-the-oven results here (after somebody had snitched a few wings). The morsels were indeed crisp with a crackling, juicy skin, just what you want. I initially rooted for Kenji’s because they were the only one that did not stick to the rack when it was time to turn them over, but all were equivalent at the end with an evenly crisp exterior. We tasted some without sauce, and doused the rest in the standard mix of 1 part melted butter to 1 part Frank’s Red Hot Sauce.
I found all the wings salty in taste (but appealingly so), regardless of how much salt was actually used. One of my tasters immediately voted for Kenji’s because the flavor balance was good and one of the others (probably the Yummy) had an odd aftertaste. The texture of the wings was pretty consistent from one formula to the next, but Kenji’s seemed a little tougher to me, requiring more mastication.
For the Big Game, I would recommend making these with 2 parts salt to 1 part baking powder. That is a good balance between the ratio of Kenji and his editor that should produce a crisp yet tender result. Sauce them with the butter/Frank’s mixture, or if you are more adventurous try one or the other of our Korean fried chicken sauces.