My first experience with Buffalo wings was, fittingly, at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York. Alright, more specifically it was takeout from the Anchor Bar in college so that all of us could drink beer in our hotel. It was a trip for an academic competition (yes, nerd) and we could think of no better way to enjoy our time in the wing capital of America. At the time I was a vegetarian but we had several dozen wings in a small hotel room and by the time we’d finished, I had practically absorbed the Buffalo sauce through my pores. At the end of the night, the guys on our trip took all the wing bones, put them in an ice chest, and hid them in the girls’ hotel room underneath the heater. We woke up to a room that stank of Frank’s Red Hot so strongly that it was in our clothes all day at the competition.
After something like that, it’s kind of amazing that I still like wings. But I do; I love the vinegary smell of real Buffalo sauce and as a now ex-vegetarian, I can really get into an order of wings. The thing is, I don’t often find myself ordering them and I certainly didn’t make them at home until recently. Wings are generally fried and I don’t like to deep fry at home. I don’t like the mess it makes all over the stove or the smoke it causes from all the little brown bits left in the oil or the smell that it leaves in the house for days after. The solution – baked wings, a process that takes time but not a whole lot of effort.
Don’t get the idea that baked wings are the “healthy alternative” – they’re not. Perhaps they aren’t cooked in fat but wings are more fat than chicken, often sauced in fat, and then dipped in fat. The real benefit of these wings is that they are far less messy than the conventional fried version. The whole recipe can be prepared using a bowl and a sheet pan with a rack – and the rack can be moved directly from fridge to oven when you’re ready for baking.
This final result is all the things that a good wing should be: browned all over with a bubbly exterior perfect for catching sauce. The wings are crisp on the outside, so much so that they stay crunchy even under heavy saucing. The baking powder provides extra browning power, the corn starch adds crispness to the finished product, and the seasoned raw wings sit on a rack in the fridge overnight to thoroughly dry – dry skin at the beginning of cooking means crispier skin at the end of cooking. The initial seasoning makes these wings delicious all by themselves, but with some real Buffalo sauce (one part Frank’s red hot, one part butter) and bleu cheese dip – they’re pretty much irresistible.
3 pounds chicken wings, fully defrosted
2 tsp baking powder
4 tsp kosher salt
2 tbs corn starch
Prepare a sheet pan by lining it with foil and place a baking rack on the pan. This will allow you to move the wings directly from the fridge to the oven when you bake them.
Divide the wings in half and work in two batches. Pat each wing dry using cloth or paper towels and place in a large bowl, big enough for tossing the wings with the seasoning. Add 1 tsp baking powder, 2 tsp kosher salt, and 1 tbs corn starch. Toss thoroughly so each wing is coated and there are no leftover dry ingredients in the bowl. Place the wings on the baking rack making sure that there is space between them. Repeat with the second batch.
Place the sheet pan in the fridge, uncovered, for at least 4 hours or overnight.*
Preheat the oven to 450F and take the wings out of the fridge to take off some of the chill. Once the oven is at temperature, bake them for 20 minutes, flip the wings, and bake for another 20 minutes. Serve plain or toss immediately in sauce and serve.
* I had to make a last minute extra batch that only got 4 hours in the fridge before cooking. They were indistinguishable from the batch that hung out overnight.