Let’s talk hot wings.
My husband prefers boneless hot wings and it breaks my heart. To me, boneless hot wings are nothing but drenched chicken nuggets. I’ve never really enjoyed boneless hot wings, but I can’t dispute the fact that they’re more convenient to eat. That’s the only reason I ride the Team Boneless bandwagon.
On special occasions, I have been known to make hot wings at home, but the process was so laborious and tedious that I didn’t do it often. Years ago, I used to break out our deep fryer for the task, but the whole process could take an hour, and it used a lot of oil, to get the job done. Then, on top of that, my kitchen would wreak for days of dirty, used oil. In recent years, I abandoned the deep fryer altogether and started frying them on my stove top in an enameled cast iron pot. I was able to cook larger batches and control the heat a bit more.
But, what about baking? I have baked chicken wings in an oven and never achieved crunchy nirvana. I’ve baked them on cookie sheets, and baking racks, and convection, and breaded vs. non-breaded, and always disappointment.
When we bought our new air fryer, one of the selling points was hot wings. I would very much like to cook hot wings for dinner, not stand over a fryer or stove, and have the results that I wanted. Could an air fryer REALLY do what all of these people claim it can do?
YES. IT CAN. Well, at least the air fryer I own can (Instant Vortex 6 qt. Air Fryer).
I did very little prep work. I took the wings out of the fridge and let them come up to room temperature. Generally, you want your meats as close to room temperature as you can get them. That just makes sure that you meats cook evenly all the way to the center. The colder the center, the tougher and overcooked the outside is going to be before the heat cooks the center.
I also made sure that the wings were very, very dry. I wanted to remove as much moisture to promote maximum crispiness. I set my fryer to 360 degrees. My air fryer automatically preheats. If your air fryer does not preheat, I looked it up and the consensus seems to be to run your fryer at 400 degrees for 5-7 minutes, but longer if you have a lower-wattage machine.
During the preheat cycle, I lightly sprayed one side of the wings with canola cooking spray. I seasoned them liberally with salt, freshly ground pepper, and a light dusting of red chili flakes. I flipped them over and repeated. When my fryer informed me it was ready for the food, I lightly sprayed canola oil on the cooking grate just to make sure the skin wouldn’t stick to the basket. I was able to lay 14 wings and 4 drumettes inside the basket in one layer. Let me repeat. ONE LAYER. Do not stack your wings. Do not overcrowd your basket. I cooked for 12 minutes, then I flipped the wings and cooked for another 12 minutes. After the 24 minute cooking process was complete, I flipped the wings one more time, turned the heat up to 400, and cooked another 6 minutes.
This was the result:
You can’t tell from the picture, but skin was beyond crunchy and crispy. After quickly tossing in some sweet chili sauce for my son, and Korean BBQ sauce for me and my husband, I have finally found my hot wing nirvana.
The skin was super crispy. I think the most amazing part though was the hot wing actually tasted like chicken. I’ve never really noticed that fast-food/restaurant hot wings lose their chicken flavor. They’re so covered up in sauce that you don’t realize that the chicken flavor is lost. Rugjen agreed and also made the comment that the wings did not feel heavy. Most wing places around these parts bread their wings. I think, in part, restaurants do this because breading is a cheap filler, it soaks up the sauce, and it helps with the illusion that your wings are crispy. I’m not saying that is a bad thing. It is unrealistic to expect large-volume food preparation to not have their tricks of the trade.
Admittedly, a few of the wings did dry out a bit, but I think that can be remedied by reducing the cooking time. After all, half the battle of cooking is making adjustments for your equipment. I think reducing the cooking time to 10 minutes each side and then keeping the 6 minutes at 400 degrees will do the trick.
Honestly, the best wings I’ve had and I didn’t have to clean a deep fryer, or wait for the pot of used oil to cool down before bottling up to throw away. I didn’t have to deal with lingering smells, either. Did it save on cooking time? I would say it did. I usually cooked six wings per batch and it took 5-8 minutes a batch, plus any time allowing the oil to come back up to temperature. So, yes. It probably saved 10-15 minutes. There was definitely a lot less babysitting. Also, a lot less cleanup.
So, if you like hot wings. If you hate the mess associated with making them at home. Try an air fryer. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.