Chicken

The Genius Little Secret to No-Fry, Crispy Buffalo Wings

October 25, 2017

People have done some truly obsessive things—unnecessarily, as it turns out—in the name of creating the perfect Buffalo wing.

Our most dedicated wing scientists have not just deep-fried, but twice-baked, steamed then roasted, fried then baked, and brined then poached then fried. We even got in on it with an egg white-baking soda overnight spa treatment before roasting, and, to be fair, they were wildly delicious.

But in his classic Minimalist way, Mark Bittman waves his hand dismissively at all of it. He doesn’t pamper his wings at all, just sticks them directly under the broiler to frizzle.

The skin is still fantastically crispy and the insides juicy, in exactly the way that a high-heat blasted roast chicken is. Chicken skin responds well to scorching temperatures, and wing meat appreciates that you just get it over with fast so it doesn’t have a chance to dry out.

Surprisingly, Bittman’s original recipe focuses on the grill, only offering the broiling option as a casual alternative. But that’s where the real genius comes in, especially for those of us who don’t have a grill (or want wings anytime, even in stormy conditions).

Merrill, Food52’s cofounder and my boss, has been talking up the Bittman method for weeks now, so I’ve filled the Genius version of the recipe with her smart tips.

The key, Merrill taught me, is to broil the wings all the way to a perfectly crispy-brown, which is how she feeds them to her small children, lightly salted but without spicy sauce. Then, you can sauce and broil them briefly again, which fuses in the spice and re-crisps the skin. Merrill goes one step further for extra messy, spicy wings, and tosses them back in the sauce one last time before serving.

You can stop at any point in this continuum for exactly the spice and mess level you want, or offer a variety to anyone lucky enough to be part of your wing tasting panel. You can even work in some of Bittman's whopping 11 more sauce options, but why would you want to do a thing like that?

Photos by Julia Gartland

Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected]. Thank you to my boss and wing freak Merrill Stubbs for this one!

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9 Comments

Barb R. December 15, 2017
Would this recipe work for boneless, skinless chicken breasts?
 
Susan S. October 28, 2017
I have a question regarding Dr. Bronner's Sal Suds. Do you dilute it to use as dish detergent or use as is? Thanks.
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. October 30, 2017
I use it as is, but it doesn't take much!
 
Megan October 25, 2017
Yes! I have always cooked mine in a hot oven (450-500) - so a similar method. I toss mine in a bit of seasoned flour (only 2 Tbs. flour for 2 lbs. of wings- so just a light coating). I also spray the pan with oil and then spray the wings with a bit of oil after laying them on the pan. We have always preferred this vastly over fried wings or wings baked at a lower temp. It has yielded the crispiest skin for me. I got my original recipe from Food & Wine.
 
Lisa M. October 25, 2017
THe biggest complaint I have with making wing sauce in the oven is the grease splatter that gets all over the oven that I inevitably just cleaned. Any tips on that?
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. October 31, 2017
I haven't noticed an issue with these wings, but one trick I learned from Cook's Illustrated that I use whenever I roast chicken now: set the chicken on a rack over a rimmed baking sheet full of sliced potatoes that are lightly salted and tossed in a little olive oil (or another vegetable that will absorb the juices dripping down). Less smoking and spattering and the potatoes are delicious too!
 
Janet M. October 25, 2017
This traditional sauce--butter, hot sauce, garlic, and vinegar--is, after decades, still the one we like best. I have fried the wings, but without any breading, marinating, brining, etc., they don't really absorb much oil. The oven method gets rid of the oil mess, but cleaning the pan is still such a pain that I'm not sure their's much gained from it, and probably doesn't save many calories either since most of the fat in the wing comes from the skin--and is the whole reason for eating wings anyway. i can promise you that after frying wings, the volume of oil recovered is very close to the volume poured into the pan in the beginning and quite likely most of the difference can be accounted for by what drips onto the paper towels used for draining the fried wings. It's a dilemma, but the broiler pan method does ensure that seasonings added to the wings before cooking will still be there after. I'm going to try it, and thanks for the article
 
Merrill S. October 25, 2017
Speaking from (lots) of experience with this recipe, the pan cleanup is actually a breeze! Having experienced my worst ever kitchen disaster while deep frying I instinctively avoid it whenever possible. I find that I don't miss it all all using this method, which produces equally crisp, addicting wings. For me this is not about calories, but the convenience and the amazingly delicious results!
 
Jimmy N. November 1, 2017
I put aluminum foil down and spray it with oil. Doesnt get much easier in the clean up department.