The Super Bowl is coming. Do you have your chicken wing game plan yet? Making a big batch of crispy wings is an easy call; the hard part is deciding which way to cook them: frying, baking or air-frying.
So we decided to test all three methods to determine the best way to make crispy wings for a crowd.
With Americans consuming a staggering 1.4 billion wings over the course of the weekend, according to the National Chicken Council, we wanted to make sure our wings would stand out, after all. In our playbook, the perfect wings should be crispy outside and moist inside; hot but mild enough that you’ll want to eat a lot; and on game day, especially if you’ve got a house full of sports fans, they should be easy to make.
After frying wings in oil on the stove, baking in the oven and cooking in an air-fryer, the results from our tests surprised us.
Each method produced crispy wings, but two had disqualifying penalties. We were surprised that conventional frying and baking turned out comparably crispy wings, but the former required two quarts of hot oil—messy at best, hazardous at worst. Baking, however, needed just three tablespoons of oil for a cleaner, simpler approach. Baking also allowed us to cook a larger quantity of wings in one batch—a game changing virtue.
We thought air-frying might swoop in for a victory, but the meat on the air-fried wings was drier than the competition.
In addition to testing cooking methods, we also tested coatings, favoring flour over cornstarch and finding an extra step to ensure an even, thorough coat. First, we seasoned the wings with za’atar, one of our favorite spices. To make the flour coating cling, we tossed the wings in water, along with the seasoning. After resting in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour, we tossed the wings in flour immediately before baking.
Thirty minutes into baking, we removed the wings from the oven and brushed them with additional oil before returning them to the heat for 15 minutes. Out of the oven and cooled, we tossed them in an addictive sauce of butter, harissa, cider vinegar and sugar.
The method produced flavorful wings that were crunchy, easy to cook en masse and utterly addictive. Warning: These will go fast, so you may want to have another batch on the bench.