Read This Before Putting Chicken Wings In An Air Fryer

When air fryers came on the market years ago, waistline-watchers everywhere rejoiced at the notion of being able to enjoy fried foods with less fat and fewer calories. Compared to deep-frying, air fryers are a more health-conscious method of cooking. Rather than sending your potatoes, chicken wings, doughnuts, and onion rings for a bath in a quart of hot oil, an air fryer usually employs one tablespoon or less of the stuff. Hot air containing fine oil droplets does all the heavy lifting as it's circulated around the food, resulting in a deliciously crunchy exterior. If you indulge in fried foods frequently, switching to air-fried foods can promote weight loss by cutting back on how much unhealthy oil you're consuming (via Medical News Today).

If you've invested in this countertop wonder, chances are you're itching to try out some air-fried chicken wings. Bite-sized portions of chicken, with just the right ratio of crispy, fried skin to juicy meat — what's not to love? But before you attempt air-fried chicken wings, there are some things you should know. 

Don't add oil to your air-fried chicken wings

Although many air fryer foods benefit from a tablespoon of oil, chicken wings require none. And the secret to a super-crispy coating might just be sitting in your pantry right now. Here are some tips to consider before putting chicken wings in an air fryer.

If you've ever struggled with overcooked or undercooked poultry, you may think chicken wings have no business going near an air fryer at all. It's not like you can open the door to peek at their progress. A deep-dive into air-fried chicken wing recipes online revealed various recommendations for cook times and temperatures, so that may require some trial and error depending on your particular model of air fryer. But one common theme exists across the board: air-fried chicken wings don't need oil.

Add baking powder to achieve a crispy coating on your air-fried wings

Food52 explains chicken wings have enough natural fat that no extra oil is required — not even to grease the tray. You can simply season your wings and air fry away. Air Fryer World agrees, saying the fatty skin of chicken wings contains enough oil to yield a crispy-fried exterior. Utilizing the chicken's natural fat seems to ensure tasty results every time. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, there's one more step that can take your air-fried chicken wings over the top and that's the coating.

While air fryers do a lot of good in the realm of creating healthier versions of deep-fried favorites, they sometimes can fall flat on that crispy, crunchy coating we get from a deep-fryer. Well, when it comes to chicken wings, there's a hack for that. According to the Air Fry Everyday cookbook (via The New York Times), tossing chicken wings in baking powder before air frying them produces "a particularly crunchy, browned skin with a rough, craggy texture." Ok, honestly, what more could you want?

How does baking power produce perfect air fryer wings?

According to Serious Eats, baking powder raises the pH level of chicken skin, allowing the proteins to break down and transform into crispy, evenly browned skin. Baking powder also blends with the chicken's natural juices, creating a carbon dioxide gas that develops a layer of tiny bubbles on the skin. Those bubbles brown and become crunchy, providing that delicious craggy texture we all love. 

Serious Eats adds that using baking soda will yield a similar texture but warns against it, explaining that it will give your meal a metallic taste. Sigh, where would we be without chicken skin science? Just be sure to let the baking powder sit on your chicken wings for at least an hour and up to overnight before air frying to reap the full benefits.

Overcrowding may be the culprit to unevenly cooked wings

Another tip to help you make perfect air fryer chicken wings? In addition to coating the wings with baking powder to achieve crispy skin, Air Fry Everyday recommends arranging your pieces of chicken in the air fryer so they are standing up and leaning on the sides of the basket, saying you want to put as much space as possible between each piece of meat. The reason for this is pretty simple — just like when using other cooking methods like baking or fryingyou want to be sure you aren't overcrowding the food. This is an incredibly common mistake people make with air fryers, and sometimes they don't even know they're doing it! Overcrowding is also possibly why you may have ended up with unevenly cooked foods when using your air fryer in the past.

While it may be hard to hear, you really do need to give your wings enough space to cook. If you need to feed a crowd (or just really, really love wings) it's much better to follow Martha Stewart's advice and keep them warm in an oven set to 160 degrees Fahrenheit than end up with a serious case of food poisoning from eating raw chicken (via CDC). Wait to toss the wings in whatever sauce you're using until right before serving, so they stay nice and warm without getting soggy.