Very few things beat a big plate of delicious fried chicken wings! Chicken wings make a most enjoyable family dinner or weekend lunch. They are a super hit, whether it be for your kids’ birthday or for enjoying as a snack with a game of football on the TV Sunday afternoon. Whenever I cook chicken wings, I think of a sinful thick BBQ sauce to go with them, like this one here in my oven baked barbecue recipe. However, I bet you have never thought of brining chicken wings though. Brining chicken wings is the secret to making yours the best on the block.
best selling bbq cookbooks
- Let There Be Meat: The Ultimate Barbecue Bible
- Jamie’s Food Tube: The BBQ Book (Jamie Olivers Food Tube)
- Grillstock: The BBQ Book
- Weber’s Complete BBQ Book (Hardback)
- 200 Barbecue Recipes: Hamlyn All Colour Cookbook
brined chicken wings
You might think of chicken wings as fast food, however when you make them yourself, you can ensure that the ingredients are up to your standard. Moreover, there are ways to make chicken wings less fatty than plunging them into the deep fat fryer. Lastly, if you get the spicing and the cooking right, then this often undervalued part of the chicken really gets to shine.
What is the secret to making your own perfect chicken wings? The answer is simple. Brined chicken wings! If you start off by brining the chicken wings, you will get amazingly moist and tasty wings. Take note, that there is not a lot of meat on the chicken wings. So, brining them before cooking will prevent them from becoming dry and stringy.
What is brining? The process of brining chicken wings or other meat for that matter is fairly simple. A brine is basically a sort of marinade made out of water, salt and sugar. First, you prepare the mixture in a large bowl that can accommodate the amount of chicken wings you want to brine. Alternatively, use an oven tray and lay the wings out flat in one layer. Just make sure that the brine mixture covers them completely. Cover with cling film to keep any impurities out, and store in the fridge.
In order to make the salt and sugar dissolve completely in the water, you can heat up the mixture gently on the stove. If you do so, you have to make sure that the brine has cooled off completely before submerging the chicken wings. Otherwise, you could risk bacterial growth and ultimately food poisoning. The longer you leave the chicken wings in the brine, the better. Ideally make the brine in the morning if you plan to cook the wings in the evening. That way your brined chicken wings will be ready cook as soon as you come home and want to start dinner. Alternatively, leave your chicken to brine overnight.
Don’t forget, you can also brine other parts of the chicken, like chicken things, breasts and drumsticks for example. If you want to learn how to deal with a whole brined chicken you can click here.
the chemical process
What happens to the meat in the chicken wings is technically a chemical process. The salt and sugar break down the protein inside the muscles of the chicken wings. By doing this, the water can be absorbed by the flesh. Normally the muscles in any meat you cook will contract during the cooking, forcing moisture out. However because of the weakened protein, the muscles will not only absorb more moisture, but also release less during the cooking. The result is super juicy chicken wings! If you think about it, everything in cooking involves some sort of chemical reaction, although in this case with the brined chicken wings, I find it particularly interesting to know what actually happens.
You can actually start to season the chicken wings already by infusing the brine with spices and herbs. To keep contamination to a minimum, be sure to thoroughly wash the herbs or vegetables you introduce to the brine. Ingredients such as dried chili flakes, peppercorns, curry mixes and dried herbs are all okay to add to the brine. The aromas will penetrate the meat along with the moisture however, you should still season the chicken wings before finally cooking them in order to obtain a great flavour. Chicken wings can do with a lot of seasoning and there’s nothing better than spicy hot wings!
Looking for more chicken inspiration? Check out my BBQ chicken kabobs.
simple brine recipe
Did you know that there are in fact two types of brining methods? Thus far we have discussed wet brine but the other method is called dry brine. The ideas is to cover the meat in salt, which then draws the moisture out of the meat, creating a membrane of extremely concentrated brine on the outside of the meat. This self-formed brine then subsequently absorbs into the meat. The advantage is that in the process the meat is tenderised but with no added moisture, so it will not make the brined chicken wings any juicier. I recommend sticking to the wet brine and putting a spice rub on them before frying. If you like to experiment with your food and wish to add even more flavour, then you should definitely learn how to smoke a chicken. It’s easier than it sounds!
air fried chicken wings
Next comes the cooking! There are several ways to go about frying your brined chicken wings. Obviously, you can do it the old fashioned way and chuck them in the deep fryer. Or, you can spread them out on a tray in a single layer and roast them in the oven. However, there is also another great new, low fat alternative – the air fryer! I have used it previously to cook a salmon recipe and it was brilliant. You can read all about that that dish here.
This piece of equipment allows you to cook with virtually no oil or butter. Instead, the hot air from the air fryer will cook the brined chicken wings, ensuring that they obtain a crispy skin. If you brine the chicken wings, they will still be juicy even after they are cooked in only hot air.
Brined Chicken Wings
Once you've mastered the method of making brined chicken wings, you'll never prepare your chicken wings without it. The result is juicy, tender and delish!
- 1 litres (4 cups) water
- 30ml (2 tbsp) salt
- 30ml (2 tbsp) sugar
- 8 chicken wings
- Place the water, salt and sugar in a large pot and heat.
- Stir until everything is dissolved.
- Wait for the liquid to cool down before brining the chicken in it.
- The quantity of brine needed depends on the quantity of chicken used and the size of the container you store it in. The goal is to have all the wings completely submerged in the brine, preferably overnight. If you don’t have enough brine, simply make another batch.
- Psssst, on days I’m really lazy I don’t even heat the water and stir the salt and sugar straight in. The results are still fantastic.
- Feel free to experiment with the salt, sugar and water ratios.
- This is the most basic recipe you can find. You can add different ingredients to jazz up the brine’s flavour, such as carrot, onion, celery, pepper and all kinds of herbs.
Serving Size 1 serving
Amount Per Serving
% Daily Value
Total Fat 10.8 g
Saturated Fat 3 g
Cholesterol 130 mg
Sodium 2021 mg
Total Carbohydrates 6.1 g
Sugars 6.1 g
Protein 42.2 g
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.