With the right tools and instructions, you can make just about anything in the air fryer. Want a quick "boiled" egg? Turn to the air fryer. Some savory bacon in a matter of minutes? Yep, try the air fryer. Craving a plateful of crispy chicken wings without having to add a ton of oil or breading? You guessed it—the air fryer is your perfect solution. Making air fryer chicken wings lets you enjoy this satisfying protein without all of the other added calories and fat that come from those that are deep-fried, while still keeping all of the flavor and juiciness intact.
If you have an air fryer, you can enjoy pretty much any cut of poultry. Along with chicken wings, you can cook chicken breast, nuggets, thighs, or tenders, but many chefs say it's best not to cook the whole chicken all at once if you're using this kitchen appliance. If it's crispy chicken wings with a side of ranch and vegetables you want tonight for dinner or for your next game day party, there are a few simple steps you can take to make sure your loved ones are coming back for seconds.
We talked with Chef Chris Nirschel of New York Catering Service, a classically trained chef who has appeared on "Chopped" and "Food Network Star," about the best and easiest way to make air fryer chicken wings. Read on, and for more helpful cooking tips, make sure to check out 35 Easy Chicken Recipes You Can Make in 15 Minutes or Less.
Buying the right chicken wings
A chicken wing can be separated into three parts: the drummette, the wingette (also known as the flat), and the wing tip. When bringing home some wings to cook, you can either buy them whole, with the three parts intact, or pre-cut, which means the parts will be separated already.
If you're looking for the best flavor, Nirschel suggests buying them whole. "Try to use whole, uncut wings rather than pre-cut, as they tend to be fresher, allowing for a tastier result."
However, this sometimes isn't the option available to you. In fact, you can also use frozen wings if that's what you have on hand. "While many swear by fresh wings, a surprising twist can be achieved with frozen ones," says Nirschel. "Just ensure they're thoroughly thawed before applying any marinades or seasonings."
Prepping the wings
According to Chef Nirschel, the first thing you'll want to do to your chicken wings before anything else is to wash and pat them dry. "Rinse the chicken wings under cold water and pat them dry with paper towels, says Nirschel. "This removes excess moisture, which helps in achieving a crispy texture in the air fryer."
Another thing to consider when prepping your wings is that you may want to trim any of the excess fat, and "separate the wings into drumettes and flats if they aren't pre-cut," adds Nirschel.
Lastly, you'll want to coat the wings with oil and seasonings, but nothing too heavy. "Lightly coat the wings with a thin layer of olive oil or use a cooking spray, which helps the seasoning stick and promotes crispiness," says Nirschel. "You can season with your choice of any spices, and be generous, but not overly so."
Although it may be tempting to douse your wings in flavorful sauces, Nirschel advises against this. "Avoid using overly complex sauces during cooking, and save the intricate flavors for dipping sauces." He adds, "You can stick to simple seasonings like sea salt, white pepper, and a touch of cayenne for an elegant and refined taste."
Cooking chicken wings in the air fryer
Now that your chicken is prepped and you're on your way to the crispiest game-day wings, it's time to let them cook. "To achieve that perfect balance of crispiness and juiciness, start by preheating the air fryer to 380 degrees," says Nirschel. You technically don't have to preheat the air fryer before using it, but many people recommend doing so in order to achieve the most accurate cook time.
Once it is preheated, Nirschel says to place the wings in the basket and cook for 12 minutes. Then, once they've cooked for 12 minutes, "increase the temperature to 400 degrees and cook for an additional 8 minutes," he adds. "This two-step approach gives the wings more of a crunch while retaining moisture."
An extra step you can take, says Nirschel, is to "rotate the wings at the halfway point for even cooking, which ensures every wing is perfectly golden and crisp."