Air Fried Wings Are Impossible to Screw up, No Matter How Hard You Try

Deliciously crisp chicken wings don't require quarts of oil and a cooking thermometer.

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These are as crisp as any you’d get out of a fryer
These are as crisp as any you’d get out of a fryer
Photo: Dennis Lee

There’s nothing like a chicken wing straight from the deep fryer at your favorite sports bar. You don’t even have to like sports to appreciate a perfect chicken wing, tossed in your sauce of choice. The issue is, I hate deep frying anything at home. It leaves that greasy smell in the air, and for someone with a small apartment like me, the smell gets into everything—my clothes, me, probably the cats—and lingers for days. But if you’ve got an air fryer, you have the perfect way to cook your chicken wings, no extra oil necessary.

Wings from an air fryer come out perfectly crisp, evenly heated through, and juicy, even if you overcook them by a few minutes. The skin stays audibly crunchy while the meat stays tender, and the result honestly as close to the ideal chicken wing you can get, without the hassle of deep frying.

Yes, we do think your oven is also a great way to cook your wings, for the record. But the air fryer, as you likely know, is a high-powered convection oven that uses a fan to circulate air around each wing, and with that, you get a perfectly crisp specimen with no added effort. Plus, it reduces overall cook time, too. In my experience, it takes at least 45 minutes to a full hour for wings to bake in the oven until crisp, while an air fryer can shave off 15 to 20 minutes, if not more.

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How to prep your wings for the air fryer

There are some people who swear by adding baking powder to chicken wings in order to crisp them up, but I find that completely unnecessary. If you use too much, you risk the possibility of making your wings taste unpleasant, and that’s a waste of a whole batch. I know we’re all looking for magic ingredients to make our cooking better, but let’s not overthink this.

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Instead, one of the more important details is regarding surface moisture. You’ll want your wings to be as dry as possible before you put them in the air fryer. So first of all, make sure your wings (either purchased pre-cut or separated into flats and drums at home) are dry by patting them down with a paper towel.

If by chance you have the patience and the space, you can let them dry in the fridge on a baking rack placed on a baking tray (to allow for air circulation) anywhere from one hour to overnight, in order to achieve even crisper skin once they’re cooked. But guess what? I don’t even bother. In the end, these chicken wings are going to be tossed in sauce anyway. Unless you hoover them all down in five minutes, your wings are naturally bound to lose some of their crispness as time goes on. What, did you think they’d stay crisp for days?

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I use a simple mixture of salt, black pepper, and granulated garlic (an easy 1:1:1 ratio) to season the wings generously after they’ve been dried. Your favorite dry seasoning is likely perfect, but check the ingredients label; if it contains sugar, it might burn under the high heat of the air fryer.

How long should you air fry chicken wings, and at what temperature?

Next, preheat the air fryer for five minutes using its preheat setting, and set the temperature to 380 degrees F. Place the wings in the basket in a single layer, making sure none are touching (you want air to freely circulate around them), and run the air fryer for 24 minutes, flipping the wings after the 12-minute mark. A lot of recipes have cook times of 16-20 minutes total at a higher temperature, but in my experience, that’s not enough time to render out enough fat and get the skin crisp.

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Once you hit the 24-minute mark, flip the wings one more time and set your air fryer to 400 degrees F. Run it for 4-5 minutes until the skin on the chicken is a dark golden brown all over each wing. If you’re not sure the wings are crisp enough, go ahead and tap on the skin with metal tongs to see how they feel, adding one or two extra minutes of cook time if necessary.

Then you’re done. That’s it. Toss the wings with your favorite sauce and serve them immediately with extra dipping sauce like blue cheese dressing or ranch.

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Golden brown is the name of the game
Golden brown is the name of the game
Photo: Dennis Lee

TL;DR: How to air fry chicken wings

  • Pat your wings dry with a paper towel, or to dry more thoroughly, place them in your refrigerator on a baking rack set on a baking tray for a few hours.
  • Season the wings generously with the dry seasoning of your choice, such as SPG (salt, black pepper, garlic powder).
  • Preheat your air fryer for 5 minutes by using the preheat function.
  • Place the wings in air fryer basket in a single layer, making sure none are touching.
  • Set your air fryer temp to 380 degrees F, and set the timer for 24 minutes.
  • At the 12-minute mark, flip the wings.
  • At the 24-minute mark, flip the wings one more time and set your air fryer to 400 degrees F for 5 minutes.
  • Remove wings from air fryer, toss in sauce, and serve.

And if you want more than just wings, remember that you can air fry a whole chicken, too.