The last thing I want to do if there's a party happening and a major game on the television is man the deep-fryer back in the kitchen. But you can't have a Game Day party without buffalo chicken wings on the buffet table — inconceivable. The solution, obviously, is to turn to the next best thing: the oven.
Doused in a double dose of hot sauce — first to marinate and then to coat — these oven-baked wings are arguably just as crispy, just as sticky, and just as addictive as their deep-fried brethren. Here's how to make a batch for yourself; you only need four ingredients! (Not including the blue cheese and celery!)
How To Make Buffalo Wings: Watch the Video
Real-deal buffalo wings get deep-fried, then tossed in a mixture of butter and hot sauce. Crispy fried skin and tender chicken plus sticky sauce is pretty much a done deal, as every bar menu can attest.
And yes, deep-frying these little wings certainly gives them the crispiest, most succulent coat, but I'd argue that there's something even better about roasting them in the oven. The hot sauce marinade bakes right into the meat, infusing it completely, and I like how the wings pick up some smoky charred bits here and there.
Plus these oven-roasted wings still get tossed in sticky sauce, so they still look the part with none the wiser. Plus you can make huge batches for hungry crowds without having to stand at constant attendance. Plus these wings are arguably a healthier (or at least a less un-healthy) party food. That's a lot of pluses.
Know Your Wing Parts: Tip, Wingette, Drumette
Do you know all the parts of a chicken wing? When you eat chicken wings you're actually eating only 2/3 of the wing, since the whole chicken wing is separated into three pieces:
- Tip - The third joint, or bony tip of the wing (also known as the flapper). For American buffalo wings, this is usually discarded (save to use in stock). But in other parts of the world, especially East Asia, this part of the wing is a delicacy.
- Wingette - The second joint, or middle part of the arm (also known as a flat). These terms are descriptive, since the middle of the chicken arm looks like a very small wing. It's flat, too.
- Drumette - The drumette is the upper part of the arm and looks like a miniature drumstick or leg, hence the name.
Some grocery stores and butchers sell you wings whole and unseparated — meaning, the tip, wingette (forearm), and drumette (upper arm) are all connected in one piece. However, many other groceries sell the wings already separated into wingettes and drumettes, and if they don't, you can always ask your butcher to chop the wing up for you.
How to Separate a Chicken Wing
If you do need to chop up whole wings into the smaller parts, here's how you do it. First, look for the joints. There will be one connecting the wing tip to the forearm and another connecting the forearm to the upper arm. Wiggle the joints back and forth a few times until you get a feel for where they're connected, then cut right through the hinge of the joint — use the heel of your knife (not the tip or front of your knife) and push straight down, hard. I often press the top of the knife with my opposite hand for extra force.
If all goes well, you'll cut straight through the cartilage between the bones and separate the parts cleanly. If your knife hits bone and gets stuck, move it slightly closer to the middle of the joint and try again. After a dozen of these, you'll get a feel for it!
For buffalo wings, we're only interested in the forearm and the upper arm. You can discard the wing tips or save them for the next time you make stock. (You can collect the tips in a freezer bag and keep them frozen for several months.)
Which Hot Sauce to Use?
The hot sauce you use on these wings is really up to you. Pick your sauce: Frank's, Texas Pete, Sriracha, or Cholula. Anything hot will do; it's up to you to calibrate the heat to your own taste.
For really classic buffalo wing flavor, Frank's RedHot claims to be the original hot sauce used in original hot wings, and it does indeed have that spicy (but not too spicy) tangy heat we associate with restaurant-style hot wings, so you can't go wrong there.
How To Make Buffalo Wings in the Oven
What You Need
3 pounds chicken wings
6 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup hot sauce
1 teaspoon salt
Creamy Blue Cheese Dressing, to serve
Celery sticks, to serve
Chef's knife or kitchen shears
Measuring cups and spoons
- Prepare the chicken wings, if necessary: If the wings are whole and not yet separated, use a chef's knife or kitchen shears to cut through the first joint of the wing and remove the wing tip. Discard or keep for stock. If you'd like smaller pieces, you can also cut through the second joint to separate the wing into the forearm and upper arm portions.
- Take the chill off the wings: Leave the wings on the counter while you prepare the sauce to take the chill off. Otherwise, the butter sauce will congeal when you toss them. If this happens, though, it's fine! Just continue with the recipe.
- Make the buffalo sauce: Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Once melted, remove from heat and whisk in the hot sauce and salt.
- Coat the wings with the sauce: Transfer the wings to a mixing bowl. Pour half the buffalo sauce over them and toss to coat.
- Marinate the wings: Cover the bowl and marinate on the counter for 20 to 30 minutes, or in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. Reserve the remaining buffalo sauce. (If you refrigerate the wings, the butter sauce will congeal; that's fine.)
- Heat the broiler: When ready to cook the wings, position an oven rack 6 to 8 inches below the broiling element and turn on the broiler. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
- Transfer the wings to the baking sheet: Remove the wings from the marinade and shake off any excess. Arrange the wings on the foil-lined baking sheet, spaced a little apart. Discard the marinade.
- Broil for 10 to 12 minutes, then flip.
- Broil for another 10 to 12 minutes. The wings are done when the skin is crispy and the meat pulls easily from the bones.
- Toss with remaining buffalo sauce: Pour the remaining hot sauce over the wings and toss to coat.
- Serve immediately: Transfer the wings to a serving tray and serve while still piping hot with the blue cheese dressing and celery sticks alongside.