Baking, frying, grilling, smoking chicken… You name it, I’ve tried it. I recently tried brining chicken before cooking and was blown away by the results.
Brining chicken wings not only enhances the taste but also helps maintain their moisture during cooking. The result is perfectly succulent bites.
Today, I’ll give you my tips and tricks on brining chicken wings so that you can elevate your wing game.
What Is Brining?
Brining is using salt and water to tenderize meat. Salt is the basic and the most important ingredient of brine.
Salt tenderizes the meat in different ways. It helps the meat absorb water. If you were to soak the meat in only water without salt, it wouldn’t absorb as much.
Brined and unbrined meat loses water when cooked because muscle fibers contract when heated, which sends water to the outer edges.
However, brined meat starts with more water, so the brined cooked cut is juicier.
Another reason why you should brine wings is that salt in the brine breaks down meat muscle fibers. The salt makes muscle fibers unwind, so your chicken wings are easier to cut and chew.
The amount of salt used in a brine varies. Generally, a brine should be at least as salty as ocean water, which has a 3.5% salt concentration.
However, it can be even saltier. A common ratio for a meat brine is one cup of salt and one gallon of water, which is over 6% of salt concentration.
Note: A brine can also contain other ingredients apart from salt and water, such as sugar, spices, vinegar, and more.
These aren’t strictly necessary, but they can help you have crispy, caramelized meat with a richer flavor, thanks to the Maillard reaction .
Overall, a chicken wing bine helps moisture retention, wing tenderness, and flavor enhancement.
How Long to Brine Chicken Wings
Brine chicken wings between one to four hours. How long to leave the meat in chicken wing brine depends on your water-to-salt ratio (also called the salinity) and the size of your wings.
Because wings are smaller, you shouldn’t brine them too long, or they’ll be too salty and have a bad texture.
A duration of three to four hours lets the brine penetrate the wings, infuse them with flavor, and maintain the texture and juiciness.
Pro tip: Keep the wings in the fridge during the brining to ensure food safety.
You shouldn’t keep the meat at room temperature for over two hours .
“Stick to the "two-hour rule" for leaving items needing refrigeration out at room temperature. Never allow meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, or produce or other foods that require refrigeration to sit at room temperature for more than two hours—one hour if the air temperature is above 90° F.”
- U.S. Food & Drug Administration
Also, keep in mind that brined chicken wings cook faster than unbrined ones.
For example, it takes around 20 minutes to bake chicken wings at 425 degrees. This is 20% faster than unbrined chicken.
Also Read: How to Make Jerk Chicken
Chicken Wing Brine Recipe
Here’s how to make chicken wing brine step-by-step.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Brine Time: 2 hours
- Total Time: 2 hours and 10 minutes
- Number of Servings: 4
- 3 lbs chicken wings
- 6 cups cold water
- 1/2 cup kosher salt
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons black pepper
- 2 tablespoons red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon minced ginger (optional)
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
- Take out a large pot. Heat water, salt, and sugar until the salt and sugar dissolve.
- Add red pepper flakes, black pepper, and apple cider vinegar. Also, add ginger and cayenne pepper if using. Stir to combine and let it cool. You can refrigerate the brine so it cools faster.
- Place the brine in a bowl large enough to fit all of your chicken wings.
- Add the wings to the brine, making sure they are completely submerged. Place the wings in the fridge for at least two hours.
- Once your wings are brined, remove them from the liquid and place them on a cooling rack on a sheet pan or a baking sheet covered in paper towels. Pat dry the brined chicken wings with paper towels to remove excess liquid. If you have time, let the wings dry for up to an hour. The longer they dry, the crispier the brined chicken wings will be.
- Cook brined wings using your preferred method.
Here’s what to keep in mind when brining chicken:
- Plan the brining in advance as it takes up to four hours. You can also brine in advance and leave the brined wings in the fridge for up to 48 hours. Make sure not to leave the brined wings for longer than this, or you’ll have soggy and overly salted meat.
- You can brine both fresh chicken wings and frozen chicken wings without defrosting. However, my advice is to defrost first, as the meat will take to the wet brine better.
- Make sure to pat dry the brined wings. If there’s too much moisture on the surface, it’ll steam, and you won’t have caramelized and crisped skin. Don’t worry about removing the brine flavors if you pat dry. If you leave the wings submerged for long enough, the flavors will penetrate the skin.
- Try various ingredients, such as herbs, spices, or a hot sauce, to find the combination you like best.
- You can use this brine for any cooking method: cook in an air fryer, smoke, grill, bake, and more.
- Calories: 533
- Total Carbs: 30g
- Protein: 24g
- Fat: 10g
- Fiber: 1g
- Net Carbs: 0
Chicken Wings Brine Ingredients and Substitutions
Here’s which ingredients you can use for chicken wings brine:
- Chicken wings - You can use the wings or wing drummettes, which are drums or flats. These are also called wingettes and are smaller than regular chicken wings.
- Sauces - Try hot sauce or soy sauce. If you’re using soy sauce, make sure to choose the light one, or the wings can be too salty.
- Kosher salt - Use kosher salt instead of table salt. It has a larger and coarser grain, which works better in brine. Plus, table salt can make the wings too salty.
- Brown sugar - Both light and dark brown sugar work well.
- Ginger - If you like the flavor of ginger, I recommend adding some for a richer flavor.
- Garlic - Use fresh or garlic powder.
- Red pepper flakes - If you like spicy flavor.
- Cayenne pepper - This should also be used only if you like spicy flavor.
Note: If you don’t have time or don’t want to mix all the spices, you can use any dry rub from your pantry. You can even dry-brine chicken wings, although I recommend going for the wet brine. Or, you can just use salt, water, and black pepper, if you want pure meat flavor.
Another option is to make pickle-brined wings. Drain off the pickle juice from a jar of pickles and pour it into a bag with wings.
You can cook pickle brine chicken wings any way you want. However, I had the best results baking pickle-brined chicken wings.
How to Cook Brined Chicken Wings
You can cook brined chicken wings in several ways:
- Bake - Preheat your oven to 400°F. Remove the wings from the brine, pat them dry with paper towels, and place chicken wings on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for approximately 25-30 minutes, flipping the wings halfway through until they are golden brown and cooked through.
- Grill - Preheat your grill to medium heat. Remove the wings from the brine, pat them dry to remove excess brine solution, and brush them with a little oil. Grill the wings for about 15-20 minutes, turning occasionally until they are charred and cooked through.
- Fry - Heat vegetable oil in an air fryer or large pot to 375°F. Remove the wings from the brine, pat them dry, and fry them in batches for about 8-10 minutes until they are crispy and fully cooked.
Regardless of the cooking method you choose, always ensure that the internal temperature of the chicken wings reaches 165°F to ensure they are safe to eat .
Does Brine Need Sugar?
No, a brine doesn’t need sugar. You can use a chicken wing brine recipe that only contains kosher salt, pepper, and water. However, sugar helps caramelize the skin and give it a brown color.
Do You Rinse Chicken After Brining?
No, you don’t rinse chicken after brining it. Rinsing can remove the salt and other ingredients that enhance the flavor. However, you should use a paper towel and pat the chicken dry to remove the excess brine mixture.
Do You Have to Boil Water for a Brine?
No, you don’t have to boil water for a brine. However, many chicken wing recipes that use brine recommend boiling as this helps infuse the water and the meat with spices and herbs.
How to Tell if a Turkey Is Pre-brined?
The easiest way to tell if the turkey is pre-brined is by checking the label for sodium solution. The sodium or saltwater solution is listed in the meat ingredients with salt added. It shows that a brine solution was applied to enhance moisture and weight.
Do You Have to Brine a Pre-Brined Turkey?
Generally, you don't have to brine a pre-brined turkey. It becomes exceptionally salty when resalted, and you'll end up with mushy meat when cooked. Over-brining will also overpower the turkey's natural flavor, so it's best to cook it without brining it again.