Baking Soda – The Key to Crispy Baked Wings?
Crispy chicken wings are one of those foods that seem to be universally loved. A hot wing, fresh from the frier or oven and ready for dipping into your favourite sauce, is a wonderful thing. The crisper the better for maximum crunch and all those little nooks and crannies to grab on to the sauce.
I don’t have a frier (by choice) and so always bake my chicken wings. Sometimes I do sticky wings, marinating in advance and baking the wings in the sauce. Other times I want a crispy wing and either bake them naked or with a light dusting of seasoned flour. These both work well, but I’ve always wanted them that little bit crisper. So I was delighted recently when I came across an article promising perfectly crisp wings by simple adding baking soda to the dusting mixture.
Friday night is treat-food night with us and we tend to cook things like burgers, pizza, curry and the like. Yesterday I decided to try the baking soda wings with a lovely fresh green salad. I made my usual dusting mixture – flour, garlic powder and smoked paprika – and added the baking soda. I wasn’t sure how much to add, but after a quick look at a handful of recipes online went with a tablespoon of baking soda for a kilo of wings. I popped them in the oven and busied myself with the salad while I waited for my perfect wings to cook.
My first impression was definitely one of pleasure – when I took the wings out to turn them over I could see they were crisping up beautiful. However, I was surprised to find that this lovely crisp skin peeled away from the flesh very easily. It looked crispy, but was actually a bit flabby. I soldiered on regardless, certain they would crisp up nicely by the time they were cooked. When the timer eventually beeped I piled them into a bowl and we sat down to eat. Arūnas took one bite – and his face dropped.
“What did you do to them?” he asked, his face pale and horrified. “I tried something new – to make them crispy!” I said with forced enthusiasm, but already the smell was beginning to hit me. I took a bite. And it was The. Foulest. Thing. I have ever tasted.
Firstly, the skin, which looked crispy, was not even a tiny bit crispy. It seemed to have been denatured by the baking soda and was soft and slimy. The meat also had a slimy texture and, while they were definitely cooked through, they were pink in at the bone, which was very off-putting. It was a different pink to when they’re undercooked – more towards purple, really. The taste was horrible – not a baking soda taste, but a rotten, ammonia taste. But the worst thing was the smell, particularly in at the bone. I had tried eating one or two without breathing, but on my third piece I got a good whiff of that smell – a smell I can’t even describe, it was that revolting – and that was it. The entire lot was quadruple-bagged and thrown into the bin. We both decided they were so disgusting we wouldn’t even give them to the dog.
Maybe I used too much soda. Maybe it works well if you just use a hint. I will not be investigating further. Back to flour-coated wings for me!