The Secret To Extra Crispy Air Fryer Chicken Wings

There's something irresistible about the tiny, delicious morsel that is the chicken wing. This truly iconic appetizer is easily adapted to whichever cuisine beckons, leaving wing lovers endless possible variations to explore. Regardless of the specific flavor of wing you're serving up, be it American buffalo wings, Korean chicken wings, or Moroccan harissa wings, there's one characteristic that's universally sought after — a deliciously crisp exterior.

Whether you're breading your wings or just tossing them with a bit of flour or cornstarch to help them crisp up, your air fryer is uniquely qualified to elevate your chicken crisping game. Using rapidly circulating hot air to cook your food, the air fryer combines the best features of deep frying and cooking in a conventional oven – without the mess, time, and grease of other methods. For even crispier wings, try keeping the chicken wings with the larger portion of skin facing up toward the heat source. The skin on your wings is sure to come out perfectly golden and crispy.

How air fryers deliver perfectly crisp wings

Conventional baking and frying can produce delicious wings, but they each have significant drawbacks. Traditional ovens can take up to 25 minutes to reach your desired temperature and often circulate heat inconsistently, leaving some areas of your oven hotter than others, resulting in uneven heat exposure. While deep frying wings allows them to receive consistent contact with the hot oil, the process can be messy and downright dangerous.

Air fryers give you the best of both worlds. Since their cooking baskets are much smaller than a traditional oven, they preheat much more quickly. With a heating element above the basket and fans rapidly circulating heat throughout, you get consistent heat distribution that beautifully crisps up your wings without the risk of hot oil splatter. 

But how does it work? Fried food becomes crispy when surface moisture is rapidly forced to a boiling point and evaporates, leaving a crunchy texture in its wake. When air frying, a similar process is taking place, but air rather than oil is the medium used to transfer heat. Since oil carries more heat per unit than air, the air fryer compensates for this setback by rapidly circulating air, exposing the surface of your wings to an equivalent amount of heat in a faster, safer, and all-around less volatile delivery system.

Additional tips for perfect wings

There are a few other steps you can take to ensure your air fryer wings turn out as crispy as possible. First, make sure you're prepping them well — crispiness requires as much moisture to evaporate as possible. Since chicken skin is quite high in fat, you'll need to work a bit harder to avoid the sad, almost soggy wings we've all encountered. To accomplish this task, pat your wings dry, then toss them in a well-seasoned dry rub to accelerate evaporation. Add a small amount of alkaline baking soda to the rub, increase the pH of your chicken skin, and improve crunch, all while adding a caramelized flavor boost to your meat.

You can also give your wings a better chance at crispiness by approaching the cooking process strategically. Make sure you don't crowd the air fryer basket, cooking in several batches to allow each wing its fair share of heat exposure, and don't forget to position the wing with the larger bit of skin facing up, allowing them time to crisp. It's also best to toss your wings into their sauce after cooking. While marinating meat may allow for greater flavor absorption, it may also be why your air fryer chicken wings don't turn out crispy.