sous vide chicken wings
I was recently reading an article on Serious Eats about double-frying chicken wings. The author calls for them to be fried at a relatively low temperature (225F or so) for a long while to par-cook them, after which they can be chilled/frozen/held at room temperature for a time before they are fried again at a very hot temperature (400F). The result? Juicy on the inside and very crispy on the outside. The author himself likened this method to making duck confit – a process which entails slowly poaching duck legs and thighs in their own fat and then (usually) crisping them up in a hot pan.
Some commenters on the article wondered about cooking the wings sous vide instead of the initial fry. It has been successful in the past for duck confit, so why not in this application? The problem I found was that there wasn’t a lot of information about this twice-cooked technique for wings. There were definitely recipes for sous vide chicken wings, mind you. But they were deboned, deconstructed, and stuffed with bleu cheese mousse and plated with a celery emulsion. Don’t get me wrong, I’d eat these in a heartbeat if I was at a restaurant that served them. I just wasn’t looking for a fancy end product – I still wanted buffalo wings, but with the ease of preparation that the sous vide technique can often provide.
That led me to this youtube video of Grant Achatz cooking turkey:
Specifically, I was interested in his recommendation to cook dark meat at 170F for a few hours for tenderness. Chicken wings are essentially dark meat (though they are closer to the breast). They have a ton of collagen that needs to be converted to gelatin for that tender juiciness I was aiming for. So I set my Sous Vide Supreme to 170, separated 5 lbs. of chicken wings into flats and drumettes and tossed them with a tablespoon of kosher salt for seasoning. The salt would also have the added effect of brining the wings as they cooked, leading to more juiciness and well-seasoned meat from the inside out.
Next, I sealed them up using a Food Saver and popped them into the water bath to cook. They hit the water at about noon. I was expecting guests at 6:30, but they were a little later – with the sous vide chicken wings method, it’s no big deal because the wings can’t technically overcook (though if they sat at 170F long enough they might get mushy or mealy). Additionally, the original article I got the idea from mentioned possible resting or freezing the wings after the initial fry, so I was good either way. Anyway, once my guests arrived, I pulled the wings out of the bag and laid them on paper towels and patted with some extras to dry them off. No one likes being splattered with 400F peanut oil, so I suggest you do the same.
After that, a quick bath in said hot oil for a few minutes until they were golden and crispy and a toss in very traditional Franks Red Hot and butter and we were eating some of the best chicken wings we had ever had!
sous vide chicken wings recipe
makes 40-50 sous vide chicken wings
- 5 lbs chicken wings, split into flats and drumettes
- 1 TB kosher salt
- 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
- 1/2 cup Franks Red Hot (though I am hearing good stuff about the Tabasco brand wing sauce as well)
- Fill with water and set sous vide device to 170 F.
- Toss chicken wings with salt and seal in food-grade vacuum bags. You can fit them in one bag if you can custom cut your bags, or use multiple quart size bags if you have those instead. The key is to keep the wings in one layer.
- Submerge the sealed bags in your sous vide setup for anywhere from 4 to 8 hours.
- When ready to eat, heat peanut oil in a dutch oven or deep fryer to 400 F. Peanut oil is the cheapest oil that can handle prolonged cooking at 400 F. Canola starts to smell fishy to me at these temperatures.
- Mix butter and hot sauce together in a small bowl and set aside.
- Remove wings from the sealed bags and thoroughly dry off on paper towels. At this point, if you like coated wings, you could toss them with flour and seasonings, though I am a traditionalist and like them naked.
- Carefully place the dried wings in the hot oil and keep them moving to prevent them clumping up.
- Your main gauge here is wing color, not time. You’re looking for golden brown all over. When you get there, pull the wings out and put them in a bowl for tossing.
- For every ten wings you cooked, use about 3 TB of the butter/hot sauce mixture.
- Toss and serve with celery, carrots, and bleu cheese dressing.
Sous vide chicken wings can really make your life easy if you need to prepare them ahead of time, so if you have the equipment, I encourage you to give it a try!