CAN AN AIR FRYER REALLY MAKE BETTER WINGS THAN AN OVEN??
WE DID A LITTLE BUFFALO WING EXPERIMENT TO FIND OUT!
Back PP (pre-pandemic), a couple of very thoughtful friends gifted me an air fryer for my birthday. I didn’t know, at the time, that I needed one. Turns out I did!
For the one or two of you out there who may not know what an air fryer is, here’s the Readers Digest explanation. It’s a self-contained, miniature convection oven. Yes, it is just that simple.
My new kitchen toy came with its very own mini cookbook. We’ve all seen one of these. They come with any new food-related appliance that you buy. It’s usually in that small plastic bag that contains the warranty card that everyone immediately ignores.
This mini cookbook had 19 recipes. Everything from onion rings to peach turnovers to mac & cheese balls. It’s only 19 recipes, but there is a little bit of everything here. It was the cover image that got my juices flowing; Chicken Wings!
Not one to rely solely on the contents of my mini cookbook, I did what every home cook today does. I went straight to Google. But a funny thing happens when you type the search term “Air Fryer Chicken Wings” into that search bar. It returns “about 12,500,000” results. And it does it in .68sec! That is a whole lot of chicken in a very short amount of time.
It was instantly apparent that there would be no way to weed through even a fraction of these and come away with anything other than a spinning head. So, I fell back on the security of my mini air fryer cookbook. I figured I would start with the “Hot Wings” recipe that was included and see what I could improve on (if anything).
Even though I wasn’t going to use a Google-produced recipe, curiosity got the better of me. I flipped through a few pages of the results. One of the things I came across, I had never considered. There were a bunch of articles claiming that you could make wings that were just as good using your regular home convection oven.
Could this really be true? And if the answer is yes, how in the world could 25 million air fryers have been sold in just the past two years!?... Yes, we are going to get to the bottom of this. Let’s see what happens when we match the PowerXL with my Samsung convection oven!
When it comes to wings, I’m guessing most people have a part preference. Mine is for the flat. For me, they’re easier to eat and just cook up more consistently. And I knew (or thought I knew) a place where I could buy ONLY the part I wanted…
Whole Foods sells great air-chilled wings right from the butcher case. I needed 20 individual pieces for my test. But when I asked my friendly Whole Foods butcher for 20 flats, he just said, “nope.” I said, “what?” He said, “nope” again.
They had stopped the practice of letting their customers buy just the flats. As it turns out, NOBODY else wants the drumette either! They were throwing away the unsold parts because they were unpopular (or unwanted). I guess I’m happy to be in the flat loving majority!
I bought 20 mixed wing pieces 😒. The ingredient list for this recipe experiment is minimal. You can count everything you need on one hand.
Very basic and the way I like it. Let’s do the comparison…
INGREDIENTS (per batch; 10 wing pieces)
- 10 chicken wings (flat & drumette divided)
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 2 TBSP granulated garlic
- ½ TBSP kosher salt and course ground pepper mix
- Frank’s Buffalo Wing Sauce
METHOD – MARINADE
The night before cooking, mix all the ingredients except the wings and Buffalo sauce in a small bowl. Pour the marinade into a gallon Ziploc bag. Add the wings making sure the wings are coated thoroughly. Refrigerate overnight.
METHOD – COOKING (AIR FRYER)
Preheat air fryer to 375° for 4 minutes. Place wings in the fryer basket in a single layer. Cook at 375° for 13 minutes. Flip wings over. Cook at 375° for another 13 minutes.
Pour Buffalo sauce into a medium size bowl. Toss wings in sauce. Return to the fryer basket in a single layer. Cook for 4 minutes at 375°. Flip wings one more time and cook for 4 more minutes. Done! TOTAL COOKING TIME = 34 MINUTES
METHOD – COOKING (CONVECTION OVEN)
Preheat oven to 375°. Place wings in a single layer on a wire rack in a baking sheet. Cook for 15 minutes at 375°. Turn wings over. Return to oven and cook for another 15 minutes. Remove wings from oven and toss in Buffalo sauce. Place them back on the wire rack in a single layer. Cook for 5 minutes. Flip wings over and cook for a final 7 minutes. Done! TOTAL COOKING TIME = 42 MINUTES
Time to compare the results…
This is how the air fryer wings turned out…
These wings were super crispy. They had a great flavor and texture. They were cooked through, for sure. They had a nice kick to them, but even a mild wing lover would like the spice level. In short, they were delicious!
Now let’s take a look at the convection oven wings…
They were cooked through. They were not what you would consider crispy. The skin was kind of “flabby” (does that makes sense?). For some reason, they were spicier than the air fryer wings. They didn’t have a “baked-on” flavor like the air fryer wings. Something was just missing.
In this test, the air fryer version was the clear winner. There are a couple of reasons for that.
1 – I have played with that air fryer recipe over the past couple of years to really dial it in. This was my first attempt with the convection oven version. I suspect that after a little bit of time, I could perfect that version too.
2 – The convection oven version either needed more time or a higher cook temp (or both). That being said, the air fryer cooked these wings to perfection in less time than the oven. So, convection cooking may be quicker than a standard conventional oven, but it’s still not faster than the air fryer.
📝 The real BIG check in the convection oven column would come if you needed to cook wings for a crowd. Then it is hands down the winner. You can only fit so many into the air fryer basket and have them still cook properly.
THE BOTTOM LINE: If you’re a seasoned convection oven user, you may have perfectly fine-tuned your wing recipe (if you have, send it over! I want to try it). But the Buffalo wings that come out of that air fryer are pretty tough to beat. So, for ease of cooking, final result, and even clean up, we’re giving the nod to the air fryer.
Is this new kitchen gadget just a perfectly packaged and marketed gimmick? We will see how many used ones end up on eBay in the next few years. What I can say is this; my new “toy” makes some damn good wings!