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Winning wings for your Big Game day party

When it comes to wings, they’re a reigning snack choice for many during the Big Game. During last year’s game, an estimated 1,420,000 million wings were consumed by Americans, enough to circle the Earth’s circumference at least three times.

No matter who you’re cheering for, most will agree that wings are a must at any Big Game party. This guide will have you cooking up wings in no time at all, whether you choose to fry or not fry.

Choose your sauce.

There are so many good quality sauces at the store these days, it is impossible to choose. I always check ingredients, though, as many can contain high fructose corn syrup and other, added varieties of sugar.

I generally lean towards spicy but appreciate the best of both worlds: spice that comes with flavor, not an aggressive spice that can’t be tamed. If you’re looking for something different and want to make a sauce from scratch, so you know exactly what’s in it, try a sweet and tangy take on barbecue (BBQ) sauce made with an unexpected ingredient: cranberry sauce. Yes, cranberries!

Can’t pick just one sauce, or want to have a mix of a few storebought to complement your homemade sauce? Similar to how you can choose 2-3 sauces when you order a dozen wings at a certain popular chain restaurant, a small-batch preparation gives you and your friends the choice to try a little of a few different flavors. When the wings are done cooking, just keep them in a large oven-safe bowl, baking dish, or on a tray in the oven to stay hot. Toss 6-8 of them at a time with a few tablespoons of sauce in medium/large steel or glass bowls and serve.

To fry or not to fry?

Fried are, of course, delicious, but doing it at home can make a big mess. This is usually a method I decide to skip.

“Air fried” (aka convection baking) also yields crispy, light skin. If you don’t have an air fryer, turn on the convection bake setting on your oven and place the wings on a baking rack with a small grid pattern (this is the best kind of cooling rack, IMHO. I love that the food doesn’t fall through.) This will help circulate air as they cook and also any drippings will fall on the pan and away from the chicken.

Finally, grilling yields crispiness with the added bonus of being able to smoke them easily, if you also want to go that route. There are easy, step-by-step instructions for how to do that just a quick web search away from most grill manufacturers, like Weber. It works on either a charcoal or gas grill, too.

Another thing I love about grilling wings: Grilling frees up your kitchen and if you do make a mess, then the mess is outside. Dave and I grill outside year-round, whether it is cold or not!

Don’t sauce until the very end of cooking!

This is very important if you grill or bake your wings: make sure that the chicken is “naked”, with no sauce. This will ensure that you are cooking the chicken first, instead of ending up with raw chicken and burnt sauce. And always remember to check your chicken for doneness using a trusted thermometer!

Bump up the crisp factor even more

To get extra crispy results, make sure you pat your chicken dry of any liquid before cooking. Do not rinse your chicken with water! A dry, clean cloth or paper towel is all you need.

If you have time, you should also leave the chicken wings, uncovered and unseasoned (no oil, spices, nothing on them yet), on a plate in the refrigerator for a few hours. It helps to dry the skin out and ensure that it will be extra crispy when cooking. It truly works wonders and I do the same thing any time I make a roast chicken or turkey, too. Just make sure it is away from other food, on an empty shelf, and, if possible, place it on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator.

Take a shortcut: Buy “naked” wings

Shortcuts are awesome. I love a good shortcut if it saves time and yields the same, and sometimes better, results. So, if you want to skip the cooking process entirely, buy naked chicken wings from your favorite restaurant and sauce them yourself. Order early (as in, like, yesterday) if you’re planning to do this for Sunday!

Team Blue Cheese or Team Ranch?

I can’t choose sides so I make both! Get my Buttermilk ranch dressing recipe.

Need an option for boneless wings?

Chicken tenders, breaded or not, are great when baked or fried and served with this BBQ sauce, too.

Need an option for vegetarian wings?

Try roasted cauliflower florets, tofu, vegetarian “chicken” nuggets, or falafel balls (homemade or pre-made from the grocery store, frozen, or can also be found in the produce section)