This incredibly flavorful chicken wings brine is the perfect flavor enhancer for fried, grilled, or baked wings. Whether you sauce them up, dust them with seasoning, or simply enjoy naked wings, each tender bit is saturated with the sweet and salty flavor of the beer brine.
Yep, that's right. These are beer brined chicken wings! Is there a better combination than wings and beer? Well, maybe with a little hot sauce? Yep, we have that too in here. This is your favorite sports bar on a platter right here! Best of all, the beer flavor really shines through.
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Chicken wings - You can cut them or leave them whole. Cutting them into drumettes and flats makes them far easier to eat, but it does require a little more prep work. This brine will also work for any other part of the chicken.
- Beer - An inexpensive lager is perfect for this.
- Water - Using warm water (not hot) helps dissolve the salt and sugar.
- Kosher salt - This is a key piece to any brine as it serves as the delivery agent that brings all of the brine flavors into the meat. Do not swap out for table salt, as it will change the saltiness.
- Brown sugar - This balances the salt and adds a little sweetness. You can substitute white sugar.
- Hot sauce - Specifically I recommend using Franks Red Hot sauce. It is the classic chicken wings hot sauce, however, another vinegar-based sauce, or even red pepper flakes, can be substituted.
- Garlic, black pepper, & Bay leaf - These round out the flavor of the brine. Garlic powder can be substituted for whole cloves, but fresh is always best.
What does brining do to chicken?
Unlike a chicken marinade, which primarily flavors the surface of the meat, brining chicken saturates the meat with the flavor of the brine solution. The brine causes the protein in the meat to become denatured, allowing it to retain more juices. This not only makes meat juicier but also more flavorful as it soaks up the brine.
Brines can be wet or dry. Using a dry brine is a great way to brine larger cuts of meat that are a uniform shape because the brine and seasonings need to fully cover every nook and cranny. Wet brining is best for smaller cuts like chicken wings because they can fully submerge in the solution.
How to make a basic brine
The foundation of any wet brine is the proper ratio of salt to liquid. Most commonly water is used, however, I added beer to the mix as well. To maintain the correct ratio it is important to use kosher salt in this recipe.
Make the brine mixture by adding the water, beer, salt, sugar, hot sauce, and remaining flavorings to a large bowl. Mix together with a whisk until you no longer see salt or sugar resting on the bottom. It is now ready for the chicken.
Tip: Cold water can be used, but it is best to warm the water slightly when mixing the brine. I also use room temperature beer for the same reason. The warmer water will dissolve the salt and sugar more easily. Do not use hot water because you don't want to cook the chicken when it is added.
Note: Some people simmer the brine in a saucepan over medium heat to help dissolve the salt and sugar, but I find this to be unnecessary. I think the flavors are best when fresher.
How long should I brine chicken wings?
Once you place chicken wings in the brine, let them soak for 12 - 24 hours in your refrigerator. It is important you use enough brine to fully submerge the wings. The total length of time meat can sit in brine is dependent on how salty the brine is. A saltier brine works faster.
The easiest way to brine chicken wings is to place the wings and the brine in a large resealable food-storage bag (2 gallon). This ensures the wings fully soak in the brine more easily. However, large plastic storage containers also work.
Once the wings have finished brining, discard brine, rinse the wings under cold water, then pat chicken dry with paper towels. You will always get crispier skin when the wings are dry.
How to cook brined chicken wings
The best thing about a brine is that it will complement any cooking method. Once your wings have finished their brine bath cook them up using any of these chicken wing recipes:
- Fried wings - Traditional buffalo wings are most commonly fried prior to being tossed in sauce. These wings can be brined first for added flavor.
- Grilled wings - The flavor of the grill really complements the brine nicely when these tasty wings are seared over high heat.
- Broiled wings - Quick, easy, and incredible when lacquered with BBQ sauce.
- Baked Wings - This is a great option if you don't want to mess with a deep fryer but still crave exceptionally crisp skin!
- Smoked wings - Hitting these wings with a little smoke brings the flavor to the next level.
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Chicken Wings Brine
- 3 pounds chicken wings cut into flats and drumettes if desired
- 4 cups warm water
- 24 ounces beer
- ½ cup kosher salt
- 6 tablespoons brown sugar
- 6 tablespoons Franks Red Hot
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 bay leaf
- Add all of the brine ingedients to a large bowl and mix together until the sugar and salt disappears.
- Pour the brine solution into a large sealable 2 gallon bag, or plastic container and add chicken wings.
- Place the closed container in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
- After 24 hours remove the chicken wings from the brine and rinse under cold water. Pat dry with paper towels and cook using your preferred recipe.