I have been experimenting with my chicken wing techniques and decided to explore the benefits of brining the wings before they hit the grill. It has been a fun learning experience and I figured I might as well share the results with anyone who might be interested.
Keep reading and we will cover:
- The Two Hour Chicken Brine Recipe
- Does Brining Chicken Wings Make a Difference
Two Hour Wing Brine Recipe
Brining wings is incredibly simple. All you need to do is:
- Make up a batch of our basic brine
- Place the wings in a one gallon Ziploc bag
- Pour the brine over the wings
- Let the wings soak in the refrigerator for two hours
The Basic Brine for Wings
- 1 quart water
- 1/4 cup salt
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
Stir to dissolve and pour over wings.
Do You Need to Rinse Wings After Brining?
Yes, you should absolutely rinse the wings with cold water after they have brined for two hours to keep the wings from being too salty.
After the wings have been rinsed pat them dry with paper towels and apply your seasoning.
Side by Side Wing Testing
I made up two batches of wings, one brined and one not brined, and grilled them side by side.
The brined wings were only seasoned with black pepper since they were already pumped full of salt and sugar. The not brined wings were seasoned with a dusting of Kingsford grill seasoning that had salt, pepper and a little paprika.
I wasn’t trying to make the world’s best wings here…instead I wanted to keep things simple to see how much of a difference brining made.
I put the wings on my Weber Traveler gas grill and let them cook for about 40-45 minutes, flipping them every 8-10 minutes or so.
Both sets of wings took on nice color and the cook was pretty uneventful. I kept the two groups of wings separate during the cook so it would be easy to do a side by side taste test when they were done.
Does Brining Chicken Wings Make a Difference?
When the wings were done cooking I took them off the grill and plated them side by side. Again, I skipped adding any sauce because I wanted to keep things simple and zero in on the impact of the brine.
The wings that had been brined were well seasoned and slightly more juicy than the wings that had not been brined. The difference in moisture content was much more apparent in the drumettes than in the flats.
That being said, while the brined wings were slightly more juicy it wasn’t enough to make me go “Wow!”
Both sets of wings had a great grilled flavor and I would have gladly served either to a set of guests.
My takeaway is that brining wings does make a difference but not enough for me to want to use the technique on a regular basis. The wing flat has enough skin and fat that the section stays succulent all by itself and the minor difference I noticed with the drumettes wasn’t enough to offset the hassle of the two hour wait.
Overall I would say that bringing your wings before cooking is a good idea but don’t sweat it if you are short on time.
Variations on the Brining Step
I have been experimenting with brines for years and these results are pretty consistent with other results I have reached.
In general, brining is highly effective when dealing with very lean proteins like chicken breasts and pork loins and not as impactful when working with succulent cuts like pork steaks and chicken thighs.
You can brine for longer if desired but, since the wings are such a small piece of meat, two hours is more than enough. If you decide to brine for longer you will want to reduce the salt content of the brine to keep the wings from being too salty.
You can also add a bunch or aromatics to the brine (garlic, peppercorns, onions, etc) but I have found that most of those flavors get washed away when the wings are rinsed.
Two Hour Chicken Wing Brine
- 1 quart Cold Water
- 1/4 cup Table Salt
- 1/4 cup Brown Sugar
- 1 pound Chicken Wings
- Stir the salt and sugar into the cold water until the dissolve.
- Add the wings to the brine and refrigerate for two hours.
- Remove the wings from the brine, rinse under cold water and pat dry with paper towels.
- Season the wings with black pepper or low salt seasoning blend of choice.
- Grill the wings for 45 minutes, flipping often, until done.