These Smoky Cranberry Wings are a fun variation! They get crispy in the air fryer and then tossed in a smoky sauce made with leftover cranberry sauce.
As avid sports fans in our house, it’s always chicken wing season, and until I started using the baking powder trick for crispy wings (not to be confused with baking soda), we settled for mediocre oven wings on game nights. By that, I mean, they were crispy coming out of the oven, but after they sat for a few minutes, the sauce put a damper on the crunch.
Baking powder-dusted wings, however, changed all of that forever, and we haven’t had a soggy wing since. You can read more about my baking powder tests and crispy chicken wing epiphanies here.
On busy weeknights, though, I thought the air fryer might speed things up, and it certainly did. The same baking powder principle that creates crunchy oven-baked wings, works perfectly in the air fryer, too, and in less time.
The Secret To Crispy Air Fryer Wings Isn’t What You Think
In a nutshell, the baking powder trick goes like this: When baking powder is added to skin-on chicken with some salt, it changes the pH of the protein in the chicken fat and creates tiny carbon dioxide air bubbles, while also dry-brining the pieces IF the chicken is allowed to rest for 8 hours uncovered in the refrigerator. Serious Eats offers an in-depth look into the science behind this.
If you have the time, the crispy skin that this 8-hour rest time produces is mind blowing, whether you bake in the oven or the air fryer.
Most recipes, however, including ours, don’t include that 8 hour rest time, but some of that molecular magic is still happening! While the carbon dioxide bubbles aren’t really forming, the baking powder and salt is still changing some of the proteins and drying out the skin, forming a sturdy, protective barrier that prevents any rendered fat or juices from bubbling up to the surface after the wings come out of the oven or the air fryer, keeping them crispy and moist, even after being sauced.
A Little Baking Powder Goes A Long Way
Because of the convection process in the air fryer, chicken wings brown up much faster than in the oven, and the addition of baking powder speeds up this process even more, so a little goes a long way.
Add the baking powder and salt to a zipper bag, along with the wings. Seal the bag tightly and shake the bag like crazy to coat all sides of the wings. Here’s the most important part though–shake the excess off of the wings before adding to the air fryer basket, otherwise any excess baking powder tends to burn in the air fryer.
What To Do With Leftover Cranberry Sauce
This time of year, we have an abundance of cranberry sauce sitting in the pantry and refrigerator, and while we never get tired of Buffalo sauce, something sweet and tangy was calling out to me.
Turns out that cranberry sauce makes a darned good wing sauce without added thickeners because the cranberry is already naturally thick from the pectin in the fruit. I added a little smoked paprika and garlic powder to make this smoky sauce.
Enjoy these Smoky Cranberry Wings!Print
- 1 and ½ lbs. chicken wings (about 12–14 drums/flats)
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 and ⅛ tsp. salt, divided
- 1 cup whole-berry or jellied cranberry sauce
- 1 tsp. smoked paprika
- 1 Tbsp. granulated sugar
- ½ tsp. garlic powder
- In a gallon zipper bag add baking powder and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Add wings, seal bag tightly. Shake bag until wings are well coated in baking powder mixture. Transfer wings to air fryer basket; arrange in a single layer with minimal overlap.
- Place basket in air fryer. Set air fryer temperature to 380°F and timer to 25 minutes. Press start button to begin cooking.
- Meanwhile, in a small microwave-safe bowl stir together cranberry sauce, paprika, sugar, garlic powder, and remaining salt. Microwave on high 2 minutes. Remove from microwave; stir and set aside.
- Transfer cooked wings to a large bowl; toss with ¼ cup of the cranberry mixture. Serve immediately with remaining sauce for dipping.
If feeding a crowd, transfer cooked wings to a sheet pan before adding sauce and keep warm in a 200°F oven while remaining batches of wings cook in the air fryer.