Don’t skip the most important step! Use this easy chicken wing brine before cooking your wings. There is no denying that the opening item served at most gatherings (and the first gone in seconds) is the chicken wing. Yes, we love those little morsels of crunchy chicken-y goodness, but what if I told you we could make them even better. How? By using a wet brine.
Our chicken wing brine will amp up your grilled, smoked, baked, or air-fried chicken game. This recipe makes enough for 1 1/2-2 pounds of chicken wings. Double or triple the recipe based on your needs. You can also use this chicken wing brine for chicken thighs, drumsticks or leg quarters.
Why use a chicken wing brine?
A wet brine adds flavor, helps plump up the flesh, increases the tenderness factor, and keeps your chicken wings nice and juicy during the cooking process. All you’ll need are a few ingredients to get started!
- Water: You’ll need hot water for this chicken wing brine. You can boil it in a large saucepan and add your ingredients as you go.
- Coarse salt: Use kosher salt or coarse sea salt for this job.
- White sugar: While salt contributes to the juiciness of the chicken, the sugar contributes to the rich brown color of the skin as it cooks.
- Red wine vinegar: A subtle tart brightening aspect that works so well with chicken. Substitute with lemon or lime juice for a bright citrus undertone. You can also use pickle juice instead of red wine vinegar.
- Black pepper, red pepper flakes, cayenne: Three levels of subtle heat.
- Large plastic container with lid, or a large resealable plastic bag.
- Optional: Additional ingredients to add to this brine includes one sliced orange or large lemon, 2-3 whole smashed garlic cloves, 1/4 teaspoon white pepper or, 2 bay leaves, 1-2 tablespoons dark brown sugar for a little extra caramelized sweetness, or 1 teaspoon of fresh herbs like thyme and rosemary. You do not need to use all of these ingredients, just mix and match them in addition to the base ingredients to suit your flavor profile.
How to use a chicken wing brine:
- Simmer water in a large pot over high heat. Don’t bring to a rolling boil, just a lively simmer. Reduce the heat to medium if needed.
- Add salt and sugar and stir until dissolved; about 1-2 minutes.
- Remove pot from the heat and add vinegar, spices, and any additional items of your liking (see Ingredient section above).
- Let the mixture cool completely. Add 1-2 cups of ice to help it along.
- Submerge chicken wings into the cold brine, cover tightly, and place the container into the refrigerator for 3-4 hours.
- Our chicken wing brine recipe makes enough for 1 1/2-2 pounds of wings. So increase brine measurements if you are prepping a larger batch.
- After the wings have brined, remove them from solution, and lightly rinse off under cool water (see note). Do not over rinse. You don’t want to remove all of the salt.
- Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with a good chicken rub. Cook as directed!
- *Please note that some home cooks do not rinse the rings after using a brine. If you are on team “no-rinse,” simply remove the wings from the brine, blot them dry as instructed above, season with a low salt or no salt rub, and cook as directed.
Like this chicken wing brine recipe? Try these amazing wing recipes!
Brine for Chicken Wings
- 1 quart water
- 1/4 cup coarse salt (sea salt or kosher salt)
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- In a large pot, bring water to a simmer, add salt and sugar. Stir through.Once dissolved, remove the pot from the heat. Stir in vinegar and spices.Let the mixture cool completely. Add 1 cup of ice to help it along.
- Once the brine is cold, add chicken wings to brine mixture, making sure they are well submerged. Cover container or bowl and place into refrigerator for 3-4 hours.
- Remove wings are rinse them off under cold water (see notes section below). Discard remaining brine. Pat any excess moisture off of the wings with paper towels.This is very important to do, especially if you are planning to deep fry the wings.
- Season wings with your favorite rub and cook as directed.
Looking for more recipes for Chicken Wings? Try my list of the Best Chicken Wing Recipes.