Easy & Tasty Brine for Chicken Wings

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This brine for chicken wings is the secret to making super tender and tasty wings at home. Brining chicken wings before cooking them adds extra flavor and plumpness to your wings.

I love to grill chicken wings, but they often turn out a little dry when you cook them over an open flame if you don’t brine them first. This leads to the need to slather them with copious amounts of BBQ sauce. While I love homemade BBQ sauce, I don’t love dry wings.

Brining chicken wings

There no reason for dry chicken wings when you brine them first. It doesn’t take a lot of extra time. You can brine the chicken wings ahead of time and have them ready to go for your barbecue.

The brine packs in an extra layer of flavor that makes grilled chicken wings super tasty. It adds seasoning to the meat and plumps it up with juiciness.

>> Looking for a great side to serve with these wings? Try this delicious Mexican Street Corn, a Classic Wedge Salad, or this Fennel & Courgette Salad with Toasted Pine Nuts.

Why Brine Chicken Wings?

It might seem like brining chicken wings before cooking them is an extraneous step that just takes more time. But there is a good reason to take the extra time to brine chicken.

Brine is made up of sugar, salt and water. The sugar and salt breakdown the protein in the chicken meat that allows it to take on moisture and flavor from the brine. This keeps the meat from seizing up and expelling moisture while cooking, so they turn out juicy and flavorful as opposed to dry and bland.

This extra step isn’t necessary when using an Instant Pot or baking chicken wings, where they don’t have the propensity to dry out. But when you’re cooking over an open flame on a barbecue or in a smoker, they really are so much better when brined.

How to Brine Chicken Wings

1. Prepare the Brine

The first step is to prepare the brine. You can mix up the brine in a ziplock bag to make things simple. This is my preferred method. You can also mix up the brine in a lidded container or in a large bowl that can be covered with plastic wrap. What you’ll need:

  • Water
  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Soy Sauce
  • Optional seasonings: black pepper, oregano, garlic, thyme, rosemary

Mix up the brine, making sure the sugar and salt are fully dissolved before adding the chicken.

Brine for chicken wings

2. Soak the Chicken in Brine

Put the chicken into the brine so that it is fully covered by the liquid. I use a ziplock bag that is large enough for my chicken and the brine (usually a 1qt bag is big enough), then I place the bag into a bowl so it doesn’t accidentally break open in the refrigerator.

If you use a bowl, be sure to cover it with plastic wrap. Place the brining chicken in the refrigerator and let it sit for 2 hours. This is a salty brine, so it’s best not to leave it for more than 6 hours total. Chicken wings don’t need a long brine, like a whole chicken or turkey would. If you want to leave it overnight, I would suggest halving the salt.

brining chicken wings

3. Prepare the Chicken for Cooking

Once the time is up, remove the chicken wings from the brine and discard the rest of the brine. Rinse the wings and pat them dry with a paper towel. This helps them get crispy on the outside.

4. Cooking the Chicken Wings

There are many ways you can cook your chicken wings. Feel free to use the method you prefer most. They can be cooked on an outdoor grill, deep fried, baked in the oven or cooked in the air fryer. 

My preferred method is either grilling or baking, to cut down on the oil. If you have an air fryer, it’s a really great way to get crispy wings without the oil and without the hassle of baking in the oven.

prepared chicken wings

How Much Salt to Use in a Brine

The optimal ratio of salt to water is 1 tablespoon of salt to 1 cup of water. I use 2 cups of water and 2 tbsp of salt per pound of chicken and brine for 2 hours.

If you want to brine more chicken wings than 1 pound, you can increase the amount of brine accordingly. For 2 pounds of chicken, use 4 cups of water and 4 tbsp or 1/4 cup of salt.

What if the Wings Are Too Salty

This can happen if you brine the chicken for too long. I suggest only brining for a few hours. Any more soaking can cause the chicken to be soggy or mushy, and it can lead to chicken that’s too salty.

If you’ve soaked the chicken for too long and/or used too much salt in the water, you can draw some of the salt out before cooking by soaking the chicken wings in plain cold water for an hour.

If you need to brine the wings for longer, up to 20 hours ahead, I would suggest using half the salt in the brine. It’s just not ideal to brine wings for that long.

To Sauce or Not to Sauce

I like sauce on my chicken wings. However, the whole purpose of the brine is to give the chicken wings extra flavor, so I want to stress that you don’t need to add any sauce to these chicken wings. They hold up on their own.

However, if you’re a sauce lover like me, you might want to slather your wings in this bourbon bbq sauce, a simple sweet and sour sauce (like pictured below), or season them. Check out these air fryer lemon pepper wings for inspiration.

» If you love chicken wings, you could also try our BBQ Baked Chicken Wings recipe or these delicious Sweet & Spicy Korean Chicken Wings.

Brined chicken wings

What to Serve With Chicken Wings

Looking for a side to serve with these chicken wings? Here are a few options:

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Brined chicken wings

Brine for Chicken Wings

This easy brine for chicken wings produces tender and flavorful chicken wings.
3.74 from 34 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Chicken
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Brining Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 10 minutes
Servings: 2 servings
Calories: 272kcal
Author: Laura

Ingredients

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 1/8 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 lb chicken wings

Instructions

  • Mix together the first four ingredients until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Add the chicken, making sure the brine fully covers the chicken. Cover and store in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours.
  • Remove the chicken from the brine. Discard the brine. Rinse the chicken wings under cold water. Pat dry with a paper towel.
  • Cook following your preferred method.

Video

Notes

  • You can add optional seasonings to the brine for additional flavor. Try 1 tsp of black pepper, oregano, garlic, thyme, or rosemary. You can also replace the plain salt with a seasoned salt.
  • You can brine the wings as little as two hours, which is optimal, but you can brine for longer, if necessary, up to 8 hours. Mix up the brine in the morning before work and it will be done by the time you get home to cook dinner.
  • For more robust flavor, you can replace the salt with more soy sauce. Use 1/4 cup of full-sodium soy sauce instead of salt.

Nutrition

Calories: 272kcal | Protein: 22g | Fat: 20g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 94mg | Sodium: 89mg | Potassium: 191mg | Vitamin A: 180IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 15mg | Iron: 1mg

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brined chicken wings

9 thoughts on “Easy & Tasty Brine for Chicken Wings

    • Laura says:

      You can absolutely apply a rub after brining. The rub can give the wings a nice crispy exterior and additional flavor. Be sure to try our dry rub recipe!

  1. Sarah James says:

    5 stars
    What a great idea, I love chicken wings but so often they end up being to dry. Looking forward to trying your recipe, thanks for all the tips.

  2. Alisa Infanti says:

    I have never brined chicken wings before and can’t wait to try this out. Perfect for a weekend movie night treat.

  3. Yuko says:

    1 star
    The salt ratio is too high, much higher than other recipes. More than double. My wings were ruined after a 22 hour brine.

    • Laura says:

      Hi Yuko. I’m sorry your chicken was too salty. We recommend a 2 hour brine, not 22 hours, so I can see why it’d be a bit salty. If this happens again, you can reduce the salt by soaking the wings in plain water for an hour.

  4. Jowi says:

    5 stars
    Hello,
    Great brine recipe, I like that it is simple and at the 2 cup mark I did not need to cut it down. The recipe does say 2 to 24 hours, but taking Yukos comment into consideration, I brined for 3 hours, rinsed, dried of and tucked it into the fridge for the following day.
    Amazing wings and chicken breasts on the grill.
    Second time I used brown sugar with a couple of hot peppers added in.
    Happiness = brined chicken on the grill 🙂
    Thank you
    Jowi

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