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Perfectly Crispy Fresh & Frozen Chicken Wings in Air Fryer

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Nothing says game day like a plate piled high with super crispy chicken wings, fresh carrot and celery sticks, and some yummy dip! If you want to make perfect air fryer frozen chicken wings (or fresh), this is the post for you! Instructions for both air fryer frozen chicken wings and homemade fresh chicken wings in air fryer.

I’m not going to lie…I love chicken wings.

In fact, I’m a huge fan of pub grub appetizers in general.

Back in our childless days, my husband and I would hit the pub and share a plate of chicken wings and a plate of nachos for an ultimate, not at all healthy, but oh so delicious, Friday night dinner.

Since having our daughter, however, and really over the past year with restaurant closures and restrictions, we haven’t been able to get out as much.

Which is why I was excited to experiment with our air fryer, and figure out how to make perfect, crispy on the outside, delicious chicken wings in the air fryer we bought last year.

A white dinner plate piled high with buffalo chicken wings, with fresh carrot sticks and dip in the background. The photo shows an after shot for a tutorial about how to cook frozen chicken wings in air fryer.

What’s So Great About Air Fryer Chicken Wings

I’ve experimented with both frozen wings and fresh wings in the air fryer, and get into more details about my method below.

However, it’s worth mentioning why you should get excited about making wings in the air fryer.

One of the best things about air fryer frozen chicken wings is how easy they are to make. If you have store bought, precooked wings in your freezer, they can be ready in less than 20 minutes, with zero additional oil, and with super delicious and crispy results.

That’s a benefit I can get behind!

Close up of buffalo chicken wings on a white dinner plate after being cooked from frozen using an air fryer

However, my air fryer chicken wings methods are also healthier than most other ways of cooking chicken wings, because you don’t need oil!

If you decide to make them from scratch, they’re even healthier, since they’re not precooked (i.e. not pre-deep-fried) by the manufacturer.

Finally, they’re delicious!

It seems crazy to me that people still deep fry or bake things at all, since the air fryer is so good at making all sorts of foods (frozen pot pies, french fries, burritos, chicken tenders) delicious and with minimal effort.

What You’ll Need to Make Frozen Chicken Wings in Air Fryer

Ingredients

The ingredients on this one are pretty straight forward.

You’ll need a box of frozen chicken wings (we used buffalo wings for the photos in this post, which came with sauce), and some veggies and dip to serve on the side.

A box of no name frozen buffalo chicken wings on a white marble background

For dip, I love blue cheese dip with chicken wings. In fact, I could even say I love, LOVE, love bleu cheese!

I often use bottled blue cheese dip, and then crumbled fresh blue cheese on top. It’s a super simple recipe: pour some dressing into a bowl and then use a fork to crumble bleu cheese to sprinkle on top.

Cut up some celery and carrot sticks to serve on the side, and voila! You’re done!

However, you can also make a blue cheese dip from ranch dressing – mix store bought ranch seasoning with 1 cup of 5% sour cream, and crumble blue cheese into it!

Instructions

In the photos for this post, I used store bought frozen chicken wings, so I’m going to focus on how to get perfect air fryer frozen chicken wings, first.

However, I’ve also tested out how to cook fresh chicken wings in air fryer.

If you’d rather go full DIY, you can follow my Buffalo chicken wings in air fryer recipe a little bit further down in this post!

To air fry frozen wings, start by preheating your air fryer.

Remove the chicken wings from the package, and remove any ice crystals that may have formed on the surface of the frozen chicken wings. It makes intuitive sense, but it’s worth pointing out that water (or ice, in this case) is the enemy of crispy chicken wings, so you want to wipe any big ice crystals off! Just wipe them away, and gently pat with a paper towel if needed.

Place the wings in the air fryer basket in a single layer.

If you’re worried about the wings sticking to the air fryer basket, you can give them a quick spray of pure cooking oil, using something like an Evo mister.

Frozen chicken wings in air fryer basket before cooking

Air fry for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

I like to check them and flip them about halfway through.

Cooked chicken wings in an air fryer basket after being air fried from frozen

Remove from air fryer basket and enjoy!

That’s it – 5 minutes of prep at max, and just 15 minutes air fry time to cook frozen chicken wings!

How to Make Homemade Air Fryer Chicken Wings

If you’d prefer to make air fryer chicken wings from scratch, I’ve got you covered! As with the frozen chicken wings, they’re still super easy, and they’re still healthier in the air fryer than some other methods.

Homemade buffalo chicken wings on a platter, with a dish of blue cheese dip in the center

Cooking Wings in the Air Fryer? The Key to Crispy Wings is the Coating

One of the keys to making really good wings in air fryer or convention oven is the coating.

You can use a few different coatings, and all work out great. But seriously, the coating is really important.

TBH, I normally go and wing it (heehee!) with chicken wings coatings, mixing up something based on what I have in the house.

The flour dredge method is my go to.

The Flour Dredge Method

In the pictures of these wings, here’s what I did (for about 3 lbs of wings).

  • Dry the chicken wings first using paper towel. Just as you want to remove ice crystals from frozen chicken wings, you want to to dry out the fresh chicken wings to maximize the chance of getting super crispy wings!
  • In a bowl, use a fork to whisk about 1 cup of milk and 1 egg.
  • In a separate bowl, mix 1 cup flour, and 2 tsp. salt, plus a dash of black pepper, cayenne pepper, paprika and garlic powder.
  • Dip each wing in the milk mixture, and then in the flour mixture and place on a baking tray or dish.
  • After dredging the wings, refrigerate them for 15 to 30 minutes before you air fry them. This refrigeration is the key to a great coating in my experience, because it lets the flour mixture stick to each of the chicken wings really well.

If You Want to Make Crispy Gluten Free Wings Try This

As I said above, I tend to “wing” it when it comes to coating chicken wings before air frying, based on what I have in my pantry or how I’m feeling that day.

If you are out of any of the ingredients above, or would prefer to use a different coating, here are two other options you can use.

With all of these, I also add some spices and flavor into the mix (a dash each of garlic powder, paprika, salt, pepper and cayenne is my go to):

  • Potato starch. Bonus for this, it’s gluten free, and you can use just potato starch alone (just toss the wings in a bowl with the starch, and wiggle them around or push with a fork until coated).
  • Baking Powder. Try to find a brand that doesn’t include sodium aluminum sulfate since some people are quite sensitive to the taste, and interpret it as a bitter flavor. Also, when using baking powder, a little goes a long way. You only need 1 Tablespoon or so for 2 dozen wings, tossed with spices, and then toss the wings in the mixture.

After coating and refrigerating the chicken wings for about 30 minutes, preheat the air fryer to 375℉.

Cook Time for Fresh vs Frozen Chicken Wings in Air Fryer

Once you’ve coated and chilled your chicken wings, it’s time to cook them in your air fryer. As per always, preheat the air fryer.

The main difference for fresh vs frozen chicken wings in the air fryer is actual air fry time / cook time.

You’ll see my suggested cooking temperature and cook time is different for air fryer frozen chicken wings vs fresh air fryer chicken wings.

Here’s my best explanation as to why.

Because frozen chicken wings tend to be pre-cooked, they actually tend to require less cook time. I know – mind blown. In the example and photos above (the buffalo wings), we cooked the chicken wings in an air fryer at 400℉ for 15 minutes.

For fresh chicken wings, however, I recommend cooking them on a slightly lower temperature (400℉) for longer, both to let them get nice and crispy and to ensure they reach a safe internal temperature.

This is around 20 to 24 minutes total time in a large, single layer in the air fryer basket, like my Breville or my mom’s Cuisinart, in my experience. However, you’ll want to flip the wings half way through.

Then there’s fresh wings that you’ve frozen in your own freezer. In this case, the frozen wings haven’t been pre-cooked, so you’ll need to add a bit of extra cooking time on top of the fresh wings instructions – around 5 minutes.

Sauce Tip for My Chicken Wings Air Fryer Method

When it comes time to add the sauce to your chicken wings, I recommend melting a bit of butter in a large bowl in the microwave, adding the sauce, and mixing it together. Then dump the chicken wings right into the bowl from the air fryer basket, and toss them around that way.

For ratios, I use about 2 to 4 tablespoons for butter to 1/2 cup of sauce (in this cause, buffalo wing sauce). You can use less sauce if you don’t like them too hot. 

It’s a super easy way to get the wings perfectly coated – just toss in the sauce and they’re ready to go!

Close up of homemade buffalo chicken wings on a plate

Look at that crispiness! I love crispy on the outside chicken wings.

Get Creative with Different Flavors for Your Air Fried Chicken Wings

Sure, buffalo sauce and hot sauce are the classic chicken wing flavor.

And with good reason – they’re delicious!

Air fried buffalo chicken wings on a plate with carrot sticks and dip in view

But you can switch it up with different, creative flavors, too.

I tend to break down chicken wing seasoning into dry (i.e. salt and pepper wings) and wet (i.e. hot sauce).

For dry wings, I season them prior to air frying. For wet wings, I coat them in sauce after air frying.

A Few Different Chicken Wing Flavor Ideas

  • Lemon Pepper (Mix garlic salt and lemon pepper seasoning into your wing dredging / coating mixture)
  • Dill Pickle (marinate fresh wings in leftover dill pickle brine, drain, and then add a bit of dried dill and garlic salt to the dredging / coating mixture)
  • Honey Garlic (I like to toss cooked wings in honey garlic sauce after air frying, so the honey doesn’t burn)
  • Salt and Pepper (about 2 tsp of each, combined in a mixing bowl. Toss the wings in the mixture before placing in the air fryer basket)

FAQs and Tips

Are Frozen Chicken Wings Pre-Cooked?

Yes (sometimes). Not all frozen wings are already cooked, but in my experience, most are. This means they need less cook time for safety, although they will still take a bit, given they are frozen solid, and you want to give them enough time to get crispy.

A box of no name frozen buffalo chicken wings on a white marble background. There is a red outline of a circle on the box to point out the words "Fully Cooked"

Cook the Chicken Wings in a Single Layer in the Air Fryer Basket

The key to effective air frying is in the name – it’s the (hot) air!

So you really want to make sure the wings aren’t piled in too tightly with no space between them.

As a general rule of thumb, arrange them mostly in single layer. I find this easier to do in our Breville air fryer or my mom’s Cuisinart (which are like toaster ovens) than a “real” air fryer, like the COSORI one we used in these photos.

Having them a bit close together is fine, just don’t stack layers upon layers of them!

Frozen chicken wings in air fryer basket before cooking

Flip the Birds

Sorry – I couldn’t resist the pun.

You need to flip the wings half way through cooking for best results.

Final Thoughts

If you have a chicken wing lover in your life, or someone who recently bought an air fryer and is trying to learn the ropes, I hope you’ll share this post!

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A pinnable image with the text Air Fryer Chicken Wings with a collage of different photos showing cooked chicken wings on a plate and in an air fryer basket, as well as garnishes and dip

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