Honey Barbecue Chicken Wings. Scott Suchman for The Washington Post; food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post

I’ve never met a chicken wing I didn’t like. In fact, I’m the self-proclaimed chicken wing king here at Washington Post Food, having already shared several recipes. Now I’m back with yet another: shallow-fried wings tossed in a sweet and sticky honey barbecue sauce that can be enjoyed as an appetizer while watching a football game, or for dinner as the main course alongside a salad or roasted vegetables.

While each cooking method has its benefits, the results from frying chicken wings are hard to beat in terms of speed and crispness. In just 10 minutes of frying, you can have golden brown, delicious wings. (I’m still an advocate of using the air fryer for chicken wings – and have included instructions should you want to use one – but its capacity makes it better suited for smaller quantities than the amount of wings called for here.)

Understandably, some home cooks are hesitant to fry very often because they are afraid of injuring themselves or starting a fire, don’t want to deal with the amount of oil required, don’t like the mess or lingering smell, or some combination thereof.

When it comes to frying safety, the most important things to remember are that dry foods are your friend and to gently lay foods in the oil. For the former, that simply means patting the wings dry with a towel. For the latter, don’t drop food from any sort of height, as it will cause the oil to splash. This means you’ll need to get up close and personal with the hot oil. If you’re afraid to use your hands, tongs can give you extra distance for protection. And when you do add food to the oil, lay it away from you so that if there is a splash, it’s headed in the opposite direction.

Rather than using heaps of oil to deep fry, shallow frying can achieve similar results with a small fraction of the cooking oil, making it much easier to deal with when you’re done. (I haven’t tried them yet, but there are now also cooking oil solidifiers that make the disposal process even easier.)

Perhaps the biggest issue with frying is the mess it can create, but that can easily be solved one of two ways. The first is covering your skillet with a splatter screen, which can help to keep your stovetop clean. The other method is to simply use a pan with tall sides, such as a stock pot or Dutch oven.


Unfortunately, the smell from frying can’t really be avoided. Your best bets to deal with it are to cook in a ventilated area (a.k.a. open a window), clean up as soon as you can, and use some form of air freshener.

With these tips in hand, you can fry with ease.

The wings are simply seasoned with salt and pepper because this recipe is all about the honey barbecue sauce. While you can certainly use your favorite store-bought sauce, you can easily make one that’s finger-lickin’ good. Honey adds floral sweetness, a touch of molasses lends depth, apple cider vinegar’s acidity balances the sugar, and a handful of spices provide additional layers of complexity. The result is scrumptious.

Yes, these wings are pretty messy to eat, but don’t let having to use a few extra napkins dissuade you from experiencing them in all their saucy glory.

This recipe is all about the honey barbecue sauce. Scott Suchman for The Washington Post; food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post

Honey Barbecue Chicken Wings

4 servings (makes about 20 wings and 1 cup sauce)


Total time: 34 mins

Chicken wings are shallow-fried until golden all over, and then tossed in a homemade honey barbecue sauce for a finger-lickin’ main or appetizer. While you can certainly use your favorite store-bought barbecue sauce, this homemade version is deliciously sweet and incredibly easy to prepare. Keep a watchful eye while it’s on the stove to minimize splatters. To make this recipe go faster, prep your ingredients while the oil is heating up. Serve with a side salad or roasted vegetables to make it a meal.

Storage: Refrigerate leftovers for up to 4 days. Leftover sauce can be refrigerated for up to 2 months.


For the wings

Canola, peanut or other neutral oil, for frying


2 pounds chicken wings (drumettes and flats)

Fine salt

Freshly ground black pepper

For the honey barbecue sauce

1/2 cup ketchup

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons honey


1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons unsulphured molasses

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)



Make the wings: In a medium or large heavy-bottomed skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, add enough oil to come 1/2 inch up the sides of the skillet or Dutch oven and heat until an instant-read thermometer registers 350 degrees. (If you don’t have an instant-read thermometer, there should be a steady sizzle when you add your first wing. If it’s too quiet, the oil is not hot enough yet; if it sounds like a fireworks demonstration, the oil is too hot and needs to cool down.) Place a wire rack over a large sheet pan or line a tray with towels and set it near your work area.

Pat the wings dry and lightly season them with salt and pepper. In batches so as not to crowd the pan, fry the wings, flipping and adjusting the heat as needed to keep the oil at a steady temperature, until golden all over, about 10 minutes. (Note that the oil will initially drop in temperature when you add the wings.) Using tongs, transfer the wings to the prepared wire rack or tray. Repeat with the remaining wings.

Make the sauce: Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stir together the ketchup, honey, vinegar, molasses, garlic powder, smoked paprika and cayenne pepper, if using, until evenly combined. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring regularly and adjusting the heat as necessary to keep a gentle simmer, until the sauce thickens, 7 to 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, toss the wings with as much sauce as desired until evenly coated. (You may have leftover sauce; see Storage.) Transfer to a platter and serve right away.

Variations: To make these in an air fryer, set to 400 degrees and preheat until the appliance signals it’s ready. Place the wings in a large bowl and pat dry. Sprinkle with 2 teaspoons baking powder, lightly season with salt and pepper, and toss until evenly coated. Once the fryer is ready, arrange the wings in the basket in a single layer evenly spaced out. The wings can touch, but don’t overcrowd them; you may need to cook them in batches. Close the basket and air fry for 25 minutes, or until browned and crisp, turning the wings halfway through. Toss with the sauce and serve as instructed.

Nutrition: Due to frying, a reliable nutritional analysis is not available.

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