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Sweet Tea-Brined Hot Chicken Wings

Sweet Tea-Brined Baked Hot Chicken Wings

If you had to name one food that was truly Nashville, it would have to be hot chicken. Originally created by an angry woman trying to get back at her womanizing boyfriend, her attempts at revenge were foiled when her spice-loaded fried chicken went over well with the dude instead of causing him severe pain (or, the pain was in fact, pleasurable since the chicken was so delicious). You have to respect a woman who gets her revenge in the form of fried chicken.

This is no where near authentic hot chicken (haters gonna hate). It’s baked rather than fried, with a level of spiciness at which hot chicken aficionados would turn up their noses and snicker. Milder than the mild at Prince’s, that’s for sure, and maybe I am a chicken, but for normal folk, “mild” in this case is still pretty darn spicy.

Sweet Tea-Brined Baked Hot Chicken Wings

It’s like the ultimate Southern spa treatment: sweet tea bath followed by a hot spice massage. The sweet tea brine infuses the wings with flavor and moisture much in the way a salt brine does the same to a turkey. The wings are then air dried and rubbed with a potent spice mixture of cayenne, ancho chile, paprika, garlic, and pinch of smoked salt and baked until the tips are crispy. Tender and juicy like you wouldn’t believe, with a slow burn that warms you from the inside out.

Just have a glass of water (or milk) handy. Believe me, you’re going to need it; wimpy version or not, these wings are no joke.

Sweet Tea-Brined Hot Chicken Wings

Yield: 4 to 6 appetizer servings

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 8 hours

Ingredients:

For Brine:

  • 2 cups brewed sweet tea
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon smoked salt
  • 2 pounds chicken wings

For Rub:

  • 2 teaspoons ground cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon ancho chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked salt
  • cooking spray, as needed
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil

Directions:

  1. The night before you will be serving the chicken wings, prepare the brine. Combine sweet tea, kosher salt, and smoked salt in a 2 cup microwave safe measuring cup. Microwave on high for 45 seconds or until warm and stir until salt is dissovled. Add a few ice cubes to quickly bring the mixture back to room temperature.
  2. Place chicken wings in a medium bowl. Pour over cooled brine mixture; cover and chill for 8 hours. The next morning, remove wings from brine and place on paper towels. Discard brine. Pat wings dry and arrange on a baking rack set inside a half-sheet pan. Place wings, uncovered, in the refrigerator for 6 to 8 hours until completely dry.
  3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place an oven-safe wire baking rack inside. Spray liberally with cooking spray.
  4. In a bowl, combine cayenne, ancho chile, garlic, paprika, salt and pepper. In a large bowl, toss chicken wings with 1 tablespoon canola oil. Sprinkle spice mixture over and toss until evenly coated. Arrange wings on prepared baking rack so they are not touching each other.
  5. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, flipping once part way through, until skin is browned and tips are crispy. Serve warm.

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27 CommentsLeave a Comment →

  1. 1
    Posted On January 20, 2014 at 4:55 am

    i was a big spice baby until I started eating sushi – I loved plopping the entire ball of wasabi in the soy sauce and burning my mouth.

    the brine is such an interesting idea!  never made chicken wings myself but I feel like I would bake them, the drying step must give them great crunch!

    Reply

  2. 2
    Posted On January 20, 2014 at 5:49 am

    I actually don’t know what hot chicken is, but this is so creative that I need to try it!
    I love making my own chicken wings (and baking them..no hatin’ here!) but I usually stick the typical teryaki or buffalo style wings. My hubby is gonna go crazy for these!

    Reply

    • Posted On January 22, 2014 at 8:33 pm

      Well you might just have to come to Nashville then, try the real thing. :) It’s INTENSE.

  3. 3
    Posted On January 20, 2014 at 6:17 am

    What an awesome idea for chicken! My husband ALWAYS wants me to make chicken wings and these look pretty perfect for Super Bowl :)

    Reply

  4. 4
    Posted On January 20, 2014 at 8:48 am

    Ha, love the story! Probably what would happen to me..not the womanizer part but liking overly spicy food :) 

    Reply

  5. 5
    Posted On January 20, 2014 at 9:27 am

    I love tea! I love chicken! I think you have a fan over here! (amazing recipe)

    Reply

  6. 6
    Posted On January 20, 2014 at 2:07 pm

    Fabulous recipe. These are definitely crowd pleasers.

    Reply

  7. 7
    Posted On January 20, 2014 at 10:05 pm

    Great twist on chicken wings! Perfect for game day!

    Reply

  8. 8
    Posted On January 21, 2014 at 5:59 am

    Love these! I definitely need to make this as an appetizer for my next dinner party!

    Reply

  9. 9
    Posted On January 21, 2014 at 8:38 am

    looks great Linds!

    Reply

  10. 10
    Posted On January 21, 2014 at 11:43 am

    These sound delicious!

    Reply

  11. 11
    Posted On January 21, 2014 at 12:38 pm

    Yummy!

    Reply

  12. 12
    Posted On January 21, 2014 at 3:24 pm

    Yum I love brining and sweet tea is something I def have to try!

    Reply

  13. 13
    Karen Tannenbaum
    Posted On January 22, 2014 at 7:15 pm

    Love the recipe. I have always baked my wings too and love how crispy they turn out and I usually feel a lot less guilty consuming them knowing they were baked. Thank you for a different spin on wings. Just in time for the super bowl!

    Reply

  14. 14
    Posted On January 25, 2014 at 3:12 pm

    These sound delicious! Trying them for dinner tonight! 

    Reply

  15. 15
    Posted On January 25, 2014 at 9:04 pm

    What a unique idea!! Love this – pinning!

    Reply

  16. 16
    Judy
    Posted On January 26, 2014 at 8:20 am

    Can I use chicken polkas instead of wings ?

    Reply

  17. 17
    Judy
    Posted On January 26, 2014 at 8:21 am

    Chicken legs. 

    Reply

    • Posted On January 26, 2014 at 8:42 am

      Haha, I was wondering what chicken polkas were. :) Legs would take quite a bit longer to cook, but I don’t see why you couldn’t use the same brine and spice rub recipe on them. Just adjust cooking time accordingly.

  18. 18
    Posted On January 27, 2014 at 1:51 am

    I am not a huge chicken wings fan, but I am craving these right now! This sounds so good!

    Reply

  19. 19
    Jessica
    Posted On January 30, 2014 at 12:34 pm

    Hi there! These look amazing! I want to make them for Super Bowl but am going out of town Saturday night to Sunday afternoon – would it be bad to brine them for more than 8 hours? Thanks for your help! :)

    Reply

    • Posted On January 30, 2014 at 1:54 pm

      If they sit in the brine too long at they could potentially get too salty. I might suggest brining them during the day on Saturday, then letting them dry out overnight. Then on Sunday you can bake them.

    • Jessica
      Posted On January 30, 2014 at 2:13 pm

      Great idea!! Thanks for the quick reply!

  20. 20
    CJ
    Posted On February 1, 2014 at 3:01 pm

    Do you think this would be effective on chicken breasts too?  I’m not a huge chicken wing fan but I adore sweet tea and spicy anything.

    Reply

  21. 21
    Jackie
    Posted On March 21, 2014 at 9:59 pm

    Hi Lindsay

    Do you need a certain machine for the brewed sweet tea?  How much sugar do I add to the tea.  Also, 2 pounds of wings are the whole wings or wing pieces?

    Reply

    • Posted On March 22, 2014 at 8:36 am

      I just bought a jug of pre-made sweet tea. Could be a southern thing, though. :) Iced tea would work as well. And we used wing pieces, as in the photos.

  22. 22
    LMB
    Posted On September 23, 2014 at 8:22 pm

    I made these for my husband and a couple who love spicy / heat! Huge success. Too hot for me !! Tracy’s husband went home and pulled this recipe up on Pinterest!! Why didn’t he just ask!!????   Fun recipe!

    Reply

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