Lemon pepper wings are genius in their simplicity. It’s fascinating how just three simple ingredients – salt, pepper and lemon zest – make wings such a finished and balanced dish.
Making the lemon pepper wing seasoning
In my humble onion, the best lemon pepper seasoning is one made from scratch just before you use it. There are several reasons for that:
- You don’t need to spend time shopping for it or making from scratch then drying in an oven
- It’s at its peak freshness and super aromatic
- It literally takes minutes to make, so why not make fresh?
- You can use really good peppercorn that will give you optimal aromatics (like Tellicherry peppercorns that are admired by many chefs and are considered some of the finest peppercorns in the world)
When making lemon pepper seasoning I use the following simple method that works really well:
- Start with 1 heaping teaspoon of salt (sea, Himalayan or kosher) per pound of wings. This will ensure against over or under-salting
- For every teaspoon of salt use 1 tablespoons of fresh lemon zest
- For every teaspoon of salt use 2 teaspoons of freshly ground black pepper (or black/red/white pepper medley)
Method 1 – high heat roasted lemon pepper wings
This method works if you don’t want to mess with pan-searing before baking the wings and produces results that are similar to those with method 3. The wings come out very flavorful, with nicely caramelized tops, but not very crispy. With this method, all you need to do is season the wings and bake at 450F for about 30 minutes. Check out this Roasted Vadouvan Chicken Wings recipe to see how the finished wings look.
Method 2 – pan-fried lemon pepper wings
If you are after extra tender chicken wings, you may want to explore this pan-frying method that results in exceptionally flavorful and extra tender chicken wings. The wings acquire a lot of flavor during searing stage, then get soft and tender during low temperature cooking with the lid on, which creates steam inside the skillet. The steam is what makes the wings super tender.
You don’t need to marinate the wings. Simply season them with the lemon pepper seasoning, heat 3 tablespoons of cooking oil in a large skillet, sear on both sides over high heat for about 1 1/2 minutes per side, then reduce the heat to low, cover and continue cooking for about 20 minutes until the meat is tender.
Method 3 – pan-seared, then baked lemon pepper wings
This method produces wings that are exceptionally flavorful, tender on the inside and sufficiently crispy on the outside. Not as extra crispy as using this recipe, but quite crispy nevertheless. I find that extra crispy wings are best when you toss them with a hot sauce and/or butter, as opposed to when making lemon pepper chicken wings.
With this method, described in detail in the How To Bake Chicken Wings – The Art of The Perfect Wing, you start off with pan-frying chicken wings to start the Maillard reaction going, resulting in nice caramelization and flavor, then tossing the wings with the lemon pepper seasoning.
The next step is to bake the wings until doneness, about 20-25 minutes at 400F -425F. You can adjust this method to your liking, depending on what you are looking for. For crispier skin, sear a little longer, until the skin is dark brown and bake at 425F.
Longer searing will help the wings render more fat from the skin, allowing it crisp up better during baking. I use this method to make Crispy Oven Roasted Chicken Breast with amazing results. For less crispy wings pan sear until the skin is golden brown and bake at 400F.
Greek yogurt wing dipping sauce
My wife once whipped up this wing dipping sauce when we decided to make wings on a whim and did not have our usual blue cheese dipping sauce in the fridge. Everyone enjoyed it so much that it became a staple in our house. It’s very simple, yet ridiculously tasty and, best of all, very healthy. We love having it with out lemon pepper wings. Just mix the ingredients listed below and enjoy:
- 1 cup Greek yogurt (fat free or low fat)
- 1/2 tsp kosher or sea salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 2 garlic cloves, minced