Cooking Dave’s Fried Turkey Wings

Here’s a homemade recipe I’ve developed. When we started selling ground turkey, we used to have a problem selling all the turkey wings. The wing flats are too fiddly to be deboned and ground, so the butcher would pack them up separately. Not too many customers were experienced with turkey wings so that first year we ended up eating most of them ourselves. Since then, we’ve connected with more people who want turkey wings, so we aren’t eating them out of necessity. Now we eat them for the pleasure of doing so.

We love a meal that’s been deep fried in good lard. So that got me thinking about frying them. I found there were two major obstacles to making a knockout fried turkey wing, but once I worked my way past them I discovered one of my favorite foods.

The first challenge was dietary. There are two people in our family who are allergic to dairy. The all-time great fried poultry recipes use a buttermilk brine before cooking. As I cast about for ideas, I thought about our fermented dill and garlic pickles we make every year. Our pickle brine has lactic acid like buttermilk, plus it already has the salt needed for brining. The flavor profile for pickle brined turkey wings is different than any other fried chicken or turkey I’ve eaten, but I find it to be a great fit. Note: I think this could also work for other fermented foods, like sauerkraut or kimchi brine, though I haven’t tried those variations. There’s room for further exploration!

The second challenge was procedural. Our deep fryer setup is a cast iron pot of lard set over a portable propane heater in the garage. Achieving a closely regulated temperature is tricky. I found that going straight from raw to cooked in the fryer wasn’t working well. By the time I had the core up to temperature the outside was often overdone. The insight there was that I could partially boil my turkey wings in their brine, and then put them in the fryer. Because our brine has high salinity and it contains chicken stock, the boiling process doesn’t wash out the flavor of the wings.

Recipe:

Make the following brine and marinate the turkey wings in a stock pot for about 12 hours. Add a little water to cover if necessary. Set in refrigerator.

  • 1 quart chicken or turkey stock, no salt added
  • 1.5 cups fermented pickle brine (if you don’t have homemade, look for a fermented pickle like Bubbies)
  • 1/4 cup vinegar (white is fine) for a little extra tang
  • 2 packages of turkey wings (8 wing flats total)

After marinating, bring wings and brine to a boil. Continue to cook at a low boil for approximately 8 minutes. Drain and discard brine liquid.

Fry wings in a kettle of lard. Adjust temperature so lard is not smoking. The right temperature is a matter of taste. I really love eating animal fats, so I’m happy to fry in the low 300 degree range. For people who are afraid of fat, increase the temperature up to 350 to get more of the crackle without the grease. Continue frying until the wings reach the level of crispness you desire. I find that my best results come from a slower, low temperature frying period. Then I withdraw the wings and let them cool before giving them a final high temperature plunge for a minute to really flash-crisp the skin.

I serve mine with Frank’s Red Hot Sauce and, if I’m feeling extra fancy, some homemade Ranch Dressing.

I like mine on the browner side of golden brown like this so there’s an audible crunch when biting into the wing. But I usually cook some of them a few shades lighter to give the kids a chance to choose the color they prefer.

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