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.
Fried Turkey Wings
- 8 turkey wings
- 1 quart lard or tallow for frying
- 1 quart chicken stock, no salt
- 1½ quarts dill pickle brine (use real fermented pickle brine if you have it)
- ¼ cup white vinegar
- Place wings in a container with the marinade ingredients (chicken stock, dill pickle brine, and vinegar). Refrigerate and keep overnight.
- Transfer wings and the marinade into a large stock pot. If the marinade doesn't cover the wings, add water until the wings are slightly submerged.
- Bring wings to a boil and allow to boil for 3 minutes. Pour out liquid contents and set wings aside.
- Fill your deep fryer with lard or tallow and heat to 300 to 350 degrees.
- Fry wings in batches until the skin reaches a deep brown color. Remove from fryer and set wings on a rack allow any residual oil to drain off. After sitting for a few minutes, the skin should have a dry crust. If the wings haven't reached the right level of crunchiness, place them back in the hot oil for an extra minute or two.
- Serve wings with your favorite hot sauce and a creamy dressing like blue cheese or ranch.