How to Bake Great Chicken Legs and Wings

by Tremaine Jackson
Baked chicken legs and wings are humble yet confident to stand up to any table and any wine choice.

Baked chicken legs and wings are humble yet confident to stand up to any table and any wine choice.

The trick to great baked chicken legs and wings is soaking them in brine for a few hours before cooking. Brining is similar to marinating, and chefs have been brining poultry for years. It imparts to-the-bone flavor via osmosis, ensures the chicken remains moist during and after its time in the oven and helps tenderize the meat. Applying a dry rub or spicy breadcrumb coating after brining increases depth of flavor, resulting in restaurant-quality chicken. Serve baked chicken legs and wings with ranch dressing as an appetizer or as a main course with potatoes and greens.

Bring several cups of water to a boil in a large soup pot. Add kosher salt and brown sugar. Mix to dissolve the salt and sugar completely.

Toast the peppercorns and juniper berries in a skillet until they release their fragrance. Transfer the peppercorns and juniper berries to a counter, and use the skillet to crush them. Smash the garlic cloves.

Add the remaining cold water to the brine. If necessary, toss in some ice cubes to bring water temperature down to lukewarm or cool.

Slice the citrus and squeeze some of the juice into the water. Toss the remaining lemon, orange and grapefruit into the brine. Add the garlic, spices and herbs.

Place the chicken legs and wings into the brine. Let them soak up the brine for four to 12 hours.

When you are ready to bake the chicken, fish the legs and wings out of the brine using tongs and transfer to a colander. Allow any excess fluid to drip off.

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Melt the butter with the olive oil in a skillet over medium low heat. Set aside.

Mix the breadcrumbs, assorted herbs, salt and pepper in a pie dish.

Coat the chicken with the butter and oil and then dredge with the breadcrumbs and assorted herbs mixture.

Line the baking sheets with foil. Top them with the wire racks.

Arrange the legs and wings in a single layer on the wire racks. Bake until golden brown, about 45 minutes.

Our Everyday Video

Brought to you by LEAFtv
Brought to you by LEAFtv

Items you will need

  • Large soup pot
  • Cold water
  • Kosher salt
  • Brown sugar
  • Small skillet
  • Black peppercorns
  • Juniper berries
  • Garlic
  • Lemon
  • Orange
  • Grapefruit
  • Rosemary
  • Bay leaf
  • Chicken legs and wings
  • Tongs
  • Unsalted butter
  • Olive Oil
  • Bread crumbs
  • Assorted herbs
  • Pie dish
  • Baking sheets
  • Wire racks


  • Give preference to one or two herbs so their fragrance predominates.
  • For a touch of sweetness, add honey to the melted butter.
  • Feel free to substitute citrus juices with other acids of your choice: white or red wine, for example.
  • Omit the breadcrumbs if you are watching carbs.


  • Be sure to barely melt the butter. Don't burn it.
  • Keep an eye on the legs and wings while they are in the oven. If they begin to brown too quickly, cover them with foil.

About the Author

Born in New York City, Tremaine Jackson has been in theater, dance and music since age 12, when he appeared in Liz Swados' "Swing" at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. He is also an award winning children's recording artist. He writes fiction and poetry in his spare time.

Photo Credits

  • Eising/Photodisc/Getty Images