Cacio e pepe ... chicken wings? Oh, yes. I fried chicken wings to crispy perfection, tossed them with freshly grated Parmesan cheese, then added an extra shake of black pepper. You might already be familiar with regular Parmesan wings, but this recipe kicks it up a notch (or two!) to provide a serious peppery kick that’ll have you reaching for more.
What is Cacio e Pepe?
If you're as food-obsessed as I am, then I'm sure you've seen the words "cacio e pepe" all over the place recently—but what exactly is it? If you don't speak Italian, it translates to "cheese and pepper." As you might expect, this means that anything with this label will feature these two ingredients prominently, with Parmesan cheese and black pepper being the standards.
- Try our recipe for Cacio e Pepe Spaghetti!
How to Clip Chicken Wings
When shopping for chicken wings, the easiest thing to do is to buy them already cut into sections. However, you can also buy whole chicken wings (which are usually cheaper) and cut them into parts yourself.
To clip the chicken wings, find the joint between the drumette and the flat, and cut it with a sharp knife. It's up to you if you want to separate the tip or not—feel free to leave it on for this recipe, or save it for chicken stock.
Best Tips for Frying Chicken Wings
- Use a heavy skillet. When it comes time to make chicken wings, I like to start by heating the oil in a skillet so that it will be ready when I am. As far as skillets go, cast iron is classic for frying chicken, but any heavy-bottomed skillet will do.
- Use a neutral oil. I like to use canola, vegetable, or peanut oil, as they all have a relatively neutral taste. You may think that you're going to need a lot, but the oil should only be half an inch deep. (We're not deep frying.) You want the oil to be right around 350 ̊F to fry—too hot, and you might burn the chicken (or start a fire); too cold, and you'll end up with beige, greasy chicken (and no one wants that).
- Pat your chicken dry. One important step in frying chicken wings is to pat them dry to remove any excess moisture, which is the enemy of frying. The whole point of frying is to remove moisture on the outside of the food so that it gets nice and crispy, so you might as well give it a good head start by getting the chicken as dry as you can before it hits the hot oil. From there, it's time to season and fry until nice and golden all over.
- Use freshly grated Parmesan. A key to this recipe's success is that you grate the Parmesan cheese yourself (I like to use a microplane) and not use the pre-shredded stuff you buy in a plastic pint container. The pre-shredded stuff is a little tough and doesn't really melt. (Trust me; I tried.)
After all the chicken has been fried, toss it with some melted butter, the freshly grated Parmesan cheese, and more black pepper. The butter helps everything stick to the wings, and the cheese should melt a bit from the heat of the wings and the butter.
Transfer the wings to a platter with your dipping sauce of choice, and you're ready to eat. (I go back and forth between ranch and blue cheese with my wings, but in this instance, I think I’d go with ranch, as blue cheese might overpower the Parmesan in this recipe.) These wings are best enjoyed fresh, while they're still nice and crispy.
More Great Chicken Wings Recipes!
Cacio e Pepe Chicken Wings
- Canola, vegetable, or peanut oil, for frying
- 3 pounds chicken wing sections, drumettes and flats
- 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Chopped fresh parsley, for serving (optional)
- Ranch or blue cheese dressing, for serving
- Frying thermometer
Heat the oil:
Fill a cast iron or other heavy-bottomed skillet with 1/2 inch of oil, place over medium heat, and heat the oil to 350°F.
Fry the chicken wings:
Meanwhile, pat the chicken dry with paper towels, season with the salt, garlic powder, and 1 teaspoon of the ground black pepper.
Working in batches so as not to overcrowd the skillet, gently add the wings and fry, flipping about halfway through, until golden all over, about 15 minutes. Transfer the wings to a wire rack set inside a baking sheet; fry the remaining wings.
Season the wings:
Place the butter in a large, microwave-safe bowl; microwave in 30-second increments until the butter has melted. Add the fried chicken wings to the bowl along with 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese and the remaining 2 teaspoons black pepper; toss until the wings are evenly coated.
Garnish and serve:
Transfer the wings to a platter, top with the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (or more if you want it extra cheesy), sprinkle with some chopped parsley (if using), and serve with the dipping sauce of your choice.