Drink Powder Is The Unexpected Ingredient For Flavorful Wings

Chicken wings are a longstanding treasure of all-American culinary and cultural events. They are common at backyard barbecues and are the ultimate saucy snack to enjoy on game day. Wing sauces and marinades draw inspiration from worldwide cuisines, but flavoring chicken with the drink powder Tang is another all-American invention.

NASA popularized this sweet and sour orange powder as the official outer space orange juice to send with pioneer astronauts Buzz Aldrin and John Glenn on their respective missions. Unfortunately, neither astronaut gave the drink a glowing review. While you may opt for freshly squeezed orange juice to drink, you'll find a renewed purpose for Tang as an unlikely yet highly functional ingredient for a dry rub.

Not only does Tang add a burst of sweet citrus flavor to chicken's savory profile, but the citric acid in Tang acts as a tenderizer. Tang's two main ingredients are sugar and citric acid, which are the same main components found naturally in oranges and other citrus fruits. Citrus juice is a common meat and fish marinade with the same multifaceted functionality you get from Tang.

However, as a dry rub for chicken wings, Tang will tenderize chicken meat while upholding the crispy texture of the skin. The sugar in Tang caramelizes the flavor of the meat and fortifies the crunchy brown skin. You can also dissolve Tang into a liquid marinade for cuts of fish, beef, and pork where crispy skin isn't applicable.

How to use Tang on your chicken wings

Tang is a secret weapon to use with other spices and seasonings in a dry rub. When using Tang on your wings, the first order of business is to decide what other spices you'd like to pair it with. Sweet orange flavors pair wonderfully with spicy and savory seasonings like red chili flakes, cayenne, dried chilies, and crushed black pepper, along with aromatics like ginger, onion, and garlic.

You could add Tang to dried chipotle, garlic, onion, and cumin powder for sweet, spicy, and smoky Southwestern-style chicken wings. You could use Tang instead of orange juice and brown sugar to blend with cinnamon, paprika, cayenne, allspice, black pepper, onion, garlic, and red chili flakes for an efficient twist on Jerk chicken.

Once you've mixed your dry rub ingredients together in a bowl, place raw, patted-dry chicken wings in the mixture and fully coat the skin. Once you've achieved an even coat, place the chicken in the fridge to chill for at least four hours so the Tang can work its tenderizing magic. This is also a key step toward achieving shatteringly crispy chicken skin. You can also mix rice flour and baking powder into your dry rub to optimize crisping and browning.