Baked Carolina chicken wings and legs


Jacob Collier

The Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers meet on Feb 7.

Super Bowl Sunday is fast approaching, with one major difference this year — COVID-19. Although restrictions have been lifted for businesses like restaurants and barber shops, masks and social distancing can make for a less-than-ideal gridiron gathering. 

While it may be possible to enjoy the game at a local eatery, many are instead hosting game day with close friends and family at home.

If you feel uneasy about public celebration and plan to invite some mates, chances are carrot sticks and crackers won’t cut it. Moreover, queso dip and pizza get old quickly. Why not kick off a flavor raver? Here’s a dish from my old stomping grounds, North Carolina.

Full disclosure: folks specifically where I’m from would detest any barbecue sauce with tomato. However, pure vinegar barbecue sauce is best with meats that pull apart, like pork shoulder or brisket. With a more solid piece of meat such as chicken wings and legs, tomato helps bind the flavor more effectively. 

Finally, nothing beats a barbecue dish like an open grill, but hey — it’s February. I prefer to use the oven this time of year because it’ll both make wings and legs juicier and it’ll heat up the house. If you’re stressed about the notion of a vinegar-based chicken, don’t be. Try it. 


Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 40-45 minutes

Set time: 5-10 minutes

Total: 70 minutes at most

Serves: 4


20 chicken wings/legs 

1 ½ cups cider vinegar

½ cup ketchup (sorry, central Carolina)

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon cayenne powder (I toss in a pinch more, though)

1 ½ teaspoons salt 

½ teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon hot sauce (optional, and choose what you want, but as this is vinegar-based, I prefer either Tabasco or Crystal to kick up the tang)


Make sure the chicken is thawed completely. Put the pieces in a bowl big enough to toss.

Mix all other ingredients in a separate bowl. Easy, cheesy.

Coat the chicken with your mixture and toss well, cover and let the meat marinate for at least a couple of hours in the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Get out a baking sheet and lay a greased oven-safe rack on top of it.

Lay the chicken pieces in a single layer on the rack and bake for 45 minutes (some ovens run hot, adjust your time accordingly).

Let the chicken set for 5 to 10 minutes and dig in.


Bring a bit of South Carolina to your mixture and add some zing, throw in 1 to 1 ½ teaspoons of mustard powder.

Not keen on an oven? All good — the elements are the same. Get a grill oiled and up to 400 F. Cook for 40-45 minutes, turning each piece every 5 minutes or so.

Pulling meat from a heat source and temping it immediately won’t be entirely accurate. To clarify, meat keeps cooking another 5-10 F or so when it sets, so keep a keen eye.

The FDA recommends cooking chicken to at least 165 F, but chicken cooked to this temperature can make the meat tough. It sounds contradictory, but cook that chicken until it reaches a temperature of 170 F; as it sets it’ll rise to 175-180 F. Perfect.

Ian Hilton can be reached at [email protected]