Roasted chicken skins are as addictive as they are versatile, and they are as easy to make as throwing them in the oven or air fryer for a few minutes.
What are chicken skins (cracklings)?
Roasted chicken skins go by many names: chicken cracklings, chicken skin chips, chicken rinds. Whatever you call them, they are just skins taken from a chicken, seasoned, and roasted or fried. The result is a delicious crispiness and taste that you can use in many settings, from a snack to a sub for bacon in a BLT.
Chicken skins become so thin and crackly because heat denatures their proteins, like pulling a coiled string taught. The fat in chicken skins also begins to melt during roasting. This is known as rendering and refers to the conversion of solid fat into liquid form. The rendered fat seeps out of the skin, leaving behind small pockets and pathways that contribute to the crispy, airy texture of the skin.
What to do with roasted chicken skins
Use as a zero-carb snack
Chicken cracklings make for a great snack on their own. You can season and flavor them how you like, and they are perfect for anyone on keto or another low-carb diet. Chicken skins, just like the vast majority of meat, contain zero carbs — assuming the producer hasn’t added sugar to the meat.
Add texture to dishes
Soups, salads, pasta, baked potatoes, and sandwiches all benefit from a bit of crunchy chicken shards. Use them as a garnish for soup, as a layer in a sandwich, or to add a bit of umami to pasta.
Many recipes that involve a braise or are soups and stews will recommend taking off the skin. This makes sense because chicken skin can become rubbery and unappetizing when prepared incorrectly. Instead of wasting that skin, save it and make chicken rinds!
As a party dipper
Chicken rinds are so good alongside tortilla chips, pita chips, and other kinds of dippable snacks. Make a fresh guacamole, salsa, or mayo-based sauce, and watch them disappear.
How to bake chicken skins
Baking chicken skins in the oven or air fryer is as simple as it gets. You want them dry and you want them hot.
A few quick tips before we get into specifics:
- The drier the skin, the crispier the crack. Use paper towels and/or leave them in the fridge for an hour or so uncovered to increase crispiness.
- Skins shrink when cooked. Get the largest pieces of skin possible and break them after they are cooked if need be.
- Be careful of overseasoning. Because the skins shrink, the seasonings you put in will concentrate.
- You can always season the rinds afterward. Don’t skip the salt at the beginning, but if you try this and notice your butter, herbs, and spices are burning, just add them afterward!
- Chicken rinds don’t make great leftovers. You can heat them up in the oven at a lower temperature the day after, but chicken rinds are best the day of.
How to make crispy chicken skins in the oven
It’s as easy as arranging the chicken skins and tossing them in the oven. Here’s how to do it:
Step 1: Prepare the chicken skins
Pull the chicken skins off of the thighs, breasts, or whatever you have. The bigger the pieces, the better. Once you have the chicken skins, pat them dry with a paper towel or other equivalent to pull as much moisture as you can out. You can also put them in the fridge uncovered for an hour or more for extra crispiness.
Step 2: Arrange and season
Use what you have, but the ideal setup is either a baking sheet with a wire rack or two flat baking sheets stacked on top of each other. The first option means the fat renders out into the pan below the skins, keeping the skins dry and easy for roasting vegetables afterward.
Stacking baking sheets ensures your skins are flat. For the best presentation, this is the move. You can put them directly into a single pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper, but when the chicken skins stew and cook in their own fat they won’t crisp as much.
Regardless of what you choose, season them well but less than you would a thigh or breast of the same size ( remember they are thin and shrink!). Use salt, pepper, paprika, and garlic powder. You can also just use salt and toss them in spices and herbs afterward.
Step 3: Bake at 400º for 15-20 minutes
Preheat your oven to 400°F. Place the seasoned chicken skins in the oven. Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until they turn golden brown and crispy.
If you are doing multiple rounds of skins, bump the temperature up to 425º and bake for 5-7 minutes on each side. There’s no perfect time because it depends on the size of the skins. Just wait until they shrink and become a rich caramel.
Step 4: Let them cool before enjoying
Remove the chicken skins from the oven and let them cool for 10-15 minutes. They should release themselves from the pan while cooling. Once they’ve crisped up, they’re ready.
How to make crispy chicken skins in the air fryer
You don’t have as much room in an air fryer, so you may have to make multiple batches, but the process is exactly the same.
Step 1: Prep the skins
Prepare the chicken skins the same way as for oven baking. Ensure they are dry and seasoned to your liking.
Step 2: Air fry
Preheat your air fryer to 400°F. Place the seasoned chicken skins in a single layer in the air fryer basket. Don’t overcrowd or they won’t crisp as well.
Step 3: Cook to crispiness
Cook the chicken skins for about 5-7 minutes on each side, flipping once halfway through. Cook until golden brown and crispy.
Step 4: Let cool slightly before serving
Once they’re perfectly crispy, remove the chicken skins from the air fryer, let them cool for 10-15 minutes, and then enjoy!
What to serve with chicken cracklings
Chicken cracklings are at home in any snack context! Here are a few ideas:
- Dips: Serve chicken cracklings with various dips such as guacamole, sour cream, and chive, or even a spicy sriracha mayo for an extra kick.
- Cheese platter: Include chicken cracklings on a cheese platter alongside your favorite cheeses, fruits, and crackers.
- Craft beer: These crispy snacks are the perfect companion for your favorite craft beers. The contrast of flavors and textures is a match made in culinary heaven.
How to store chicken skins
Chicken skins don’t keep well. Their texture suffers more than other foods after being in the fridge. But, if you’re okay with that just put them in an airtight bag or container and put them in the fridge. It will last a few days or so in the fridge. Just use an oven or air fryer to bring them back up instead of the microwave.
Where to buy chicken skins
When making your own, you can grab them from a butcher or specialty grocery store. Or just use the skins whenever you buy chicken for other recipes. Remember: the better your chicken, the better your chicken skins! If you’re curious and don’t want to deal with the hassle of finding good chicken skins, get our pasture-raised chicken skins.
These chicken skins arrive raw, frozen, unseasoned, and ready to prepare roasted or fried.
US Wellness Meats’ free-range chickens are raised on pasture with a salad bar of grasses, legumes, and insects. The limited amount of grain US Wellness Meats’ free-range chickens consume is non-GMO. They are also antibiotic and hormone-free.
Once you experience the flavor of US Wellness Meats’ outdoor birds, you will never want to eat commercial birds again.
Chicken skins FAQ
Can you buy chicken skin to eat?
Yes, you can buy chicken skin to eat, either from your local butcher or online sources.
What’s in chicken skin?
Chicken skin primarily consists of fat, collagen, and skin tissue. It’s rich in flavor and amazing when roasted or fried.
Are chicken skins good for you?
Chicken skins are high in fat and calories, but that doesn’t make them unhealthy if prepared simply and enjoyed in moderation. The dip is what gets you!
Is chicken skin high in cholesterol?
Chicken skin does contain cholesterol, but its impact on your overall cholesterol levels depends on your overall diet and lifestyle.
The bottom line on chicken skins
Don’t let good chicken go to waste. Chicken cracklings are the perfect crispy treat or extra ingredient to elevate your soups and sandwiches. They are as easy to make as seasoning them and roasting them in an oven or air fryer.
And pro tip, take all that rendered fat from roasting your chicken skins, toss some fresh vegetables in them, and put them right back in the oven. You’ll thank me later.
Nathan Phelps owns and writes for Crafted Copy, a boutique copywriting shop that finds the perfect words for interesting products. He is also an ethical foodie, outdoors-aficionado, and hails from Nashville, TN. He splits his time between helping sustainable businesses find new customers and managing his ever-increasing list of hobbies, which include playing guitar, baking bread, and creating board games.