# Using baking powder to make baked food crispy

The recipe I use for chicken wings achieves a fried texture by dusting the wings with baking powder and then baking at $$220^\circ\pu C$$ ($$425^\circ \pu F$$). The chicken is also dusted with salt and other seasonings, but I assume they're not chemically relevant. What chemical process is going on, here?

I'd assumed it was some kind of reaction between the baking powder and the skin of the chicken, though I had no idea what. Then, one time, there was a stray boneless, skinless chicken thigh in with the wings I bought, and that also became crispy on the outside when cooked this way. I've also heard of people using the same technique on oven fries.

• Check the baking powder to see if it has cornstarch. I suspect that is the secret. – MaxW Apr 14 '16 at 4:24
• @MaxW It does, as does a different brand that I've used in the past. But your question suggests that not all baking powder contains cornstarch, and the recipe doesn't specify baking powder that does contain it. Also, cornstarch is widely and easily available -- why specify baking powder if it's really the cornstarch, which constitutes at most a third of the powder by weight, that's needed? (And what's the chemical process involved in the cornstarch making things crispy?) – David Richerby Apr 14 '16 at 4:37

The Charlie Brown's Thanksgiving episode of Binging with Babish claims that the baking powder "lower[s] the temperature at which the Maillard reaction occurs." Wikipedia doesn't quite back that up but says that the Maillard reaction "is accelerated in an alkaline environment (e.g., lye applied to darken pretzels [...]), as the amino groups ($$\ce{RNH3+ -> RNH2}$$) are deprotonated, hence have an increased nucleophilicity", which amounts to much the same thing.