One of the truly most beautiful things in life is a perfect buffalo wing. I've had enough to know what makes them bad, and fortunately enough to know what makes them good. They are one of those perfect foods -- comforting, exciting, yet simple and straight forward in flavor and fulfillment. Yet despite the ease in preparation, they are easy to fuck up. And I've tasted some pretty fucked up buffalo wings.
In my not-so humble opinion, there needs to be a distinction made between Buffalo Wings and other, still delicious and amazing wings. I've done great terriyaki wings, bbq wings, even naked wings. But they are not buffalo wings and should not be called such. Buffalo wings should be:
1) crispy on the outside with moist, tender meat on the inside that pulls away easily from the bone;
2) simply seasoned and moderately to very spicy by way of the buffalo sauce;
3) and finally, the sauce itself should be bright red, thick enough to hold a glace over the wings, and made from ONLY hot sauce and butter.
I will not bend on the above.
Some common pitfalls I've seen with wings and how to fix them are thus addressed in my Wing Manifesto:
"These are too soft." Buffalo wings should always be crispy. Never, ever soggy. Ever. If they are soggy they are false and an impostor of the true buffalo wing and should be hanged for its crimes. The soggy factor is a result of one of two things: either the wings have not been fried at all or improperly fried with wrong oil and wrong temperature. A buffalo wing must be fried. Never baked. I don't give a shit how many calories you're trying to save; it ain't gonna do you no good unless your goal is to make the wings taste so badly that you won't eat any and therefor save in calories. The buffalo wings must always be fried in vegetable or peanut oil, on a higher temperature, until golden brown and then tossed immediately in the sauce while still hot so the wing can absorb the sauce and it will stick better overall on the wing. Simply frying the wings properly will improve your wings by 90%.
"These have a peculiar seasoning to them." Indeed. I've had some wings that make me go "hmmm?" but in like the worst way possible. Bizarre flavorings, odd seasonings using various spices are beyond unnecessary with buffalo wings. Or any wings for that matter. The beauty in the wing lies in the sauce -- there you should go nuts with spices and such -- but leave the damn wing alone! At most you should season the wings with salt and pepper, and for added heat some cayenne pepper. That. Is. It. When you start fucking around with garlic salt this, paprika that, you alter the frying process too much and get a globby wing. Very unappetizing. Stick to good ol' fashioned kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper for the perfect wing. If you season and fry the wings properly, you'll be satisfied eating them just as is, aka "naked."
"These wings don't even taste hot!" Ok, this apparently is a matter of personal opinion and regional differences. I distinctly remember on our cross-country move having dinner at a restaurant in Ohio and ordering the "spicy" wings. The waitress asked us if we were sure we wanted them because they were really spice and we said of course.
They were the mildest fucking wings I'd ever had.
In terms of the heat, that will depend on your hot sauce. My personal favorite hot sauce to use is Frank's Red Hot. I think it has a perfectly balanced heat-acid ratio, good body to it, and mixes beautifully with the butter. You can use your favorite hot sauce. If I want to bump up the heat, I'll season the wings with cayenne pepper along with salt and and black pepper and it does the trick just great.
"This sauce tastes funny." Ok, buffalo sauce should have two things and two things only: melted butter and hot sauce. That is it! No added spices or flavorings or (gasp!) cornstarch. Just literally melted butter whisked with hot sauce. Get a good hot sauce and you're fine.
Now that you know the mistakes and how to fix them, here's the recipe for my perfect buffalo wings! Try them with my best bleu cheese dressing for dipping and some celery sticks for an authentic meal.
Perfect Buffalo Wings
2 lbs chicken wings (drummets and wings separated)*, at room temperature
freshly ground black pepper
pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
vegetable or peanut oil for frying
1 stick unsalted butter
about 1/4 cup hot sauce: recommend Frank's Red Hot
Season the chicken with salt and pepper (and cayenne if using) all over. Set aside.
Add enough oil to generously coat the bottom of your pan or skillet. I like using a heavy cast iron skillet for best results. You want a good inch of oil for optimal results. The oil needs to be hot but not smoking. Carefully add the chicken wings into the oil using tongs and fry on all sides until a nice, golden brown is achieved all over. Total cooking time will be around 10 minutes for the wings. Fry in batches (again, about 10 min per batch!).
While the wings fry, quickly melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Once completely melted (and not browned), take off the heat and whisk in the hot sauce. You want the consistency to be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon and not so thick that it runs right off. Add more hot sauce as needed until you get the right consistency (amount will depend on what sauce you use).
When the chicken is done, remove from oil and immediately transfer to a large bowl. Top with the sauce and toss the chicken to coat it in the sauce all over. Serve hot.
*You will find chicken wings one of two ways now: attached or detached. Meaning, the whole wing is left intact as if on a chicken roast or the wing split in two (with the wing tip discarded). Many butchers now sell the wings already split. Go for that if you can find it. If not, using a sharp butcher's knife will cut those babies in half for you just fine at home.