Chicken wings were commonly discarded up until 20 years ago. In fact, up until Buffalo wings became popular, wings were a lot smaller. Chickens are now genetically engineered to have bigger wings. The wings of the old chickens were scrawny, puny little things and were rarely consumed. Except when they were used to make chicken stock, they were primarily eaten by impoverished people, most notably in the South.
Buffalo wings are a standard item with a standard method of preparation. I have taken that method and made some modifications, the biggest being the addition of a dry-rub to impart even more flavor. Please continue reading below.
1. First, you will need to pick up some chicken wings, either cut-up "wingettes" or "drumettes," which are also commonly referred to as "party wings," or whole chicken wings. If you opt for the party or cut-up wings, you won't have to do any trimming. If you go with the whole wings, you will need to cut each wing into three pieces: the tip, the wing and the drum. The tip should be set aside to make soup stock with; it won't be usable for hot wings. Wash the chicken, and dry with a paper towel.
2. The dry rub for the chicken wings is equal parts black pepper, paprika, salt and cayenne pepper. For three pounds of trimmed wings, I used 1 T of each, resulting in roughly 4 T of dry rub. This was the perfect amount for 3 pounds of chicken. If you don't like spicy wings, you will want to adjust your cayenne pepper ratio. The amount of cayenne will also depend on what hot sauce you go with. We used a mild hot sauce (on the level of Frank's), but with the cayenne the wings were kicked up several pegs.
3. Coat the chicken wings evenly with the dry-rub of spices. Let the rub sit on the wings for at least half an hour. I wouldn't let it sit for longer than 10 hours. Half an hour was good enough for mine. The longer they sit, the more flavor will penetrate the meat. They will also get wetter as moisture is pulled out of the chicken.
4. Heat up the oven to 375 degrees F and arrange the chicken wings on a sprayed pan. The pan should have a thick bottom. If your cookie sheets are thin and flimsy like most are, put two together. A thin-bottomed pan will burn the bottom of the wings. I used the bottom half of my broiling pan, which has a very thick bottom. Leave a little space in between each chicken wing to give it space to cook. Put the wings in the middleish part of the oven and set a timer for 10 minutes.
5. After 10 minutes, take the wings out of the oven and flip them over. They should be beginning to brown, but they are not done yet. Make sure to keep the oven door closed while flipping. After flipping all the wings, put them back in for 15 more minutes.
6. On the stove, begin melting 4 T of butter over low heat. Stir it with a whisk to keep the butter from breaking. Once the butter is melted, stir in your hot sauce, whichever type you decided to go with. The most common two are Frank's and Louisiana. I used a homemade sriracha courtesy of my brother. It turned out to be perfect because he put more vinegar in his sriracha than the store-bought brand of sriracha. His sriracha also tasted better. Whatever hot sauce you decide on, make sure it is thick.
7. Take your wings from the oven and put them into a bowl. Pour the prepared hot sauce over them and stir to coat all the wings evenly. You could be done here. But you're not. First of all, your chicken is not cooked all the way through. Second of all, you need to get more sauce on these wings somehow.
8. Take the wings from the bowl of sauce and put them back onto the pan as before. Let them drip a little as you move them back to the pan. Turn the oven down to 350 degrees, then put the pan of chicken wings back into the oven and set the timer for 5 minutes.
9. After 5 minutes, check the chicken wings to see how they are doing. If the sauce looks like it is beginning to dry out but not burn, you are on the right path. Rotate the pan and set the timer for 5 more minutes. After that 5 minutes is up, cut into a drumette and see if it is done. If not, continue cooking at 5 minute intervals until done.
10. Once you are certain the wings are cooked all the way through, add them to the sauce. Flip the wings or stir them to get them all evenly coated with sauce. Serve with celery or another vegetable stick. The sticks of vegetables help to cool your mouth if the wings are too spicy. Blue cheese dressing is the preferred dipping sauce, but some people also like ranch. I hope you enjoy these wings, and that you find that they truly are the best wings.
To check if they are done, it will be difficult to get an accurate reading with a thermometer, so just cut into the meat near the bone. The flesh should be gray, but there may be a little pink blood yet. If the blood looks watery you are pretty much there.
The untrimmed wings may seem like a better deal, but you end up paying for the wing tips, which won't work for wingies. However, if you are making chicken stock, they will come in handy. In the end, it works out to be the same number of actual wingies either way you do it.
Originally hot wings were deep fried. Deep frying crisps up the skin and makes it crunchy. It also cooks the chicken wing a lot quicker than an oven. But it can also dry out the meat if there isn't a bit of skin covering the meat. It is very convenient for restaurants to cook their wings that way. But if you don't have a deep-fryer, don't worry about it. They make your house stinky anyway, unless you have an awesome hood vent, which most homes do not. For this reason, I decided to make this article all about the baking or roasting method for chicken wings.