If you want the Carolina Panthers to win Super Bowl 50 on Sunday, it may be your duty as a Carolinian to eat chicken wings.
During the playoffs and in four of the last five Super Bowl games, the team whose home city had the higher sales of wings was the winner, according to Tom Super, vice president of communications for the National Chicken Council. (Yes, his name is really Tom Super.)
If that pattern holds, that means the Panthers will win the game: In Charlotte, $1,400 in chicken wings are sold for each $1 million in grocery sales, according to the market research firm Freshlook. In Denver, the figure is a paltry $480.
With such an important Super Bowl Sunday coming up, we searched out five ways to cook great wings: Baked, grilled, smoked and fried, steamed and roasted, and a Korean classic, double-fried.
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One thing we learned is that you don’t have to fry to make good wings. A good wing is a crispy wing, and there are several ways to do that. You can roast them instead of frying, or steam them to render out the fat before you fry or bake them.
Julia C. Davison, executive food editor of America’s Test Kitchen, where they tend to be obsessive about cooking details, says her testing for the Oven Baked Buffalo Wings for the new Cook’s Illustrated book “Paleo Perfected” showed that roasting, not frying, made the best version.
“The trick with wings is, there’s so much fat and skin, and fat under the skin. You have to render that out or they don’t crisp.”
“A bad wing is soggy and fatty,” she says. It also may be an undercooked wing. She thinks that because the wing is close to the breast and is partly white meat, people are afraid of overcooking them.
“You need to cook them for quite a while,” she says. “Undercooked wings are a bummer. Because they have so much fat and half of a wing is really dark meat, you have to cook them well.”
When Davison serves wings for a party, she cooks wings in a slow cooker to render out the fat, then broils them to crisp them up just before serving.
Another trick she likes: Toss wings with 1 teaspoon baking powder per pound and them roast them in a 475-degree oven. That draws the moisture to the skin.
“You don’t taste it, but it helps the skin get super crisp.”
▪ Moisture is the enemy of crispness. Blot raw wings well, even if you’re going to marinate them before you cook them. The marinade will cling better and won’t get diluted.
▪ Whole wings are cheaper, if you’re willing to cut them yourself. Cut off the pointed tips and freeze for your next batch of chicken stock, then cut between the joint to separate the drummette from the flat.
▪ Wings cut into drummettes and flats are easier to eat, and they cook faster.
▪ If you’re frying wings, use a deep, stable pot (a flat-bottom wok works well) and at least 2 inches of canola or peanut oil. Don’t overcrowd the pan when adding wings or the heat will drop. Adjust heat so the wings fry steadily but not too fast, so they cook through before getting too brown.
Baked: Buffalo Wings
From “Paleo Perfected,” by the editors of America’s Test Kitchen (ATK, $26.95). The original version calls for ghee, which is clarified butter. We used melted butter and it worked fine.
4 pounds chicken wings, halved at joint and wing tips removed
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 cup hot sauce, preferably Frank’s RedHot Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce
1/4 cup melted ghee (clarified butter) or melted butter
1 tablespoon honey
Preheat oven to 475 degrees with a rack in the middle position. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and place a wire rack on top. Pat wings dry with paper towels, then toss with salt.
Arrange wings in a single layer on the prepared rack. Bake 45 minutes to 1 hour, flipping the wings and rotating the pan halfway through.
Whisk the hot sauce, melted ghee or butter and honey in a large bowl. Set aside.
Remove wings from oven. Place rack 6 inches from the broiler element and heat broiler. Broil wings 6 to 8 minutes, turning halfway through, until golden brown on both sides. Add to sauce and toss to coat. Serve hot.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings.
Steamed/Roasted: Apricot Habanero Wings
From “The Laws of Cooking (And How to Break Them),” by Justin Warner (Flatiron Books, $35). In this version, you steam the wings to render the fat and cook them through, then chill them before roasting to firm the skin.
1 tablespoon salt
4 to 5 pounds chicken wings, halved at joint and wing tips discarded
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 habanero pepper, seeded and minced
1 1/3 cups or 1 (12-ounce) jar apricot preserves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice.
Place a steamer basket or colander in a deep pot. Add 1 tablespoon salt and enough water to come just below the steamer. Bring to a boil. Add the wings to the basket, cover and steam for 15 minutes, tossing halfway through cooking.
Remove the wings and rinse under cold water to “shock” them and stop the cooking. Drain well and place on a sheet pan lined with paper towels. Refrigerate at least 1 hour.
Make the sauce by combining the butter and habanero in a medium saucepan over low heat. Cook until the butter is melted and foamy. Add the preserves and simmer until melted, about 4 minutes. Add the salt and lemon juice and remove from heat. Let stand, or refrigerate if making in advance.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place the chilled wings on a rack, discard the paper towels from the pan and place the rack over the pan. Roast wings for 20 minutes, then rotate the pan and flip the wings. Roast 20 minutes longer, until skin is crisp and bubbly.
Place the hot wings in a large bowl and toss with a pinch of kosher salt. Add sauce, tossing, until glazed but not gloppy.
Yield: 8 to 10 servings.
Grilled: Bourbon Apple Candied Wings
From “The Outdoor Table,” by April McKinney (Thomas Nelson, $26.99).
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped sweet onion
1 jalapeno pepper, stemmed, seeded and minced
1 cup apple jelly
1/2 cup bourbon
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
4 pounds wings, halved at joint, wing tips discarded
2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
1 1/2 teaspoons each salt and pepper
Melt butter in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add onions and cook until softened, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in the jalapeno, jelly, bourbon and Worcestershire sauce. Increase heat to medium-high and cook until sauce is reduced by half, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat and place in a large bowl.
Prepare a gas or charcoal grill with a medium-high fire. Place the wings in a bowl with the oil, salt and pepper and toss until coated. Place on the hot grill and cover. Cook 10 to 12 minutes per side, turning halfway through, until cooked through.
Add the grilled wings to the sauce, turning until well-coated. Return to the grill and cook 1 to 2 minutes per side, just until caramelized. Serve hot.
Yield: 6 servings.
Double-Fried: Korean Chicken Wings
If you’re going to fry, make it worthwhile: This method gives a seriously crunchy crust. The sauce, flavored with the chile paste called gochujang, has a deep, smoky heat. Adapted from Saveur and Serious Eats.
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 1/2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled
1/4 cup gochujang (see note)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
3 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
3 to 4 pounds chicken wings, halved at joint, wing tips discarded
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2/3 cup water
Canola or peanut oil
Drop garlic and ginger into feed tube of a food process with the motor running. Stop and add gochujang, soy sauce, rice vinegar, brown sugar and sesame oil. Process until pureed. Scrape sauce into a large bowl and set aside.
Whisk together the flour, cornstarch and water in a large mixing bowl. Pat the wings dry with paper towels, then drop in the batter and toss to coat.
Heat 2 inches of oil in a deep pot. (If you have a deep-fat thermometer, aim for 360 degrees.) Work with about a third of the wings at a time and cook 6 to 8 minutes, turning often, until light brown. Remove and drain on paper towels and repeat with remaining wings.
After all the wings are cooked, reheat oil and return the wings in batches, frying 6 to 8 minutes, until deep brown. Drain again, add to the sauce and toss well.
Note: Gochujang is a Korean chile paste that’s found in Asian stores and in many well-stocked supermarkets.
Yield: 4 servings.
Smoked/Fried: 12 Bones Smoky Thai Wings
Adapted from “12 Bones Smokehouse: A Mountain BBQ Cookbook,” by Bryan and Angela King, Shane Heavner and Mackensy Lunsford (Voyageur Press, $24.99).
5 pounds wings, halved at joint and tip discarded
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
Oil for frying
Favorite barbecue or wing sauce (we used Sweet Thai chile sauce)
Cover hickory chips with water and soak about 30 minutes. Prepare a grill or smoker for indirect heat (coals or jets lit on one side).
Pat wings dry with paper towels and toss with brown sugar and salt. Place on grill or smoker on the cooler side, add a handful of soaked chips and cover. Smoke for 30 minutes, turning halfway through. Cool on a rack and refrigerate or finish immediately.
Heat oil in a heavy pot until it reaches 375 degrees on a deep-fry thermometer. Add wings and fry until crispy. Drain on paper towels and toss with a sauce before serving.
Yield: 8 to 10 servings.