I love wings. I got sick of eating soggy delivery wings last year so started trying to perfect my own at home. This skill has come in handy during the pandemic to meet a craving should it come up.
I love trying to experiment to recreate the flavors of dishes I've loved and at the time the wings from The Full Shilling in the Financial District in NY were one of my favorites - or at least the most elusive wings. They weren't traditional buffalo but had a tangy, spicy sauce that to this day I still haven't been able to recreate.
Another favorite wing I had were from the now closed South Park Abbey in the South Park neighborhood of San Diego. When we lived out there we didn't have a TV in the house, so I would go out to the bar to watch football or college basketball games, and South Park Abbey was that bar for me for a year for many reasons, but mostly the wings.
Their wings were smoked and then fried. They felt like you were eating good BBQ and Buffalo Wings at the same time. Smoked wings can sometimes acquire a texture that I don't love, but they were able to balance everything out perfectly.
Once I moved out of the city, I bought a Traeger pellet smoker, so naturally I started to try to make these wings. Here's the basics on how to do it.
Step 1: Rub the Wings. I rub them win cayenne pepper. I like heat and think wings should be spicy. You can rub them with whatever you want. One thing I want to try next is mixing in about a tablespoon of Baking Powder in my rub. That works well to crisp up oven baked wings and I think it would have a good result here as well.
Step 2: Smoke the Wings. The secret to cooking good crispy wings the traditional way is to confit them. You fry them in oil around 225-250 for 30 minutes then take the out and let them sit for at least an hour - or better yet put them in the fridge overnight. They won't look appetizing at this point but this will give you really nice crispy skin without overcooking the wings. When I smoke the wings I try to do something similar. I smoke them at 225 for about 25 minutes or so then I pull them off and let them sit for an hour or so at room temperature.
Step 3: Make the Sauce. While your wings are resting you can make the sauce. Buffalo wing sauce is an art and really the fun part about making wings so I urge you to experiment with different flavors and hot sauces. I do like to start from a base of butter + franks and go from there. To make my go to sauce I melt 1.5 sticks of butter over medium heat. I add about 3 cloves of minced garlic with the butter and let it saute a little. Then I add a 12 oz of Franks (or at least try to keep this ratio to scale down) and about a tablespoon or so of honey. I immediately take the saucepan off the heat and mix it up. Overcooking the sauce usually thins it out.
From there I experiment. I like to add a little bit of Worcestershire and white vinegar and then get it to the spice level I want by adding Cayenne pepper. Don't try to add spice to your sauce through more hot sauce as that will upset your ratios. You can definitely use hotter hot sauce than franks. Sometimes I'll do a half dose of Franks and half of Sriracha or even combine a few sauces.
Step 4: Fry the wings. Heat oil in a deep fryer or dutch oven to 400 degrees. I usually use peanut oil but you could use vegetable oil. Fry wings until golden and crispy. This can take anywhere from 5-10 minutes depending on a multitude of factors. Remove from the oil and let them sit for about 5 minutes then toss in a bowl with your sauce and serve. Work in batches if you need to. Don't crowd the fryer.
If you don't have a smoker you can just use the confit method I outlined in Step 2 and make traditional wings. If you're worried about deep frying because it's dangerous, you should be, but really it's quite safe as long as you understand the basics of physics and displacement. Don't fill your oil to high and don't put too much into what you are frying, and use an oil thermometer. Deep frying at home is not the healthiest skill to acquire but it does let you cook some stuff that you might crave from time to time.
Also, if you want to "air fry" these wings, be sure to cook them on your George Forman grill first, you maniac.