What’s the best Style for Chicken Wings?
If you are not a rookie griller you will have definitely tried to take off some chicken wings from your smoker. If you have some ash behind your shoulders there are good chances that it has happened more than once. If you made your hands dirty with charcoal for years, you probably have done so many and so many times that you can’t see them anymore even in photography. It is normal, it is one of the most popular barbeque dishes even from those who are not particularly close to this small and crazy corner of the world.
Well, let me ask you a question: whenever you have cooked chicken wings, how many types of rub you used? It is likely that the answer is “one”. Sweet, very flavourful, spicy, with a lot of paprika and some cajun references, perhaps with some unique digression on the degree of spiciness adopted: the rub for the chicken wings is basically one and comes back to the Buffalo Wings icon through which this dish is known all over the world. If you think about it, it’s a weird thing. On other famous barbecue dishes is not so: the ribs can be either Memphis Style or Kansas City Style; on the Pork you can adopt a North Carolina or South Carolina style; on the Brisket you can choose between the very texan SPG or the competitive rubs, rich in coffee, chopped mushrooms and spices, not counting all the interpretations we all enjoy to apply to make our recipes a little bit more our. Not on Chicken Wings. They do it just in a single way.
You need to know that Kosmos recently introduced a new finishing rubs line on this topic, called Wing Dust espressely dedicated to chicken wings, proposing alongside more traditional solutions a range of alternative styles, in some cases even brazen. We then decided to meet and arrange a 8 hands test in which each of us tasted 7 chicken wings each rubbed with one of the 7 Wing Dusts we managed to get in and vote in scores from 1 to 10 concerning our own opinion about the style that best exalts this preparation. There are only two missing types from the existing line on the market: the honey rub and the powerful Ghost pepper with Bhut Jolokia but we think that the spectrum of possibilities offered already covers so much more than enough the possible approaches to cooking chicken Wings. In theory they would be rubs to be added at the end of cooking but we want to exasperate the recipe by making them toast, to define styles in a clearer way.
Let’s take specifically a look at the protagonists of our test, in a strict tasting order:
- Garlic Parmesan – This is perhaps the one that intrigued us more and that we were curious to test. We feared something very glutamic and instead we remain pleasantly surprised: the smell of Grana Cheese (let’s fall the Parmigiano: D) is credible. They feel the garlic and a herbal perfume, not better defined. Also featured with bell pepper. Even in the mouth does not sound particularly artificial: the Grana clearly primates and seems to taste as a baked parmesan wafer with a delicate note of pepper.
- Buffalo – Here we go on a great classical. We feel clearly the paprika and the tabasco, two distinctive elements of the style. In addition to this, there is also a very distinctive odor that can be attributed to the dairy world which we will find out to be Bluecheese powder, reading among the ingredients. Good, it’s okay. In the mouth is very aromatic, slightly spicy but pleasant, less “cheesy” than the smell of Bluecheese would have made us think.
- Buffalo Hot – The Buffalo’s spicy version is another classic variant. The nose is literally explosive, almost sulphurous. After the test we all sneezed for 5 minutes. Cayenna is felt cleary good but it is difficult to perceive anything else. We were afraid of the tasting but in reality it is much less hot than we feared.
- Seven Peppers Face Lift – This is another rub that intrigued us not a few. The perfume is very umami, deep and spiced, although in truth we do not really feel the aromatic character of pepper. In the mouth in the opposite way the pepper jumps out overpowering. Even too much and in the end it covers anything else.
- Kickin Cajun – Along with the Buffalo is probably the most famous style. Clearly the nose is the exaltation of the paprika but as in the case of Buffalo you can feel that unmistakable dairy aroma, and also in this case we have confirmation from the list of ingredients that contains the Bluecheese powder. In the mouth is surprisingly the most spicy, definitely a step above the “frizzy”.
- Lemon Pepper – Another very interesting profile on paper. The nose feels a lot of lemon, but it does not reach the pepper. It feels a distinct herbaceous and aromatic note which is also very good for us. In the ingredients it is not mentioned, probably because contained in less than 5% of the total but from leaflets found in the rub and sharing the perceptions we deduced it could be Thyme. In the mouth we like less: it looks like a lemon pepper drop, a perception a bit “fake”.
- Salt & Vinegar – It is probably the most linear profile between the seven. The nose is spicy but simple and you still feel the herbaceous note of Lemon Pepper: in this case we are almost certain that it is Thyme. In the mouth, it jumps out the acetate note so much to cover almost everything else.
Let’s proceed to the cooking, which was made in our PitBox at 170°C for a few less than an hour, until the skin became crunchy and golden. No smoking, so as not to distort the tasting. Given the taste of raw rub, we decided to try the wings from what we assumed could be the most delicate one, to climb for intensity of taste and each gave an opinion about the ability of the rub to enhance the dish.
Garlic Parmesan (1) – We were rather disappointed. In cooking, an excessive peppery is emerging that tends to overwhelm the whole. The situation improves slightly in the areas of higher cauterization but in general we found very little of the aromatic we expected. Scores: 6+6+6+6,5= 24,5
Salt & Vinegar (7) – Surprisingly what was less crisp despite the high salt content. Everybody liked it very much, simple and clean, savory, fresh, aromatic with a peppery finish. Scores: 8,5+8,5+9+9= 35
Lemon Pepper (6) – Very, very lemony, probably too much. Despite this in the seven is where the flavor of the chicken emerges more clearly. This is the rub on which it is most obvious that we guessed the evaluation: the herbaceous note is right thyme. Overall, however, the meeting did not exalt us. Scores: 7+7+7+7,5= 28,5
Seven Peppers (4) – This is the only one we really did not like at all. Trivial in flavor, covered in any case by a peppered profile that defining it as covering is limitative: it literally paved our mouth. After this trial we had to take a few minutes to get to feel anything again. Scores: 5+5+5+5= 20
Buffalo (2) – Balanced, far more than we expected. Taste gently tends to sweet, with a spicy note but always underfoot, never invasive. On the Whole a very well-guessed combination. Scores: 8+8+8,5+8,5= 33
Buffalo Hot (3) – Even in this case, we liked the match, not much more spicy than the previous one. The change of profile unfortunately, however, greatly penalizes the wideness: the set is far more banal and flat. Scores: 7+7+7+6,5= 27,5
Kicking Cajun (5) – We left it for last because the raw rub tasting had made us expect a fiery ending. Instead, it shows a very balanced taste: a light sweet taste, broad, with a spaced articulation and a spicy, frizzy but not excessively hot taste. Scores: 8+8+8,5+9= 33,5
The result is quite unambiguous. At a guided tasting, which does not consider the suggestion of unusual and folkloric combinations, the winning profiles are the classic ones, Buffalo and Cajun, confirming the reasons for which they have rightly become the reference ones in the genre, to which adds the Salt & Vinegar which, however, has taken the highest score but we admit it could have been influenced by our palate, which in Italy typically requires a very simple match with chicken meat.
How do you expect your ideal chicken wings to be?