These little gems are dedicated to my dad who is the king of wings. He taught me how to make them when I was first learning how to cook for real. I was at the point in my life where I didn’t want to make things like Tater Tot Casserole and Baked Ziti using prepackaged ingredients anymore, but really learn good technique and basic/mother sauces.
Like a good dad, he spent hours in the kitchen with me when I was in my early twenties breaking down the fundamentals of what he learned from his dad — an amazing cook too. We’re a Chinese-Italian family, and food is the name of the game. It was time I started to learn the family business, so to speak. Wings are a great way to learn how to fry properly and bring together a sauce that likes to separate. An excellent choice on his part, cause, man, a perfect Buffalo Wing is way motivating to nail the sauce and dig into the mechanics of frying.
Buffalo wings are one of those recipes that are more about the technique, since the ingredients tend to be quite basic. Or rather, they don’t need to be gourmet to be wicked good. The right hot sauce, properly minced garlic, and quality butter are all that’s required for an excellent batch of wings.
Here are the pointers I learned from him all those (many) years ago:
1. Let your chicken air dry for a good 20 minutes before frying, if possible
2. Ensure the oil temperature is on point: not too hot, not too cool
3. The key to the sauce is balance: silky fat, tangy vinegar, the right amount of heat, well-minced garlic
Coming from a Paleo perspective, I’d add a few more things for you to consider. First is that we want to be careful about the oils we choose to fry in. Personally for wings I prefer to use avocado oil or lard from pasture-raised pigs, so the fat is clean and free of toxins. The crispness from lard is on point for wings. Now, both of these fats can come with a steep price tag, so try to find this brand of avocado oil at Costco or see about rendering your own lard to save money.
Secondly when it comes to the sauce, use ghee if you can. If you’re not familiar, ghee is butter that has been heated so the dairy solids can be removed. The end result is pure butter fat or “clarified butter” and it’s amazing for Buffalo Sauce. Grass-fed ghee is the way to go when possible because it contains nutrients that industrialized butter does not. So choose this brand or this brand and you know you’ll be in good shape.
Since we’re doing a light dredge in arrowroot flour for this recipe, you’ll want to make sure that all of the excess flour is knocked off before adding to the oil. I used to think that if I left caked flour on my fried stuff it would give me more crunchy breading to enjoy. What I’ve learned, particularly with grain-free flours, is that the excess either gets gummy and weird or it falls to the bottom of the pan and burns, which compromises the oil. So resist the temptation to have a thick coat of flour on your wings and give it a few taps on the counter or board before dropping in the oil.
The last tip I want to give you is to read your hot sauce labels. Unless you’re making it from scratch (and good on ya, if you are), be on the look out for ingredients used in processing foods and avoid them. For example, if a hot sauce contains an emulsifier like xanthan gum, pass and find another with clean ingredients like peppers, vinegar, salt, and water. They’re out there.
- 1 pound chicken wings
- 1 cup arrowroot flour
- 1 tablespoon of sea salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon granulated garlic
- Lots of your preferred frying oil (avocado oil or lard from pasture-raised pigs is ideal)
- ½ cup butter or ghee
- ½ cup preferred hot sauce (*read your labels!)
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- Optional: finely sliced scallions for garnish
- Lay the chicken wings out on a wire rackor a paper-towel-lined tray to air dry for 15-20 minutes
- Meanwhile, prepare the hot wing sauce by finely mincing two cloves of garlic.
- Melt the ghee in a small saucepan at a low-medium temperature, then add the garlic and stir.
- After a minute or so, whisk in the hot sauce to emulsify the two. You'll actually need a whisk for this since a spoon will not bring the ghee and hot sauce together into one cohesive unit like we need.
- Turn the burner to low and let simmer uncovered, whisking often to avoid separation.
- Now it's time to prepare the wings. I find that the best vessel for frying the wings is a pot that is tall and narrow. It helps with the oil temperature and doesn't use as much oil, which can get expensive. Select the pot that best fits this description and bring your preferred fat up to a medium-high temperature.
- While the oil (or lard, which is awesome) comes to temperature, mix together the dredge for the chicken by combining the arrowroot, salt, pepper, and granulated garlic into a large sealable plastic bag.
- Working in batches, add about half of the chicken wings to the arrowroot mixture, seal the bag, and shake the chicken up. *You might want to whisk that sauce again!
- Remove the chicken from the bag, shake off the excess flour, and set back on thewire rackor on a dry surface. Repeat with remaining wings.
- At this point the oil should be hot enough to fry our seasoned wings. Let's test by lowering one wing into the oil. If it immediately sizzles and is bubbling like crazy, we're in business. Lower 3 to 5 wings into the pan and fry for 4 to 6 minutes on each side, or until the crust is a golden brown. *You may want to whisk that sauce again!
- When the wings are cooked, set them aside on a fresh paper-towel-lined surface or a clean wire rack.
- Work in batches and repeat this until the wings have all been cooked.
- Now it's time to bring the wings together! Place all of the wings in a large bowl -- stainless is preferred.
- Pour the sauce over the wings and toss together either by using tongs or by tossing the wings in the bowl itself (like use the bowl to shake and flip them in the sauce... know what I'm talking about?)
- Plate the wings and garnish with finely sliced scallions, if desired.
There are a couple tools that are super helpful for making this recipe come together: a wire cooling rack, a small whisk, grass-fed ghee for a silky sauce, and good quality oil to fry in like avocado oil or lard from pasture-raised pigs. Here are some recommendations to help you in your pursuit of wing perfection!