Chicken wings are the top ordered item on the menu at sports bars. Nothing says finger food like a menu item that you’re forced to eat with your fingers. Nobody pulls out a fork an knife when served a basket of delicious buffalo wings. To boot, they’re often messy. Throwing down on a basket of chicken wings with your favorite brew and rooting on your team is the American way. We’ll take a look at how you can make sports bar quality chicken wings at home. Get ready to save big bucks and enjoy endless servings of chicken wings at home with friends and family.
“A good sports bar needs three things: beer on tap, a television on the wall and a menu that offers Buffalo wings.” Time Magazine, September 3, 2009
History of the Almighty Chicken Wing
That statement is definitely a truism still in play to this day to be called a good sports bar. In fact, even more so with the advent of various chains whose specialty, sometimes exclusively, is cooking up chicken wings. Naturally, there is some question as to who invented the dish, so we will start by clarifying some of the history for you.
As labelled by Gary Larson, Thag Simmons, an early Pleistocene era hominid, possibly a neanderthal, managed to catch a bird while hunting. He ate it, wings and all. Later, people began cooking the critters and the epoch long path to wings as we know them has begun.
Forward a few thousand decades
Southern cooking in the US has included fried chicken for a few hundred years. As they should, it is wonderful. Obviously, they were including the wings in their preparation, and eating them. As we migrated across the plains we found buffalos, and begun harvesting their wings. No, wait, we made that up. But the version of wings we are familiar with is credited with being first made in Buffalo, New York, hence the name.
Teresa Bellissimo, a restaurateur and partner in the Anchor Bar gets the kudos for this tasty morsel. Of course, even her family disputes the exact origin, either a midnight snack for her son and friends, or a misdelivered case of wings that needed an outlet. She is still commonly agreed upon as the originator, despite some pesky Chicagoans who would like to lay claim to the title.
Chicken Wings & Sportsbars
In a shock to no one, bars found out that if they sold wings their sales went way up, both the beer to wash them down and the food itself. And they were cheap. At the beginning of the sixties Americans bought whole chickens and cut them up at home. As the decade ended, pre-cut chicken was becoming more popular in the stores, and especially for restaurants. Nobody wanted the lowly wing, they were almost considered scrap, and priced accordingly.
The confluence of football rising in popularity and satellite TV, and bigger screens, allowing games from any city to be enjoyed – if you could afford the dishes then – created a bar scene for watching the games. Throw in cheap wings & beer, and therein lies the fulfillment of the what a good sports bar needs to qualify.
Here’s a great look at how restaurants and sports bars churn out great delicious chicken wings hour after hour.
Evolution of Commercial Chicken Wings; Fast Food
And then the cheating started. The big players, McDonalds, KFC, and Domino’s, for instance, became players in the chicken wing explosion. Some brain trust decided they could just shape adult chicken nuggets, get rid of those pesky bones, and call it a boneless wing. Cheating we say, and we will have none of it. That’s not exactly true, they are pretty tasty, but we do prefer the traditional actual wing.
Deep fried chicken goodness was spreading across the land. The traditional preparation called for dropping the naked wings into a deep fryer and then tossing the crispy gems in the sauce. The sauce was equal parts Louisiana style hot sauce and melted butter. Which brought the heat to which famous sauce was used originally; Tabasco or Frank’s. Whatever, use your favorite. Same as your side choices. Bleu cheese was the original side sauce, with celery sticks, then ranch became the one, and carrot sticks for some reason. Pick what you like and go for it.
Making Sportsbar Chicken Wings at Home – Buffalo Wild Wings (BBW), Eat Your Heart Out
We like to put a light breading on our wings because it holds the sauce and flavors so much better than the slick exterior of the plain fried wings, and we’ll show you grandma’s way to coat them. Other than that, we are going traditional. The hot sauce we used, a generic, had good flavor but a mild coloration.
At one point in my sports bar, a cook started doing a garlic parmesan wing on our must have Wing Wednesday. It never got in print, but was often the most popular style for our guests. Also, this is a simple sauce and prep, we decided to include it here for you.
Lastly, deep frying at home can be problematic, certainly messy, and more trouble than it is worth sometimes. Enter the air fryer. That, a quick brine, a light coating and we will show you how to get a great wing hot and fresh right at home. You’re on the hook for your beer and the big screen.
Sports Bar Chicken Wings Recipes
- 12 Whole wings or 24 pre-cut wing pieces
- 2 Tablespoons Kosher salt
- 1 Tablespoon Sugar
- 2 Tablespoons Olive oil, approx.
- ¼ Cup AP flour
- 2 Tablespoons Baking powder
- 1 Teaspoon Table salt
- 1 Teaspoon Ground pepper
- 2 Teaspoons Granulated garlic divided
- 8 Tablespoons Butter, divided
- 4 Tablespoons Hot sauce
- 2 Tablespoons Grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 Teaspoons Dried basil
- Prepare a brine of 2 quarts cold water with 2 Tablespoons kosher salt and 1 Tablespoon sugar
- Cut the fresh wings, if needed, into 3 pieces, discarding the tips
- Drop the wings in the brine and let soak 2-4 hours
- Pull the wings from the brine and to a rack to dry while you prep
- In a large paper bag add ¼ cup flour, 2 Tablespoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon each of salt, pepper and granulated garlic. Mix well.
- Put wings in a bowl and drizzle lightly with olive oil, toss or stir until coated
- Drop half the wing pieces into the paper bag, hold top closed and shake to coat
- Place the wings on a rack and flour the next half
- Spread the wings on air fryer racks even spaced without touching
- Put in 390 degree air fryer for 10 minutes
- Rotate the racks and turn the chicken wings
- Cook for another 10 minutes at 390. If desired increase temp to 400 for the last 3 minutes to crisp up slightly
- In a microwave safe bowl add 4 Tablespoons butter and 4 Tablespoons hot sauce
- Microwave 30-60 seconds then whisk smooth
- Melt 4 Tablespoons butter in a glass measuring cup with 1 teaspoon granulated garlic, set aside
- Pull wings from air fryer
- Toss half the wings in the Buffalo sauce
- Put the other half of the wings in a bowl
- Drizzle wings with melted butter and toss
- Add 2 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese and 2 teaspoons dried basil and toss
- Serve and enjoy with your favorite sides and sauces