Here at Food52, some of us are Patriots fans, some of us stand behind the Rams, and a handful of us have no horse in this race. But when it comes to the Super Bowl, there's one thing upon which we can all agree: Chicken wings are the true winner, every single year.
Which is why we have no shortage of chicken wing recipes on the site. We have baked wings. Broiled wings. Deep-fried wings. A drumette-only take. Wings with za'tar and fava bean dip. Wings glazed with orange-sesame.
This year, we held the first-ever Food52 Chicken Wing-Off: an all-day event hosted by our test kitchen, who, through true grit and dedication to crispy skin, juicy meat, and tangy dipping sauces, cooked five of our most popular chicken wing recipes for our entire staff.
"This is the greatest day of my life," said Director of Finance Victoria Maynard as the first platter of hot, saucy wings made their way from the test kitchen toward the tasting table. Zero people disagreed.
It goes without saying that all of the recipes were excellent—but what, exactly, made each one so great? Our taste testers were ready to take on this important question. Below are our complete field notes. If you host your own Chicken Wing-Off (or, you know, game day party) at home, please be sure to tag your posts #f52wingoff, and share your thoughts in the comments below!
Mark Bittman's wings are fuss-free—and, unsurprisingly (he was The Minimalist, after all!), this works very, very well for them. Our team loved the contrast of crispy, broiled skin against the tender, juicy meat. And the no-frills sauce? Let's just say if we had a swimming pool at our offices, we'd be filling it with this sauce. (And a company hot tub, you ask? We'd fill it with Bittman's optional blue cheese dressing. Celery sticks instead of towels. We'll show ourselves out, now...)
- "These are everything you know and love about wings. Crispy, yet juicy, with the perfect amount of spice and tang."
- "Wow, these are so pure and simple and very delicious. Subtly spicy without sauce. Nice crust. Very juicy."
- "Perfectly tender inside, crisp on the outside. The spices weren't over-powering, which made the dips extra-EXTRA."
- "Surprisingly love that these aren't fried? I feel like I could eat 800 of them."
- "Meat is juicy, skin crispy."
- "Yum! Juicy and delicious. Love the sauce."
- "Loved the flavor, juiciness, and just the right amount of saltiness."
- "This feels like something I'd want while watching a football game!"
These wings bring us to an important point in our Chicken Wing-Off, the question of the day: Are you a drumette person, or do you go for the flats? Paula Disbrowe, author of our book Any Night Grilling, which includes this recipe for Party Wings, writes, "I use drumettes because they’re meaty and easier to eat." Case in point: We wanted approximately one million of these, thanks to their tangy, gently spicy sauce, and extra-juicy interiors. Disbrowe's two-heat-zone cooking technique yields the perfect balance of moist (sorry!) meat and just barely charred, crispy skin.
- "Very juicy and saucy."
- "I enjoyed how even the meat was juicy."
- "Juicy! Nice spice!"
- "Bright flavors with a dish that's so often heavy."
- "Love the vinegar and garlic flavor!"
- "Tangy, liked the spice."
- "Good amount of sauce, making them flavorful and not dry."
- "Nice kick and acidity!"
Honey-mustard fans, gather 'round. Actually, everybody gather 'round! These glaze-forward wings make a really good case for licking your fingers between every single bite. The balance of sweetness and spice is spot on, and the scallion garnish brings a big touch of freshness. Thanks to a bake, a broil, and another post-glaze bake, you're going to really love the skin on these.
- "So often honey-mustard is all about the honey—with not enough mustard. I loved the balance on these, and the crisp crust."
- "Love a scallion or 100."
- "The soy cuts through nicely."
- "Delicious glaze and stickiness."
- "Really enjoy the crispy skin and the flavor."
- "Love the sweet, sticky sauce and the crust."
- "Love the scallions and the crispiness."
- "Sweeter, love the texture, sticky and juicy. Feel like they would fly off the tray at a get-together."
If you're looking for a truly crunchy wing, look no further than these. They won our contest for Your Best Chicken Wings way back when, and it's no wonder: They get double-fried for extra crispiness, and glazed with a sauce that's equal parts gingery, spicy, sweet, and savory.
- "Dreamy. Sticky, gingery bliss."
- "Sweet, great crispiness, and a little spicy! Thought these had the best crispy skin."
- "Yum, amazing crust. And still moist meat!"
- "Ginger is a great touch, and love how crunchy they are."
- "Excellent. Sweet, but not overwhelming. Good crispiness!"
- "Ginger! Sticky! Crispy! Sesame! <3"
- "Love the crispy skin and the flavor is very strong. LOVE LOVE."
- "I love love love how crispy they are. The ginger adds a great kick. Honestly, what I loved the most was that crispy, crunchy skin."
- "Super crispy and moist inside. Love the ginger."
When our Test Kitchen Director Josh Cohen learned about our Chicken Wing-Off, he immediately threw his own recipe into the mix. And we're eternally grateful he did, because we need these dry-brined wings in our life. They're delightfully smoky and salty, with wonderfully crisp skin, and super tender, well-flavored meat, courtesy of a high-then-low-temp baking method. The BBQ-sauce dip takes them from A++ to teaching the class.
- "<3 these! Smoky and juicy."
- "The smokiest and most reminiscent of traditional pub wings."
- "Moist! Salty!"
- "Love this rub. Want to make a big batch and put it on everything."
- "Salty, in a good way. BBQ [sauce] is nice and tangy, which is a plus."
- "Chicken super juicy, sauce is amazing."
- "Love the dry rub! Not greasy. V. good."
- "Sauce is A+. Lots of spices."
- "Into the dry rub. Felt like I could eat the most of these."
- "Tastes like summer! The wings don't even need the sauce, but its sweetness balances the saltiness."
- "OMG. These are ridiculously good. The sauce is [small drawing of flames] fire. Almost doesn't even taste like chicken, but pork."
For those of you holding your breath on the aforementioned question of the day (drumettes versus flats!), here are the cold, hard results of our highly scientific poll. (Disclaimer: Many of the surveys we received back were coated in wing sauce.)
- Drumettes came in the lead, with 50 percent of votes.
- Flats still had a solid backing, with 37.5 percent.
- 12.5 percent of voters wanted it all and wrote in "both."
We'll chicken–wing cheers to that!
What recipes would you include in your own Chicken Wing-Off? Let us know in the comments!
The Dynamite Chicken cookbook is here! Get ready for 60 brand-new ways to love your favorite bird. Inside this clever collection by Food52 and chef Tyler Kord, you'll find everything from lightning-quick weeknight dinners to the coziest of comfort foods.Order Now