Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Buffalo Wings for Purists, aka "Ain't No Thang But a Chicken Wang"

It's March Madness time again! Honestly, though, I CANNOT get into college basketball, no matter how hard I try. It's always going to be football for me, especially here in the heart of the SEC. BUT, for those of you who live for college basketball, you know the tournament calls for some serious snacks. Like, say, chicken wings?

When I was a kid, my parents would often drive a good 10+ miles to this little hole-in-the-wall place in Jacksonville, AL known as Jefferson's just for chicken wings. Jefferson's is this great little college bar and restaurant known for it's incredible hot wings, oysters, and having 45042650974658890836 decorated one-dollar bills tacked up on its walls. Now, Jefferson's has multiple locations across the Southeast, but I always hold a special place in my heart for the original Jacksonville location, even though we FINALLY got one here in the Birmingham area


Jefferson's never did have a huge list of crazy wing flavors like some places. You had "mild", "medium", "hot" and "turbo"; "turbo" being the ass-scorchingly hot flavor that only frat guys would order on dares. To this day, nothing hits the spot like a pitcher of cheap draft beer and a big tray of Jefferson's "hot" wings. Sure, it's not the Mecca of wings like, oh, Anchor Bar, but it's still REALLY hard to beat. 

I'm a true Buffalo wing purist. To me, the perfect wing should always be fried and crisp, not steamed or oven-baked or grilled. DEFINITELY no breading nor coating. The sauce should be creamy and spicy, with a good vinegary kick - made from only two ingredients: the one and only Frank's Original RedHot sauce and margarine, not butter. The only area where I break from tradition is with the celery and blue cheese - I really don't like blue cheese dressing, so I prefer Ranch instead. 

Thankfully, GOOD Buffalo wings are really easy to make at home. Sure, you can buy the bags of frozen, pre-seasoned wings, but making them yourself allows you to choose just how spicy you like them, and, if you're like me and score a good sale price on the wings themselves, you'll end up spending FAR less than what it would cost to go out to a restaurant or sports bar. 

Buffalo Wings

Peanut oil for frying
2 lbs meaty chicken wings
6-8 Tbsp margarine
Celery stalks, cut into 4" lengths
Blue cheese or Ranch dressing

Pour the peanut oil into a heavy-bottomed skillet or Dutch oven to a depth of about 2". Heat over medium to medium-high heat until the temperature reaches 350°. Use a candy/deep-fry thermometer for this. Don't worry if the temperature goes SLIGHTLY over 350° - once you add the wings, the temperature WILL drop, sometimes by 20-25 degrees. 

You can also use an electric deep-fryer if you have one. 

Using a sharp knife or kitchen shears, separate the wing at the joints and cut off the wingtips. I used my cleaver - you won't be cutting through any bone, just joint cartilage. You should now have both "drums" and "flats". If your wings are already separated, skip this step (obviously). 

Pat the wings as dry as possible with paper towels - having dry wings is essential to getting that awesome crispiness. Save those wingtips for making stock

I like the separate the drums from the flats and fry them separately - the drums are a little meatier and tend to need an extra minute or so to cook completely compared to the flats. 

Working in small batches to keep from crowding the oil and plummeting the temperature (which would result in soggy, greasy wings), fry the wings in the hot oil for about 10 minutes, or until they are cooked through and golden brown. Stir the oil occasionally, just to make sure the wings aren't sticking to one another. 

Remove the wings from the oil and drain on a wire rack set above a baking sheet. You can keep them warm in a 200° oven while frying the remaining wings. 

Once all of the wings have been cooked, melt the margarine in a small pan over medium heat. Add the hot sauce and whisk to combine. Some brands of margarine are sold in sticks, just like butter, which makes measuring a LOT easier. 

The "standard" ratio of margarine to hot sauce is typically 1:1. If you like your wings a little hotter, only use 6 Tbsp of margarine instead of 8. For milder wings, use more margarine, or less hot sauce. You really DO need to use Frank's Original RedHot sauce for this (not their wing sauce) - if you can't find it, I've heard that you can use Crystal in a pinch. I've never tried this, though, since Frank's is INCREDIBLY easy to find ANYWHERE around here. 

Why margarine? Butter won't emulsify as well, and tends to separate in the sauce, or, worse, congeal in the sauce as it cools. Margarine is already emulsified, and won't burn like butter will. It gives the wings that great glossy finish and helps adhere the sauce to the wing as well. 

To coat the wings, transfer them to a large bowl, ladle the sauce on top, and toss until completely coated. Serve with the celery and blue cheese/Ranch. 


  1. I'm not much of a wing fan, but my family is. I'll have to try this recipe--looks good. What do you suggest if you like the wing sauce a little hotter than just Frank's?

    1. To make the sauce hotter, simply use less margarine and more Frank's. I don't use any other hot sauce since I prefer my wings traditional, but I'm sure you could add a hotter sauce (such as Sriracha) to the Frank's.

  2. I tried your recipe tonight. It is pretty darn close to Jeffersons. My husband and I went to JSU and we have been trying to figure out recipe for years. Thank you! How many tries did it take for you to figure it out?

    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed them, Crystal!! I think this was maybe my 3rd or 4th attempt at Jefferson's wings! We now have locations all over Alabama, but NOTHING will beat the original JSU location. Kind of like how no burger will ever compare to a Cecil's burger with a peanut butter shake! :)

  3. Thank you so much. I'm also a native of Jacksonville and I constantly crave Jefferson's wings!