Once merely fodder for soup stock, the chicken wing craze took America by storm in the late 70s. Now, the crispy, crunchy, salty bar food loved by so many is a ubiquitous part of restaurant culture in the US. Every restaurant seems to have the best wings in town, or a signature flavor that’s only available in house. In NYC, you can even buy wings that are dusted with 24K gold – a crowning achievement on a nation’s decades-long fascination.
You may be left wondering how to set your restaurant apart when there are so many amazing ways to prepare wings. You want something that’s unique to your spot, but that’s also good and can be enjoyed by the largest amount of people. First up – deciding how to cook the wings. Some chefs prefer to brine the wings for a day before preparing, giving them extra flavor and tenderness. They can then be roasted, grilled, fried or smoked.
Each preparation brings all the best of its method to the wing. Roasted wings are crispy but moist, with fat perfectly rendered. Grilled and smoked wings have a smoky, fiery taste that pairs really well with barbecue and teriyaki styled/based sauces, but they’re not quite as crispy. Fried wings, of course, are the classic – extremely crispy while still tender inside, creating the perfect surface for any sauce.
Wing sauce is where most places really set themselves apart. Having a rotation of really good signature sauces can help to make your restaurant a wing destination. When it comes to choosing sauces, think local and create something people haven’t seen on wings before! The farm to table craze is huge, so incorporate local produce and agriculture as much as you can while adding a fun, unique twist. Crispy green chile and garlic wings might be a huge seller in Santa Fe, while Vermont might love maple honey mustard glazed wings with extra sharp cheddar crumbles.
It’s important to choose preparations and sauces that go well together and use the sauce in a way that highlights the product without drowning it. With grilled and smoked wings, wait til they’re almost done before you start basting them with thin layers of sauce. Likewise with roasted wings – these thin layers with the continued application of heat allows the sauce to become gooey and caramelize, making for a more satisfying bite and limiting soggy chicken skin.
The way to bring people in the door is to intrigue them, and with wings on every menu, setting yourself apart is absolutely essential. By creating unique wing recipes that utilize local products and produce, you’ll make your restaurant the kind of wing destination that people come back to with friends.