Last Sunday I wanted to make some great wings for a marathon football day. I’ve been a big fan of wings for a long time but its one of those foods that can be done so poorly the result is horrifying. The ideal wing for me needs to be really crispy on the outside so that it stays crispy when drenched in nuclear sauce, but still have nice juicy (but not under-cooked) meat. I can also be a bit of a purist when it comes to the hot-sauce, although I have to say the Pok Pok wings are amazing & live up to the hype (but have no relationship to Buffalo wings).
So, I decided to try to sous vide the wings. Its one of those perfect situations for sous vide since you want to be able to cook the wing in as hot as possible oil so that it gets really crispy on the outside, but you don’t want to over cook the inside or leave it in the oil so long it gets greasy. Many traditional recipes accomplish this by double-frying but sous vide ends up being much easier and probably healthier.
I basically followed This recipe from The Zen Kitchen. It was pretty straight-forward but I did want to add a couple of notes. First of all, I asked the butcher to cut the wings in half but forgot to get the “tips” cut off too, and didn’t remember that until after I did the sous vide step. The tips were pretty easy to cut then, but ended up coming off with some of the meat since the already cooked wing was pretty tender.
Next time I’d also be more careful to try to get the wings in one layer in the vacuum bag, and after I took them out I’d probably open the vacuum bag and drain them before refrigerating. Because I left them in the bags and refrigerated them overnight I had a ton of chicken fat and gelatin to scrape off them before frying. The volume of the stuff was amazing- certainly part of what probably makes this approach somewhat more healthy, given that 4 hours at 170F is going to render a ton of the fat. Would probably make a great base for a soup but we didn’t have anything we wanted to do with it.
The frying went off without a hitch and then we tossed them in store-bought Franks Red Hot sauce. The resulting wings were so crispy they could be drenched in the sauce and still be crispy. As you bit in, they were still amazingly juicy too. Our friends had some nuclear hot sauce that you could apply to for the extra-hot ones, and the result was just about perfect!
Again, this is a perfect example of one of the misconceptions of sous vide. If you have decent equipment (doesn’t need to be thousands of dollars, but a nice home vacuum sealer & temp regulator), sous vide can actually be quite a bit easier than other approaches and can have amazing results. The only extra complexity is that you often need to plan ahead a bit (I had to sous vide the night before) but if you can manage that, its really not at all difficult.