Wichita has a thing for wings, and not just the kind attached to airplanes.
Chicken wings are the main attraction at a couple of local restaurants, a mainstay of just about every bar menu in town and a favorite of home cooks, judged by the amount of supermarket space given to them.
By now, just about everybody has heard the story of chicken wings – how poultry producers could hardly give them away before a bar in Buffalo, N.Y., started frying them and started a national craze. In this article we’ll leave deep frying to the pros and, since this section is devoted to summer, focus on grilling wings.
There are dozens of good off-the-shelf sauces for wings available in supermarkets and specialty stores. Making your own is easy, too – as the accompanying recipes demonstrate.
After deciding on a flavor, consider whether you want to separate them into two pieces, or what restaurants call “flats” and “drums.” While not absolutely necessary, I’d say it’s worth the effort.
Separated wings are easier to eat, cook faster and more evenly and have more surface area to be exposed to seasoning and the caramelization process of cooking. The exception might be if you are smoking wings over low, indirect heat rather than grilling over direct heat.
To separate a wing, place it on a cutting board and “straighten” it with your hands, exposing a little more of the joint between the two larger pieces – that is, the flat and drum. Use a sharp knife to cut between the pieces; with practice you’ll find just the spot to make the cut. Then do the same with the flat and wing tip, which does not have enough meat on it to warrant cooking. (However, the tips can be saved and used to make chicken stock.)
I like to use a heavy cleaver for this whole process because it’s faster, but if you do, make sure you keep your hand out of the way of the blade.
Cook wings over medium to medium high heat, with an upper rack or cooler spot on the grill where you can move any that seem to be cooking faster than the others. It’s best to keep a fairly close eye on them; the fat in their skin that makes them so tasty can also lead to flare-ups. Obviously, the more you’re cooking at one time, the greater the danger. If using a sauce or searing with much sugar, brush it on judiciously and toward the end of cooking, so the sugar doesn’t burn.
The accompanying recipes for sauces and marinades make enough for one pound or more of wings.
SWEET CHILE WINGS
1 cup soy sauce
1 bottle sweet chile sauce, such as Mae Ploy brand (check Asian aisle of supermarket)
Marinate wings at least 30 minutes in soy sauce. Grill until done, brushing on sweet chile sauce during last few minutes of cooking.
MOSCOW MULE WINGS
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 oz. vodka or gin
1 tablespoon fresh or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
Combine all ingredients. Marinate wings in mixture several hours before grilling, basting with leftover mixture during cooking.
GARLICKY PARMESAN WINGS
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Brush wings with enough olive oil to keep from sticking to grill during cooking. Combine other ingredients in large bowl. Grill wings. When done, toss wings in bowl until evenly covered in sauce.
BETTER THAN BUFFALO WINGS
1/2 Sriracha chile sauce
1/3 cup butter
Combine Sriracha and butter in saucepan. Grill wings, brushing on sauce near end of cooking time.
KOREAN BBQ WINGS
3/4 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons sesame oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 green onions, minced
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Combine all marinade ingredients; add wings and marinate several hours in the refrigerator. Grill wings, brushing with remaining marinade during cooking and regulating heat to keep from burning sauce.
MEXICAN FOOD TRUCK WINGS
1 pkg. achiote paste, available in Hispanic aisle of supermarket
1 cup orange juice
Juice of 1 lime, or 1/4 cup pineapple juice
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
Combine all ingredients in a blender. Marinate wings several hours or overnight in refrigerator. Grill, basting with mixture during cooking.
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
Heat ingredients together in a small saucepan until sugar is dissolved. Cool; add wings to marinade and refrigerate several hours or overnight. Grill wings, brushing with remanding marinade as they cook. Regulate heat to make sure the sugar in marinade is not scorching.