I recently exchanged emails with my cousin Matt, who is also a wing aficionado, and we got to talking about "crispy wings." He asked for a clarification about what I mean by that, and I came up with the following:
When I – and other wing reviewers – refer to "crispy wings" we are talking about the skin. Not unlike good barbecued chicken, a hot wing should be cooked enough that the fat which lies under the skin of the wing (either section – the wing or drumstick) has been rendered out, leaving a nice crispy skin. You This can be a delicate balance: you can go from "crispy skin" to "crispy chicken" to "burnt" relatively quickly. But when you do get a well-cooked wing, you should have meat that comes off the bone easily, is still moist, with chicken skin that is crispy and not flabby and/or soggy. At least that’s what I think.
The crispy skin seems to also provide a barrier of sorts against the sauce making the wing soggy. That’s why I don’t get wings that are breaded and then served with a sauce. Typically you have about 30 seconds before the sauce penetrates the breading and makes for a soggy, disappointing mess.
This then led to me thinking about how do I actually judge wings. I don’t have a formal "point scale" but if I did, I think this is what I would use:
Wing rating guide (100 Points = Perfect Wing)
Size of wing – Are they very small and puny or large and plump? Too large for sauce for good sauce to meat ratio
Texture of wing – Is it 100% cooked through so that it is tender and juicy? Or is it overcooked and dry or undercooked and tough?
Texture of skin/exterior – Is the skin crispy and the fat rendered out, or is it fatty and flabby? If breaded, is it crispy and flavorful or soggy and bland?
Quality of sauce – Overall flavor? Spiciness? Spiciness vs. flavor – is it too hot to taste anything else? Is it an original tasting sauce, or just another Frank’s Red Hot and margarine? (not that there’s really anything WRONG with that) Quantity of sauce: are they floating, a bit on the dry side (leaving you wanting more) or just right?
I don’t know if I’ll start using this officially on this blog, but I wanted to give everyone an idea of what I’m thinking about when I review wings.