Super Bowl Sunday is a traditional day for making great finger foods to enjoy while watching the big game. One of these classic dishes is Buffalo Chicken Wings. One thing we at SmartShopIt continually talk about is that during events and/or seasons, certain items will go on sale. (Like stock during Thanksgiving and Easter.) And we should take advantage of these sales. When I was told (thanks Aunt Lily!) that I could find the original sauce used in making Buffalo Wings at a great price ($1.50 per bottle), I had to give a try at recreating this famous spicy treat.
The generally accepted version of how this dish was invented was at Frank and Theresa Bellissimo’s Anchor Bar Restaurant in Buffalo, NY. The restaurant is a classic Italian place. One night, back in 1964, Frank asked Theresa to fix a snack to serve at the restaurant’s bar for a bunch of his friends; something a little different from their normal Italian fare. By mistake the night before, they had received a 30 pound box of chicken wings. Being a good chef, Theresa figured out a good way to use the extra wings. She first deep fried the wings. Then she took a bottle of cayenne pepper sauce named “Franks” and mixed the sauce with melted margarine. Then she coated the deep fried wings in the tangy and spicy concoction and served it with blue cheese dressing and celery sticks. The rest is history.
I wanted to recreate the original recipe. When I received what was deemed to be an original recipe from another friend (thanks Howard), it said to purchase “Durkee Frank’s Original Red Hot Cayenne Pepper Sauce”. However I initially found that this product was a bit harder to find then I originally thought it would be. More research uncovered that this had to do with what has happened to the name and brand of the Frank’s sauce product. The original sauce was produced by the Frank Tea & Spice Company, where a Dr. Jacob Frank perfected the Louisiana Sunlong Pepper which was the base for his special sauce. The Frank Tea & Spice company was then purchased by Durkee Foods. Durkee Foods tried to name it “Durkee’s Louisiana Hot Sauce” but there was already a brand with that name so they had to stop using that name. Now it is part of the French Food Company (who also produces mustard and Worcestershire Sauce) and it is currently sold under the brand of “Frank’s Red Hot“.
To add to the confusion, Frank’s has also come out with a few other variations including “Frank’s Red Hot Buffalo Wing” sauce. They advertise this as a ‘ready to go’ sauce and it looks like they have added ingredients to eliminate having to mix margarine with the sauce.
Even in our SmartShopIt.com product database, we have it listed as “Durkee Famous Sauce” selling for $4.85 for a 10 oz. bottle. I will have our web site Product Admins update the information as it is now sold as “Frank’s Red Hot Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce”. In fact, it can be found on sale right now at Safeway/Genaurdi’s for $2.00 (2/$4.00) for a 12 oz. bottle and this sale lasts until Feb. 3rd. In addition, a $.50 coupon can be found on FranksRedHot.com web site making the final price only $1.50 per bottle. (Note that Safeway/Genaurdi’s requires a free frequent shopper card membership to receive this sale price.) A truly great deal right now!
Furthermore, due to having the same name (Frank) many people thought that Frank Bellissimo invented the original sauce and searched for a sauce distributed by the Anchor Bar. And so to fill that demand, the Anchor Bar ultimately came out with their own line of bottled sauce called the “Anchor Bar Original Wing Sauce” and can be purchased on line for $4.99 per 12 oz. bottle. They also have a few varieties, mostly focused on the “heat” value of the sauce (mild to suicide).
If you visit the Anchor Bar restaurant today to enjoy some ‘traditional’ Buffalo Wings in person, you will get a dish made with the Anchor Bar brand sauce, so I am sure that product is very good. But I am trying to replicate the original recipe as made by Theresa Bellissimo that fateful night in 1964. Therefore, I am using “Frank’s Red Hot Original Cayenne Sauce” mixed with margarine. And since the sauce is such a good price right now, I am also trying “Franks Red Hot Buffalo Wing Sauce” straight up.
I am trying two preparation methods for the wings. The first is to deep fry the wings in oil. The second is a healthier method, where I steam the wings for 10 minutes to render out some of the fat and then bake the wings in the oven.
I then asked a bunch of my friends and family to try the various wings to see which they liked the best. Here is what I found. First of all, the deep fried wings were preferred much more then the baked wings, regardless of the kind of sauce on them. So much for the healthier approach! The texture of the fried wing really made a difference and everyone liked the bit of crunch you get with the fried version.
But I can also attest that I saw a good amount of fat left in the steamer and on the paper towels after the wings had a chance to dry in the baked method. So the rendering does really reduce the amount of fat in the wings making for a healthier option. Maybe you can splurge once or twice a year and deep fry the wings. The rest of the time (don’t you eat wings weekly?) you can prepare them using the healthier option.
As for the sauce, I found that the “Original” sauce fared better by those who ate them just after they were prepared. The sauce has a bit of a smoother and sweeter flavor. However, a big shift happened after the wings sat for a couple of hours. The “Original” sauce lost some of its zing, possibly due to the margarine breaking down. The “Buffalo Wing” sauce certainly held up better over time.
One thing to also note is that the sodium levels between the two products are tricky to compare. The “Buffalo Wing” sauce has 460 mg. of sodium per serving, but the serving size is 1 tbsp. The “Original” sauce has 200 mg. per serving with a serving size of only 1 tsp. So if you use the “Original” sauce straight up you actually have more sodium per the same volume at 600 mg. of sodium per tbsp. (3 tsp.) size serving.
But remember the “Original” sauce is diluted with margarine. The margarine I used has 105 mg. of sodium per tbsp. Therefore, if you used the ‘medium’ strength dilution of 50% sauce and 50% margarine (see below), you end up with about 350 mg. of sodium per tbsp serving which is less then using the straight up “Buffalo Wing” sauce. I know, very confusing. Just realize that one serving is about 15% of the recommended amount of daily sodium.
(The www.SmartShopIt.com site now has nutritional information on many products so you can see these facts while deciding what products to buy. In addition, the new Smart Compare feature allows you to easily compare these nutritional facts (as well as price) between products.)
The nice thing with the “Original” sauce is that you can vary the degree of “heat” by altering the ratio of sauce and margarine. Yes, I guess you could do the same with the “Buffalo Wing” sauce but it is designed to be used with no dilution.
In summary, the best results were wings that were deep fried and mixed with the “Original” sauce using the “Hot” ration (3 to 1) and consumed immediately. However, if the wings will be sitting for more than a few hours before serving, then the “Buffalo Wing” sauce (straight up) on deep fried wings got the thumbs up. The key is to find the one you like best. Of the four samples I had, each one had at least one taste tester that liked it the best.
Or you can experiment with teriyaki, garlic and butter, honey BBQ, citrus glaze or any other style that suits your fancy. Even though none of my teams are playing, I know I am looking forward to enjoying some great Buffalo Wings while watching the big game. Hey, the commercials are supposed to be good again this year!
Original Buffalo Chicken Wings Recipe
12 Whole Chicken Wings
Frank’s Original Red Hot Cayenne Pepper Sauce (amount to taste – see below)
Margarine (amount to taste – see below) (If you are concerned, purchase non-trans fat margarine.)
It will take 1/2 cup of total sauce to coat the wings. (See ratios below for the amounts of sauce and margarine to use.)
Using kitchen shears or knife, prepare wings by separating them at the joints. Discard or save the tips for stock.
Deep Fry Method
Place wings on a rack set in a half sheet tray lined with paper towels and place in the refrigerator to drain all liquid for 24 hours.
Preheat deep fryer by bringing heat of oil up to 375 degrees. (I also like to sprinkle a little salt, pepper and smoked paprika on the wings at this point but this is optional and not true to the original recipe.) Fry wings in batches being careful not to over-crowd your fryer which will bring the temperature of the oil down too low. Fry approximately 10 minutes or until the meat is cooked through and the skin is golden brown. A good way to tell it is done is that the bubbling of the oil will slow down significantly. Also note that the drummettes section will take a minute or two longer to cook.
Take prepared wings and place in a steamer basket sitting in a 6 quart sauce pan with an inch of boiling water on the bottom. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and steam for 10 minutes. Remove the wings and carefully pat dry. Lay the wings on a cooling rack set in a half sheet tray lined with paper towels and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Replace the paper towels with parchment paper. Sprinkle wings with salt and pepper. Roast on the middle rack for 15 minutes. Turn the wings and roast another 15 minutes or until the meat is cooked through and the skin is golden brown.
Put the Frank’s Original sauce and margarine into a small sauce pan to melt the margarine and heat the sauce through. Purists say not to substitute the margarine for oil or butter as you will not get the right taste or resistance to burning.
For differing levels of heat, try the following proportions of sauce to margarine:
- Suicide: Undiluted Frank’s sauce doesn’t taste as good, but is pretty hot. (Super Suicide can be made by adding a few drops of Tabasco to undiluted sauce.)
- Hot: Three to one, sauce to margarine is about as hot as I like it.
- Medium: Equal parts is the nominal starting point (called “medium” in Buffalo). A bit of tingle, but not very spicy.
- Mild: For the really timid (like kids) just a splash of sauce in the margarine gives a little flavor but no noticeable heat.
The idea is to cook up the sauce and margarine to a bit thicker consistency. It should simmer for 5 minutes or so and then be kept hot.
Place the cooked wings and sauce in a large metal, non-reactive bowl and toss the wings in the sauce. Place the wings back on your sheet tray and place in the oven for a few minutes at 350 to “bake on” the sauce. Serve with blue cheese or ranch dressing and celery sticks.
SmartShopIt Price Guide – Frank’s Red Hot Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce (12 oz.) or Frank’s Red Hot Buffalo Wing Sauce(12 oz.)
Smart Buy Price Range – $1.50 – $2.25 each
Average Price – $4.50 each
High Price – Greater than $5.00 each
SmartShopIt Price Guide – Chicken Wings
Smart Buy Price Range – $1.75 – $2.25 per pound
Average Price – $3.99 per pound
High Price – Greater than $4.75 per pound
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