Let’s crank up the heat and learn how to make hot wings!
This post really isn’t about how to make hot wings, but rather how to make wings hot. If you came searching for a hot wing recipe, head over to our wing recipe index where we have several choices for hot wings.
While the chicken wing may have been thrown into the spicy-hot food category, this shouldn’t be the case. A tasty wing recipe should be developed with flavor in mind first, not heat. Unless your goal is to bring tears to your poker buddies’ eyes, heat should be addressed only after you are satisfied with the overall flavor profile. Then, as a final adjustment to the flavor, add the heat ingredients. As we analyze how to make hot wings, keep one thing in mind…not everyone likes a hot wing. Although, I can handle a heat level that is through the roof, I wouldn’t force my guests to frolic in my world of insanity. If heat is your secondary goal, then let’s move on.
If you’ve been following along our wing flavor journey, we started with a marinade. We then applied a rub and finished them off with a sauce. Each step in the process gives us an additional opportunity to add some heat into the equation. As we build layers of flavor into our overall wing profile, we can also add layers of heat into each of these layers. We can really screw with people’s taste buds here!
The marinade can include some heat, as can the rub. We can then finish the heat profile off in the final sauce. Once you understand how the flavor profiles work, apply that same concept to the heat profile. Now, that’s a well defined chicken wing.
Our next topic of discussion would be, how do we build heat into our wings? Sure, hot peppers might be your first bet. And it’s a good bet, but it’s not your only choice. There are other ingredients that not only add flavor, but some level of heat as well.
We can learn quite a bit if we analyze various spicy foods from around the world. Let’s take a look at some of these other ingredients that can add heat to your chicken wings. While hot peppers may play a key role in some of these ingredients, that’s not always the case.
How to Make Hot Wings with Various Ingredients
- One of the leaders in spicy hot food comes from China’s Szechuan province. This cuisine gains some heat from ginger and garlic. Ginger and garlic is also quite common in most other Asian cuisines. While you may not think of garlic or ginger as a hot spice, they do have some burning characteristics. Of course, Asian dishes can really kick up the heat level with the use of hot chili oil and the famed Sichuan or Thai hot pepper.
- The Japanese use spicy condiments such as shichimi and wasabi. Wasabi is made from Japanese horseradish and is available as a powder, a paste or a sauce.
- Indian cuisine creates their heat with dried chili powder and spices like garam masala and curry powder. Curry powders vary in heat from mild to hot. Curry powder is also common in Jamaican and Thai food.
- Creole and Cajun food use a variety of spice blends consisting of paprika, chile peppers and cayenne pepper.
- Even in Spanish dishes, paprika is commonly added to increase the level of heat. Actually, the Spaniards take paprika a step further by smoking it. It’s a great addition to any wing recipe where a bit of smoke flavor is desired.
- In addition to the previously mentioned curry powder, Jamaican food also uses allspice. The flavor of allspice is slightly sweet with a bit of warmth. In addition, Jamaicans are also known for their use of the super-hot scotch bonnet pepper.
- Mexican and Latin recipes rely on the use of hot peppers such as habanero and jalapeño. Chile powder is also an important ingredient. Chile powder contains a variety of ground peppers as well as garlic, cumin and oregano and can have varying levels of heat depending upon the blend.
- Harissa is a popular hot sauce used in North Africa and the Middle East. It is usually made from roasted hot peppers along with various herbs and spices.
As we discuss how to make hot wings, the above ingredients serve to add some heat, but their primary purpose is to contribute flavor. Accurate flavor. Flavoring that represents the cuisine that we want our wings to mimic. We’ll consider this as our first layer of heat.
At this point, you may be satisfied with the heat level. After all, some of these ingredients carry a bit of a punch and combined with other flavors, your wing recipe may be complete. On the other hand, you may want more heat. Let’s dig deeper into our bag of tricks and discuss hot sauces.
How to Make Hot Wings with Hot Sauce
Hot sauce is an ingredient that is common in many spicy cuisines. Also called chili sauce or pepper sauce, this spicy condiment is made from chili peppers and a wide variety of herbs and spices. The flavor profile of these sauces is as varied as the cultures from which they originate.
Understanding the various flavors that each hot sauce brings to the table gives you a better understanding of the cuisine itself. The flavor of a Thai hot sauce varies quite a bit from that of say, America’s Tabasco sauce.
Choosing the appropriate sauce should match the recipe’s overall goal.
In the United States, hot sauces are typically made from chili pepper, vinegar and salt. The varieties of peppers that are often used are cayenne, chipotle, habanero and jalapeño. Our beloved Buffalo hot wings utilize hot sauce as their heat source.
While hot sauce can contribute a great deal to the heat level of hot wings, let’s take a look at another key contributor…the hot pepper.
How to Make Hot Wings with Hot Peppers
Hot peppers are the last line of defense against a mild chicken wing. If the goal is an extremely hot wing, a hot pepper may be necessary to achieve that goal.
Hot peppers are available with a varying degree of heat levels. From mild to super hot, there’s a pepper out there that’s guaranteed to satisfy any level of heat preference. Jalapeño, habanero and Serrano peppers are the most common, but plenty of others exist.
Hot peppers can be diced and added to the marinades, rubs or the final sauce. Creativity will eventually have you adding one type of pepper to the marinade while adding others to the rub and the final sauce.
Hot peppers not only vary in the level of heat, they also vary in flavor. Typically, they don’t carry a lot of flavor. With the vibrant flavors the we normally associate with chicken wings, it’s unlikely that the addition of hot peppers will alter the taste of your wings, yet it’s best to conduct a few taste tests just to be sure.
My go-to hot pepper is ground cayenne, or ground red pepper. It pretty much lacks any flavor and blends well with marinades and sauces. Because of its fine powder consistency, it also works well as a rub ingredient. Depending upon the heat level I’m trying to achieve, cayenne can take me from somewhat mild to fairly hot, stopping just short of insane. Due to its lack of flavor, it won’t alter the flavor of the wing…it just adds heat. A great starting point for beginners.
The world of hot peppers is vast and covering every aspect of it is beyond the overall scope of this article. They’re fun to experiment with and a bit of trial and error may be involved until you discover your own personal recipes. For more information about the hot chile pepper, I’ll send you to my favorite chilehead, Scott Roberts. In addition to a wealth of information on hot peppers and hot sauces, he has compiled a pretty nifty tool that lists hot peppers and hot sauces by their heat levels. If you’re serious about learning how to make hot wings, you might want to bookmark it. Check it out here.
Caution: The National Center for Home Food Preservation warns, “Wear plastic or rubber gloves and do not touch your face while handling or cutting hot peppers. If you do not wear gloves, wash hands thoroughly with soap and water before touching your face or eyes.” I’d like to add, don’t touch any other “tender” body parts either.
As you can see, how to make hot wings almost comes naturally with the vast amount of spicy ingredients available. Just keep in mind, it’s flavor first, then adjust the heat if needed.