The Wing & I Transcript

Good Drinks Bar

    Most folks donít think of bars, pubs or saloons as bastions of culinary creativity. But if you think about it, they are bastions of culinary comfort and many an endearing and enduring dish has been introduced to a grateful world across a wide expanse of mahogany, tin, zinc, leather, teak or oak. The nacho platter, loaded potato skins, stuffed mushrooms, and fried cheese sticks have all become classic bar grub.
    But none of these can touch the phenomenon that is Buffalo chicken wings, a.k.a. ďhot wingsĒ. The story of their creation is legend. It is said that in October of 1964, one Teressa Bellissimo was getting ready to close her place, the Anchor Bar, on Main Street in Buffalo, New York, when her son and several of his college buddies dropped by. Feeding the boys on the fly became necessary. And necessity, as we all know, is the mother of invention. And what Mrs. Bellissimo was said to have invented that night is nothing short of ...

[ďGood EatsĒ theme plays]

On An Airplane

GUESTS: Chickens

    Wings are amazing structures. The ones on this airplane create lift by taking advantage of Bernoulliís Principle, which states that fluids, including air, undergo a reduction of pressure as the velocity increases. Now since the air moves over the top of the wings faster than under them, we can fly. [not quite, see footnote] These wings must be strong enough to handle the load of the plane, G-forces, turbulence, and what-not. But they luckily do not have to provide propulsion. Bird wings ...

CHICKENS: [off camera in the back of the plane, they begin to make clucking noises]
AB: [to the chickens] Would you guys be quiet back there?

    Sorry. Birdsí wings, of course, do and that requires an extremely sophisticated system of joints, muscles, and ligaments. Which can be tasty, but also troublesome for the cook. Of course, chickens arenít exactly known for their skills as aviators. In fact, their wings are just a little more useful than our appendix.

CHs: [begin clucking again]
AB: [to the chickens] Arrgh! Noisy!

McCollum Airport
Kennesaw, GA Ė 10:15am

GUEST: Michael Lacy, Ph.D., Professor of Poultry Science, University of Georgia

[Alton's Aircraft Registration Number is N915WC, a 2003 Cessna T206H]

AB: You know, Dr. Lacy, itís not that I mind flying you and your chickens around. But I do have to ask, why is it that chickens canít fly themselves around?
MICHAEL LACY: Alton, letís look at an original chicken here.
AB: What do you mean original? You mean like, the grandfather of all chickens?
ML: This is a Red Junglefowl [Gallus gallus] from Southeast Asia which is the ancestor of all chickens.
AB: Really?
ML: It is. And this bird grew up on the ground, a ground-dwelling bird. It just flew short distances to get away from predators and maybe to chase bugs, that type of thing, fly up into trees. And that was sort of the way the original dinosaurs that evolved into birds used their wings.
AB: [motions if he can hold the bird]
ML: Certainly.
AB: [takes the bird] So, itís not that these guys devolved from eagles, itís just that they got off the evolutionary boat before that, I guess.
ML: Exactly. They use their wings like the dinosaurs that became birds used their wings.
AB: So he looks kind of like a bad-attitude kind of bird.
ML: He is a tough bird. You are right.
AB: Yeah? Tough bird? Well, we didnít end up with just this. Weíve got lots of different chickens. Was this all the work of man basically?
ML: Yes, incredible genetic diversity in chickens that allowed a lot of different breeds of chickens to be bred, including ...
AB: I recognize that guy right there. That looks like a plain old "chicken" chicken.
ML: That is a broiler chicken. The All-American meat type of chicken that is ...
AB: Well, isnít it nice to be named after the way youíre going to be cooked?
ML: Thatís exactly right.
AB: Broiler chicken. Thatís got to hurt.
ML: Sort of a bowling ball with wings.
AB: So if I just went like this [motions throwing the Red Junglefowl up in the air], this guy would fly?
ML: He would fly.
AB: Fifty feet? A hundred feet?
ML: Probably a hundred feet.
AB: Mexico?
ML: Yeah, a hundred feet.
AB: [holds up one of the Red Junglefowl's wings] ĎCause thatís, thatís impressive. And I could just ... [pretends to want to take a bite of the bird's wing]
ML: No, not this one.
AB: All right, all right. Weíll put this guy back. He looks kind of vicious. Iíll drop him in, you close the door. Ready? Go.

Wienerz Butcher Shop & Deli
Marietta, GA Ė 12:00pm

GUEST: Butcher

    Since there is such a high demand for breast meat in this country, wings are still relatively cheap. Now since I would never consider cooking wings without cooking a mess of wingsósay, well, a lotóI usually purchase the Pre-Wrapped Party Pack.

Whole Chicken
Broiler Chicken
Chicken Wings

AB: One Pre-Wrapped Party Wing pack, please.

    Now sure, you could just cut the wings off of every chicken you cook for the next year and freeze them until you have your own Pre-Wrapped Party Pack, but thatís a little bit extreme even for me.

The Kitchen

    [displays an X-ray of a chicken wing over his oven door] As the good doctor has already pointed out, a long history of laziness has devolved the chicken wing into a relatively simple structure characterized by three segments and two hinges. Here is where the wing was cut away from the shoulder at the plant. Thatís the scapula bone up there. This first section is called the drumette because of its resemblance to the drumstick. It houses the humerus bone. Ha-ha-ha! The hu ... The second section, or ďwing flatĒ, contains the ulna and the radius. And then the wing tip or nubbin is, well, pretty much a culinary wasteland.

Chicken Wing 2
-437.60  mm
25 mA

MRI & Imaging of West Paces
29 Nov 2007 07:43:34
120mV   100m
CL 150.0 ???

    [at the cutting board] And now we cut.

AB: Lights! [a magnifying light flies into view over the cutting board]

    Ha ha ha. Perfect. Now letís talk about knives. For this kind of job, I like to use a stiff-bladed boning knife such as this. If you donít have one, you can use either a short chefís knife or even a paring knife. But I like this curve right here. Now letís take a look at our target, zee wing. There we go. Now, the joint between the flat and the little nibblet here is just cartilage, so we can cut through that right down on the board. If you want to save that for your stock pot, you can. If not, discard.
    Now the joint here between the drumette and the flat, now thatís a stout customer. A lot of connective tissue and a good bit of bone. [lifts the wing, so that the joint is the only part of the wing in contact with the board] Cutting through this way is actually pretty treacherous, and you could make a big mess. What I like to do is just turn it over and squeeze. Thatíll kind of reveal and open up that joint right there. Then we can make a small cut till it pops open. Lay it down on the board and then cut the rest of the way through. Thatís all there is to it, kids. And to think, you were going to pay a butcher to do that. Shame!

The Anchor Bar serves more than 70,000 pounds of chicken every month.

The Kitchen

GUEST: Refrigerator Gnome

    [at the refrigerator] Now, if we are going to produce a nice, crisp skin on these jewels, they have got to be dry when they meet the heat. And I donít mean just, you know, pat-down-on-paper-towel dry. I mean the kind of dry that only a couple of hours in the old chill chest will create. That means youíre going to have to stash these in here, uncovered.

AB: [grunts] Hey! Itís you!
RG: Yes, here to stop you from harming yourself or others.
AB: What are you talking about, you annoying ornamental imp?
RG: Iím talking about you with all that contaminated poultry all soaked with Salmonella.
AB: I need to dry it and chill it. Covering it will ruin everything.
RG: Well, then youíre going to have to follow some strict rules, my dirty friend.
AB: Hey, Iím not dirty.
RG: Put that poultry down here on the bottom shelf in a large container.
AB: What, you mean like this?
RG: Yes, quite. And make sure you consult your refrigerator thermometer to ensure avoidance of the danger zone.
AB: You mean like this? [shows RG his refrigerator thermometer]
RG: Oh! Youíve gone and touched it with your chickeny hand. You moron. Iím out of here. Ta-ta.

    The little boogerís right, of course. Cross-contamination is an issue. The best way to insure against it is to contain and isolate. Placing the wings on the bottom shelf in a high-sided container will keep them away from any cooked food that might be exposed up here. Ooo, youíll also notice that Iíve spread these out on a little steamer basket inside this bowl to help with the air circulation. And actually, the lower you can go, the better. There. Perfect.
    Now, let us consider cooking. Now being bar food, most Buffalo-style wings are deep-fat fried because deep-fat frying is fast, tasty and most bars that serve food have commercial fryers like this. Letís give it a try. [turns on one of the Fry-O-Laytors and half the lights go out] Oh, thatís okay. Weíve got two circuits. [turns on another Fry-O-Laytor and the other half of the lights go out] Oh, bother. Well, as I was about to say, deep-fat frying is not the best way to cook Buffalo chicken wings because, well, they already contain enough fat to essentially fry themselves as long as we can apply the correct dosage of heat. I, I think the breaker box is in the basement. Excuse me.
    Wings are covered with skin, and that skin will stick to a hot piece of metal like a tongue to a winter flagpole. So, you can use racks, which will help, and youíll lube them up liberally before you lay on the poultry. Now if you want crispy skin, and of course we do, weíll need to pour on the heat. 425 degrees should do the trick. Of course, since they contain a little bit of fat, odds are there will be a bit of smoke, but itíll be okay.
    [later with a LOT of smoking in the oven, AB is coughing] Obviously, if we roast the wings at 425, weíll get fabulous skin, but too much smoke from all that fat rendering out and pyrolyzing. If we go with a lower temperature, say, 350, for a longer time, weíll stay beneath the smoke point of the fat and we might get the crisp skin, but weíll also dry out the meat. No, we need another method.
    So Iím thinking that the answer to our dilemma is to cook the wings twice, starting with a wet method. Okay, steam will provide the necessary heat to squeeze the excess fat out of those wings without overcooking or drying the meat or the skin. Now the wing pieces will need some space. Now I donít really want to pile them onto a single st ... [realizes that he has many vegetable steamers at his disposal] Excuse me.
    [constructs a device consisting of three vegetable steamers stacked vertically, see the show info for notes on this]

    There. Twenty-four pieces of chicken, each one with plenty of room for steam to get in and around. Now speaking of steam, we will bring to a boil in your largest pot, about an inch and a half of water. And we will bring that down to just a simmer, and then lower in our luscious payload. Cover, and I figure that ten minutes should do the job. Just long enough for me to put away all these fans [which have been clearing away the smoke from the previous attempt].

12 Whole Chicken Wings,
    Tips Removed & Cut in Half

    [kitchen timer sounds] Time to evacuate. Thereís going to be a good bit of steam, so don protection and open the lid away. Ah, very good. Now Iíll set those aside. Now you can see by looking down in the water, see all that schmaltz in there? That means that weíve rendered out a considerable amount of fat.
    Now I want to cool these guys down, and I think thatís a little tall for the refrigerator. So Iíll move them to a half-sheet pan and cooling rack, lined with a little bit of paper towel, because those are going to keep dripping.

Cool and dry in the refrigerator for at least one
hour before roasting in the oven.

    Now that they have chilled, slide your wings into a 425 degree oven for 20 minutes. Oh, and youíre going to want to trade out that paper towel for some parchment paper. Paper towels donít like high temperatures. There we go. Now letís talk sauce.

425 Degrees

    [at the refrigerator] If our intel concerning that fateful night in 1964 is correct, then the original Buffalo chicken wing sauce was nothing more than a mixture of bottled hot sauce and margarine, which of course is a butter substitute consisting of a blend of hydrogenated vegetable oils, emulsifiers, coloring agents, vitamins and in many versions, a big whopping dollop of trans fats, which some doctors say ...

DOCTOR: ... are actually worse for you than the saturated fats in the butter that the margarine was invented to replace.
AB: Hmm.
D: Not that you couldnít stand to cut back on both.
AB: Thank you.

Margarine is named for margaric acid, a saturated fat discovered
in 1813 which doesnít occur in nature.

The Kitchen

    I feel certain, had Mrs. Bellissimo understood the perils of trans fats, she would have simply reached for butter. Which, despite its saturated fat, is at least real food, ha ha, and darn tasty.

    So we need three ounces of melted butter. Thatís six tablespoons, or 3/4 of a stick. Now the microwave is the right tool for this mission. But you want to avoid high power which can cause geyser-like explosions as the water inside the butter begins to boil. Cutting into pieces helps with this as well. While youíre at it, you might as well go ahead and toss in a cloveís worth of minced garlic. Warming that with the butter will help to open up the flavors. Now while this melts down, we will contemplate the cult of capsaicin.

3 Ounces Unsalted Butter,

1 Clove Garlic, Minced


Microwave times my vary.

Harryís Farmers Market
Marietta, GA Ė 2:30pm

GUESTS: Young Man and Young Woman

    Ten years ago, if you went to your local megamart for hot sauce, there were, like, three choices. There would be some stuff from Texas, some stuff from Louisiana, and some stuff with, you know, chilies kind of floating around inside of it. But today, there are dozens of different sauces readily available from all over the planet. How did this happen? Well, some say itís just a result of the influx of various ethnic cuisines into the mainstream. But thereís another theory gaining momentum. This theory suggests that itís the baby boomers. Thatís right. You see, those of us born during the great postwar spawn between 1946 and 1964 are getting older. And as we move beyond 40, we lose taste buds at an accelerated rate. It may be that this influx of heat is nothing more than a market reaction to the fact that we require increased stimulation and weíre willing to pay for it. Some anthropologists, of course, believe that the consumption of hot foods is closely tied to mating rituals. Letís find out.

[AB is a table in the store, the sign says, "Try AB's Rocket Hot Sauce", the young couple walks by]

AB: Hi, would you like to try my new hot sauce?
YOUNG MAN: Uh, no thanks.
AB: Well, I donít blame you.
YM: Whatís that supposed to mean?
AB: Oh, nothing. Itís just really hot.
YM: Whatever. [they leave, then return] You know, I do want to try it.
AB: No, you donít.
YM: Why? You donít think I could handle it?
AB: Oh, come on, Sir. A man of your stature can handle ... No.
YOUNG WOMAN: Come on, pumpkin, letís go. You know what spicy food does to you.
YM: You too, huh, honey? Well you just take this [hands her the hand-held shopping basket] and you see what your manís made of.
AB: [homaging Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka] Donít. Stop. Donít do it.
YM: [downing several shots of the hot sauce] Whoo!
YW: Do you think this is going to impress me?
AB: Actually, if recent sociological studies are correct, yes.
YW: Because itís not. Itís just dumb.
YM: Iím fine. See, no, no ...
YW: You donít look fine.
AB: Well, thatís because the capsaicin is just starting to really bind onto his tongue and sending mixed messages to his brain which are interpreted as, uh, pain.
YM: [is starting to feel the effects]
AB: Pain. Lots of pain. Have some toast there, thatíll help
YM: [stuffs a bunch of toast into his mouth]
AB: Still burning? Still burning?
YM: [nods frantically]
AB: Sour cream, aisle four.
YM: [runs off]
AB: Yeah, thatíll set you up. [to the woman] You know, the consumption of overly hot foods may be an expression of ancient mating behavior where the male seeks to impress a prospective mate with feats of physical endurance.
YW: You, you mean he really loves me?
AB: Well, I donít know if Iíd call it ... [gives in] Yeah, he loves you.
YW: Wait, pumpkin! Honey bunny is gonna make it all better!

The Kitchen

    Ah, 20 minutes is up, time to flip for evenness. And notice, no smoke. There, another 20 minutes and weíll be in Chicken Wing Nirvana.

    Although the ratio of hot sauce to butter is completely up to you, I find that a quarter of a cup, or two ounces of the hot stuff to three ounces of butter hits the best balance. The heat will be there, but so will the flavor. You wonít just blow your head off. [mixes hot sauce and butter] Now make sure you mix this along with one-half teaspoon of kosher salt in a big old bowl, big enough to accommodate the tossing of the wings. And of course, if you want to up the garlic, you could throw in another one, maybe two minced cloves at this time. There. Now whisk to combine.

ľ Cup Hot Sauce

Ĺ tsp. Kosher Salt

    [at the oven] Ah, perfect. Now I know, 40 minutes at 425 seems extreme for items this small. But keep in mind there was still a fair amount of fat left inside those little jewels, and some tough connective tissue that needed to soften. As for the skin, it is very crisp, which is perhaps the most important characteristic. And again, no smoke. None. Not a bit. Ha-ha.
    In order for the sauce to properly marry with the skin, it is imperative that this step [tossing the wings in the sauce] be done while the wings are still hot. The nice thing about this particular method is that even once saturated with sauce, the skins will remain crispy [removes one, and takes a bite].

The tabasco pepper is a small red chile that originated in Tabasco, Mexico.

Good Drinks Bar

    There you go. I know. Youíre wondering where the celery and blue cheese dressing are. Well theyíre in the refrigerator. I know. There are those who would argue that the celery and dressing were put with the wings because Mrs. Bellisimo knew that the heat of the wings would need some cooling balance. Well, I donít think it diminishes her genius one bit to suggest that, being a good hostess, she just grabbed what she had. I think it was probably a happy accident and itís not one that Iím inclined to perpetuate. When I want to get my wing on, I donít want to stop for a salad. Thatís a different show.
    Now I realize that the hot sauce and butter approach may not be for everyone. But thatís no reason to veer off your wings.

The Kitchen

    The technique of coating a food in a sugar-based glaze has been practiced in China since, I donít know, since Confucius was a kid. The secret to success is to strike a balance of sweet and sour, salt and spice. Itís a yin-yang kind of thing.

    Hereís how I see it. The salty, we will get from one tablespoon of soy sauce, the spice from half a teaspoon of red pepper flake, the sweet from two teaspoons of honey and a six-ounce can of frozen orange juice concentrate. The sour will be one teaspoon of vinegar, rice wine vinegar, and weíll also use three tablespoons of hoisin sauce. Okay, now hoisin usually contains fermented soybean paste, like miso, vinegar, garlic, various chilies and other flavorings, and sometimes sesame oil. In other words, it contains components of all the teams put together, and then some.

1 Tbs. Soy Sauce

Ĺ tsp. Red Pepper Flake

2 tsp. Honey
6 Ounces Frozen Orange
    Juice Concentrate

1 tsp. Rice Wine Vinegar

3 Tbs. Hoisin Sauce

    Combine the aforementioned ingredients in a small saucepan, and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. The goal is to slowly drive away the water content and therefore increase the sugar content, creating about half a cup or so of a finished glaze. Now remember, as the sugar content increases, so will the possibility of burning, which is why weíre doing this over, well, not full flame. When you see the bubbles start to kind of stack up on each other, you know that youíre getting very, very close, so manage your flame accordingly.
    There, our glaze is done. But it is not yet ready to meet our wings. Go ahead and transfer to your great big tossing bowl and then let this cool down for five minutes. That will thicken the glaze. And because the water content will be a little less mobile, it will be a lot less likely to soften the crust on our wings.
    [at the oven, looking over another pan of wings] You did steam, cool and perfectly roast a pan of wing pieces, right? Good. [tosses new batch of wings with the sweet-sour sauce]

Good Drinks Bar

    There you go. And thus, the humble, almost completely useless chicken wing shows that it still does have a reason to exist.
    My hope is that one day, chicken breeders will embrace this magnificent appendage and breed us a bird with wings like ... [camera pans over to the papier-m‚chť chicken outfitted with huge wings, we hear an eagle shrieking] If that day ever comes, Iíll be waiting hot sauce in hand.
    See you next time on ďGood Eats.Ē

ÜThis is not entirely correct and is a common misconception in explaining airplane flight. For a better explanation, I direct you to the article How Airplanes Work at

Transcribed by Michael Roberts
Proofread by Michael Menninger

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Last Edited on 08/27/2010