I was in first grade the first time I ever tried a buffalo chicken wing. I remember this clearly because it was the same year that I joined the YMCA swim team. The decision for both my sister and I to compete on the swim team meant many long hours at the Y after school. I loved every minute of it, but it also meant my family had less time to cook, and we ate out more frequently. This was before my diagnosis of fructose intolerance, so there was very little guilt involved in eating out at least once a week.
Our restaurant of choice became a delicious little bar and grill called Sportsmans. If you are ever in the Central Wisconsin area, I highly recommend it. On my first visit to Sportsmans we ordered a batch of buffalo chicken wings. Since it was my first time ever trying them, we went the cautious route and ordered sauce on the side. I started out by gradually spooning some sauce over my wings, but as we visited the restaurant more and more, I eventually graduated to loving saucy soaked buffalo wings.
Thus began my first food quest. I became determined to find out who had the best wings of all time. This is a journey that still continues onward twenty years later. If there are wings on the menu, they are most likely going to be the item that I order so that I can compare them to all the rest. I’m not going to lie, out of all the wings I’ve ever tried, no one has beaten Sportsmans yet. Maybe that’s just the nostalgia factor kicking in, but it never fails that when I visit home I make sure to get myself an order of wings.
Despite my love of the traditional buffalo wing, lately I have been craving all things honey. It occurred to me that I had seen honey buffalo wings on menus before, but I had never actually tried them… and here I sat at home with a large tubful of honey, and a never-ending container of Frank’s Buffalo Sauce. Clearly it was time to experiment.
I started researching the basic components of the sauce, and I was mildly surprised. For the most part it seemed like people stuck to four to five ingredients: buffalo sauce, honey, brown sugar, molasses, and butter. Quite frankly, I didn’t think the butter was necessary. Most buffalo sauce already has butter in it as one of the main ingredients, so to me it seemed counterproductive to add more.
I also wanted to add something to make my recipe different. When I envisioned the flavor of honey buffalo sauce, I pictured something sweet with an underlying warmth of spice. While buffalo sauce in itself has a lot of kick, it seemed like adding honey, molasses, and brown sugar would sap all the spice away and leave you with only a sweet and very mild sauce. I began to pull items from my spice cabinet, and right away the solution unfolded before my eyes.
I took out a mixture of ingredients that I would use in a basic chicken rub with the common ingredients that I use in my homemade BBQ sauce. A combination of those items would satisfy both the sweet and spicy elements of the recipe. After an hour of mixing ingredients together and simmering on the stove it was ready for the taste test. One spoonful later I knew I had found a recipe that I was going to love for the rest of my life. I cannot wait to pull this recipe out for future potlucks and family gathering, as it makes quite a bit of food, and of course it has the ease of roasting in the slow cooker!
2-4 lbs Chicken Wings
¾ cup Buffalo Sauce (My preference is always Franks Buffalo Sauce)
½ cup Honey
½ tsp Molasses
2 ½ tsp Dark Brown Sugar
½ tsp Salt
½ tsp Chili Powder
½ tsp Ground Mustard
¼ tsp White Pepper
¼ tsp Black Pepper
¼ tsp Garlic powder
¼ tsp Onion Powder
The first step of this recipe depends on how you like to eat your wings. When you buy wings from the store they come connected as a wing tip, wingette, and drumette. Honestly, you can keep the whole piece together and cook it that way. It’s actually way easier to break apart when it is cooked than it is when the chicken is raw. However, if you are concerned about presentation, or trying to feed large amounts of people, it can be beneficial to cut them apart. You will want to find the soft spots in the joints and slice them apart. I’m not going to lie, I hate doing this. It’s a pain and it’s pretty time consuming unless you are a butcher or know exactly what you are doing with technique. For the sake of nice looking blog pictures I chopped mine apart, but realistically, I’m definitely just going to throw the whole piece in the crockpot in the future unless I’m making this as a dish for a party or potluck where I would need the quantity of wings to spread out further.
If you decide to skip cutting the wingettes and drumettes apart, or once that step is done, you can move on to creating your sauce. I like to start by mixing all my seasonings, except for the sugar, together in a small bowl. This saves me the hassle of trying to measure out ingredients while I have something hot on the stove.
Kitchen Tips: Any time you make sauces it can be beneficial to prep your spices ahead of time. Many sauce recipes require constant attention once they hit the stove, and measuring ingredients can lead to an unhelpful distraction. When mixing your seasonings together in a small bowl, a fork can be substituted in as a whisk. I don’t know about you, but the one item my kitchen lacks is a multitude of whisks. I never have enough, so I always use a fork if I’m mixing dry ingredients and the amount being mixed is too small to justify bringing out a full fledged whisk.
After your spices are mixed together you are going to pour the buffalo sauce into a pot and start to bring the temperature up. Wait for it to be comfortably warm before pouring the honey and molasses in. Honey and molasses are both extremely thick, and they mix in a lot faster when they are poured into something that is already warm. Keep stirring your sauce as these items combine together and let them continue to heat up to a light simmer. This sauce does not require you to let it come to a full on boil. A light simmer does the job well enough.
When your sauce is simmering, pour in the brown sugar. I like to use dark brown sugar for this recipe because it has an extra molasses taste that pairs well with the rest of the ingredients, but regular brown sugar would definitely work if that is all you have on hand. Now is the time to pull out your whisk. Using the whisk, stir the sauce until the sugar is dissolved. Then pour the spices in.
Personally, I kept stirring my sauce for a while after this to let the flavors combine, but that’s because I was creating and needed to make sure the product was turning out exactly the way I wanted it to taste. Realistically, now that the sauce has been tested and enjoyed, it doesn’t need the extra simmer time because all of those flavors are going to be stewing together in the slow cooker. That will do the simmering for you
Take your sauce off the heat of the stove and set it off to the side, then spray both the bottom and the sides of your slow cooker with cooking spray. Next, throw your wings into the cooker. Finally pour the sauce over the top of them and use a tongs to flip them around until they are all covered. This will look different depending on the amount of chicken wings you decide to make. I only made up two pounds of wings, and I had lots of extra sauce at the bottom of my pot; however, if you are making up four pounds there will be less sauce left over. This makes a lot of sauce. I didn’t have six pounds of wings on me, and definitely didn’t need to bake up that many, but I’d be willing to guess that you could even cover six pounds of wings with one batch of sauce. They might be lightly covered if you did, or you might need to stir them when they were finished in order to re-coat the top layer, but I’m pretty sure you could make the sauce stretch if you wanted to.
After your wings are entirely coated, turn the slow cooker on low and leave them in there for 3 hours. They will become fall-off-the-bone tender by the time they are done. I know it is always tempting to lift the lid off the pot and stir throughout the day, but resist the temptation. Meat in the slow cooker always cookers better if you leave it alone for the allotted time that it is supposed to cook.
I hope you get a chance to try out these wings the next time you are craving something that is both sweet and spicy at the same time!