There is no shortage of Super Bowl parties going on in Boston this weekend, but if one wants their party to score high, they better know how to prepare a proper chicken wing.
Chef/Pitmaster Andy Husbands of The Smoke Shop (formerly the owner/operator of Tremont 647 and Sister Sorel in the South End) said that if hosts think getting a good wing on the table for the Super Bowl is as easy as popping them in a hot oven, they would be flapping wrong.
In fact, he said, the key to a good Super Bowl spread is preparation and thinking ahead.
“Wings are so subjective,” he said. “Do you like the small ones or the big roaster wings? I go for the big roasting ones. You want the big, roaster wings. I’d also advise everyone to go early. Don’t go to the store to buy your wings on Saturday. They’ll all be sold out and you’ll get stuck with the small wings…Most everything you serve for the Super Bowl except for ribs can be done on Saturday. That makes it so much easier. You want it to be enough food for everybody, but you want it to be easy for you too. You don’t want to be in the kitchen saucing wings when the Pats are scoring.”
Husbands said the centerpiece of a Super Bowl spread always has to be the wings, so getting them right is important.
Husbands suggests doing what is called a confit.
“You want the best wings, and even though it’s a bit complicated, I would look up how to confit wings,” he said.
When he pulls it off, Husbands said he starts by seasoning the raw wings the day before with salt and other flavorings. Many make the mistake, he said, of putting the sauce – whether buffalo or teriyaki sauce – on before cooking the wings. One should not do that, he said.
“That will hamper the wings,” he said. “Sugars burn quickly, and you don’t want that burnt taste on the wings.”
Once seasoned, Husbands coats the wings in oil and chicken or goose fat. Then they go into a 205-degree oven until cooked. Then, take them out, let them cool and remove the fat. The next day, before the big game, take them out of the refrigerator and use the fat from the previous day on a sheet pan. Put the wings in the fat and cook them in an oven at 350 degrees until crispy.
“They become crispy and rich and then you apply the sauce, whether Frank’s Red Hot or Szechuan – whatever you want,” he said. “That’s a fun way to do it.”
There are, of course, other ways to wing it for the big game.
Home frying, however, is not something Husbands recommends. Most people don’t have the right equipment and it uses a ton of fat for just one dish.
Cooking them in the oven after seasoning is another option, but it has to be on low heat. A common mistake, he said, is putting the wings in the oven raw at a high temperature to get them crispy. However, that leads to a dry and bony wing – perhaps even raw.
“You want to put them on very low heat and continuously turning them gets them crispy on the outside and keeps them juicy on the inside,” he said. “After they’re cooked (150 degree temperature inside), you can crank up the oven to 450 degrees and flash them in until really crispy. Then you sauce them up. That way you get them fully cooked and crispy. No one wants raw chicken.”
Yet another way goes to the die-hards, who will take the opportunity to do some arctic grilling. Husbands said the cold weather won’t stop him from grilling wings and smoking ribs for his Super Bowl party.
“I’m absolutely going to be outside,” he said. “My neighbors all know me well. They don’t look at me like I’m crazy. It’s more like they want to know if they can have some. It’s a passion, and if you know it love it, you want to do it all the time in any weather. I have a Traeger grill and a Big Green Egg grill and they work in all types of weather. I might use both of them this time.”
Beyond the meat of the matter, though, Husbands has some good ideas for buffet style options.
One of those ideas is a chili bar. He usually cooks a pot of chili and leaves it on low in the Crock Pot, setting up a chili fixin’s salad bar next to it.
“What’s cool about chili is you can keep it in the Crock Pot, keep it hot and put out a bunch of toppings – like crushed Fritos, crushed tortilla chips, scallions, sour cream and anything else you like,” he said. “People can come back and forth to that during the entire game.”
At halftime, he rolls out a hot dog bar, too.
Either grilled or boiled, he selects quality hot dogs and two different kinds of buns. From there, the sky is the limit on the kinds of toppings one can offer to guests. Husbands suggests kimchee, several different types of mustard, cheese sauce, unique pickle relishes and even his own favorite, sriracha ketchup.
“Guests can have fun making their own hot dog,” he said. “You can wheel that out at halftime for something new. All of it can be prepared ahead of time too.”
For the beer lovers, Husbands suggests not going all lawnmower and not going all high-brow either. In his ice chest, he said he offers everything from Miller High Life to selections from Trillium Brewery.
“It’s important to have something for everyone,” he said. “I don’t want to push my passion for craft beer on someone who wants a High Life. A High Life can be just as enjoyable as a craft beer.”
Super Bowl LIII official coverage starts at 6 p.m. on CBS.Andy Husbands is an award-winning chef and pitmaster at The Smoke House, which has locations in Assembly Row, the Seaport and Cambridge. Just this year he closed down his longtime South End restaurants Tremont 647 and Sister Sorel – which were neighborhood staples for decades.