Nashville Hot Chicken Wings

Chicken, Main Courses, Southern / Friday, September 30th, 2011

If there’s any food I’m truly obsessed with, it’s hot chicken.

Not spicy chicken. Hot chicken, born here in Nashville.

Spicy chicken makes your tongue tingle. Hot chicken makes you feel like you swallowed the whole of Armageddon, and now you’re being reborn from the inside out as a cayenne-encrusted god.

(You can read all about the history of hot chicken and why we love it in my previous post.)

I’ve just accepted that I’ll probably spend the rest of my life trying to figure out and then perfect the original Prince’s Hot Chicken recipe at home, even though I know there will be a cost for flying that close to the sun. In this case, probably my lower GI tract.

Anyway, “Cook’s Country” recently published a “Best Country Recipes” issue, including their take on Nashville hot chicken, so we gave it a try, just using wings instead of a whole chicken (so that everything would cook faster).

So, how do Nashville Hot Chicken Wings compare with Buffalo wings?

Buffalo wings are typically deep-fried without any breading and coated in a sauce usually made with butter and hot sauce.

They are undeniably delicious, messy and good for the dipping.

These Nashville hot wings are brined in water, hot sauce, sugar and salt for at least 30 minutes, so the meat stays juicy, and the heat goes all the way to the bone. Then they’re dredged twice to make the skin extra-crisp when it’s deep-fried. Then you apply the heat like a painter priming a canvas, brushing on the warm, cayenne-spiked oil while the wings are still hot, so they don’t get greasy.

If the first bite isn’t hot enough for you, you can keep brushing on that liquid fire to your heart’s content.

Serve them on white bread to catch the drippings. No dip necessary. And have a glass of milk nearby.

This recipe isn’t exactly a Prince’s Hot Chicken copycat, but it gets the point across, and it spawned several pages of notes on how I’m going to attack my next batch.

Just as soon as my lips heal.

Nashville Hot Wings

Adapted from “Cook’s Country”


  • 2 quarts water
  • 1/2 cup hot sauce
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 1/2 to 4 pounds chicken wings (if whole, cut your wings at the joints and discard the tips)
    Spicy Oil:

  • 1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil (removed from the 3 quarts for frying)
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 3 quarts peanut of vegetable oil (less 3 tablespoons for Spicy Oil), for frying
  1. For the Brine: Whisk water, hot sauce, salt and sugar in a large bowl until salt and sugar dissolve. Add chicken and refrigerate, covered, for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  2. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F.
  3. For the Spicy Oil: Heat the oil in a small saucepan over low-to-medium heat. Add spices and cook just until fragrant, up to 30 seconds. (The oil should be dark red. If it turns black, throw out the mixture and start over at a lower temperature.) Transfer to a small bowl.
  4. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator; discard brine. Set aside.
  5. For the Coating: In a large bowl, combine flour, remaining salt and pepper. Dredge chicken wings in flour mixture. Shake excess flour from the wings, and transfer to wire racks. (Do not discard seasoned flour.)
  6. Pour oil into a large Dutch oven (or into an electric skillet until it comes halfway up the pan), and heat over medium-high heat to 350 degrees F.
  7. Return chicken to flour mixture, and turn to coat.
  8. Fry half of the wings, adjusting the burner as necessary to keep the oil between 300 and 325 degrees, until the wings are deep golden-brown and the meat registers 180 degrees F, about 10 to 12 minutes.
  9. While the wings are frying, grab a clean wire rack and set it inside a rimmed baking sheet. Drain the wings on the wire rack, stir Spicy Oil mixture to recombine, and brush oil over both sides of chicken. Repeat with remaining wings.

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