In preparation for the big game this weekend, we ordered a mess of wings from the biggest chains to track down the best. Braving the threat of orange fingernails, we found the spiciest wings, the slimiest wings, and the least objectionable blue cheese dipping sauce.
Best All-Around Wings
KFC. They have everything you look for in a wing: good skin-to-meat proportions, good sauce (or a sauceless option, as pictured), good bellyache of success after, and good leaning tower of bones to prove you ate too much. Case closed.
Best for Spicy Fans
If your taste buds have an ego for heat, go for the Domino's "fiery." These pack a punch, man. Sure, the real spicy freaks might scoff, but they're the hottest of the dial-up wings genre. To extinguish the flame--if you're not scoffing, but choking--get out the mini tubs of blue cheese and follow with a dairy extinguisher. (Milk contains a protein that washes away tongue-burning molecules, and luckily the Domino's blue cheese doesn't suck!)
Best for Moderately-Spicy Fans
Domino's realizes that not everyone can handle "fiery." They also offer mild, medium, and hot. And hey, "hot" is just fine for people who like a little heat, but still need to wear some SPF to protect from the burn.
After the jump, the Most Ginormous Wings, Worst Fake Chicken Taste, Best Sauceless!
Best Sauceless Wings
While finding sauce under the fingernails for days seems like a prerequisite, crispy wings are also an option. The only moisture here is from the grease. Popeyes offered not only the best, but the biggest. Unlike the iconic "wing," these aren't detached and cut into little pieces. They just give you the whole darn aerodynamic limb! So unless you're emotionally attached to the mini concept, embrace Popeyes.
Best Non-Buffalo Flavor
KFC's "honey BBQ." The sauce had an appealing sweet-to-tang ratio; appealing enough to clean via licking, not the sink. Unlike the Domino's "BBQ" option, which had hardly any crunch, the KFC wings had an ideal chicken crust.
KFC's buffalo spicy wings. Huge! Some were bordering gerbil size!
Best Blue Cheese Tub
Michele was going to disown me if I called this "bleu" cheese. She's right. This probably isn't the time to be all Pepé Le Pew. It's "bl-oo" cheese, not "bluh." Though the taste might inspire a "bleugh" grunt.
Ed volunteered to dip his spoon into each tub. While Domino's and Pizza Hut were sickeningly sweet, Papa John's offered some zing. It was the least bleugh.
Best (or Worst?) Fake Chicken Taste
At times Ed will refer to a past job somehow related to airline food consulting. So when he identified the "severe frozen chicken taste" in the Pizza Hut wings, we didn't ask questions. All you need to know: these are bad. Just bad. None of the others had such an unavoidable processed, preservative-rich aftertaste. Do not want.
Wings are usually fried before they're sauced-up, which provides the bird some crisp. But given the slime factor on Papa John's wings, they were probably broiled first. We learned that broiled is not good. Even dunking and re-dunking these in sauce couldn't mask the excessive gooeyness. There's such thing as good gooey (cinnamon rolls) but this was a bastion of bad gooey.