Here we stand, perched upon the precipice of great renown. Who will triumph? Who will fall? Who will become the object of praise, admiration, and glory; who will be be forgotten in the dustbin of history as an also-ran that didn’t have the guts to reach out and take the win? This weekend we find out.
Oh, and I guess there will be a football game going on, too. I was thinking of the food game, though—the competition to outdo your other football friends and make the very best, the most unforgettable dish at the gathering for the big game. There’s nothing you can do to secure a victory for your favorite team, but you can certainly secure the party win for yourself.
If you want a taste of glory this weekend, you might want to give these Buffalo chicken drumsticks a try. Like wings, but bigger, meatier, more filling, and—with the thermal principles we introduce—faster. These are not mere nibbling foods, there are whole-fisted feasting foods. Let’s jump in and take a look at these excellent fried chicken legs.
What we’re looking for in a “Buffalo” style piece of chicken
The first question we have to answer is what do people expect when they hear of Buffalo chicken drumsticks?
First, there’s the sauce. You can eat all the teriyaki wings you want, and I guess you can even go with honey barbecue or garlic parmesan; but to my mind, I consider an original vinegar-cayenne-based hot sauce wing as the chief, premier topping for chicken wings, and therefore also for these drumsticks. However you choose to sauce, follow our advice and heat the sauce gently (to 110°F [43°C]) before whisking in roughly half its volume in cold butter.
The emulsion created by this method makes the sauce thicker, clingier. Chicken (be it legs or wings) dressed in this way just looks saucier, and adding that much butter to your chicken never hurts the flavor either!
Let’s be real here: we want crisp skin on our chicken. We don’t want crisp-ish, we want it crisp.
No worries! A dry brine with salt and baking powder dries the skin sufficiently that the skin crisps beautifully, offering no resistance or tear. However…the skin can be a problem with the drumsticks. On more than half of our drumsticks, the skin shrank and retreated down the leg toward the ankle, leaving a lot of the meat exposed. Know this going in and you won’t be surprised like I was.
Is that skin-shrink a problem? No. Because of the dry brine and the cooking method we use, the exposed meat surface actually crisps pleasantly. Think of how a well-seared steak gets a crispy crust on it, but in chicken-leg form. In fact, that browned, crispy meat brings another flavor and texture to the table that isn’t available only from crisp skin.
Buffalo chicken drumsticks—advantages, disadvantages, and solutions
Why should you cook drumsticks instead of wings? The main reason is, of course, meat. A drumstick has a much higher meat-to-bone ratio, meaning you get fuller off of fewer pieces, plus you get to gnaw at the bone more recklessly than the semi-precision nibbling that is the hallmark of wing eating.
More meat also means that you can season more aggressively if you like. Go with a spicier sauce, serve a more interesting dip on the side, or include a rub of some kind in the dry brine. Don’t worry, the legs can take it!
Drumstick disadvantages and drumstick solutions
There are two problems with drumsticks for Buffalo-y goodness, one is the skin’s tendency to pull back during cooking, which we’ve already discussed as a matter of expectations. The other is that all that extra meat on the bones takes a long time to cook.
To get around the “takes forever to fry” problem, we employ our oven. We cook the dry-brined legs until they are nearly done, then finish them in hot oil.
You can cook up a whole oven full of chicken legs all at once, and all you have to do is flash fry them for 60–90 seconds to make them crisp and delicious. This process makes it easy to feed a whole team of hungry football fans fresh, hot Buffalo-style chicken without waiting 6–15 minutes per fried batch. And because the chicken is already hot when it goes into the oil, there is less temperature drop in the fry oil itself.
Critical temperatures for making chicken drumsticks
Use ChefAlarm® and a 2.5″ Pro-Series® needle probe in the largest drumstick while they cook in a 325°F (163°C) oven. Set the high-temp alarm to 170°F (77°C), then, once the high-temp alarm sounds, verify that temperature with your Thermapen® ONE. Then move your ChefAlarm over to the fry pot and set your high-temp alarm to 375°F (191°C) and the low-temp alarm to 350°F (177°C), attach the high-temp penetration probe to the pot with the pot clip and use your ChefAlarm as the best deep-fry thermometer around.
You can check your chicken’s internal temperature after it fries, but it isn’t really necessary. You know it will have been at 170°F (77°C) already, and it will only have gone up in the oil. Getting the chicken done properly is not just a matter of food safety, which it certainly is, but is also a matter of making the dark meat in the legs tender and tasty. Dark meat that is cooked to a “safe” temp still isn’t fun to eat until you cook out a lot of the connective tissue. Hence the higher finishing temp.
No, Buffalo drumsticks won’t guarantee you the win, but no one will be able to say that you lose if you present a pile of these beauties! Use the two-step cooking process and you’ll be able to sling chicken (almost) as fast as people can eat it. Give it a try, share the idea with your friends, and, as always, happy cooking!Print
Baked-then-fried buffalo chicken drumsticks for more meat and ease of service
- 10 chicken drumsticks, thawed if previously frozen
- 1 Tbsp kosher salt
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- 8 oz hot sauce of your choice (I like to do a little mixing and matching—for this recipe I did 6 oz Crystal and 2 oz Secret Aardvark)
- 2 (or more) minced Thai chilies
- 8 Tbsp butter, chilled and cut into smallish pieces
- Oil for frying
Dry brine the legs
- Place the legs in a large bowl that can easily hold them all.
- Sprinkle generously with the salt, toss to coat and distribute. You may not need all of it.
- Sprinkle in 1 tsp of the baking powder at a time, tossing to coat between each addition.
- Move the legs to a rack set in a rimmed sheet pan. refrigerate at least 4 hours or up to overnight, uncovered.
Bake the legs
- Preheat your oven to 325°F (163°C).
- Insert a needle probe into the thickest chicken drumstick in the deepest part of the meat. Set your ChefAlarm to 170°F (77°C).
- Bake the chicken wings until the high-temp alarm sounds.
- Verify the temperature of the chicken with your Thermapen ONE when the high-temp alarm sounds.
Make the sauce and heat the oil
- While the chicken is baking, gently heat the hot sauce and minced chilies up to 110°F (43°C). Use your Thermpaen ONE to verify the temperature.
- Remove the sauce from heat and whisk in the cold butter pieces, all at once. Set aside, away from heat, on the counter.
- Start heating 3–4″ of fry oil in a heavy-bottomed pot (do not fill it beyond halfway full).
Fry the chicken!
- When the high-temp alarm on your ChefAlarm sounds (about 20–30 minutes later), check the temp with your Thermapen and remove the legs from the oven. They will look a little powdery from the salt and baking powder.
- Set up your ChefAlarm as a deep-fry thermometer with the high-temp alarm set to 375°F (191°C).
- When the oil is ready, use tongs to put 4 or 5 chicken legs in the hot oil.
- Fry until the chicken is golden and crisp on the outside, then remove to a rack to drain.
- Fry another pot of wings.
- Toss the fried legs with about 1/2 C of the sauce per 5 legs.
- Serve with a dipping sauce like blue cheese dressing, or even drizzle on more of the “wing” sauce!
This recipes scales up easily. Make more legs!
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