Thursday, September 21, 2006

How to judge a wing.

By Steve "The Vanilla Cluckilla" Roth

As co-founder of the cluckbucket as well as a certified KCBS (Kansas City Barbeque Society) trained and certified judge, I am more than qualified to help. There are three main criteria when judging a buffalo, or hot wing:

Using a scale of 1-5 "drummies", wings are judged for the following:

1. Appearance - this should be the easiest to judge. Does it look appetizing? A wing should not be negatively judged because of personal preference. Meaning, if you don't like breaded wings, but that's what that restaurant serves, they shouldn't be downgraded. You may not go back because of that, but it doesn't make them a bad wing. Wings should be crisp, but not look like fried chicken either. Wings should have sauce on them - buffalo wing sauce should have an orange-ish tint to it. Also, whether the restaurant serves just wings, just drummies, or just the wing attached to the drummy should be noted, but shouldn't change your scoring. However, if you are served a combination of wings and drummies, there should be fairly equal portions of both. A batch with 15 wings and 5 drummies may be downgraded on all three categories. Size of the wings also comes into play here - they don't need to be "wings on steroids", but they should be good-sized. A good rule of thumb is a bit smaller than a standard business card in both length and width.

2. Texture/Tenderness - this should also be fairly easy to judge. Wings should be crispy on the outside, and juicy on the inside. That is the whole point of frying a wing. Whether they are naked or breaded should not matter, but you need to look for different things depending on which. With naked wings, often times the skin is rubbery - this should be a downgrade. Also, with naked wings, often times the wing sauce falls off, pooling at the bottom of the plate or bowl. Some sauce loss is expected, but there should still be a fair amount of sauce on the wings. For breaded wings, the breading will absorb the sauce. If a breaded wing is dry, it is either severely overcooked, or not enough sauce, or both. This is a downgrade. Bone breakage also comes into play here - bones should not be broken. The two wing bones can be torn apart at the ends by the judges, but no bones should be broken in the middle. One in a batch is ok - more than that and you can start to downgrade.

3. Taste - this is the most subjective. Heat should only be a qualifier if they are significantly hotter or milder than advertised. Assuming you are a person of normal taste heat tolerance, and you order mild wings and you have to drink five glasses of water just to get the wings down, that can be a downgrade. Same goes if you order hot and can barely taste the hot. But if you order atomic wings and can't get through them because of the heat, you can't downgrade them. Butter can come into play here as well. Usually that is what is used to lessen the heat of hot sauce or Tabasco. But too much butter is a no-no. If you can taste the butter, it's too much. Butter should be used to lessen the heat, not remove it's flavor (unless of course you ordered butter-flavored wings). DO NOT USE RANCH OR BLUE CHEESE WHEN JUDGING A WING! Once you're done judging, feel free to eat as many wings with either condiment, but while judging, just the wings. You may use some celery to try to remove the taste between each wing, or saltine crackers, or water. Try to stay away from other beverages during the judging process. While the actual chicken meat under the skin shouldn't have much taste besides chicken, it should compliment the flavor of the hot sauce. After that, it is up to your own personal taste!

Each of the three categories should have a weighting. Appearance should be weighted as .10, Texture/Tenderness as .40 and Taste as .50. Thus, a wing that had an appearance score of 3, a T/T of 4, and a Taste as 5 would be judged a 4.40. The formula works like this - (3 x .10) + (4 x. 40) + (5 x .50) = 4.40.

No comments: