#WingWeek: How Hot Is Too Hot?

On chasing the ghost (pepper).

January 30, 2017 ● 3 min read

Next week there is something happening called the “Super Bowl,” but as far as we’re concerned, that means it’s #WingWeek. Tune in every day this week for a different tidbit of wing wisdom from none other than Wing Wing’s Christian Ciscle and his number one fan and wing analyst Greg Miller.

The National Chicken Council released their annual report estimating that 1.33 BILLION wings will be consumed on Sunday. According to them, that's enough flats and drumettes to circle Earth three times. While your brain melts trying to picture that, let's talk about heat.

For the fire-breathers who walk among us, wings are more than a cute, labor-intensive snack: they are a handy vehicle for conquering the Scoville scale.

We've all felt the particular sting of Buffalo lip-gloss, and know that a legitimate remedy is usually more beer — but what is it about wings and searing your face off that we love so dearly? On a chicken wing, you cannot hide from heat. It adheres to every crevice, clinging to the fried topography of skin, then infuses the tender meat inside, once you've torn off that first bite. Great hot wings stick and coat and smear, fusing you to the experience. It is a state of reality you must adopt in order to keep eating — but if you ask Ciscle, torture is not a necessary requirement of wing bliss. Even Miller, formerly loyal subject of the Scoville empire, has branched out.


In my early days, I prided myself on eating the hottest of the hot. But as I've matured, I've mellowed out. I've flocked to different tastes.


I eat spicy food, but I don't look to kill myself with it. It should be flavorful spicy. A lot of people are looking for that pain; they just want to know what the hottest wing is. For us, it’s the Buffalo hot (Buffalo sauce with extra habanero “Hella Hot Sauce,” made in-house), but we made it so you can still eat it and not just get blown out. Our regular Buffalo's already spicy — it's got the Frank’s, but then it's got cayenne and dark chili — then we add the habanero, and it spikes.

We're not trying to say we have the spiciest wing ever — w
e don't have the form you have to sign. That never interested me. I'd rather have people love it because it's delicious. I'd rather have it be the kind of super-spicy that you keep wanting to eat. I like it when your mouth is tingling, but I have no interest in any over-the-top shit. I don't need to eat the ghost pepper! I don't need to prove anything to anybody. That's not even food at that point, you know what I mean? That's just hijinks.

I mean, we have milk back there. Maybe one person has ever asked for milk.

(If you really want to back him into a corner):

People like to talk shit. So, once a year for the wing contest, I'll make the crazy spicy one. That's the only time that I ever do painful.

We do a crazy spice rub first: chili powder from New Mexico, and then wasabi. Then a sauce with ghost peppers that changes all the time; all different kinds of levels and kinds of heat. Horseradish, things like that. Then we add raw pureed stuff at the end. The first year we had the contest, I was trying to make it delicious and hot, but everyone was like, "Oh, it's not hot enough." They wanted pain. Fine — the next year, I made the sauce thick, like a pudding. Motherfuckers were tapping out, throwing up, crying.

Everybody shut up about it after that.  

Where are the world's hottest wings? Is it still food if you can't feel your mouth? Where are you on the wimp scale? Tell us with #WingWeek at @chefsfeed

As told to Cassandra Landry | Illustration via 
Michael Michell