Next to Thanksgiving, Super Bowl Sunday is considered to be the biggest eating day of the year in the U.S. And chicken wings are a favorite go-to snack for the big game.
According to the National Chicken Council's mock-serious 2015 Wing Report, 1.25 billion wings were consumed during last year's game. So if you are planning on serving wings Feb. 7, you are right on trend with millions of other fans.
Chicken wings haven't always been a sport fan's snack. Up until to the 1960s and 1970s, frying the whole chicken was the norm. Then in the 1980s, according to the report, U.S. consumers started preferring boneless, skinless breast meat, and wings became an inexpensive byproduct.
Leave it to the restaurant and bar industry to spot an inexpensive protein to lure customers, and at low prices. Not only were wings cheap, they were made spicy and salty, which eatery owners discovered encouraged beer consumption. The marriage of hot wings and suds drove sales through the roof.
At about the same time, sports bars with multiple TVs and satellite dishes were becoming more common - and the most popular sporting event to watch in bars is football. According to the report, "Wings were easily shareable and affordable, a great 'group food' to eat with other people, and are the perfect pairing with a pitcher of beer. And so the pigskin-chicken wing bond was born."
The concept of cooking wings in peppery hot sauce was born in 1964 at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, N.Y., when co-owner Teressa Bellissimo cooked leftover wings in hot sauce as a late-night snack for her son and his friends. The guys liked them so much that the Bellissimos put them on the menu the next day. Served with celery slices and blue cheese sauce, "Buffalo Wings" were an instant hit.
Dick Winger, who sold hot sauce to the bar, went on the road with Dominic Bellissimo, the owners' son, to promote the item and sell hot sauce. It gradually caught on with restaurant operators around the country.
Today popular wing joints such as Colorado-based Golden Flame Hot Wings, which opened its first branch in Colorado Springs in September, will be gearing up for the big game.
"We anticipate saucing up to five times more wings than our typical Sunday volume," said Chris Perez, co-owner with Randy Davis and James Robinson of the eatery. "In addition to the wings, we will be cutting and frying what will seem like a truckload of fries."
Like other hot wing outfits, Golden Flame offers its own signature sauces - 14 of them.
"The most popular wing is the Golden Flame, which is a twist on a traditional buffalo hot wing sauce," he said.
So, as the Super Bowl approaches, you can place an order at your favorite hot wing spot or try your hand at making them yourself. Here are a few recipes to get you started.