Commercial Buffalo Wing Sauce

When it comes to spicy foods, I prefer the spiciness to be flavorful spice, not just heat. That is where numerous products fall short. Too much effort is put into making spicy foods, like buffalo wing sauce, super hot with little actual flavor – at least that is detectable by my taste buds when overpowered by heat.

Let me start by saying I am not any type of connoisseur, but I know what I enjoy. There is nothing scientific about my evaluation. The review here is purely based on what my eyes see, my nose smells, my mouth feels, and my tongue tastes.

For all of the tests, I prepared the chicken the same way. I do not have any added spices or basting; the chicken is baked straight-up until about 15 degrees (f) shy of proper temperature. I then turn the chicken parts over and coat them with the sauce; then return to baking until the chicken is fully cooked. This typically gives a crispier skin and allows the sauce to cook in without burning.

Excluding initial taste, I cut the heat with dairy products which help bring out the flavors. Some people use ranch dressing, but ranch dressing adds too many other spices, including dill and salt. Those spices change the finished product too much and the intended flavor is lost. For buffalo wings, I believe chunky blue cheese dressing is best. It has a simpler mix of ingredients that complement the buffalo sauce.

Sweet Baby Ray’s Buffalo Wing Sauce

Sweet Baby Ray’s is one of the de facto standards of BBQ sauce. They have ventured into other condiment sauces, including buffalo wing sauce.

A thick, red-orange colored sauce, SBR Buffalo Wing Sauce is poured from a bottle, coats well and packs a lot of flavor. It also has just a little too much heat, but not bad. I had to use a little more blue cheese dressing to bring the heat down enough to truly enjoy the flavor of the buffalo wing sauce.

UPDATE (February 2020) – When I saw that Sweet Baby Ray had released a “mild” version I was excited and bought that “Baby”. Well SBR missed the mark on this one, big-time. Unlike the original SBR Buffalo, the milder version is very runny and gritty. It’s like they added water and called it mild. I’m very disappointed in Sweet Baby Ray’s mild buffalo sauce! The flavor reminded me too much of when I accidentally got shot in the face with pepper spray.

Hooters Wing Sauce

Hooters buffalo wing sauce is a bright orange color. I used to joke about it being almost fluorescent whenever I went into their restaurants. But color aside, this is a great sauce.

I think what sets Hooters Wing Sauce apart from the others is that they don’t use cayenne peppers. Instead Hooters puts aged red peppers in their buffalo wing sauce. Red peppers are not as hot as cayenne peppers and they are more flavorful. On top of that, Hooters uses butter in their recipe. Real butter enhances the spices in the sauce and the fat of butter cuts the heat.

Yes, I realize cayenne peppers are part of the red pepper family, however the red peppers used by Hooters is a blend of different red peppers, including cayenne. Most recipes concentrate purely on cayenne and many add paprika, but they lack the flavor complexity of including other red pepper varieties.

Frank’s Red Hot

I’ve had people use Frank’s Red Hot for buffalo wings. As tasty as Frank’s Red Hot is, it is not a suitable buffalo wing sauce. Frank’s Red Hot expanded on their brand to create a Wings variety.

Red in color and fluid for the pour, Frank’s Red Hot Wings is tasty, like their namesake, but it has too much cayenne and it lacks the smoothness of the best buffalo wing sauces. I suspect it is because they use canola oil and butter flavor, rather than real butter.

Jake's Grillin Buffalo Wing Sauce
Jake’s Grillin Buffalo Wing Sauce

In a league of its own is Jake’s Grillin. There Buffalo Wing Sauce is unlike the others I have tried. Dark amber in color with black specs, Jake’s doesn’t even look like your typical wing sauce.

The main difference with them is the additional spices and sugar used in their sauce. Who uses sugar in their sauce? Well, it evens out the other flavors and allows for a delightful buffalo sauce. They also use butter in the recipe, just like many of the best sauces.

Several minutes after adding the sauce to my chicken and putting it back in the oven, I could smell the sweet tanginess of the sauce as it warmed the kitchen air. The scent was enjoyable, but kind of confusing because it has notes of sweet and sour sauce, barbecue sauce and buffalo sauce. With my favorite chunky blue cheese dressing on the chicken, this sauce stands out from the others.

For those that feel Jake’s is too mild for their tastes, add some Frank’s Red Hot to taste. Frank’s flavor will enhance Jake’s flavor without contradicting it, all the while increasing the heat.

Yuengling Light Mild Wing Sauce

When I saw Yuengling’s buffalo sauce, I had to give it a shot. Their hot version is called Yuengling Traditional Wing Sauce, while the mild version has “Light” in the title. That’s what I got, since I prefer flavor over heat.

I prepared the chicken my usual way, applying the buffalo wing sauce half way through cooking. By the time it was done, my kitchen was filled with a wondrous garlic and spice smell. Nothing like the usual over-powering cayenne pepper. This gave me high hopes for this sauce being deliciously different.

Yuengling has definitely made a delicious sauce and it took about a dozen wings before the heat built up too much for my taste. I’m glad I didn’t go with the hotter version.

Wing-Time Garlic Buffalo Wing Sauce

Wing-Time Garlic Buffalo Wing Sauce

Using my normal routine of preparing my buffalo wings, I added Wing-Time’s garlic with parmesan buffalo wing sauce half-way through the baking process. Within a few minutes I could smell the garlic from the sauce. With the scent of the cayenne peppers wafting about a couple minutes after that.

The garlic in this sauce made for a delightful change in commercial buffalo sauces. The garlic complements the palate well, before the heat of the peppers kick in. This is a building heat that many spicy food lovers will enjoy. After about 10 wings, I had enough, but I enjoyed the ride to there.

Steve’s & Ed’s Buffalo Wing Sauce

When I saw the bright orange color of this buffalo wing sauce, I had hopes it would live up to Hooter’s buffalo sauce. I bought a jar of Steve’s and Ed’s. The initial taste test of just the sauce right out of the bottle, it was a medium heat spicy, perhaps too much cayenne.

I sat down with my newly acquired sauce slathered on my chicken. My first taste was very salty, followed by a heated bitter after-taste likely from the use of “butter flavor” instead of actual butter. As I worked through the batch, this continued and the heat was building. Well – Steve’s & Ed’s Buffalo Wing Sauce fell short of my expectations. It is not making the top five of my favorites.

Blend It!

I had some Sweet Baby Ray’s and some Yuengling buffalo sauce left over, so I tried mixing them together. With some play I found the best mix is equal parts of each – stir them together and coat the meat. It made for a delicious sauce with loads of flavor and not too much heat.

I did try blending Frank’s and Wing-time with the others, but I was disappointed in the results. As soon as I find the Hooter’s sauce again, I will try mixing that up.

Stonewall Kitchen Buffalo Wing Sauce

While in a local cooking boutique, I noticed a bottle of Stonewall Kitchen’s buffalo sauce. This sauce towts being “Gluten Free”, which I didn’t realize was an issue with buffalo wing sauces. It is a little more expensive than many of the other sauces, probably because of being marketed through boutiques.

The ingredients of this sauce reflects a lot of the typical ingredients of good sauces like cayenne peppers, tomatoes, vinegar and butter. The addition of anchovies and Worcestershire, along with a couple other new surprises intrigued me.

Upon opening the bottle, there was a lovely buffalo sauce scent and a quick taste reminded me of Yuengling mixed with Baby Ray’s buffalo wing sauces. I prepared my chicken in the usual manner. The sauce is thicker than typical and poured slow. I was surprised that the kitchen didn’t fill with the wonderful scent during cooking. Usually it does.

The first taste was very mild. Some flavor and a little heat. About the same for the next bite. As I continued, the heat built up some, then pow a few bites of hot and spicy, then back to milder. I shook the bottle before pouring. I’m not sure why the level of spice and flavor varied.

All in all, it is a good sauce, but considering the price and the weird variation of flavor and spice with each bite this sauce is not making the top five.

UPDATE – It seems the flavor and spice variation I experienced was because the new bottle was too full, with how thick the sauce is, to get a good mixing when shook. Subsequent uses were much better – more room to aerate and mix when shaking. This moves the sauce up on the list of favorites. For this sauce, it is best to use a utensil like a chop stick to stir in the bottle on first use, or poor it into a bowl and mix before applying to your wings.

My Favorite Buffalo Wing Sauce

This is an evolving list, but as of the last modification to this document, the following are my favorite Buffalo Wing Sauces.

  1. Jakes Grillin Buffalo Wing Sauce
  2. Hooters Wing Sauce
  3. Blend of Yuengling and Baby Ray’s
  4. Yuengling Light Mild Wing Sauce
  5. Stonewall Kitchen Buffalo Wing Sauce
  6. Wing-Time Garlic with Parmesan

Okay – the top five has grown a little. Sometimes an honorable mention simply isn’t enough.

Try It On Eggs

In the last year, I discovered how wonderful buffalo sauce is on scrambled eggs with blue cheese crumbles. The best way to do it, is to scramble just the eggs in your sauce pan until they are mostly done – they’ll still have a glossy coat. Stir in the blue cheese crumbles until it melts and then add the buffalo sauce. A minute or so later, perfect buffalo eggs. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Slight Tangent (Other “Buffalo” Products)

There are other buffalo products on the market that I’ve decided to add into this article, since they are sort of relevant.

Boar’s Head Blazing Buffalo

When my daughter saw Boar’s Head Blazing Buffalo chicken sausage, she bought a pack for us to try. Boar’s Head makes quality meat products and I’m sure someone that loves the heat more than the flavor will appreciate this product. Pay close attention to the “Blazing” in the product name – it is very hot. The heat massively overpowers the flavor. We are all disappointed in this one.

Subscribe or visit every few months to see my latest feedback as I try other brands of buffalo wing sauce.

Originally created 14 February 2017. Published date is modified to reflect the latest update.

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