While I am still waiting for a response from BW3 Corporate, I wasn't suprised to hear from one of the owners of the BW3 Bethel Road Location, which is in my opinion the best store of the entire chain. Here are his words which are largely unedited. (Only a couple of lines not related to BW3 were removed.)
First of all, it is important to note that we serve a fresh wing. Most, if not all, of the other establishments reviewed in your article serve frozen wings. Is this a big deal? We think so. The difference is in the taste. Can you tell the difference between a frozen hamburger and a fresh one? A real hamburger lover can tell the difference, just like a real wing lover can tell the difference between frozen and fresh. We take great pride in being the only significant player in the wing business using fresh wings. This requires us to accept two deliveries of wings a week and store them in a separate cooler at a specific temperature. In short, anybody with a fryer and a freezer can sell frozen wings, but it takes extra time and expense to serve fresh wings. That is why bw-3 calls itself, "Home of the Real Wing." What does this have to do with wing size? Quite a bit actually. bw-3 as a chain buys wings from several different wholesale wing suppliers from the south. These wings have to be transported to the various food distribution houses where they are then distributed to the various stores and stored in each store's wing cooler. Since the wings are fresh, all of this has to happen within the shelf life of the wing, which is typically less than two weeks. (Of course, if you use frozen wings, you could store a wing for months and months before it is served and the non-discerning customer might not ever know.) The logistics involved in getting these fresh wings to all the stores is mind-boggling. The fresh wing market operates like a commodities market. The price of fresh wings fluctuates daily. There are now two basic wing sizes in this market, regular (12 to 14 wings per pound) and jumbo (8 to 9 wings per pound). bw-3 market research indicates that the perfect wing size is 10 to 12 per pound. Unfortunately, there is no market for wings in this exact size range. We generally opt for the jumbo wing and work with our suppliers to get as close to 10-12 as we can, but even then the size will vary. The reason? Chickens are not killed for their wings, they are killed for the breast meat. Chicken farms grow chickens to specific size and weight to achieve the optimum breast size. The wing used to be a by-product that was thrown out! In the summer, when temperatures in the south increase, chickens eat less, which means they grow slower, which puts pressure on breast production. Thus, at certain times, chickens tend to be killed prior to reaching optimum size, which in turn leads to smaller wings. If we have smallish wings, chances are it is in the summertime or right after the first of the year (around the Super Bowl when wing demand goes sky-high).
The bottom line is when you serve a fresh wing, you are subject to the fluctuations of the market. If you serve a frozen wing, you can stockpile wings and better target a certain size. As a chain, we have determined that serving fresh wings is what put us on the map and we are dedicated to continuing this practice as long as we possibly can. This means that our wings will fluctuate in size as the market dictates. When you go after a 10-12 per wing, sometimes you get 12-14's, and frankly those are small. It doesn't happen all that often, and when it does, we add wings to the order. However, I believe even these smaller wings are a superior product than any frozen wing no matter the size. One other point about size, although this is more of a personal belief more than a company one. I have been a wing lover for 20 years now. My love of wings is what inspired me to get in this business. I agree with the company standard that puts a perfect wing at 10 to 12 per pound. Some people might call this a smallish wing, but to me and other hard core wing zealots in the chain it is the perfect size. It cooks properly (golden & crispy on the outside; and the meat comes out more on the medium well scale) and within a manageable time window. Jumbo wings have to be cooked longer, which toughens the skin. Also, I find jumbo wings to be too juicy on the inside. The perfect wing should be just slightly on the dry side in order for the flavor of the wing sauce to come through. Some wings being served out there are ridiculously huge. These aren't wings, they are half chickens. I don't think Frank & Therese would approve of these.
The King and Queen speak
First of all, we would like to thank the owner for taking the time to write. His words show a lot of wisdom and obviously come from experience that rivals our own in terms of years, and exceeds ours in practical experience. Certainly as fellow Buffalo wing experts we find much merit in his points.
We have always tried to make our site about "Authentic Buffalo wings" and restaurants that serve wings as their main fare, as opposed to an appetizer will always score better to true aficionados such as us. However, we do try to keep the average patron in mind, hoping to inform you of what we think you will like. For the true flavor the medium size wings are better. Big juicy wings do tend to be greasy and mix with the sauce dilluting the heat level, but some of you won't mind that. I still get amused when people run for the water at wings we consider mild or medium.
However, nobody likes small meatless wings that occasionally slip into BW3 orders. This has been happening less this year than previous times, but from what I have seen only Bethel Road adds to orders when it does. When ever we go for wings it is rare that we order less than 36 total, so a small wing or two doesn't bother us as much as it might for people with orders of 6 or 12.
As mentioned, even though we gave the title of best in Columbus to QSL for 2000, we remain loyal BW3 customers and highly recommend that if you want to try the best try both BW3 and QSL, we recommend Bethel road be the BW3 store you try.
For more info on this location go to BW3Bethel Road
Now that QSL has been open for more a year, we remain committed to our choice of them as Columbus' best wings. However, we have been giving a lot of thought to what it would take for BW3 to regain the title. While it doesn't really mean a lot in terms of a quality wings, The Royal family of wings (our 17 year old daughter has become a wing lover over the years, and her expertise is building.) thinks it is time for BW3 to stop selling by the piece and change their menu to a weight based one to provide better value to its customers.
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