Photography by Liz Barclay (@liz_barclay). GIFs by Amy Chen.

No one can deny that hot wings are a game-day essential. With Super Bowl weekend approaching, we enlisted chef Tommy Harder of NYC’s Blind Tiger Ale House—one of our favorite wing spots in the city—to teach us the secret to his pilsner-brined, baked chicken wings tossed with “Inferno” hot sauce. Inferno is a habanero- and vinegar-based sauce that will make even the most hardiest Scoville chasers tear up a bit. But the burn from the sauce is slow, and the flavor it provides is immense.

The sauce can be made way ahead of time (up to a month), and the wings can be prepped a day in advance. This will make for a no-hassle game day, when all you have to do is throw the wings back in the oven for a final bake, then toss them with the fiery sauce and throw them on a platter. Harder suggests serving the wings with blue cheese sauce to balance out the heat.



  • 24-36 chicken wing pieces (a mix of drumettes and flats), rinsed

For the brine:

  • 8 cups (64 oz) pilsner beer
  • 1/2 cup fine kosher salt

For the Inferno sauce:

  • 10 habanero peppers
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • ½ onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 1½ cup water
  • 1 tbsp (2 packets) Cajun seasoning
  • 2 tbsp Goya Sazón seasoning
  • ½ cup tomato puree
  • 2 tsp Tabasco
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 cup red wine vinegar

Cooking the wings:

Note: If you buy whole wings (get a 12-18) instead of pre-cut pieces, you can quickly butcher them using the technique demonstrated below. Find the joint between the drumstick and the wing, and use a sharp knife to cut right through it. Next, cut off the wing tip (the pointy section) from the wing.” (You can either save the wing tips for making stock, or throw them out.)

chickencut1. Put 8 cups of pilsner (lager and kolsch work, too) into a large container. Add ½ cup of salt, and whisk until the salt is fully dissolved in the beer.


2. Drop the wings into the pilsner brine, then place the container with the wings and the brine in the refrigerator for three hours. If your wings are on the larger side, you can brine them four to five hours. Any longer than that and the wings will turn out over-seasoned.


3. Place the wings on a foil-lined sheet tray, then put them in a 450°F oven for 30-45 minutes. They are ready to be taken out when they have started to brown a bit on top, and the internal temperature reaches 170°F.

When you take them out of the oven, liquid will have leached out of the wings and filled up the pan about half way (pictured above). Remove the wings from the liquid and let them rest for an hour on parchment or wax paper.


4. For the second cook, line a sheet tray with foil and place a rack on top of the sheet tray. Place the chicken wings on the rack, then put them in a 450°F oven for approximately 15 minutes.


5. Take the wings out of the oven, making sure they are golden brown and have a firm crust. Now, it’s time to make the Inferno sauce.


Making the sauce:

1. Start by removing the stems from the habaneros. Cut the peppers in half, then remove the ribs and seeds. (Unlike Harder, who is a pro, you should always use gloves when you cut hot chili peppers.)

2. Throw the habaneros into a medium saucepan with the chopped garlic, onion, and carrot.

3. Fill the saucepan with about 1½ cup of water (or more if necessary). You want the water to just cover the vegetables. Bring the liquid to a boil, and let the whole thing boil for 15 minutes.

4. Turn off the heat after 15 minutes, then add the vinegar, tomato puree, Tabasco, seasonings, and salt.

5. After letting the contents of the stock pot cool for 15 minutes, pour them into a blender. Cover the top of the blender with a towel, hold down the lid, and puree until smooth. Alternatively, you can use an immersion blender if you have one (as seen below). The sauce will keep in the refrigerator for up to a month, but you should warm it before you use it to coat the wings.

Finishing the wings:

1. Add 3 tablespoons of the warmed Inferno sauce to a bowl, then add in a dozen cooked chicken wings and toss.

2. Serve your pilsner-brined Inferno wings with carrots, celery, and blue cheese sauce.


Chef Harder recommends:

Ithaca Flower Power IPA

“IPAs pair well with the wings because the hops and malts help balance out the heat and vinegar.”

Lagunitas Pils

“Pilsner works well because we used pilsner to brine the wings.”

Bronx Brewery Pale Ale

“Again, a hoppy beer to balance the heat.”