Buffalo Chicken Vs Nashville Hot: What's The Difference?

Nashville hot and Buffalo chicken
Nashville hot and Buffalo chicken - Static Media / Shutterstock

It's an understatement to say that fried chicken is treasured in the U.S., considering that 50% of Americans love it and 16% say they would marry it, according to a survey from National Today. And yet, certain regions of the country may be able to claim this delicacy more than others. Just one trip to Buffalo will show you how proud these New Yorkers are of their chicken wings (with blue cheese dip only, of course), while the streets of Nashville boast at least 15 different spots to get the city's signature poultry dish (we're partial to Prince's Hot Chicken, for the record).

While both of these fried chicken varieties are beloved by their respective cities, what makes each one unique? The main differences lie in how the poultry is seasoned, sauced, and served. Buffalo chicken is typically less spicy and a little tangier, while Nashville hot chicken turns up the heat (as you can guess from its name) and balances it out with a touch of sweetness. While you may see Buffalo chicken served in a plethora of different ways, the Nashville version generally comes on a sandwich.

Read more: 12 Different Ways To Cook Chicken

What Is Buffalo Chicken?

Buffalo chicken wings
Buffalo chicken wings - Axel Mel/Shutterstock

The term Buffalo chicken typically denotes two things: the sauce and Buffalo wings, or simply "wings," as they're called up north. While wings are the most popular way to eat Buffalo chicken, they're not the only way to do so — but more on that later. What is essential to this dish, however, is the sauce. It's smooth and tangy, composed of only a few ingredients, and it ranges from mild to hot.

There's plenty of heated debate about who makes the best wings in Buffalo, but we're a little more certain of where they were dreamed up in the first place. Anchor Bar is often credited with the invention, and it indeed calls itself "Home of the Original Buffalo Wing." The story goes that in 1964, a bartender at the establishment named Dominic Bellissimo asked his mother, Teressa, to make a snack for his friends, so she fried and sauced some wings. But a mile down the road, 1960s restaurant owner John Young likely also played a part in the birth of Buffalo chicken, from his shop Wings and Things. Once the sauce caught on locally, the Bellissimos promoted it to restaurateurs around the country, although it didn't become popular in national chains until the 1990s.

What Is Nashville Hot Chicken?

Nashville hot chicken sandwich
Nashville hot chicken sandwich - Joshua Resnick/Shutterstock

Unlike with Buffalo chicken, you'll almost always see Nashville hot on some type of sandwich. The poultry is typically coated in a paste-like substance, which makes it thicker and crispier than wings. Unlike the more straightforward Buffalo sauce, Nashville chicken is made using a colorful array of spices and seasonings, a hot oil, and often a brine as well. While it tends to have a healthy kick to it, it is possible to get this type of poultry on the milder side too.

Nashville chicken's alleged origin story is as spicy as its seasonings, and it starts in the 1930s. Here the story goes that a slick and handsome man named Thornton Prince (known for his womanizing ways) came home after a rowdy night out drinking. His partner, who was less than pleased with his behavior, massively ramped up the spice in his fried chicken the next morning as punishment. Prince, however, ended up loving the new recipe — so much so that he used it to open Prince's Hot Chicken in Nashville. It's a beloved establishment to this day, and still features sandwiches that are just as spicy as that first one. Today, Prince's flavors range from plain to the dangerous-sounding "XXX hot."

Butter Is The Backbone Of A Smooth Buffalo Sauce

Buffalo sauce in a bowl
Buffalo sauce in a bowl - Michelle Lee Photography/Shutterstock

Buffalo sauce gets its spicy, tangy flavor from just a few ingredients: butter, vinegar, hot sauce, and Worcestershire sauce. The butter cements the condiment's smooth texture, while the other ingredients bring on the spicy and acidic qualities. While you can use whatever tangy hot sauce pleases your tastebuds, Frank's RedHot is a classic option for Buffalo sauce — and according to the brand, the first-ever wings created at Anchor Bar were made using this condiment. The only ingredients in the bottle are aged cayenne red peppers, distilled vinegar, water, salt, and garlic powder.

Regardless of which hot sauce you use, you can still add cayenne and garlic powder to your Buffalo recipe to spice it up a bit. Depending on how much of a kick you like, you can massively up the cayenne pepper content, or leave it out entirely. Vinegar options include apple cider or plain white vinegar, and some versions even add a squeeze of honey to balance out the acidic spice. To make the sauce, all you have to do is melt butter on the stove, then athe other ingredients and whisk until everything is warm and combined.

Nashville Chicken Likes It Hot

Nashville hot chicken and pickles
Nashville hot chicken and pickles - Bhofack2/Getty Images

There are several layers that go into Nashville hot chicken: the brine, the seasoned flour coating, and the paste. The brine generally has a pickle element to it, whether that's the juice from the jar or pulverized pickles themselves (or both). It can either be stirred or blended together, depending on if any chunky ingredients are used, and chefs may also incorporate water, buttermilk, eggs, salt, pepper, hot sauce, hot peppers, and sweeteners like honey or sugar. Once the chicken has had at least a few hours to soak up all that brine, it gets dredged through flour mixed with seasonings like chili powder, cayenne pepper, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, salt, and pepper, and then deep-fried until it's nice and golden.

Thought you were done with spicy ingredients at this point? Think again. A spicy, oil-infused paste comes in as the final touch to make sure Nashville hot chicken leaves a lasting impression on your tongue. This is typically the same oil you fried the poultry in, combined with brown sugar and the same seasonings that you used in the flour mixture. When brushed onto crispy chicken, it clings onto the crunchy crevices and makes for an even thicker coating. It's important to note, however, that the heat can be taken down a notch in Nashville chicken by reducing the spices (in particular the cayenne) used in each of these layers.

The Beauty Of Buffalo Chicken Goes Beyond Wings

Buffalo chicken dip with chip
Buffalo chicken dip with chip - Elena Veselova/Shutterstock

Wings are undoubtedly the classic dish you think of when you imagine Buffalo sauce. It makes sense, considering that's how the dish was born in the 1960s. The wings themselves can be broken down into flats or drums — but as for which of the two is better, you'll have to take that up with passionate chicken-eaters, as this is the subject of a widely contested debate. Some say flats are preferable for the fact that they can be easily broken in two pieces, while others enjoy the higher meat content in drums. What most wing aficionados can agree on, though, is that they should be served with dip, celery, and carrot sticks.

Today's foodies have latched onto the Buffalo flavor so fervently that you can now find this type of chicken in a variety of forms. You may see nuggets, sandwiches, sliders, and tenders dressed up with this tangy sauce, along with creative recipes like Buffalo chicken lasagna, spaghetti squash, and pizza. And football fanatics in particular know the beauty of a creamy Buffalo chicken dip paired with tortilla chips, whether the dip gets made in the Crockpot or the oven.

Nashville Hot Chicken Feels At Home In A Sandwich

woman holding nashville chicken sandwich
woman holding nashville chicken sandwich - Joshua Resnick/Shutterstock

When you go to Prince's Hot Chicken in Nashville, you'll get your poultry served on white bread with pickles and plenty of extra hot sauce. Pickles are a staple in Nashville chicken recipes because they provide a welcome dash of briny flavor. This trio is the simple but pristine formula that has kept these sandwiches popular all over the country — and if you see any variation, it'll typically come in the form of replacing the white bread with soft brioche buns. Plus, some recipes add on coleslaw or mayo, or serve the sandwiches open-faced.

While this is undoubtedly the most popular way you'll find Nashville hot chicken, it's not the only one. Some spots serve theirs with honeyed and buttered waffles or between fluffy biscuits, while others offer straight-up tenders, breasts, or thighs in a basket with a creamy dipping sauce. If you're making it at home, feel free to get creative and throw yours in a salad, wrap, or taco.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.