Blue cheese or ranch?
If you’ve been asked this question, chances are you just ordered a plate of chicken wings. That, or you’re looking at an online wing survey or meme and quickly pouncing to defend your preference.
Wing enthusiasts, for some reason, love to ponder things like:
What state has the best wings?
What restaurant has the best wings?
Drums or flats?
Blue cheese or ranch?
I mean, it’s a competitive world out there! These are things the public must know! Let’s explore the fascination with today’s survey question by starting at the beginning. The fact is, as my father used to say, that blue cheese is normally served with chicken wings because “that’s the way it is.” Haha, thanks Dad. But here's the truth.
When she invented the now famous “hot-sauce-and-butter” combo and poured it over (normally discarded) chicken wings for her son and his friends late one night in 1964, Teressa Bellissimo (co-owner of Anchor Bar in Buffalo) garnished the very first plate of wings with celery and blue cheese.
There are different versions of WHY she actually chose to do that. Popular opinion (and Google) suggest that the reason was because “that’s what she had available.” Yeah, okay, but a little detective work at The Buffalo History Museum will uncover more.
As fate had it, “Bleu Cheese Stuffed Celery” was one of the most popular appetizers on the Anchor Bar dinner menu in 1964. That's why it was “available” and that’s why it was served with the first plate of wings. There it was. Hiding in plain sight. So it may be purely coincidence that it turned out to become a perfect pairing and eventually a global phenomenon.
While it was spreading from the city of Buffalo to the rest of the world, I didn’t experience my first “Buffalo-style” wings until sometime back in the 80’s. I had never been a big “salad” guy and had never even tried blue cheese dressing - thinking it was just “moldy cheese.” Yuck! But after dipping my first wing, it became my all-time most-favorite flavor on the planet. I started mixing buffalo sauce with blue cheese dressing and putting it on everything.
But hold the phone! (Or the wing, in this case)!
The question is “blue cheese or ranch?” So what's up with ranch dressing?
Well, one of the reasons the blue cheese pairing made sense and actually stuck (pun intended) is because dairy products are a natural coolant to combat the heat of the capsaicin on your taste buds. The ingredients of blue cheese include sour cream and sometimes milk. Picture contestants on Hot Ones dousing their lips with cold milk to put out the fire.
But we do have one distinct problem. Most people despise blue cheese! In a blog written in 2021 by Kathia Bello of “The Recipe,” the author had determined that blue cheese is actually the #4 Most Hated food in America after only candy corn, olives and anchovies! So what’s a wing lover to do?
Ranch dressing is a buttermilk and mayonnaise-based dip, always smooth and creamy, and are perfect to cool down hot wings or even provide a flavor balance to sweet wings. You’ll often see veggie platters served with ranch dip.
And while you’ll risk being tied to a cross and stoned to death for ordering ranch dressing at the mecca in Buffalo (their motto is #neverranch), it actually is the number-one choice for wings across the rest of the country according to most surveys conducted. Sorry Buffalonians.
In a recent study, an outfit called Curd is the Word determined that nationwide, 71% of people under 30 prefer ranch on their wings. That number dropped to 65% between 30-34 and 55% in the 35-54 bracket, but remained the favorite throughout.
GrubHub did a Twitter survey and found that 59% of responders preferred ranch and another popular survey of 3,100 Americans discovered that 43% preferred ranch and only 30%, blue cheese.
Conversely, multiple surveys conducted over the past four years by the top chicken wing network on Facebook "Wingaddicts Community" have concluded that a whopping 61% of true wing enthusiasts preferred blue cheese, only 17% ranch, and 12% saying they’d take both or neither.
Interesting blue cheese questions:
Is blue cheese the same as gorgonzola? No. Blue cheese can be made from cow’s milk, goat’s milk or sheep’s milk and is more-intense tasting and saltier. Like many cheeses it is French in origin. Gorgonzola is made strictly from cow’s milk and is softer and milder and its roots are Italian.
Is it “blue” cheese or “bleu” cheese? Either spelling is correct. “Bleu” is the French spelling and since the bleu cheese dressing was invented in France (for salads), you often see it spelled that way on menus.
Why is it “blue” cheese when its actually “white?” While the dressing or dip is actually white in color, the cheese itself has blue-colored marbling as a result of the addition of a mold called Penicillium.
Love it or hate it, blue cheese is the natural choice to go with “Buffalo style” wings. If for no other reason, because it has become an iconic flavor combination like hot dogs and mustard, peanut butter and jelly, or as Forrest Gump would say "peas and carrots." They just go together. But with the explosion of exciting new wing flavors in recent years, most “hard core” wing enthusiasts become too engrossed in their wing feasting to even touch any dressing at all. And that’s fine too.
Ultimately, the only thing that matters is how YOU like your wings.
Tommy Wyatt is co-founder of Wingaddicts and author of “Under the Wingfluence” for Wingaddicts.com.
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