What Are Chicken Wings?

Buying, Cooking, and Recipes

what are chicken wings

Lindsay Kreighbaum / The Spruce Eats 

Chicken wings have become ubiquitous with sports and drinking culture, but they're well-worth your time (and appetite) on any occasion. They're simple, easy to cook, full of protein, budget-friendly and a fun, hearty finger food for parties and weeknight dinners alike. Try them baked, fried, smoked, grilled or made into soup. No matter how you eat chicken wings, they're a versatile, delicious ingredient worth learning more about.

What Are Chicken Wings?

There are three types of wings you'll find at the market: the whole wing, the flat, and the drumette (the latter being the part that looks like a mini-drumstick). When you see these two parts together, it's easy to imagine the wing of a bird. Before the wing is broken apart, the drumette comes attached to the breast. Chicken wings also have a wing tip, but those aren't often included in sectioned-off bits of the cut.

How To Cook

Decide how you want your wings before you prep. For a dry rub, make sure the meat has been dried with paper towels first to allow the mix to adhere to the skin. Wings can also be marinated or brined before cooking to seal in moisture and flavor.

Fried wings have a huge following, and cooking them in a deep-fryer is an easy way to get the job done. Roasting or baking in the oven is a simple way to cook them (roast on top of a baking rack for crisper skin), and for extra flavor, chicken wings can be smoked or grilled.

Since wings have plenty of bone, connective tissue and fat, they make excellent soup and stock. The cooked wings can be removed from the soup, stripped of their meat and made into chicken salad.

Kid eating wings
All ages love chicken wings.  Getty Images
Eating chicken wings
Order a pile of chicken wings next time you go out. Getty Images 
Raw chicken
Chicken wings getting prepped for cooking. Getty Images 
Chicken wings
Spice up chicken wings however you like. Getty Images 
Buffalo wings
Classic Buffalo wings. Getty Images 
Cooked chicken wings
Cook chicken wings in a variety of ways. Getty Images 

What Do They Taste Like?

Chicken wings are white meat, even though they're juicier and have a more concentrated poultry flavor, like dark meat. Many people think of Buffalo wings when they think of this part of the chicken, and for good reason: they're extremely popular throughout the United States. The original Buffalo wings hail from Buffalo, New York, circa 1964: buttery, tangy, hot sauce-coated fried wings served with blue cheese dip and celery sticks.

Recipes

Where to Buy

Nearly any supermarket will sell chicken wings. Finding whole wings isn't as common as finding them pre-split into flats and drumettes — you may need to visit a butcher if you're looking specifically for whole wings (but call ahead first to make sure they have them in stock). Poultry stands at your local farmers markets will likely sell pasture-raised chicken wings. These tend to be a little leaner since these chickens are free-range and get more exercise than farmed birds, but have a lot more flavor and are raised more responsibly.

Cooked chicken wings can be found at nearly any American food restaurant, sports bar or pizza shop, and are usually served with a side of blue cheese sauce or ranch dressing. Barbecue restaurants sell them smoked or grilled, with or without Buffalo or barbecue sauce.

what are chicken wings
​The Spruce Eats / Hugo Lin

Storage

Remove chicken wings from supermarket packaging (unless they're vacuum-sealed or you're cooking them immediately) and place in an airtight container. If refrigerating, use within three days or freeze for up to six months. When defrosting frozen meat, make sure to place it in a bowl or on a plate to catch any moisture that might leak out to avoid cross-contamination.