Here it is, the diffinitive guide to classifying chicken wings. Surprisingly, most people do not understand the difference between chicken wings, their cooking methods, styles or the variations that have come about from the popularity of this cooked chicken extremity. After seeing, hearing and watching people confuse and misrepresent what a Buffalo Chicken Wing was, I had to come up with a way to educate and inform about the greatest food out there.
While chicken wings have been apart of the food world as long as we as humans have been eating chicken, it is important to understand that the phenomenon of WINGS comes from the Anchor Bar in Buffalo New York in the 1960's. From that fatefull day, chicken wings have become an important member in the lexicon of popular cuisine. Buffalo Wings were born, then Hot Wings were developed, and then an explosion of the styles and methods of cooking have graced the world. We need to understand the differences so that we can be clear what kind of food we are talking about.
I am breaking this classification down into 4 sections: Wing Parts, Cooking Methods, Wing Styles & Wing Variations.
Let's start by looking at the physical wing itself. Some restaurants/chefs may split it into three parts, two, or as one jumbo unit.
- THE WINGETTE - aka FLAT, MID-WING JOINT
-Part of the wing with 2 bones, and delicious stretched skin.
- THE DRUMMETTE - aka DRUMMY, MINI DRUMSTICK
-Part of the wing that resembles a chicken leg: bulbous meaty end
- THE TIP - aka NUB,
-Part of the wing that is just a tip. Usually discarded (or put into soup etc), but may remain attached. People unfamiliar with the tip may fear it is a mutant part of the chicken, or that it is simply a waste, but can be a small source of crispy joy.
Wing sizes vary from restaurant to restaurant and grocery store to butcher shop. Most of the time, bigger is better - but always try to avoid frozen.
There are many ways in which to cook a wing. These are the most mainstream ways to make wings, but there are always people inventing new ways to prepare them.
- DEEP FRIED
-In a deep fryer or pot filled with oil (different oils will produce different flavours) cooked at extremely high temperatures.
-'Traditional method for "Buffalo Wings"
-Produces the most crispy wings (WK prefered method of wing cookery)
- a) BAKED - aka ROASTED
-Placed on a rack or a pan and roasted/baked, usually at high temperatures.
b) BAKED with SAUCE IN
-Sauced wings that are baked, creating a more flavoured skin.
-Wings cooked over or on a direct source of heat such as a BBQ (charcoal or gas) or a grate (also known as a grill) over a fire.
- STIR FRIED
-Frying wings quickly at high temperatures in a frying pan or wok in a thin layer of oil.
-More common in Asian style of wings.
- SLOW COOKED
-Chicken is cooked in a crock-pot/slow cooker or pot in sauce on low heat for many hours, producing a 'fall-off-the-bone' soft skinned wing.
-A pateneted technique that involves a marinated and breaded piece of chicken, then deep fried and pressure cooked
-Not a common technique but tasty results
-Like grilling, chicken is cooked over an open heat source, but it is the smoke produced (from various types of wood chips/logs) that actually flavours and cooks the wings by drying them out.
There are hundreds of ways to serve wings once they have been cooked, or even before. Here are the 8 main catagories in which to serve wings.
- BUFFALO STYLE
-Wing is deep fried, then tossed in a butter/margerine and pepper sauce (Frank's or Crystal). That is all. If you bake, dust, batter or sauce any other way, it is NOT a Buffalo Wing, it becomes a 'HOT WING'.
-Traditionally served with blue cheese dip with celery and/or carrot sticks to dip.
-Made famous by the Anchor Bar in Buffalo New York, hence the term 'Buffalo' wing
-Residents of Buffalo when refering to 'wings' often mean 'Buffalo wings', but this is misleading as there are hundreds of variation of 'wings'. Hence this classification guide.
-Any wing prepared, then covered in sauce.
-Hundreds of sauce possibilities. Most common include: mild/medium/hot/suicide, BBQ sauce, honey mustard, curry, garlic-parmesean, sweet Thai, maple. Please note that no matter how many people order Honey Garlic, the LOTW blog does not consider Honey Garlic a chicken wing ~ it is an abomination.
- BREADED TYPE
-Preperation of wing involves a coating added on before cooking. There are several variations:
>DUSTED, aka DREDGED: Raw wing is lightly tossed in flour (maybe other spices as well) before cooking.
>BREADED: Wing is dipped in liquid (beat egg, butter milk, hot sauce etc.), then tossed in a dry ingredient (flour, cornmeal etc.) before cooking to create a crispy outside.
>BATTERED: Wing is dipped into batter (dry ingredient & liquid combination) before
frying. Different batters include Beer Batter or Tempura. Least common breading technique.
-A huge generalization, mostly known from North American Chinese establishments.
-Wings are generally stir-fried in a wok (or deep fried first) with various ingredients (often garlic, shallots, peppers etc) as well as a spicy/sweet/sour/salty sauce (ie soy sauce, teriyaki, honey etc) combination.
-Korean Fried Chicken is a glowingly popular dish that is close to both Breaded type and Sauced. I have yet to try but yearn to so much.
-Indonesian ? Maylasian? Japanese? Sure - but I can't report on them yet.
-Wing that is seasoned with secret herbs and spices, breaded, then pressure fried. Some place may simply deep fry.
- DRY SPICED
-Wing (which may be naked, dusted or breaded), fried, than tossed with dry seasonings. Sometimes wings are spiced before cooking.
-Common seasoning include: Cajun, dry salt, lemon pepper, Mexican, and various potato chip flavours.
-Wings that are served in posh environments with flavours rarely catering to the masses
-Wing is often made into a lollipop configuration (meat and skin is all pulled to one end of the bone).
-Chicken wing that has no sauces, seasonings or breading before or after the cooking process.
-Most often ordered from a restaurant so that a consumer may sauce or season themselves.
It took over 20 years for modern 'wings' to become part of the popular cuisine in North America, but once it did, it didn't stop at the wing.
- BONELESS WINGS
-Chicken that is cooked and sauced like a chicken wing (often Buffalo style sauce) but has no bones. It never refers to a wing that has actually been de-boned.
-Chicken types may include: Chicken Finger/Fillet, Chicken Nugget/Fling and Pop Corn Chicken
-May be served on top of a salad
- BUFFALO CHICKEN SANDWICH
-Chicken burger/finger that is tossed in a Buffalo wing sauce, often topped with blue cheese dressing
-May be served as a wrap in a tortilla.
-The term Buffalo refers to sauce, not the cooking method.
- BUFFALO CHICKEN LEG
-A chicken leg or thigh that is deep fried, then tossed in Buffalo wing sauce, just like a Buffalo Wing.
- BUFFALO WING DIP
-Appetizer dip generally consisting of cream cheese, blue cheese, shredded cheese, shredded chicken breast, and hot sauce (usually Frank's) that is baked and served warm.
-No actual wings are involved in the dip.
- BUFFALO WING SOUP
-Creamy, chicken soup (may have wings in it, but more likely pieces of chicken meat) that has Buffalo wing sauce.
-Wide range of snacking foods that have a Buffalo wing flavour.
-May include, but not limited to: Potato Chips, Pretzel Bits, Pop Corn, Crackers, Nuts etc.
So as you can see, Chicken Wings are not just some simple bar food. Complex, diversified, tasty, they truly are a marvel of modern cuisine.