These chicken wings basics will help you perfect your next batch.
Chicken wings are exactly that -- the wings of a chicken. A full chicken wing has three parts: the drumette, flat, and tip.
The drumette is shaped like a little drumstick and has one bone. The flat (sometimes called the wingette) is flatter in appearance and has two bones. The tip doesn't have very much meat and is usually discarded when making wings.
Wings can be cooked whole, but you'll usually get more consistent results if you cook them in separate parts.
Packages of wings at the supermarket may contain whole wings, or may contain just the drumettes and flats.
Whole wings usually cost less per pound, but you'll need to go through the extra step of cutting the wings into parts. If you want to cut down on your prep time you can buy the pre-cut drumettes and flats. You'll probably pay a little bit more for these.
The early 1990s is when the chicken wing crossed over from regional favorite to nationwide obsession. According to the National Chicken Council, McDonald’s began selling wings at some restaurants in 1990. In 1991, Kentucky Fried Chicken followed suit. Domino's Pizza introduced their version in 1994.
Chicken wings were invented in 1964 at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo. They became very popular in Buffalo, which began celebrating Buffalo Wing Day in 1977. The word about wings spread across the Northeast US, and by the late 1980s, you could buy wings at restaurants across the country. Today, chicken wings are more popular than ever — more than 1 billion chicken wings are consumed every Super Bowl Sunday.
A good chicken wing has delicious seasoning, a tasty dipping sauce, moist meat, and crispy skin.
Everybody likes different flavors, of course, which is why wings are such a crowd-pleaser. Chicken wings go well with just about every type of marinade, rub, or sauce.
To get moist meat, many cooks like to brine wings before cooking. Brine, a saltwater solution, increases the salt content of the meat, which adds flavor and helps cells retain more moisture.
Crispy skin is harder to achieve. You need to expose the wings to high heat without burning them. That's why the precise temperature control available on a Traeger makes such a difference when cooking wings. You can start them slow and low, then finish with a blast of heat for crispness.
Will wings still taste good without perfectly crispy skin? Yes, they will! Don't be intimidated. Chicken wings are easy to cook and taste delicious even if you don't do everything perfectly.
How many chicken wings per person? Per person, six chicken wing drumettes or chicken wing flats (or three whole chicken wings) is a good portion.
Our Chicken Wings 3 Ways video highlights the importance of seasoning wings. Approximately 30 wings are cooked exactly the same way -- tossed in cornstarch and seasoning, then roasted at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 35 minutes. After the wings are cooked, they are tossed in either a buffalo-style sauce, a sriracha-based sauce, or seasoned with Traeger Chicken Rub. It's like three different meals at once.
Chicken is a blank canvas for flavor. Let your imagination run wild when choosing a seasoning for wings. It is a perfect opportunity to try that homemade rub a relative gave you for the holidays, a unique sauce you bought on vacation, or an inventive new flavor concept you've always wanted to try.
Chicken wings take on the flavor of rubs very well. Salt is the foundation of most rubs. Spicy elements like ground peppers and chiles are good, too. If you want to use herbs in your rub, make sure they are crushed into small pieces, so they distribute evenly on the wings.
Chicken wing sauce can be applied before roasting and during the cooking process, tossed with cooked wings before serving, or left on the side.
Go bold with your chicken wing flavors. The most popular sauces have strong flavors of spice (classic Buffalo sauce), sweet and sour (honey dijon), savory (teriyaki), and others.
Wings are sold whole, or divided into drumettes and flats. If you buy whole wings, you'll have to do the dividing yourself.
Avoid buying wings that have yellow discoloration. It is a sign the wings are old, and the meat will probably be dry. You may want to avoid wings with lots of excess skin. The extra skin can make for an unpleasant appearance to your final product.
Some cooks like to brine wings overnight before cooking. Brine introduces salt to the meat, making it more moist (an optional step).
Whether you brine, marinate, or pull the wings straight out of the package, pat the skin dry before cooking. The dryer the wings are, the more likely the skin will become pleasantly crisp.
You can season with the rub of your choice, or simply a dusting of salt. Sauce can be applied before cooking or in the middle of the cook. You can also toss the wings in sauce after cooking.
Smoke chicken wings at 180 degrees Fahrenheit for 60 to 90 minutes, followed by 3 to 5 minutes at 450 degrees.
To grill chicken wings, place them on a grill heated to 375 degrees for 35 minutes, turning once halfway through.
You can experiment with other methods. The reverse sear method that works so well for steak can be used with chicken. This Smoked Mustard Wings recipe by Chef Matthew Jennings starts with oiled and seasoned wings seared at 500 degrees Fahrenheit, then smoked at 225 degrees, then glazed and roasted at 375 degrees to set the glaze.
Use a thin, quick-read thermometer to determine when the wings are cooked. NOTE: The Traeger probe seems a little wide for chicken wings which is why I'm recommending the thermometer. The safe internal temperature for chicken wings is 165 degrees, but most people prefer the texture of wings cooked to 185 or 190 degrees.
You can easily reheat leftover chicken wings and enjoy them again. Or, you can shred the meat off the bones to use in soup, sandwiches, or tacos,
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