Most of us have eaten chicken wings while out at a restaurant or pub, but have you ever had the pleasure of making them yourself? You might be surprised at how easy they are to master.
Our guide will show you where to buy raw chicken wings—and how to make the most of your selection.
Where To Buy Raw Chicken Wings
You can find raw chicken wings at most large supermarkets, as well as specialty butcher shops. If you can purchase them from a local farmer, that’s even better. As a last resort, you can seek them out online, but it’s best if you have the opportunity to inspect the meat before you buy it.
About Chicken Wings
Since the chicken wing doesn’t get a great deal of exercise, it’s considered white meat, like the breast. However, it has a juicy texture and a concentrated flavor that’s reminiscent of dark meat.
Chicken wings gained popularity in the mid-1960s, when the Buffalo wing was created in New York. Buffalo wings are chicken wings that have been fried and coated in hot sauce, then served with blue cheese dressing, along with celery and carrot sticks.
Though they’re excellent when served as finger food, chicken wings also make wonderful additions to soups and stews. You can throw a batch on the grill for an easy weeknight meal, or save them for special occasions, like Super Bowl Sunday.
Flats vs. Drums
Chicken wings are sold three ways. They’re typically divided into segments known as flats and drums, but you may also be able to find whole wings for sale.
Flats are the middle section of the wing, and may also be called “wingettes.” They consist of a small nugget of meat between two thin, delicate bones. Because the flats are covered with skin, they crisp up beautifully.
The drums, or drummettes, look like drumsticks, hence the name. They make up the uppermost portion of the wing. While they offer a meatier bite than the flat, they also contain more cartilage.
Which is better? That’s a matter of preference, but there are quantifiable differences between drums and flats. First of all, flats don’t have as much meat, but the meat they do have is easier to remove from the bone, because there isn’t as much cartilage.
Since drums offer a large center bone, they’re easier to dip. You can also hold them in one hand, whereas flats usually require a two-hand operation. That’s the main reason why many wing enthusiasts prefer these to flats.
Finally, there’s the issue of size. Drums are bigger, and all the meat is located on one end. That gives them great visual appeal.
Where To Buy Raw Chicken Wings
First of all, know that if you’re looking for whole wings and not just the flats or drums, you might have to do a little digging, so to speak. It’s more common for the wings to be divided before they wind up on supermarket shelves.
If you don’t mind pre-split wings, though, you have several options. Let’s take a look.
From a Local Farm
This is your best bet, no matter what type of meat you’re buying. If you enjoy grilling, it’s a good idea to cultivate a cordial relationship with your local farmers.
Pasture-raised chicken wings are leaner and more flavorful than the ones sold in bulk. You may also be able to find the same products by visiting farmer’s markets or farm stands.
At the Butcher Shop
If buying from a local farm isn’t in the cards, visit your neighborhood butcher counter. They should be able to sell you a batch of chicken wings, no problem. If you want whole wings rather than pre-split ones, be sure to call ahead.
The best thing about buying from a butcher shop is that you can get a good look at the meat before you take it home. The butcher might even be able to tell you where the chicken came from and how it was raised.
At the Supermarket
Most large supermarket chains should have chicken wings in stock on a regular basis. The downside to this is that they might not be as high-quality as the ones you’d find at a farm stand or butcher shop.
What’s more, some smaller chains might not have them on hand when you want them. If you live in a rural area, adding chicken wings to the menu might require some planning ahead.
From Online Retailers
While buying from online retailers is certainly convenient, it’s not the ideal solution.
For one thing, they’ll usually arrive frozen. That’s a good thing in terms of preservation, but it will affect the texture of the product. When chicken wings are cooked fresh, they’re juicier and more flavorful.
The more pressing issue, though, is that you won’t be able to inspect the wings for quality before you buy them. As you’ll learn in the next section, some wings are more worthy of purchase than others.
If you have no other option, at least try to buy your wings from a reputable online source, such as Greensbury or Farm Foods Market. They might be pricier, but the increase in quality will be worth the cost.
How To Choose The Best Wings
Raw chicken wings should be creamy white to yellow in color, with a plump appearance. Any meat that’s visible beneath the surface will be a peachy-pink shade. The skin should be dimpled and stretched tight over the meat and bone.
If the meat looks grey, or if it has a pasty appearance, don’t buy the wings. Ditto if you see any green or blue patches, as these suggest mold growth. Blood spots aren’t necessarily dangerous, but they do indicate that the meat was poorly handled.
All raw chicken needs to pass the smell test. That’s another reason why it’s better to buy them in person.
Sniff the package to make sure it doesn’t have a discernible odor. If you detect a sour or sweet smell, or catch a whiff of rotten eggs, then the wings have already started to spoil.
Assuming that you’re able to touch the meat beforehand, make sure it isn’t slimy, sticky, or overly wet. It’s fine for the surface to be slightly damp, but it shouldn’t feel waterlogged.
How To Store Chicken Wings
As soon as you get the chicken wings home from the store, take them out of their original packaging and transfer them to an airtight container. You can skip this step if the wings are vacuum-sealed, or if you’re planning to cook them off immediately.
Place the container in the refrigerator, preferably on the bottom shelf. Cook them off within 2 days, or freeze for up to 6 months. When freezing meat, make sure to label the package with the date and the contents, and pack the meat tightly to avoid freezer burn.
Before you start to prep the wings, you’ll need to know what you’re doing with them. Your first step is to dry the meat thoroughly using paper towels. Otherwise, the skin won’t crisp up properly, and that’s one of the hallmarks of perfectly cooked wings.
You can brine or marinate the wings if you prefer, but they won’t need to stay in the mixture long. 4 to 6 hours would be fine. If it works better with your schedule, go ahead and marinate them overnight.
Deep-frying is the quickest and most popular cooking method for chicken wings. However, unless you have a large deep-fryer, it’s tough to turn out large batches at once. Grilling and smoking are also good bets, and they yield healthier results to boot.
When preparing wings for the grill or smoker, use a good seasoning rub. You can add a sauce if you’d like, but wait until the wings are fully cooked. It’s fine to brush it on during the last couple of minutes of cooking, but if you add it too soon, it will burn.
Depending on where you live, you might have to look around to find raw chicken wings for sale. Once you’ve found them, make sure to inspect the meat for quality, just as you would with any other cut.