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One Wing, Two Pieces

January 31, 2011

Philly isn’t exactly a wing town. But I went to a bar there all the way back in my college days that had a wing special. I cannot remember the details of the deal, but I do remember their wings. Their wings were remarkable because when they gave you a wing, they gave you the whole wing.

Officially, a wing contains three pieces. For argument’s sake, let’s call them the drumette, the flat, and the tip.

Generally, they are separated into two pieces, the drumette and the flat (which may or may not remain attached to the tip). But at this Philly dive, the lazy bastards in the kitchen just took the whole thing and threw it in the fryer. Honestly, it wasn’t bad, and it certainly ensured that every patron got an equal distribution of wing parts.

True wing fans will insist that every part of the wing has its benefits. Even the tip that contains no meat can still get really crispy around the edges, and provide not just a good grip for the flat, but a few more nibbles of fried substrate for hot sauce.

Maybe I’m not a true wing fan, because I absolutely have one piece of the wing that is far and away my favorite of the two. And I’m curious how many of you are with me.

Let’s start with some criteria.

Wings are not about meat. If wings were about meat, you wouldn’t be eating wings. You would be eating legs or thighs or breasts. Wings are about skin, fat and bone. These are the holy trinity of flavor in any poultry preparation. It’s why boneless, skinless chicken breast is one of the blandest cuts of meat imaginable.

Yes, the meat is important. The meat needs to be tender and juicy. It needs to yield under the crispy exterior of the wing. It needs to soak up the melted, rendered fat from beneath the skin. It needs to provide a negligible amount of protein to justify eating all of the fat and calories that are inherent in a wing. What is more important is the ratio of skin to meat.

When judging by these factors, there is only one piece of the wing that shines. And that is the flat.

People love the drumette. The truth is that it’s easier to eat. You can hold it easily in one hand, and eat around the central bone. It has a satisfying bolus of meat that provides a mouth filling bite.

But it fails in texture and flavor. It’s just not fatty enough. The meat in invariably tougher, and the larger piece of meat has insufficient skin. Less skin means less sauce. And wings exist as a delivery vehicle for sauce.

Those who enjoy the flat have a variety of ways to negotiate around the parallel bones that prevent easy access to the richer, more succulent meat lurking inside. I can’t speak for anyone else’s technique but my own.  And this is where illustrations would come in very handy. But I will try my best to describe how I eat a flat.

After making sure all sides are thoroughly saturated with sauce, I take a bite along the curved edge of the flat, enjoying the crisped skin and exposing the thinner of the two bones beneath. Then I grab onto the bone with my teeth and wrench it out of the wing. This leaves me with a good-sized if narrow strip of juicy, flavorful chicken that is nestled between three sides of crispy, sauce-laden skin.

No drumette could ever compare.

So now really what I need to do is find someone who completely disagrees with me, and go out for wings with them. There would be no sense in abusing them for the error of their ways. Instead, I would be absolutely content splitting an order of wings without having to touch a single drumette myself.

Anyone?

15 Comments leave one →
  1. January 31, 2011 11:29 am

    I don’t know how I knew you were going to say the flat. Wait, maybe I did: because it’s CLEARLY the better of the two (three?) parts! In college I knew a guy who only ate the drumettes. There are worse reasons to make friends with someone.

  2. January 31, 2011 12:39 pm

    Looks like we won’t be going together to the Ruck anytime soon because we’d be battling for the flats. I agree with you on all counts.

  3. January 31, 2011 12:46 pm

    I agree that the flat is the better part of the whole wing. I don’t really like to bite off the bone, so that may be why I don’t enjoy the drumette. My technique is messy and may turn people off because I have to play with my food so much, I totally de-bone the flat, roll up the meat in the skin and then proceed to dip in the blue cheese.

  4. January 31, 2011 2:14 pm

    I prefer the flat, too. Lucky for me, my husband likes the drumettes. And now I want some wings.

  5. January 31, 2011 4:13 pm

    How far are you from SF? I forget… But San Tung’s “Dry Fried Chicken Wings Dry” are truly awesome and involve absolutely no blue cheese.

  6. January 31, 2011 4:27 pm

    Ooooo, this post makes me feel vindicated. I have always shirked the drumette and gobbled up the flats with all the speed I can muster before someone else eats them all. Boyfriend likes the drumettes (I don’t think he prefers them, or at least not by much if he does, but probably enjoys them just as much) which I’m a little, ehh, by, but I am not stupid enough to say anything lest my precious bits get stolen.

    This also makes me want to eat my weight in wings.

  7. Sara Y. permalink
    January 31, 2011 6:36 pm

    Agreed! The flat also has just the right amount of cartilage to provide a nice, springy crunch with the meat. I tend to forego that part on the drumette. The other night, I made a karaage-style fried chicken using Rosie chicken boneless thigh pieces and wing flats, my two favorite parts, and it was so much better than ordering it at a restaurant where I don’t have the ability to choose!

  8. January 31, 2011 9:07 pm

    Agreed! Lucky me, my friends and co-workers prefer the drumette. Drumettes are too tough and overall less consistent. I rarely eat wings precisely because of the drumettes are so off-putting. But if I could have only flats…

  9. Alex permalink
    February 1, 2011 12:05 am

    WRONG!

  10. Alex permalink
    February 1, 2011 12:09 am

    I WILL EAT ALL YOUR DRUMETTES!!!

  11. February 1, 2011 3:00 am

    So where did you get these wings in Philly? Moriarity’s on the corner of Walnut and Camac? If so, I agree that they make a fine wing!

    Why is it that the smell of fried chicken wings is so intoxicating? Every time I walk into a bar and pick up on their scent, I must have them (the same applies to french fries)!

    As far as my favorite part goes, I’m totally with you on the double boned flat. Much like the lowly thigh and drumstick, the flat part of the wing is the most under appreciated part of the chicken.

    I have a very neat and efficient way of eating them. I grab the end, insert the wing into my mouth, cut the skin with my teeth, then pull the bones out as I tear the meat and skin off them with my front teeth. It ain’t pretty, but it works. :)

  12. Bob W. permalink
    February 1, 2011 1:33 pm

    That is my preferred flat-eating style as well. It is above reproach, good sir.

    The missus and I have been together for nearly two decades now and, whenever we have wings together, I still give her free range over the flats. She tells people I prefer the drumette but, truth be told, she’s just so darn happy with her pile of flats — who am I to deny her wing nirvana?

  13. February 1, 2011 7:40 pm

    I’d rather have the drumette, myself — it’s got a nice little handle, it’s got a good amount of meat, and I don’t have to do that awkward pushing of my tongue between the two bones to try to get the meat off of it.

    (I will totally come eat your drumetts. Mmm, chicken wings…)

  14. February 2, 2011 12:04 pm

    Funny, I have never been into wings. I used to think they were totally gross, in all honesty. It’s only in the last couple of years that I have gotten past my revulsion and learned to sometimes like wings. I’m by no means a connoisseur but I do eat them sometimes and when I do, I *always* go for the drumette. It probably has something to do with my orderly and fastidious nature. Drumettes seem neater and to make more sense. I like their meatiness.

    • Juston permalink
      February 6, 2011 1:52 pm

      The proper name for the group of individuals sharing this wings experience is the Perfect Wings Team. One member eats the flats, another eats the drumettes, and the other member eats the celery/carrots.

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