what makes a wing?


While I have been on hot chicken kick lately, my one true love is the hot wing – preferrably, traditional buffalo. However, a recent contender for my favorite wings ever are the “extreme heat” wings at Ghot Wingz. Despite not being buffalo (they are more of a saucey sweet/hot barbecue-ish type wing), they are easily my favorite, and are hands-down the best wings I’ve ever had in Nashville. So good, in fact, that I have yet to even try their buffalo wings because I can’t forego the extreme heat.

I had them today, actually, and it got me thinking: we can all agree that the sauce is a key factor in what makes good chicken wings. But what about the chicken itself? This is clearly a huge part of the quality of the final product. To me, Knockout Wings is a great example of this. I really wanted to like Knockout Wings. They came highly recommended. They are located conveniently right down Jefferson from my office. Service is fast and friendly. But their wings just aren’t good. I wrote in my yelp review that the sauce itself is good (although my opinion even of that has gone downhill lately), but that the chicken itself just tastes.. gross. The bones are small, and the meat, clinging desperately to the bone, has that sortof dehydrated and withered look, and the taste is much the same. Ghot Wingz’ chicken, conversely, is excellent. Large (but not too obscenely hormone-induced huge like you find some places), flavorful, juicy wings.

So what is the difference? I realize that in this wide world, there are myriad ways to raise, butcher, brine, and season chicken meat that will all vastly change the end result. But I find it hard to believe that all of these local hot wing places in question aren’t all just buying the same Sysco bagged frozen chicken that everyone uses. But maybe I’m wrong. Does anyone know? Are there different sources for worse/better chicken? Is it possible Ghot Wingz isn’t using frozen chicken? Does Sysco offer different grades of quality that you can buy? Is it all the same chicken but different methods (e.g. baking before frying versus not)?