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Chicken Wings: how to break them down + how to cook them

While there is absolutely nothing wrong with eating a whole chicken wing, I prefer cutting up my wings into smaller sections before preparing them for game day or appetizers. It really is as easy as one, two, three! Today I'm kicking off #wingweek with a simple tutorial on how to break down chicken wings into easy-to-nibble portions, and also sharing five different cooking methods to prepare those wings with.
Break down a whole chicken wing in seconds via #wingweek
Simple Steps to quickly Breaking Down Whole Chicken Wings:
  1. Locate the two joints by using your fingers. You should be able to feel where they connect.
  2. Use a pair of kitchen shears to snip through the center of each joint, leaving you with three parts: the Drumette, the Wingette (often called a Flat), and the tip.
  3. Use the Drumettes and Wingettes in your recipe. I like to store all my wing tips in a large freezer bag (just adding them as I get them) to add to a batch of chicken or poultry stock, but you can discard them if you don't think you'll use them.
Seriously, it doesn't get much simpler than that. Okay, it kind of does—most markets carry packages of drumettes in their chicken sections. I admit to buying them like this from time to time, but it's nice to know that you don't have to, isn't it? Plus, I like having both of the wing sections to choose from.

Now that you have your wings broken down, you have to decide how you want to prepare them. Choose a sauce or flavor profile, and then choose a cooking method. Today I'm going to share the basic ways that you can cook chicken wings. Throughout the remainder of #wingweek, I'll share different recipes. Each recipe has their own cooking method included, but once you know  your options, it's easy to adjust a recipe to any of them.

For each cooking method below, start with 3 pounds of whole wings, then break them down.  No matter which method you choose, the chicken should register at least 165° F on an instant read thermometer to be cooked safely through. Wings can be marinated for up to 12 hours in advance, and are usually sauced at the end of cooking. Individual recipes instructions may vary.

Baked Chicken Wings: Preheat oven to 425° F. Line one or two rimmed baking sheets with foil and lightly oil the foil. Pat your wings dry and then spread the wings out on the prepared sheets, leaving about an inch of space between each wing. Slide into preheated oven and roast until golden and crisp, about 45 minutes. I like to check my wings about 2/3 of the way through and use long tongs to wiggle them around a bit, to ensure they're not sticking. I usually sauce these during the last five minutes, then again once removed from the oven.

Fried Chicken Wings: Heat vegetable oil in a deep pot or a deep-fryer to 375° F. Pat your wings dry. Carefully lower wings into hot oil until they are golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined tray to drain. Do this in batches, if necessary, so not to crowd your pan/fryer and lower the temperature too much. I usually toss these with the sauce while they are still hot, but the excess grease has drained.

Grilled Chicken Wings: Heat a grill (charcoal or gas) to a medium temperature (~350° F). Space the wings out directly on the grill rack, or use a grill basket if you'd rather. Grill until nicely charred and cooked through, about 20 minutes, turning as needed.

Slow Cooker or Crockpot Chicken Wings: Place wings into the slow cooker. They are fine like this, but liquid could also be added. Cover and cook on LOW for 4-6 hours. Line a baking sheet that will fit under your broiler with foil, then set a wire rack on top of it. Preheat your broiler. Lift wings carefully from liquid, as they are quite tender and fragile cooked in this method, and set on prepared baking sheets. Brush a coating of sauce on them, then set under the broiler for 10-12 minutes, or until the skin has crisped and is turning dark in spots. Turn and sauce them and place back under the broiler for another 5 minutes. Turn, sauce, and broile one final quick time, if you wish. Can be tossed with more sauce, if desired.

Smoked Chicken Wings: Prepare your smoker to 250° F. Pat the wings dry, then lay them out in a single layer and smoke, uncovered, for 2 hours. Toss with sauce. To smoke them on a grill, heat half of the grill (either bank the charcoal on one side, or only turn the burners on on one side) and then add soaked and drain woodchips that have been wrapped in foil to the heated side. Set the wings over the cold side, close the lid, and crack the vents. You will probably have to check and possibly replenish coals.

All Wings, All Week for #wingweek at
When January rolls around, and season-ending football parties abound, I start craving chicken wings. Around here, it's come to be known as "my yearly craving" (though I'll happily eat them anytime of the year). What better way to satisfy my craving than to enjoy a week-long festival of ALL THINGS CHICKEN WINGS!  Join me this week as I share a simple tutorial on how to break down whole chicken wings, introduce different cooking methods, and of course share new recipes so you can put those skills to use. I even have a few friends dropping by with their own chicken wing guest posts! This, my friends, is the start of a yearly tradition—welcome to #wingweek!

Follow Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez's board WINGS! All wings, all the time. on Pinterest.