America, You’re Getting Two-Thirds of the Hot Wing

It’s a creepy statistic: On Super Bowl Sunday, Americans perched on barstools or crowded onto couches will eat more than 1.25 billion chicken wings. Make that "wing portions."

According to the National Chicken Council, the nation will be gnawing on just two of a chicken wing's three joints: the drumette (the part attached to the bird’s carcass) and the flat, or middle joint. For reasons nobody quite seems to know, the wing tip, or “flapper,” is hardly eaten in America, and instead exported to Asian countries. But why?

Christian Ciscle, who runs Wing Wings, a restaurant in San Francisco specializing in chicken wings, is as mystified as anybody about why his customers don't seem to want wing tips. “It’s a tasty little part, for sure,” he says. When the restaurant opened last June, Ciscle bought whole wings anyway, using the tips to flavor stock, but he couldn’t make enough stock to use up all the flappers, and the labor to remove them got to be too much. Ciscle now buys precut wings, without the tips.

“Eating any kind of meat on the bone is a stretch for most Americans,” says Andy Ricker, owner of Pok Pok, a largely Thai-focused restaurant in Portland, Oregon. Last month, Ricker opened Pok Pok Wing on New York’s Lower East Side, a takeout place built around a signature Pok Pok dish called Ike’s Wings, which are deep-fried, Vietnamese-style, and tossed with garlic and fish sauce.

Ike’s Wings, it should be noted, come with all three joints intact. Like Asian cooks, Ricker wouldn’t think of discarding the flapper—or any part of the chicken, for that matter. “You use the whole goddamned thing,” he says, “the bones, the bits and pieces, the blood, the feet. There’s so much flavor in them.” Try telling that to the drumette eaters you share a sofa with this weekend.

Image source: Ike’s Wings by Flickr member scaredy_kat under Creative Commons

John Birdsall is senior editor at CHOW. You can follow him on Twitter. Follow CHOW, too, and become a fan on Facebook.