How to Count, Cut and Trim Chicken Wings: A Complete Guide

To make the best possible chicken wings, you’ll need to know how to prepare them, which includes counting them out, cutting them, and cooking them properly. Here is everything you need to know to ensure that your wings are as good as they can be.

Chicken wings are obviously incredible, and even better when they’re homemade. To make the best possible chicken wings though, you’ll need to know how to prepare them, which includes counting them out, cutting them, and cooking them properly. Here is everything you need to know to ensure that your wings are as good as they can be.

How many wings are in a pound?

There are on average about 10 individual pieces in one pound of uncooked chicken wings. That said, final count will vary, and depend on factors like wing size and type.

Now, of course this makes sense. Chicken wings aren’t standardized according to size, and not only that, but they’re often mixed in with drumettes too, which weigh more. 

For example, I just got done cutting up the wings in the following photograph (more on how I did that below), and as you can see, this bowl comes out to just under one pound. But here’s the kicker – there are only six wings in that bowl!

That’s right, just six to the pound. I could tell I was cutting and trimming these wings that they were just mega-huge, and not exactly representative of your normal chicken wing. I’m super excited to cook them up, but will go ahead and stick with the aforementioned 10 wings to the pound claim made above!

Chicken wings being weighed.

There are two main types of chicken wings, the wing itself, which gets cut down to a “flat,” and the drumette. And when looking at the wing itself, there is also significant variation, depending on how you decide to trim it (more on the specifics of cutting and trimming up your wings below). 

We can all picture a whole chicken wing before it’s cut, when it’s still shaped like a V. And while most people will trim that smaller wing tip off from the flat – essentially cutting the wing at the tip of that V shape – others leave the wing tip on. Of course, this will result in a significantly heavier piece of chicken.

How many boneless wings in a pound?  

Here’s the thing about boneless wings: they aren’t “real” chicken wings. Instead, boneless wings are typically made from chicken breasts that have been cut and shaped into a “wing,” and then breaded. 

Because boneless wings are cut to the shape and size of standard wings, a pound of raw wings and a pound of raw boneless wings render approximately the same number of pieces: 10. 

Cooked chicken wings

But here’s the thing, if you’re eating boneless wings they’ll probably already be cooked. And on average, cooked chicken will reduce in weight by approximately 25% (this is because water weight burns off during the cooking process). This means that a pound (16 ounces) of raw wings will render only about 12 ounces of cooked wings. 

So, if you want to end up with a pound (16 ounces) of cooked boneless wings you’ll need to start with about 1.3 pounds (21.1 ounces) of raw chicken, or about 13 boneless wings. And if you’re in a restaurant and ordering a pound of wings, and want to make sure you end up with a pound, you’ll want to count out the same number.

How many calories in chicken wings with skin?

Chicken wings are notoriously high in calories, owing in large part to their relatively high fat content and the fact that they are deep fried. A single deep fried chicken wing with skin is about 99 calories.

Of course, calorie count, like weight count above, is going to vary according to wing size, so it’s fair to assume that smaller wings (and flats) will contain fewer calories than larger wings (and drumettes).

A bowl of chicken wings.

But there’s also another factor to consider if you want to cut down on the calories but still enjoy your wings and plan to deep fry them – the skin. While an average chicken wing with skin is 99 calories, that same chicken wing without skin is only about 42 calories.

How many carbs in fried chicken wings? 

Chicken wings, just like all chicken, contain zero carbs. That said, if your chicken wings were coated in either flour or breadcrumbs prior to being deep fried, that coating will contain carbohydrates. 

That said, such coatings are relatively rare when it comes to fried chicken wings – most people simply deep fry the raw wing and then toss it in a sauce. And even if your wings are coated with flour or breadcrumbs, it will work out to be nearly insignificant, only about 1 – 2 grams of carbohydrate per wing.

How many calories in baked chicken wings?

Baked chicken wings are a decent alternative to deep fried chicken wings if you want to reduce the calorie count of each wing. While the average deep fried chicken wing contains about 99 calories, baked chicken wings contain only about 86 calories per wing.

Plates of Food

To be honest, I was a bit surprised by this number, thinking at first that it would be significantly lower. But the truth is, most of the calories in chicken wings come from the skin – so whether you bake them or fry them, it won’t make too much of a difference so long as that skin is still on it. 

If you’re looking to cut down on the calories the best way to do that is not by baking your chicken wings, but rather, by removing the skin.

How were chicken wings invented?

We know this origin story pretty well by now: an undesirable cut of meat is recognized as actually pretty darned tasty and voila, our preferences and taste sensibilities change. It’s happened with oxtail (which used to be much, much cheaper per pound), and even lobster if you can believe it. 

The story of the lowly chicken wing is not far off. Formerly relegated to soups and perhaps recognized by select immigrant communities, the chicken wing wasn’t exactly on the table when it came to popular American appetites. 

That all changed in the 1960s, when a man with a bar and a case of the munchies cooked up some chicken wings and that had the bold idea of lathering them with hot sauce. And the Buffalo wing was born. 

Of course, that man was a co-owner of the Anchor Bar and that bar was in Buffalo, and soon chicken wings – later dubbed “Buffalo wings” were on the menu and snapped up by customers. 

Beer and Chicken

Bar owners around the country quickly realized what the Anchor Bar had discovered – chicken wings are cheap, easy to prepare, and oh so delicious. And that popularity surged simultaneously with the expansion of sports-themed bars in the 1970s and 80s, quickly spreading “Buffalo wings” across the nation. 

Along the way, competing bars and restaurants began experimenting with new sauces and dips, and at one point someone decided that spicy wings were pretty fantastic when dipped in ranch dressing (though I myself am more of a blue cheese person), probably because the cool creamy goodness counteracts the spice.

Chicken Wing and Sauce

Chicken wings never really went out of favor after that, and in fact, it’s estimated that on every Super Bowl Sunday the United States consumers over one billion wings – wrap your head around that!

What are the best chicken wings to buy?

When it comes to chicken, I’m in favor of buying organic, even though it’s definitely more expensive. The fact is – and without going into detail and spoiling your appetite – the FDA allows for a lot of nonsense that you don’t want going into or touching your chicken. So splurge on the chicken and get it organic, trust me. 

But of course, you also want your wings to taste good, and you don’t want wings that are small, tough, or don’t have a lot of meat. That’s why I prefer the following chicken wings from Whole Foods:

Whole Foods Market Organic Chicken Wings 

Whole Foods organic chicken wings have no antibiotics and no added growth hormones.

  • No antibiotics or added growth hormones (there are no hormones approved for use in the production of poultry).
  • No animal by-products in feed.
  • Animal Welfare Certified Step 2 by Global Animal Partnership.
  • Air chilled for better flavor and texture.

They’re a really great size, come with plenty of meat on the bone, and they’re organic. This means that these wings have: 

  • No added hormones.
  • No antibiotics.
  • Never fed animal by products.

And these wings also come already cut, trimmed and ready to go. Each package contains both drumettes and flats, and there should be about 7 or 8  to the pound (so a little bigger than your average wing).

  • Cut, trimmed and ready to go.
  • Contains both drumettes and flats.
  • Larger than your average wing.

Can chicken wings be cooked from frozen?

You might be asking if it’s safe to cook frozen chicken wings because you haven’t given yourself enough time to thaw them out. If that’s the case, and you’re tight for time, then go for it. 

You can cook frozen chicken wings, but will need to add extra time – regardless of whether they are being baked or deep fried – to ensure that the wings cook properly. 

Cooked Hot Wings

That said, there are a number of reasons why most cooks advise against cooking frozen meat and frozen chicken. 

First, it’s a matter of safety, and this applies mostly to deep frying frozen chicken. Frozen chicken retains a lot of water in the form of ice, and when that ice is submerged in hot oil, it quickly turns to water and then quickly splatters. This could even cause a grease fire. 

So if you are going to deep fry frozen wings – and again, you can – just make sure that you’ve removed any noticeable bits of ice, or freezer burned parts before dunking your wings in hot oil. 

Second, cooking frozen wings – and this mostly applies to baking – can result in less than crispy, somewhat mushy results. This is because, as mentioned above, frozen wings retain quite a bit of water, water that you would otherwise be patting down before cooking. 

Third, frozen wings will not accept any flavor! While it’s not completely necessary to marinate your wings before cooking, it is occasionally nice to toss them in some oil, salt and pepper, and maybe some paprika, chili powder or cayenne.  But here’s the “rub” – if your wings are frozen, they won’t absorb any of those spices, resulting in wings with a very limited flavor profile. 

Fourth, frozen wings need to be timed correctly to ensure that they are properly cooked. Cooking any frozen protein is challenging because the outside of the meat often cooks much faster than the inside, which may even be in the process of still thawing out once the exterior is already cooked.

Chicken is one of those proteins that you just have to cook all the way through; there’s no flexibility on this. And cooked chicken must reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit to be consumed.

If you’re unsure if your frozen wings are cooked, I highly suggest investing in a simple meat thermometer. This is easy to use and takes away all the guesswork.

How long do you deep fry frozen chicken wings? 

Deep frying frozen wings is tricky because you must ensure that the wings are cooked all the way through, and it’s easy to cook just the exterior while the inside remains cold. 

To properly deep fry frozen chicken wings, you must cook them for at least 10 to 12 minutes in 350 degree oil.  

When deep frying frozen chicken wings, I like to cook them for 10 minutes, remove them and allow the wings to cool, and then fry them for an additional 2 – 3 minutes. This double-frying method results in perfect, super crispy wings. 

That said, timing may vary depending on how many wings are being cooked at once. Think about it, the more frozen wings you add to hot oil, the more the frozen wings will actually lower the temperature of your oil, the longer your oil will take to heat back up to its original temperature and cook your wings. 

This is why it’s really important to not overcrowd your deep fryer. And at the end of the day, the only way to really ensure that your chicken is cooked properly is to test the internal temperature (it should be 165 degrees Fahrenheit) with a meat thermometer.

How to cut chicken wings

Buying uncut chicken wings and preparing them yourself is a great way to cut down on cost, since uncut wings are significantly cheaper than trimmed up, ready to go wings. This is really chicken 101 – price per pound always increases with the amount of labor that went into its preparation.

Four raw chicken wings.

Uncut chicken wings look kind of like a short little zigzag, and when laid out, you’ll see that they’re composed of three different sections, the wing tip, the center “flat,” and the drumette. And these three sections are connected by two separate joints, forming two different hinges. 

First – Lay your uncut wing on a clean cutting board, inside side up. There are two sides to the wing, the inside that would have been closest to the chicken’s body, and the outside. Flip the wing so that the inside faces up, revealing the joints. A raw chicken wing.

Second – Next, use your finger to locate the hinge where the wing tip meets the flat. Using a sharp, heavy knife, place your blade in the center of this hinge, and press down in one swift, powerful motion. 

A finger pointing to a raw chicken wing.

To be clear, we aren’t cutting through bone here, just cartilage and ligaments. If your knife is hitting bone, you’re doing it wrong. Adjust your knife and try again.

Cutting a raw chicken wing.

Third – Set the wing tip aside and now, using your finger, locate the joint connecting the flat with the drumette. This may be harder to cut through, but if you position your knife correctly, it shouldn’t be that bad. 

PRO TIP: As I said, you’ll use your finger to locate the joint connecting the flat with the drumette. Then, use the knife blade to gently cut through the skin at that intersection, exposing the joint underneath. 

With the skin peeled back slightly and the joint exposed, you can more precisely locate the union of bones. Now, wedge your knife between them, and come down with more force, cutting all the way through the hinge.

Pointing to a raw chicken wing.

Place your knife in the center of the hinge, and again, press down in one swift motion. As you can see here, I like to stabilize my knife with the palm of my non-dominant hand, while my right hand does the work of bringing the knife blade down. 

The knife tip – whether you’re using a butcher knife or chef’s knife here, it shouldn’t matter – should remain rested on the cutting board, and the knife will come down like a hinge. If you can imagine one of those old fashioned paper cutters from school days, that’s essentially the motion we are going for.

Cutting a chicken wing.

As you can see below, we now have three separate pieces. 

What you want for wings are the drumettes and flats. The wing tips are generally too small to be used as Buffalo wings, but if you set them aside they work great for making stocks. Nothing goes to waste!

A cut up chicken wing.

Final thoughts

When we’re talking wings, we’re talking options. Get them whole and cut them yourself? Buy them cut and already trimmed? Do you prefer flats? Just drumettes? 

Ultimately, this all comes down to personal preferences. I like to buy wings whole and cut them down myself because it’s incredibly easy and saves me a few pennies. It’s so much easier than you probably think to cut wings yourself, and it really only takes a few extra minutes. 

I also tend to think that full wings end up yielding somewhat larger flats and drumettes. I can’t prove it, but that’s been my experience. 

Whole wings are also more likely to be fresh. When you buy whole pieces, chances are they were broken down by your local butcher at the grocery store as opposed to being factory processed. 

That said, there’s something to be said for convenience. In fact let’s face it – there’s a lot to be said for convenience. And if convenience is your aim or you’re just short on time, then pre-cut wings are perfectly fine. 

Whatever you decide – whole wings or trimmed, large or small, drumettes or flats, fresh or frozen – I guarantee that once you lather those wings in your favorite sauce and pair them with some ranch or blue cheese, it won’t even matter. Enjoy!

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