The Search for America's Best and Most Iconic Chicken Wings

The Search for America's Best and Most Iconic Chicken Wings
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The Search for America's Best Chicken Wings

Chicken wings are a quintessential American food. These meaty, saucy, finger-licking treats are beloved across the country. From sports bars to backyard barbecues, wings are always a crowd pleaser. But not all wings are created equal. The search is on for the very best wings America has to offer.

The History of Chicken Wings

The origins of chicken wings can be traced back to Buffalo, New York in the 1960s. The popular story credits the Anchor Bar, where wings were first prepared by frying and tossing them in a tangy hot sauce. The concoction gained popularity and the Buffalo wing was born. Since then, the tasty appetizer has taken on a life of its own, evolving into countless variations across the states.

What Makes a Great Chicken Wing?

There are a few key factors that contribute to exceptional chicken wings:

  • High quality chicken - The best wings start with fresh, never frozen chicken with crispy skin and tender, juicy meat.
  • Signature sauces and dry rubs - From Buffalo and barbecue to lemon pepper and Cajun, the sauce or seasoning defines the flavor.
  • Frying technique - The wings must be fried up hot and crispy, never soggy or greasy.
  • Perfect texture - Look for wings with a nice crunch outside and moisture locked into the meat inside.

When done right, chicken wings achieve the perfect balance of flavors and textures for finger-licking indulgence.

Regional Wing Styles Across America

America's diverse regional cuisines put their unique stamp on chicken wings. Here are some of the stand-out wing styles across the states:

  • Buffalo, NY - The original hot sauce and butter Buffalo wing still sets the standard.
  • Memphis, TN - Memphis dry rub wings bring sweet and spicy barbecue flavors.
  • Alabama - Alabama white sauce wings feature a mayo-based sauce for tangy flavor.
  • Los Angeles, CA - Crispy fried wings get a Korean kick with spicy gochujang sauce.
  • Philadelphia, PA - Philly wings go for minimal seasoning to let the fried chicken shine.

Major League Eats Reviews America's Best Wings

The chicken wing experts at Major League Eats scour the country in search of America's best wings. After extensive research, taste tests, and nitpicking on all the details that matter, they've named the top 5 wing joints that rise above the competition:

  1. Duff's Famous Wings (Buffalo, NY) - The legendary Buffalo wing originators still serve them up crispy, juicy, and gloriously saucy.
  2. Baby Blues BBQ (Los Angeles, CA) - Smoked then fried wings get doused in tangy, slightly spicy espresso barbecue sauce.
  3. Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken (Memphis, TN) - Hot Fried Chicken wings arrive piping hot and caked in spice-rubbed crunchy fried skin.
  4. The Peanut Barrel (East Lansing, MI) - Gorgeous jumbo wings with a complexly-flavored house hot sauce.
  5. Star Provisions (Atlanta, GA) - Expertly cooked wings with a choice of creative sauces like jalapeño honey.

What Makes a Wing Joint the Best?

After visiting iconic wing shops across the U.S., Major League Eats determined the keys to wing greatness include:

  • Using fresh, never frozen wings
  • Frying at high heat for maximum crispness
  • Tossing cooked wings in signature sauces
  • Offering creative and regional sauce varieties
  • Having sauce options ranging from mild to face-meltingly spicy
  • Perfectly balancing meatiness and crunch
  • Masterful seasoning for flavor in every bite
  • Serving wings straight from the fryer at peak temperature

The top wing spots nail all the details, elevating humble chicken wings into a quintessentially American delicacy.

How to Make Award-Worthy Wings at Home

While it's hard to replicate the mastery of the best wing joints, you can come close with these tips for killer wings made at home:

  • Start with good quality chicken wings, separated into drumettes and flats.
  • Season with salt, pepper, baking powder and cornstarch for extra crispy skin.
  • Fry at 375F degrees until golden brown and cooked through.
  • Toss in your favorite seasoned butter or sauce while still hot.
  • Serve immediately with veggies, ranch or blue cheese dressing.

America has spoken - and the best chicken wings are crispy, saucy, and boldly seasoned. Get out there and find your hometown's tastiest wings. Just be ready for fingers covered in sauce and the need to order more.

The Great American Chicken Wing Quest


Where did Buffalo wings originate?

The original Buffalo wing was created in 1964 at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York. Owner Teressa Bellissimo supposedly improvised the dish for her son and his friends by frying chicken wings and tossing them in a spicy hot sauce.

What's the difference between drumettes and flats?

Chicken wings consist of three sections - the drumette, the flat, and the wing tip. Drumettes are the meatier upper segments. Flats are the middle segments with two bones. Restaurants often serve drumettes and flats rather than whole wings.

What sauce options do most wing places offer?

Along with traditional Buffalo and barbecue sauces, most wing joints offer a selection like teriyaki, lemon pepper, garlic Parmesan, mango habanero, honey mustard, and sweet chili.

Should you order boneless or bone-in wings?

For the true wing experience, go for bone-in. The bones help impart more flavor and allow the meat to fry up crispier. Boneless wings are easier to eat but lack the superior texture.

Can you make good wings at home?

Yes, you can make tasty wings at home! Use baking powder and cornstarch for extra crispy skin, fry at 375F, then toss in your favorite sauces straight from the fryer. But for the very best results, visit your local wing joints.

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