Chain restaurant chicken wings ranked from worst to first

Everybody loves good chicken wings. The National Chicken Council estimates Americans ate around than 1.38 billion wings during the 2019 Super Bowl. That's four wings for each man, woman, and child in the country, if you're keeping count. And while some people might make homemade wings for the big game, the majority of chicken wings consumed are purchased from chain restaurants. Considering that modern day chicken wings were born at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York, in 1964, that's been quite the come up in less than 60 years.

At eateries all across the country, you can find chicken wings, ranging from totally inedible to downright delectable. We've compiled a list of some of the most popular spots to get chicken wings in U.S., and ranked them from the worst to the best. Whether you like blazing, fiery chicken, sweetly spiced wings, or a flavor out of the ordinary, there's something for everyone. So, grab your blue cheese, celery sticks, and a stack of napkins, and let's talk wings. 

11. Little Caesars Wings

Little Caesars serves up cardboard pizza that's barely edible, so we aren't sure why we thought the wings would be any better. Like their pizza, you can find the wings at Little Caesars "Hot-N-Ready." They sit in a little plastic container with a clear lid in the heating case festering in their own juices until you order them. Then, what's supposed to happen is AFTER you order, the friendly worker carefully adds your choice of sauce to the container and halfheartedly tosses them around a bit. Our experience at two different Little Caesars locations was that the wings were already sitting there in the sauce upon our arrival. 

You can choose from not nearly hot enough buffalo, overly tangy BBQ, or extremely pasty garlic Parmesan. As an added bonus, you get a strong plastic flavoring with every order. They also have wings that they claim are oven roasted, but they are actually oven parched. To say that these wings are dry is a serious understatement. When the skin pops open, the meat has all but disappeared.

10. Domino's BBQ Wings

Maybe Domino's has a few extra tankers full of sauce they need to get rid of or something because they really, really oversauce their wings. 

On top of that, the taste of their BBQ sauce is very generic. If you scour your grocery store shelves for the cheapest standard BBQ sauce you could find and then proceed to water it down, this would be the result. The flavor isn't horrible, it just has no depth or smokiness at all. Also, the skin on these wings is too chewy and fatty. 

To make matters worse, once you've gnawed your way beyond the greasy, gummy skin, the payoff is underwhelming, as the wings themselves are too small and don't have much meat. So while we wouldn't give them a zero out of 10, eight Domino's wings aren't the best choice from their menu. If you want to order something on the side of your pizza at Domino's, pass on the wings and just order a second pizza. 

9. Pizza Hut WingStreet Burnin' Hot Wings

Back in 2014, Pizza Hut added deep-fryers at 5,000 of their restaurants across the country as they started churning out deep-fried wings to go alongside their pizza. You will often see Pizza Hutstores branded as WingStreet, where you are able to order traditional bone-in and breaded bone-out wings tossed in a variety of sauces, including Buffalo Burnin' Hot, for delivery or carry-out. 

Brand Eating describes Pizza Hut's medium hot buffalo wings as having "too much salt and vinegary sourness." And that was on par with our experience with the Blazin' Hot version as well. The heat was actually great, but the flavor was awful. Whatever recipe they use, they should just toss it aside and replace it with some Frank's Red Hot sauce and call it a day. 

No matter how bad the Pizza Hut wings are though, they aren't nearly as bad as that time Pizza Hut made a hot dog crust pizza. Who could've thought was a good idea?

8. KFC Smoky Mountain BBQ Wings

Do you ever order just wings at KFC? If not, why not? Their wings are juicy good. Are they the best you can get? Nope, but they'll do in a pinch. Original Recipe or Extra Crispy — both are pretty darn good. But let's talk about KFC's Smoky Mountain BBQ option. 

You can order their Extra Crispy chicken (including wings), chicken tenders, or chicken littles sandwiches in this flavor. We wanted it to be like KFC's old school Honey BBQ flavor with a little bit of smoke. But, nope. The flavor wasn't anything like the sweet southern BBQ you'd imagine. It was just bland, a true disappointment. And there doesn't seem to be any quality control or consistency in how much sauce you get. Sometimes these wings are slathered in the sauce, and other times nearly untouched. Thankfully, this chicken came with some deliciously flaky, buttery biscuits or the whole meal would've been a bust.

7. P.F. Chang's Hunan Dragon Wings

There's so much goodness on the P.F. Chang's menu that you probably passed over their Hunan Dragon Wings without a second thought, but you shouldn't have. Not your typical wings, they feature hunan spice, chili jam, and sesame seeds with a side of pickled cucumbers. The flavors blend really well together, and if you want even more heat, you can get some extra chili jam on the side. 

Are they good for you? Definitely not. Six wings translates to 830 calories, 19 grams of sugar, and 13 grams of saturated fat. You can't ignore the 3,670 mg of sodium either (which is way more than a full day's recommendation). But you didn't come here for healthy food, so just enjoy the wings. Unfortunately, these chicken wings are only available seasonally and, even in season, they aren't available at every location. Too bad for those of you who missed out.

6. Outback Kookaburra Wings

You'll find these wings on the Outback Steakhouse appetizer menu and they come in mild, medium, or hot. You probably never even notice the wings because you automatically order the Bloomin' Onion without glancing any further down the list. According to Outback, they toss the wings in "secret spices," deep fry them, and toss them around in the sauce. What are those spices? Apparently, Outback employees don't even know.

Many of the copycat recipes for these wings include the powdered cheese from Kraft macaroni and cheese. Is that what Outback does? Who knows? Who cares? They are just yummy. The hot version have a great flavor and kick. The heat isn't so powerful that it overwhelms the flavor, which is what happens at many chain restaurants when they try to pull off hot wings. Even the mild version is worth eating, though hot is almost always the best choice when it comes to wings.

5. Hooters Bacon Wrapped Wings

Hooters has been serving up amazing wings for over 35 years. And even if the Hooters Girls' outfits have changed over time, much of their menu hasn't. You can still get hand-breaded original style wings in your choice of amazing sauces like 9-1-1 or Honey Thai Chili Pepper. You can also get your wings naked without the breading, or boneless without the bones. But we have a new favorite menu item at Hooters — bacon wrapped wings. Yep, it continues to be proven time and time again that bacon makes everything better.

Hooters takes their naked wings, wrap them in bacon, toss them around in their Daytona Beach sauce, and finish them off on the grill. So, what's the sauce? It's hot and sweet and all around delicious. Copycat recipes for this sauce typically include BBQ sauce, hot sauce, brown sugar, and honey, among other things. We aren't sure of the exact ingredients of the Hooters sauce and we don't care. Ten of these wings come in at 1150 calories, and they are worth every last one of them.

4. Zaxby's Nuclear Wings

If you live in the south central or southeastern part of the United States (or randomly, Utah), then you know about Zaxby's. If you don't? Well, that's unfortunate for you. Zaxby's offers amazing chicken sandwiches (Kickin' Chicken on Texas Toast for the win, y'all), bountiful salad, and all kinds of wings. You can choose from boneless wings, chicken fingers, or traditional bone-in wings. We stick with the old school boned wings.

Zaxby's original sauce is a tasty, medium buffalo sauce. It's kind of Tabasco-y, but the heat isn't very intense. They have a sauce called Wimpy for you wimps out there, and a host of other sauces from Teriyaki to BBQ to Tongue Torch (which is hot, but doesn't blow steam out of your ears). And then they have two much hotter sauces — Nuclear and Insane. They are, as advertised, super hot but still amazingly good. We prefer Nuclear; your mileage may vary. Grab a pitcher of ice water (or beer) and sit down with 10 or 20 of these wings and enjoy your night. (You can also get a small order of just 5 wings, but seriously, who does that?) If you aren't in the mood for intense heat, we also recommend their Sweet & Spicy sauce. It's the perfect balance of citrus, sugar, and chili peppers. You'll want to ask for a bottle to take home and pour over everything you eat.

3. Buffalo Wild Wings' Mango Habanero Wings

Pretty much any type of sauce on Buffalo Wild Wings' menu is good — except for their standard Teriyakivsauce. For some reason, it doesn't taste anything like actual teriyaki sauce. As one writer says, it seems like they just soaked these wings in soy sauce. On the other end of the spectrum, we have their Mango Habanero sauce. Yep, we know it's topped a number of other ranked lists as well, but it's true. 

The mango and the habanero peppers are perfectly balanced bringing a beautifully delicious heat. While you are eating them, your mouth will be on fire and you'll be enjoying every single millisecond of the experience. If you can't stand the heat or you aren't brave enough to even give it a try, then you have plenty of other awesome choices at Buffalo Wild Wings, too. Asian Zing is somewhat similar in flavor profile to the Mango Habanero, without all the fire.

2. Bonchon Korean Wings

We know Bonchon isn't a traditional pick, but have you tasted their wings?

Bonchon chicken wings are tossed in a dry flour mixture and then deep fried until crispy. Then, they are drained and deep-fried again before being saturated in sauce. The result is a very crunchy, juicy wing with amazing flavor and seasoning. The sauce choices are soy garlic, spicy, or half and half, which is the best. They have a lot more on their menu than chicken wings, but the wings are definitely where it's at. 

Bonchon started in South Korea in 2002, hit the States with their New Jersey location in 2006, and since then they've taken the chicken world by storm. They now have 300 locations in nine different countries. If you are looking for typical buffalo wings, these aren't for you. But if you just want some really delicious wings, though they are a little pricey, then don't pass up Bonchon.

1. Wingstop – all the wings

We can't pick a favorite flavor from Wingstop because they are all so good. From the wonderfully painful Atomic wings to their Mild wings for those with cowardly palettes, Wingstop has come as close as possible to mastering the art of the chicken wing. 

However, where they really stand out from the pack is the wizardry they do with their dry rubs. A lot of chain restaurants need to douse their wings with sauce to cover up potential shortcomings. But Wingstop's uninhibitedly bold dry rubs, particularly Garlic Parmesan and Lemon Pepper, have set the standard and no other place can hold a candle to them. You'll be licking your fingers and even tempted to lick your napkin. 

The key to their success is their consistency. Wingstop's chicken is always tasty and fresh, while each wing is blessed completely with the right amount of flavor. And there's just something about their blue cheese that adds the optimal amount of bite without overwhelming the wings.