The Real Reason Boneless Chicken Wings Aren't Actually Wings

With the possible exception of pineapple on pizza, few fast food items elicit as strong opinions as chicken wings. Sure, everybody loves them, but as is so often the case, the devil is in the details. Drums or flats? What type of glazing? How about seasonings and dipping sauces? All of these questions could very well send a room full of otherwise amicable wing lovers up in arms, but even after the most heated debate over the merits of blue cheese dip reaches a reluctant truce, one particularly fiery argument remains. Boneless wings - a gift from the heavens or a travesty to the very concept of poultry-based dining? 

It's easy to see why fans of boneless wings value their delicacy of choice. Bones are notoriously the trickiest part of the chicken wing experience, to the point that many people have been eating wings all wrong because they've lacked a proper bone-removal technique. However, detractors of boneless wings simply have to point out that they have no place in the conversation because they're not actually wings at all. Here's why! 

Boneless chicken wings are actually nuggets made of breast meat

When you really start thinking about it, boneless chicken wings don't make a ton of sense. After all, since the wing bone is so notoriously hard and messy to work around that it warrants selling a pre-boned version of the product, shouldn't the boneless version be significantly more expensive than it tends to be to factor in the cost of the removal process? 

The food industry gets around this conundrum by simply ... not making boneless chicken wings. Sure, they might be labeled as such, but as actor, comedian, and chicken wing enthusiast Jimmy O. Yang puts it in his article for Bon Appetit, "Boneless 'wings' are nothing more than dry chicken breast cut up into pieces to loosely resemble the size of a real wing. It sounds like a creation from Dr. Frankenstein. Boneless wings are not wings! They are not even dark meat!"

While everyone's certainly entitled to enjoy boneless wings if that's what tickles their fancy, Yang's enthused point is a good one. Biting into a chicken wing tends to be a delicious, layered experience of meat, fat, bone, and cartilage. Meanwhile, the boneless chicken wing is simply white meat, making it to all intents and purposes a chicken nugget.