Chicken wings — to know them is to love them. We’ve already talked about their history, basic types of wings, popular cooking methods, current trends and where wings sit on the plate today. Now, let’s explore the future of our favorite chicken delicacy!
For operators and consumers alike, prices have stabilized a bit, and wings are in adequate supply again — both big changes from just a year ago. In previous months, wings were running upwards of $3.50 per pound, and supplies were at their lowest point in years. Today, wings are running between $2.50 and $2.70 per pound on average, inventories are up and demand continues to grow, which smells like an opportunity to put more wings on the menu to us!
What does that mean for foodservice operators in 2023? Here’s just one slice of the consumer marketplace that is literally "made to order" for restaurant, fast casual and QSR operators serving wings — millennials. Boston Consulting’s "American Millennials" report noted that these 27 to 42-year-olds dine out often and frequent a variety of establishments with a plethora of unique cultural food ways.
Chinese one day, American the next and everything in between — millennials like it all. They also make up a massive portion of wing-eaters, and post-Covid, millennials are emerging as food trend setters. As many as 64% of millennials report they like to cook and experiment, including being more adventurous with their food and enjoying the creation process to an extent — hence the popularity of brands like Buffalo Wild Wings where diners create their own sauces.
Chicken wings are the perfect food to offer up to a hungry and creative millennial. Pick your wing: roasted, grilled or fried. Pick your cut: flats or drumettes. Get creative with your sauces, and remember, millennials want to be served, but they also want to create their own experience during the process.
While we ponder the wings of the future, there’s one thing we need to establish, which true wing devotees will understand. There are wings, and then there are other food items that wish they were wings.
Wings are wings — it’s a universal truth and there may be substitutes, but there are no replacements. We’re all about innovation and flavor around here, but so-called "pork wings" aren’t part of our inner circle. And we don’t want to see any of those sauced-up chicken nuggets posing as wings either. In our opinion, calling them "boneless wings" doesn’t hide anything — these little imposters are a dead giveaway to wing aficionados. Here in chicken country, give us
that old-time religion — a real crispy, juicy and sauced-up chicken wing. And always served bone in, of course.
There, now that we’ve got that off the table, let’s talk about wing trends we can get behind! It’s no secret that wings are a staple for households all across America. Now, go out on a limb with us today on some new flavor profiles from across the world. Instead of experimenting with new ways to style wings on a plate, showcase the variety you can get with wings and sauces by bringing in new flavors from around the world.
We’re all familiar with buffalo, BBQ and honey mustard sauce, but leaning into millennials' need for creativity and excitement, try experimenting with flavors you might not normally find on the list. For example, ponzu is a citrusy soy sauce that is easy to whip up in a commercial kitchen or home kitchen, and it gives an Asian flair with a low spice profile. Indian flavors like Garam Masala or Butter Chicken are both comforting and spicy, and come together in a snap. Middle-Eastern Za’atar is an herbaceous blend of spices that, while traditionally more of a rub, could be turned into a tangy sauce that wows your diners. Or consider something south of the border perhaps — Peruvian Aji Amarillo chili has less heat than a poblano and reportedly tastes like "sunshine."
Go international with marinades to add flavor, moisture and tenderize the meat. If you’re grilling wings, this is a great option to protect the meat at high temperatures. There are a lot of classic marinades, but again, we’re looking to elevate them and bring new flavors to the table. For example, take Asian Bento marinate, a 24-hour soy marinade, and then grill and coat wings with scallions and teriyaki sauce. Greek yogurt marinades are also an easy and low-calorie way to add tang and flavor to your wings. Pair it with lemon juice, herbs and garlic, and you’ve got a delicate combination that’s bursting with flavor. Infused oils are another great way to add flavor to your wing marinades. Chili oil, garlic oil or herb oil are all simple ways to add light flavor to your wings.
Liquid smoke is an excellent way to achieve a smoky, bacon-like flavor without the unhealthy fats. From hickory and mesquite to applewood and cherry, there are many smokes to choose from, and each one brings new flavor possibilities. A word to the wise: add your smoke in small amounts as a little goes a long way!
Just like oils, there are endless possibilities with flavored and seasoned salts. Vinegar-seasoned salt is one of our favorites that adds a familiar flavor that is still bold and exciting. Smoked salts, hot salts, sweet salts — the list goes on. Check out your local gourmet food store for seasoned salts and start experimenting!
Toppings are a great way to put elevated finishing touches on your wings. Crumbled bacon, scallions, crumbled feta or blue cheese, sesame seeds, jalapeno slices and pickled onions are just a few of our favorite toppings. Remember, garnishes go a long way in the restaurant scene and add a little eye candy to a seemingly simple dish like chicken wings.
And there you have it! There are so many ways to put a fresh take on wings, all you need is a little creativity and an adventurous palette, and you can wow your diners or friends with a beloved classic like chicken wings.