Boneless Vs. Bone-In Chicken Wings: The Snacktaku Showdown

Late last week the Twitterverse exploded with what might be the most important snacking argument of the year — boneless or bone-in chicken wings? Lines were drawn. Sauces were chosen. Wet naps were made ready. Lots of people made themselves sick, all in the name of fighting for the cause they felt was the justiest (shut up, it's a word now). Update: Now with proper sourcing and chicken anatomy.

The first shot was fired by Game Informer's Dan Ryckert. His colleague, Tim Turi, fired back. Soon the entire world was embroiled (or emfried) in heated debate.

On one side we had #TeamBoneless, champions of the new age of snacking technology. Why gnaw on bones when you don't have to? Why gnaw through sinew and gristle? Why bother having to get up after a meal and dump bits of chicken carcass into a trashcan where the cats can get to it?

On the opposing side, #TeamBone, cravers of the carnivoracious (also a word) sensation of teeth scraping on bone. The claim boneless wings are not true wings. They are right, I'm going to ignore that for the sake of argument. It's okay; this is the internet.

A poll was presented by Ryckert, and the members of #TeamBone rallied, statistically trouncing the legion of vociferous #TeamBoneless members. I say the results of that poll are inconclusive, as boneless fans had already left to eat while bone-in pundits were either already finished (not much meat there) or still trying to fine the charnel bucket they use to store their bird skeletons.

I decided to decide for everyone, as foretold by prophecy. Don't ask which prophecy. You've probably never heard of it. It's from Canada.

For the purposes of this showdown/review, I contacted my local WingStop. The Roswell Road location specifically, which I only mention because it's the slowest location I've ever been to and they forgot to put my veggie sticks and biscuits in the bag, fuckers.

I ordered a variety of wings, both bone-in and boneless, and set about taking them to task.

Visuals - Exterior

If I had to use one word to describe bone-in wings, it would be "chicken". Considering that's exactly what people purchasing chicken wings are looking for, that's a mark in their favor.

Boneless Vs. Bone-In Chicken Wings: The Snacktaku Showdown

Notice anything odd about that picture? That's right, neither of those are wings. In fact, those are chicken legs, which would disqualify them from the competition completely if we weren't already giving boneless wings a rather huge pass.

Frankly, I'm amazed people put up with this. If I went to a fancy restaurant, ordered a leg of lamb, and they brought me a lamb wing, I would be incredibly curious as to where they got that lamb. I'd also try and get a free dessert out of the deal.

Still, even chicken legs look like chicken. These do not.

Update: Obviously I have never seen a chicken in real-life. Yes, those are technically parts of the wing. I am sorry, little chickens everywhere.

Boneless Vs. Bone-In Chicken Wings: The Snacktaku Showdown

The aesthetics of the boneless wing are largely dependent on the sauce applied. Lemon pepper boneless wings, a personal favorite of mine, look like fried chicken bits, which is what they are, so yay.

Boneless chicken wings in say, a barbecue or teriyaki sauce, look like small bits of brain removed from the central mass. That's never stopped me from eating them, mind you (get it?).

Winner: Bone-in

Visuals - Interior

Slice open a boneless chicken wing, and all you see is meat — delicious, breading-coated meat.

Boneless Vs. Bone-In Chicken Wings: The Snacktaku Showdown

The protective breading shell keeps the chicken from leaking all over the place, which it wouldn't do normally, but I'm a sucker for a horrible visual. Speaking of which...

Boneless Vs. Bone-In Chicken Wings: The Snacktaku Showdown

The inside of a bone-in chicken wing looks like set dressing for a George Romero movie. I can make out a little meat, I think I see tendon. Is that spleen? I'm no doctor, but I am pretty sure that's spleen (author's more sensible voice note: sure, we'll go with spleen).

Winner: Boneless

Taste

Judging wings based on taste all depends on what you were planning on tasting. Your traditional chicken wing isn't much more than a vessel for whichever sauce you choose to drench it in.

Or is it?

You might not notice it when you're devouring a large bucket of messy chicken bits in front of your television, but all of those unidentifiable bits that make bone-in chicken wings look like an elementary school science class dissection have a flavor, and that flavor is chicken, or more specifically, chicken and dirty fryer oil. Often choked in breading, boneless wings can't compare.

If we're judging flavor based solely on tasting like what it's supposed to be, there can be only one winner.

Winner: Connor MacLeod of the Clan Bone-In.

Convenience

Now I'm not talking about portability here. I am talking about edibility, as in how easy is this food to eat? That larger question leads to several smaller ones.

  • Can I pop one in my mouth without choking or stabbing myself in the throat with jagged chicken bones?
  • If I am lounging about in a toga, can my servants feed them to me like grapes?
  • Will I have to eat around bones?
  • Will my pets choke on them?
  • Seriously, what about those bones?
  • This category seems stacked against bone-in. What kind of scam are you trying to pull, Fahey?
  • Hey now, Fahey is just being as fair and unbiased as he possibly can, given his predilections. Don't you just want to hug him?
  • Can we all hug him at once?
  • Why not?

Winner: Boneless.

T-t-t-tie-Breaker

So far boneless and bone-in are running neck-and-neck, which is not a place wings should be. Now I could make up another completely arbitrary category in an attempt to make my personal decision seem logical, but then this video would completely ruin it, and I spent at least 20 minutes uploading it.

And so, after careful consideration, we have the final word.

Winner: Establishments selling either type of wing over this past weekend.

Loser: The WingStop on Roswell Road. I really wanted those damn veggie sticks, you bastards.

Snacktaku is Kotaku's take on the wild and wonderful world of eating things, but not eating meals. Eating meals is for those with too much time on their hands. Past critiques can be found at the Snacktaku review archive.

Update: Portions of the article attributing the cause of the war to the Game Informer guys were left out by a speeding Fahey. That oversight has been fixed.