The coronavirus has given rise to something quite unexpected — a sudden surplus of chicken wings.
Finally! Some good news.
Chicken wings are a staple during major sporting events, like the March Madness championships, and chicken producers had every reason to believe the finger food would be in high demand during the iconic college basketball tournament.
When the NCAA canceled tournament play, the meat industry was flooded with wings it couldn’t sell.
According to Agriculture Department data, poultry producers sold 1.2 million pounds of wings the week the tournament was to start. The week ending April 3, they sold barely a third of that, just 433,000 pounds.
Wholesale prices have fallen dramatically, from about $1.75 per pound wholesale in mid-March to 97 cents last week. That’s less than half the price for the same period in 2019.
This might seem like a win for consumers, because all those wings formerly destined for your favorite restaurant hangout have to go somewhere, right? Well, not exactly.
Chicken wings bound for food service come in large bulk quantities — hundreds of fresh pounds at a time — in 40-pound cases. While producers are being forced to explore alternative channels for sales, including freezing and storing them in cold storage warehouses until the market improves — they’re not packaged for retail, said Russ Whitman, senior vice president at New Jersey- based Urner Barry, a publication that provides market information on the food industry.
And anyway, wings are just not a big draw for the average consumer. Drumsticks, boneless chicken breasts and rotisserie chickens are currently the big items on many shoppers’ lists, Whitman said.
According to the USDA, bagged fryers also are a bright spot of the whole bird sector.
Whether it’s a matter of convenience or the fact it’s something of a mess to pull out the deep fryer, “Wings are just largely consumed outside of the home,” Whitman said.
A few decades ago, few people stooped so low as to eat chicken wings at all. Considered scrap meat that sold for pennies a pound, they either were tossed out with the trash or used for soup and stock. Then, the story goes, Anchor Bar in Buffalo, N.Y., came up with the idea to cut their wings in half to produce a “drumette” and a “flat,” deep-fry them and douse them in hot sauce. “Buffalo wings” quickly caught on.
And now, when so many people are eating out of their refrigerators and pantries instead of at restaurants? Maybe it’s time to give the humble wing some homestyle love.
Another reason home cooks shy away from wings is that wings themselves are full of skin and fat. But if you bake instead of fry them, you can cut the fat and calories in half.
Besides, doesn’t movie night or Netflix binge-watching — and admit it, we’re all watching a lot of TV these days — call for something a little more than a bowl of chips?
CRISPY WINGS WITH 2 SAUCES
Adapted from Bonappetit.com
- 3 pounds chicken wings, tips removed, drumettes and flats separated
- 1-1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- >> Buffalo sauce:
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
- 1/4 teaspoon EACH cayenne pepper, black pepper, kosher salt and hot-pepper sauce
- >> Ginger-soy glaze:
- 1 (2-inch) piece of ginger, peeled, sliced
- 3 large garlic cloves, crushed
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1/4 cup water
>> To make Buffalo sauce: Mix butter, peppers and salt in a bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Whisk in hot sauce; keep warm.
>> To make ginger-soy glaze: Bring ingredients to a boil in small saucepan, stirring to dissolve honey. Reduce heat to low; simmer, stirring occasionally, until reduced to 1/4 cup, 7 to 8 minutes. Strain. Let sit 15 minutes to thicken slightly.
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Set wire racks on 2 large, rimmed baking sheets.
Toss chicken wings, vegetable oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl to coat. Place wings on racks in single layer. Bake until cooked through and crispy, 45 to 50 minutes.
Line another rimmed baking sheet with foil; top with a wire rack. Toss half of wings in ginger-soy glaze until evenly coated. Place in single layer on prepared rack and bake until glaze is glossy and lightly caramelized, 8 to 10 minutes.
Toss remaining half of wings in Buffalo sauce. Serve immediately.
Nutritional information unavailable.