Why The Flats Are The Best Part Of Chicken Wings (Yes, Better Than The Drums), Explained


What are chicken wings?

Bottomless brunch buffets and unexpected direct deposit are possibly the only things consistently better than well seasoned and properly cooked wings.


What about bad wings?

I’m trying to think of an analogy to articulate and contextualize the cocktail of disappointment, anger, incredulousness, and confusion that occurs when faced with a shitty batch of chicken wings. Let me put it this way: Let’s say you were so hyped up by Kendrick Lamar’s Untitled, Unmastered that you actually went to an actual physical store to actually buy the actual physical CD. And then you rushed to your car, ripped off the wrapping, and frisbeed it into your car’s CD player. Which you’ve never actually even used before. And then the music starts. And then your jaw drops and your face droops. And then…and then you realize you actually bought a Big Sean mixtape. A Big Sean mixtape that actually had the audacity to call itself The Best of Big Sean.

This is how it feels to be served some acrimonious-ass wings. It makes you want to shank a motherfucker.

I see. Well, when did you discover wings?

My first memory of a wing in my mouth stretches back to when I was 10. 11, perhaps. I was playing Monopoly with my parents and my sister — one of those marathon games where the winner actually feels like they’ve actually won actual money — and my mom made some wings. I remember placing one in my mouth, savoring the juicy and crunchy deliciousness, and just not giving a fuck about Park Place anymore.

Also, the story of my relationship with the chicken wing can not be told without including my stint in Buffalo during college. It was there I discovered the joy of putting indeterminately creamy white sauces — ranch or blue cheese — on the wing. (Also, I learned that dipping pizzas into indeterminately creamy white sauces increased the taste of the pizza by 7%. Unfortunately, they also increase the caloric content by 235%, so the not-burning-2000-calories-a-day-through-basketball present day me has had to stop doing it.)

You live in Pittsburgh, correct?


Where can one find the best wings in Pittsburgh?

Surprisingly, Senor Frogs on West Liberty Avenue. They’re also exceedingly cheap there. Which — the cheapest food option also being the best — never happens. It’s like calling an exterminator to deal with a fruit fly problem in your kitchen, and having that exterminator be Elise Neal.


That might have been the worst analogy I’ve ever heard.

I know. I just needed an excuse to mention Elise Neal. Related: My homie White Kate has an awesome Pittsburgh wings blog.


So, what are the flats? And what are the drums?

Well, chicken wings as we know them are actually wing dings. They’re not full wings. They’re wings separated in two. (Which, when it’s said aloud, sounds really cruel and painful. It’s bad enough that we’re eating a chicken’s wings. Which is how they fly and shit. But then we disfigure them before putting them into our mouths. Which somehow seems even worse. If there are any chickens reading this, I’m sorry, man.)


Anyway, when this separation happens, you’re left with the flats and the drums.

Flats (pictured below)

Illustration for article titled Why The Flats Are The Best Part Of Chicken Wings (Yes, Better Than The Drums), Explained

Drums (pictured below)

Illustration for article titled Why The Flats Are The Best Part Of Chicken Wings (Yes, Better Than The Drums), Explained

Ok. So, in the title you state that the flats are better.

I did.

But, after looking at the pictures, it seems like the drums have more meat.

They do.

If you love wings so much, how can the part that actually has less chicken be better?


Great question! This is the part of the drums vs flats conversation that the pro-drums camp references. If you prefer the part of the chicken wing that has less chicken meat, they say, you don’t really love the chicken wing. Ultimately, they’re questioning and challenging the pro-flats camp’s love and commitment. Basically, there’s no difference between pro-drum people and Bernie Sanders supporters.

But this argument neglects to consider the essence of the chicken wing. It is not meant to be a full piece of chicken. If you wanted a full piece of chicken with a shitload of chicken meat, you’d get a full piece of chicken. So the dynamics of consumption change. And with the chicken wing, having a shitload of chicken meat just isn’t as important as the taste and texture of the skin. This, not the meat, is what makes the chicken wing the chicken wing.


And, for that reason, the flats reign supreme. The drums might be more inherently chicken. The flats, however, are more inherently chicken wing.

That’s some deep shit, man. Mystical, even.

Chicken wings aren’t just awesome because they’re delicious and cheap. They’re awesome because eating them can become a Zen-like experience. And the flats are the most Zen.

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)


Damon Young

relevant meats, ranked
1. shellfish
2. p*ssy
3. pork
4. fish without shells and sh*t
5. beef
6. chicken
7. turkey