Why are chicken wings so differently sized?
April 20, 2009 8:27 PM   Subscribe

OK, so I've been eating a lot of fried chicken parts (maybe that's a question for another time). Yesterday it was buffalo wings. Today, regular ol' fried chicken. Today I was eating the drumstick and I started to wonder why it was so much bigger than the drumsticks from the wings I had yesterday. I thought maybe the chickens are bigger? Or maybe they're a different kind of chicken? Or maybe it's something else? I obviously tried googling, but I couldn't come up with a good string of keywords. Is this really obvious and I'm missing it? Help please!
posted by iliketolaughalot to Food & Drink (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
There are different sized chickens. Go down to the freezer section of your supermarket. You can buy small, medium and large chickens. This is probably one of the simplest explanations for this.
posted by Effigy2000 at 8:30 PM on April 20, 2009

to add on to effigy2000's point, there is nothing in the cooking processes of the two different types of chicken dishes that changes the size of the chicken pieces as drastically as you are writing about.
posted by the aloha at 8:33 PM on April 20, 2009

Best answer: The "drumsticks" in wings aren't legs. They're a section of the wing (the section between the shoulder and the elbow). They do look like drumsticks, though. Here ya go. See "Wing Drumettes."
posted by Balonious Assault at 8:35 PM on April 20, 2009 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Chicken legs and the "drumsticks" you ate in the wings are from two different parts of the chicken. The leg is just the leg. A whole chicken wing has three joints and is generally cut up along those joints before cooking. The end is the wing tip which isn't eaten. The remaining two sections are called the wingette and drumette. The wingette is the section farther away from the body of the chicken. It's the sort of rectangular shaped piece with the two skinny bones with meat in between. The drumette is the section of the wing that attaches to the body. It's called that because it so closely resembles a tiny little chicken drumstick. So, in short, two different limbs of the chicken that are similarly shaped (like our thighs and upper arms).
posted by mostlymartha at 8:37 PM on April 20, 2009

Best answer: The "drumstick" part of chicken wings is the segment of the wing closest to the body. If you buy whole chickens at the supermarket you'll see that a whole wing actually consists of three segments, but the "wings" commonly sold in restaurants are actually individual segments. Only two of the three segments are generally sold in restaurants, since the segment farthest from the body is very small and has almost no meat.

The drumstick you get with fried chicken, or a chicken already divided into parts is the part of the leg below the thigh.

Only the leg part is really a proper drumstick; the wing segment is sometimes called a drumstick due to it resembling a smaller version of the leg part. I've also seen that wing segment called a "drumette."
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:40 PM on April 20, 2009

As far as commercially-grown chickens go, you have layers and fryers. All of them end up getting eaten eventually, but fryers are deliberately bred (and fed) to make lots of meat. Layers are bred to be reliable egg producers.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:40 PM on April 20, 2009

Drumettes can be manipulated to look more like drumsticks, or at least like meat lollipops. See here for the technique.
posted by maudlin at 8:46 PM on April 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: nth-ing wing drumettes. See this picture of a whole chicken wing, with a knife about to cut it in two. To the left is the wingette portion, and to the right is the drumette portion. The drumette is a part of the wing, while a drumstick is part of the leg (and much larger than the drumette).
posted by pemberkins at 8:46 PM on April 20, 2009

Best answer: It's obvious and you're missing it. The chicken wing is the parts of the bird analagous to your bicep and forearm. The whole arm is chops in twain at the elbow, with the bicep part looking like a mini-drumstick (your calf) and the other part looking like…well, looking like your forearm, if it were tiny and deep fried. Feel under the skin, the two bones? There you go.

If you notice, your calf starts out with a big group of muscles by the knee, and tapers down to relatively thin by the ankle, while your bicep/tricep/delt muscle group on the top half of your arm does the same thing, narrowing to your elbow.

My dad used Thanksgiving as an opportunity for a comparative anatomy lesson.
posted by paisley henosis at 9:26 PM on April 20, 2009

More growth hormone.

But there are three sections to a bird's wing: the manus (tip, or hand), the ulna/radius (the "middle section", or next segment along heading from the manus to the body), and the humerus (connecting to the shoulder). The flesh from the manus and ulna/radius are what one is generally eating when one eats a "chicken wing", and the flesh from the humerus is what one is generally eating when one eats a "drumette".
posted by turgid dahlia at 9:31 PM on April 20, 2009

Best answer: Oh, and as further evidence that they're actually different body parts, observe the following the next time you're eating one or the other: The true drumstick has two bones, one very thin one in addition to the main one. The drumette has only a single bone.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 4:31 AM on April 21, 2009

DevilsAdvocate has the proper response. All those talking about different types of chickens and more growth hormones do not. "Drumsticks" from wings =/= chicken drumsticks. They are different body parts. Also, 20 pound "turkey breasts" contain the meat from several different turkeys.
posted by OmieWise at 6:05 AM on April 21, 2009

What are 'Buffalo wings" anyway?

is that a USA thing?
posted by mary8nne at 7:00 AM on April 21, 2009

Best answer: To put it more simply: the small one is from the wing and the big one is from the leg.
posted by lampoil at 7:03 AM on April 21, 2009

Yes, Buffalo wings are named after the city of Buffalo, New York, so it's a USA thing. It's the sauce that makes them different from just wings.
posted by lampoil at 7:05 AM on April 21, 2009

Wikipedia on Buffalo wings.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:08 AM on April 21, 2009

The drum sticklet from the wing is punier because chickens have had most of the flight bred out of them. They have meaty legs to hold up their bodies, bred for nice large breasts.
posted by theora55 at 7:21 AM on April 21, 2009

Best answer: Here's a skeletal diagram. Proper drumsticks = tibia and fibula. Chicken wing "drumsticks" = humerus.
posted by mhum at 7:47 AM on April 21, 2009

Miniature "Buffalo" chickens.
posted by jabberjaw at 11:12 AM on April 21, 2009

Here in the U.S., we raise and eat buffalo (AKA bison). But you know, the thing is, Buffalo Wings taste like chicken, as the saying goes.
posted by exphysicist345 at 5:45 PM on April 21, 2009

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