A boneless chicken wing is a chicken nugget

Boneless wing specials, whether at McKinley’s or Brooks Dining Hall, are a favorite among many students. They are so loved that students eagerly fill Kins on Saturday evenings waiting in line for upwards of a half-hour just to enjoy the renowned “late night special.” Flavors typically include buffalo, barbeque or even teriyaki, and servings normally contain around eight boneless wings.  

A few weeks ago I went to Kins for their late night special because boneless buffalo chicken “wings” were on the menu. As I waited in line with my friends, a thought crossed my mind: isn’t a boneless chicken wing technically a chicken nugget?

Asking a few of my friends this question later that night, I found there were mixed feelings; some said it is a chicken wing, others felt it is a chicken nugget, while some simply rolled their eyes and asked if we were actually having this discussion. Hey, at least it was not about a polarizing topic pertaining to politics.

I am a chicken wing aficionado, so I feel compelled and qualified to write this piece. 

I have been to many chicken wing vendors throughout the United States including Anchor Bar, the birthplace of the chicken wing in Buffalo, New York. I have also attempted to eat a triple atomic wing at Quaker Steak and Lube, where you have to sign a consent waiver acknowledging you assume the risk before eating one of the hottest chicken wings in the world. 

I have eaten a diverse type and innumerable amount of chicken wings over the duration of my short life. I have also enjoyed chicken nuggets, whether Tyson brand or even dinosaur-shaped. 

As for boneless chicken wings, I really only started eating these my first year at Allegheny during “Midweek Madness” at Brooks or at the Late Night Kins specials. I never questioned if I was truly eating chicken nuggets or an actual “chicken wing” until the second semester of my junior year. Better late than never, I suppose. 

Most often, chicken wings can be boiled down into two categories: drums or drumettes and flats or wingettes. Drums have one bone and resemble a chicken leg, while flats have two bones and are derived from the flat part of the chicken’s wing.  

I firmly stand by the belief that in order for something to be considered a “wing,” a critical component is whether such food has a literal bone inside. A true chicken wing, sauce and seasoning included, requires the presence of a bone inside. Period. 

True chicken wings, with a bone inside, are also deep-fried in some sort of oil to produce the crispy exterior of the final product. Some people also cook chicken wings in the oven, but I prefer the deep-frying method because of the crispy texture it creates. After deep-frying is complete, the wing is then basted with flavors ranging from buffalo to honey mustard. The craziest flavor I once tried was peanut butter and jelly, which was actually quite tasty even though it is such an unconventional idea for a chicken wing. 

This all may seem like well-known information, but let’s apply this same background knowledge to the so-called “boneless chicken wings.” 

Boneless chicken wings are typically made from the breast meat of a chicken, which is then cut into wing-sized pieces, cooked in an oven, basted with various sauces and then served to students or customers. To my knowledge, a chicken nugget is made under almost the exact same conditions, but it is not shaped in the form of a chicken wing. Therefore, isn’t a boneless chicken wing really just a chicken nugget with sauce added to it?

To add to this puzzling issue, let’s consider some other questions. First, why are chicken nuggets not called boneless chicken nuggets? Why do we call something that clearly does not contain a wing bone a boneless “wing?” 

I cannot answer these questions because I cannot think for everyone, nor am I an expert on food or chicken nuggets. However, I feel obligated to offer suggestions in order to lessen confusion and hopefully put a close to this chicken nugget or chicken wing debate. 

What if we rename boneless chicken wings to “wet tenders” or even “wet nuggets”? Let me be clear; I am not calling upon the college or dining halls to implement such drastic changes anytime soon, but let’s just consider those names.

Even though these names sound somewhat humorous or odd, does it not make more sense, from a literal and technical standpoint, to call a food that resembles a chicken nugget and is basted with sauce “wet?” It is not a wing, but rather a chicken nugget or even a chicken tender with sauce added. Thus, “boneless wings” can be placed broadly into a category of “wet nuggets.” 

We could also even go as far as renaming boneless chicken wings to buffalo or honey mustard nuggets, but that is just another suggestion. 

Regardless of which alternative name is adopted, continuing to call a food clearly without a wing does a grave disservice to chicken wing lovers like myself. I strongly believe that if boneless chicken wings were renamed, this could help alleviate and correct the anger and frustrations that chicken wing lovers have toward boneless chicken wings.

I am passionate about chicken wings as well as getting the facts right. The fact of the matter is that boneless chicken wings are chicken nuggets with sauce added. Let’s stop calling something without a bone inside it a wing, and instead rename it to something less misleading and contentious.

I rest my case, but certainly I am open to hearing dissenting opinions.