Chicken wings are the ultimate comfort food. Savory chicken draped in spicy-sweet sauce is the perfect dish for a family meal or a casual party. Unfortunately, fried chicken wings are high in both fat and calories, but don't worry. You don't need a deep fryer to make chicken wings. There are other, much more healthy ways to prepare this classic appetizer -- ways that won't ruin your diet.
Steaming is one of the most efficient methods for cooking food, as steam is highly energetic and transfers heat to food very quickly, reports food scientist Harold McGee in his book "On Food and Cooking -- The Science and Lore of the Kitchen." McGee recommends using steam to cook small cuts of meat -- a good method for chicken wings. Steam helps render fat out of the chicken, decreasing the total caloric load. To steam chicken wings, use a stove-top steamer basket, microwave steam bags or oven-steam the wings in foil packets.
Oven roasting is another good way to cook chicken wings. Roasting gives chicken wings a crispy exterior without the fryer. However, chef Alton Brown reports that oven roasting often allows the fat inside chicken wings to burn and smoke before the meat cooks through. To prevent this, Cooks.com recommends placing frozen chicken wings on a disposable aluminum baking sheet and sliding them directly into a 250 degrees Fahrenheit oven without thawing them. If you like, add buffalo sauce or another seasoning to them before sliding them into the oven.
Grilling is another healthy way to cook chicken wings. Grills, especially charcoal grills, add deep flavor without adding sugary glazes or oily sauces. To grill small items, the June-July 2007 issue of "Cooks Illustrated" magazine recommends spraying a metal cooling grate with high-heat nonstick spray, placing the grate perpendicular to the grill grates, and grilling on top of the cooling rack. This keeps small items from sticking to or falling through the grill grates. Check the wings often, as they tend to burn easily.
Use for Stock
A final way to cook chicken wings is to use them for stock. Homemade chicken stock is a delicious way to add flavor to soups, stews and sautes. Since chicken wings have a lot of connective tissue, they add richness and body to stock that a whole chicken can't deliver. To use chicken wings in stock, simply replace whatever chicken your recipe calls for with an equal amount -- by weight -- of chicken wings. Lower the simmering temperature slightly to account for the fact that chicken wings are small.
- "On Food and Cooking -- The Science and Lore of the Kitchen"; Harold McGee; 2004
- "I'm Just Here for the Food"; Alton Brown; 2002
- Cooks.com: Slow Baked Chicken Wings
- "Cooks Illustrated"; Grilling Small Items; June-July 2007
Melanie Greenwood has been a freelance writer since 2010. Her work has appeared in "The Denver Post" as well as various online publications. She resides in northern Colorado and she works helping to care for elderly and at-risk individuals. Greenwood holds a Bachelor of Arts in pastoral leadership from Bethany University in California.