Sweet or spicy, breaded or crispy, blue cheese or ranch, carrots or celery, these are decisions one makes when getting ready to seize a platter of chicken wings. Until the COVID-19 pandemic, most consumers ordered wings from their favorite bar, restaurant or quick-service chain. This year for National Chicken Wing Day, which is annually celebrated on July 29, many might find themselves attempting to prepare wings at home. Fortunately, ingredient suppliers and poultry processors have been busy trying to recreate restaurant-inspired wings for at-home preparation.

“More and more people are eating at home. While many people will discover new foods that they enjoy cooking and eating, others will seek items that are easy to prepare or foods they normally order at one of their favorite restaurants,” said Mark Purpura, vice president of research and development and technical services, Advanced Food Systems Inc. (AFS), Somerset, NJ. “One of the most popular foods is chicken wings. Unfortunately, many consumers find the wings they prepare at home never have the same crispiness, color or flavors as the wings they order out.”

Golden West Food Group, Los Angeles, is ready to assist with its new Meat District line of fresh, marinated chicken wings. The butcher-crafted, premium meats come in four flavors: Beer Brined, Lemon & Herb, Sweet & Sassy and Zesty Ranch. The ready-to-cook wings are sold in 1-lb packs with directions to bake on a pan in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes. The marinades include dry vinegar, which functions as a natural preservative, assisting with shelf life, as well as rosemary extract, a natural flavor with antioxidative properties to retard oxidation and the development of rancid off flavors.

1 Foster Farms

Foster Farms, Livingston, Calif., now offers Take Out Crispy Wings in four varieties: Classic Buffalo, Korean BBQ, Sweet Chipotle BBQ and Sweet Thai Chili. The fully cooked wings are easily prepared in the microwave or oven. The chicken sections are injected with water that is bound with a system containing modified food starch, rice flour and sodium phosphates to keep them succulent. The sauces include ingredients to prevent freezer burn and lipid oxidation.

About a month after stay-at-home orders were in place across most of the country, 7-Eleven Inc., Irving, Texas, began selling some of its most popular hot food items as ready-to-bake-at-home products. Offerings include Buffalo and spicy bone-in wings, as well as breaded boneless wings.

“Before the pandemic, customers were out and on-the-go, grabbing breakfast on the way to work, buying lunch while running errands or indulging in an after-school Slurpee treat,” said Robin Murphy, senior director of fresh foods. “We can give them the convenience of picking up a couple of pizzas and wings to prepare when they are ready to enjoy them.”

To assist processors with delivering restaurant-quality wings, AFS developed a marinade and coating system to improve the quality of prepare-at-home chicken wings. The system was designed for fully cooked frozen wings and par-fried frozen wings that are reheated or cooked in a home oven or air fryer.

“The marinade provides a high-cook yield using clean-label and phosphate-free ingredients,” Purpura said. “It prevents warmed-over flavor development while offering a balanced, savory flavor.

“The coating helps seal in moisture through cooking and reheating,” he said. “It produces a crispy, fried-like texture and a golden-brown coloring upon cooling. The precoat also is available in a gluten-free version.”

When used together, the marinade and coating produce prepare-at-home wings that have the desirable flavor and crispy texture of deep-fried wings without the deep frying. That texture is maintained even after cooling and reheating.