By Kelley Herring
The National Chicken Council recently issued their Annual Chicken Wing Report, including an estimate that Americans will consume 1.8 BILLION chicken wings next year.
Oh, wait… that’s not the figure for the entire year.
That’s the number of chicken wings we’re expected to devour during the Super Bowl!!
It is no surprise that chicken wings are among our America’s favorite foods. In fact, the average American will consume 18,000 chicken wings during our lifetime. We LOVE our wings! But there’s a good chance you feel guilty consuming this all-American favorite.
And for good reason…
The way most chicken wings are prepared is a disaster for your health. But there is great news, because today I’ll show you a way to prepare wings that are every bit as delicious as those in your favorite sports bar. And I’ll show you why properly-prepared wings could actually benefit your body in some surprising ways.
But first, let’s dig into the history of America’s favorite finger food. Like many interesting culinary stories, the recipe for this famous bar food was born almost by accident…
Chicken Wings, Beer & Football
Southerners have been enjoying deep-fried chicken wings for generations. But it wasn’t until a fateful day in 1964 that “Buffalo Wings” were created. As legend has it, Teressa Bellissimo, co-owner of Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York, whipped up a late-night snack for her son and his friends by cooking leftover chicken wings in hot sauce. The guys enjoyed the wings so much, she put them on the menu the next day – served with bleu cheese and celery sticks to cool the burn.
It wasn’t long before “Buffalo Wings” began to appear on menus across the country. Restaurateurs loved serving these wings because they were an inexpensive “byproduct” that could be offered at a low price. More importantly, they discovered that serving spicy chicken wings caused beer sales to skyrocket!
By the early 1980’s sports bars were popping up everywhere, where groups would gather to watch their favorite teams, while enjoying pitchers of beer… and the most famous shareable game-day food: Chicken Wings!
Unfortunately, our love affair with this affordable fare comes with a price!
Traditional Chicken Wings: A Triple Threat to Your Health
As you probably know, deep-fried chicken wings are far from healthy.
First, they are dredged in wheat flour. Then they are deep fried in omega-6 rich oil (typically soybean). This makes commercially-prepared chicken wings a perfect recipe for systemic inflammation, weight gain and chronic disease. Not to mention that the “Buffalo Sauce” these wings are drenched in is notoriously made with heart-stopping hydrogenated fats (trans fat), thanks to the use of margarine in the recipe.
But what if there was a way to create fall-off-the-bone tender chicken wings with crispy skin – and a better-for-you sauce? Could eating chicken wings actually be GOOD for you?
Get Smooth, Supple Skin & Cushioned Joints – By Eating Chicken Wings?
If you’ve ever seen older people who eat a native diet, you might notice a youthful glow to their smooth skin and a spring in their step – especially when compared to the visible physical degeneration we typically see with age in the Western world.
Whether from East Asia, Western Europe or South America, one thing these native cultures all have in common is that they make excellent use of meat-on-the-bone, primarily in the way of broths and soups.
In fact, chicken wings – when prepared correctly – are a healthy and nutrient-dense food. They are loaded with collagen – the anti-aging substance that plumps our skin, maintains the integrity of our gut lining and keeps our joints supple.
And they are also rich in glycosaminoglycans which includes glucosamine, hyaluronic acid and chondroitin sulfate. If you’ve ever taken a joint health supplement or used a topical “skin plumper”, you’ve seen these star ingredients – all of which can help heal joints, boost collagen and promote a healthy gut lining.1
These unique molecules work by helping to maintain and support collagen and elastin. They enhance turgidity (bounce) in the cellular spaces. This is what cushions joints and makes skin spring back. Glycosaminoglycans also act like a humectant, helping your collagen and elastin fibers retain moisture.
Dr. Cate Shanahan, M.D., a proponent of ancestral nutrition and author of the book Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food states that:2
“The health of your joints depends upon the health of the collagen in your ligaments, tendons, and on the ends of your bones. Collagens are a large family of biomolecules, which include the glycosaminoglycans, very special molecules that help keep our joints healthy.”
And what about that chicken skin… which you may have been told to remove or avoid?
“The skin is loaded with the same kind of connective tissue supporting compounds that are a part of this complete protein complex… It has amino acids, but also glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) and proteoglycans.”
Chicken wings are also an excellent source of complete protein, important B vitamins (including vitamin B6 and niacin) as well as the antioxidant micronutrient selenium.
When selecting chicken wings, make sure you are choosing those from chickens raised on pasture for a healthy balance of fatty acids and more nutrient density.
Now that you’ve learned some of the redeeming nutritional qualities of chicken wings themselves… let’s discuss how to prepare them in the healthiest (and most delicious) way!
Instant-Pot Chicken Wings: Two Steps & 30 Minutes to Perfect Wings
I’ve cooked a LOT of chickens in the Instant Pot electronic pressure cooker. So, I know just how effective it can be to create a moist and fall-off-the-bone tender bird. And because chicken wings are small, it takes very little time under pressure.
Thanks to the Instant Pot it takes a mere eight minutes to touch down in Tender Town!
But tenderness is only one of the qualities people look for in wings. They also prefer them to be crispy, because nobody likes soggy wings.
To achieve that hallmark crispy skin we all know and love, I knew that a hot oven could be swapped for the deep fryer. So, I grabbed a stainless-steel cookie sheet and placed a wire rack on top to optimize air flow around the wings. I spaced the pressure-cooked wings evenly on the rack, basted them with my secret sauce, and sent them into the hot oven.
Important Note: If you crowd the wings on the pan, the poor air flow will not allow the moisture to be sufficiently driven off, resulting in soggy chicken skin.
By cooking the wings under pressure first, you’re able to get the meat moist, tender… and more digestible! This also renders some of the fat out of the skin, which helps the skin crisp up in the oven.
After twenty minutes in the oven the most tender-crisp, perfectly golden wings emerged – without gluten, dangerous fats or deep frying!
Since my discovery – and because chicken wings are one of my husband’s favorites – I’ve played with the recipe to create a number of different variations.
Instant-Pot Chicken Wings Two Ways: Buffalo Style & Asian
Below you’ll find my two tried-and-true recipes for chicken wings – one in classic “Buffalo” style and the other with a delectable Asian flair.
Feel free to marinate your wings overnight in some of the sauce prior to cooking in the Instant Pot. When I use this method, I also pour the marinade right into to the water in the Instant Pot to infuse more flavor into the wings. Keep in mind, this will intensify the flavors – including the heat!
Instant Pot Buffalo Chicken Wings Recipe
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
2 pounds pasture-raised chicken wings
½ cup organic hot pepper sauce
4 Tbsp. grass-fed butter
½ Tbsp. organic apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
⅛ teaspoon garlic powder
½ tsp. sea salt
- Pour 1 cup cold water in the bottom of the Instant Pot.
- Place a steamer basket in Instant Pot. Place chicken wings in the steamer basket.
- Close lid and pressure cook at High Pressure for 8 minutes.
- While the chicken cooks, make the sauce. Add the butter, hot sauce, garlic powder, vinegar, Worcestershire and sea salt to a small pot over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, whisking until sauce bubbles, then remove from heat.
- When the time is up on the Instant Pot, allow the pressure to naturally release, then open the lid carefully.
- Preheat oven to 425°F. Remove wings from Instant Pot and lightly pat dry with paper towels.
- In a large mixing bowl, toss wings with sauce.
- Place chicken wings in a single layer on a wire rack in a baking tray.
- Transfer to the oven and bake 15-20 minutes, basting and flipping halfway through to get crisp and golden.
Instant Pot Asian Sesame-Ginger Chicken Wings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
2 pounds pasture-raised chicken wings
½ cup organic coconut aminos
½ tsp. ginger powder
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
¼ tsp. garlic powder
¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. sesame seeds
1 large green onion, cut thinly on the bias
- Prepare Instant Pot vessel with 1 cup water. Add the trivet. Grease a large baking sheet.
- Add chicken wings to the trivet inside Instant Pot. Close and lock the lid. Set Pressure to HIGH, Time to 8 minutes. Preheat oven to 425 F.
- Meanwhile, make the sauce. In a small saucepan, add the aminos, ginger powder, garlic powder and pepper flakes. Heat over medium high and cook, whisking 5-7 minutes until sauce thickens.
- When the time is up on the Instant Pot, release the pressure. Place cooked wings on the baking sheet in a single layer.
- Using a grill brush or pastry brush, brush the wings with prepared sauce to coat.
- Transfer to the oven and bake 15-20 minutes, basting again halfway through.
- Remove wings from oven, sprinkle with sesame seeds, garnish with green onions and serve.
For more health & wellness articles and recipes from Kelley Herring, visit our Discover Blog.
Kelley Herring is the author of the brand new book Keto Breads – which includes more information you need to know about why it is so important to avoid wheat and grains in your diet, plus how to use healthy replacements for these foods to create all the breads you love… without the gluten, carbs and health-harming effects. Click here to learn more about Keto Breads…
- Casale J, Crane JS. Biochemistry, Glycosaminoglycans. [Updated 2020 Jul 10]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK544295/
- Catherine Shanahan, Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food