Drum Vs. Flat

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While chicken wings may not be the first food that comes to mind when you think of barbecue or grilling, there’s a reason they are a beloved appetizer. As someone who grew up two hours east of Buffalo, NY, chicken wings hold a special place in my heart (and my stomach.) Seriously, check out any of the local wing joints in Buffalo if you’re ever…

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Drums vs Flat

While chicken wings may not be the first food that comes to mind when you think of barbecue or grilling, there’s a reason they are a beloved appetizer. As someone who grew up two hours east of Buffalo, NY, chicken wings hold a special place in my heart (and my stomach.) Seriously, check out any of the local wing joints in Buffalo if you’re ever in the area. Anchor Bar, Duff’s, Bar-Bill Tavern, just do yourself a favor and find a local place and enjoy.

However, one of the eternal debates surrounding chicken wings (and no, it’s not boneless  wings vs bone-in wings) is flats vs drums. For the record, boneless wings, while delicious, are simply an adult version of chicken nuggets.

When you get an order of chicken wings, regardless of what sauce or even what form of preparation you get, you’re going to get a mixture of thin, flat wings and wings that appear to be a miniature version of a chicken drumstick. You might have an opportunity to get your order of wings flats or drums only as well, but that typically costs a bit more. 

Why would you want to order one or the other? Why is there such a big debate over what is your preference? Why do we sometimes see chicken wings separated in the store and sometimes as a larger single cut of chicken? Let’s dig in!

Why Are There Different Packages For Chicken Wings At The Grocery Store?

Wing Tip Flat and Drum Labelled on Whole Wing
Whole Chicken Wings

Chicken wings start out as a whole, well, wing. A whole wing comes with the drum, the flat, and the wingtip all together as one cut of chicken. You can find these fresh or frozen in bags at your local grocery store or big box store’s grocery section. If you’ve ever bought a package of these expecting to have a mixture of separated flats and drums, you’ve probably been disappointed.

Thankfully, all you need is a sharp knife (or you can even use kitchen shears) and some know-how in order to turn these whole chicken wings into the two standard types of wings. You’ll cut the wingtip off of the middle part of the chicken wing, then use a smaller sharp knife to work through the joint separating the flat and the drum. If you’re using kitchen shears, just snip right through the joint. Then you’ve got what you typically think of when you think of chicken wings!

Whole Chicken Wing Separated

You might wonder what to do with the wingtips. Most people throw them away, but if you like doing a lot of homemade soups, you can save the wingtips to help create chicken stock. They do not contain any significant amount of meat and are mostly skin and bone. Some people enjoy nibbling on the fried and crispy skin, but for the most part, this part of a chicken wing is simply ignored.

If you want to avoid any extra butchering, you want to look for a package of what’s commonly known as “party wings.” These have been separated into the flats and drums so you don’t have to do any trimming for prep work.

Now that we know the different labels for packages of chicken wings and how to handle a full chicken wing, let’s talk about flats vs drums .

Chicken Wing Flats (AKA Wingettes)

Wingettes or Flats

Yes, flats are also known as wingettes. No surprise that people would rather call them flats, right? So what is a wingette? This part of a chicken wing got the nickname flats because they are fairly flat and uniform in shape. They contain two thin bones running parallel to each other before coming together at both ends of the flat. 

Chicken Wing Drums (AKA Drumettes)

Chicken Wing Drums

Similar to flats being known as wingettes, drums are also known as drumettes. It would be weird walking up to the bar and asking for an order of wingettes and drumettes, though, right? So what is a drumette (or drum?) Drums are known as drums because they look like a smaller version of a chicken drumstick. Chicken drums have one main bone with a meaty side at the top of the drumstick and a bone end perfect for a handle.

Drums Vs Flats

However, you wouldn’t have as big of a debate as the chicken wing world does without differences bigger than how many bones and the overall shape, right? Well, we as humans do tend to argue over the craziest things, so I guess yes, that could be the main difference between these two parts of a chicken wing. 

In fact, the shape (and what that means) does drive the majority of the debate. So let’s go over their distinguishing differences and the arguments for the two sides.

Why People Love Wing Flats

The fairly uniform shape of the chicken flats is easy to handle and gives you plenty of surface area for your favorite sauce. The flat itself also contains very little cartilage so you get nothing but skin and meat when you eat it. Speaking of skin, there’s plenty of skin on a flat that crisps up in the right kind of cooking preparation. So if you’re a fan of crunchy skin and sauce, chances are you’re a lover of chicken wing flats.

Why People Love Chicken Wing Drums

Drums are packed full of meat. If you want to really dig into a chicken wing, a drum delivers. It’s also much easier to dip into a container of blue cheese (fight me, I don’t care. Blue cheese is the best for chicken wings. Ranch is emergency only.) Also, with fried wings, you can get some crispy meat as well as crispy skin. If you like the feeling of eating drumsticks that are more bite-sized, have plenty of meat, and are easy to dip, you’re likely a fan of drums. 

Drums and Flats on Charcoal Grill
Mike grilling wings on his Weber Kettle while using a Vortex


Why Some People Don’t Like Flats

One of the fascinating arguments around chicken wing flats is about how easy they are to eat. Some people say that flats are easier to eat because of the lack of cartilage. Others say that fishing the meat out from between the bones is more annoying. Some people also like fewer bones. Also, flats are less than ideal for dipping into your preferred condiment (once again, blue cheese.) If you like a bigger bite and dipping, you’ll probably prefer drums.

Why Some People Don’t Like Drums

When flats and drums are separated, the cartilage from the joint ends up with the drum. So some people don’t like that and argue you can’t clean a drum as easily as a flat. If you’re a fan of wings that are absolutely coated and dripping in sauce, the drum doesn’t hold sauce quite as well as a flat either.

What’s Better: Drums Vs Flats

So which is the best part of the chicken wing? It truly comes down to personal preference. That’s why it’s always handy to go get wings with someone who has the opposite preference so you both can enjoy your favorite style of chicken wings without someone encroaching on your territory. 

Jeremy Pike Preference:

As for me, where do I come down on the great chicken wing debate? I love chicken wings in general, but I’ll always go drums first. I love dipping my wings in a blue cheese cup and I love all the crispy bits at the end of the drum. Don’t forget to temp those wings to make sure they are ready to eat.

Mike Haas Preference:

I prefer drums over flats all day. I find eating the flats a little awkward and I don’t like fighting to get the meat out from between the bones. Drums all the way. When I’m not eating chicken wings, I’m all for thighs. Especially when I’m making my BBQ Chicken Recipe. See below.

Amazing BBQ Chicken Recipe


Wrapping It Up

Whether you’re Team Flat or Team Drum, chicken wings are fantastic. If you’re a fan of crispy skin, heavy on the sauce, and don’t like cartilage, you’re probably Team Flat. If you want a meaty bite that is easy to dip, you’re probably Team Drumstick. 

What’s your favorite chicken wing? Do you have a favorite sauce? Are you going to argue with me about blue cheese vs something else? Let us know in the comments!

Into grilling chicken? Try our BBQ Chicken Lollipop recipe.

AngryBBQ Team

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