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8 Chicken Wing Chains Using the Lowest Quality Ingredients

So that’s how they keep the prices so low…

Before the 1960s, chicken wings were often treated like literal garbage, thrown away by butchers preparing the birds for sale, or in some cases sold on the cheap to lower-income customers who primarily used wings to make soup stock, according to History Daily. That would all change in 1964 when a Buffalo, New York-area bar and restaurant called the Anchor Bar was mistakenly shipped a case of wings.

At first, the owner, Teressa Bellissimo, wanted to reject the meat, but her husband convinced her to instead accept the wings and, a few days later, on a whim, Teressa deep fried a batch of the wings and served them to a few friends and family members accompanied by hot sauce, celery, and blue cheese dressing. They were a huge hit and soon made their way onto the menu, and soon after that onto menus far and wide.

Today, Americans eat a lot of wings. On Super Bowl Sunday alone they consume over 1.4 billion wings, according to the National Chicken Council. But if you want top-quality wings, you may want to steer clear of these chains, or at least avoid many of their wing offerings. Here are some well-known chicken wing chains that have been accused of using the lowest-quality ingredients.

RELATED: The Best Chicken Wings in Every State

1

Buffalo Wild Wings

Buffalo wild wings restaurant sign
Shutterstock

Yes, the word "wings" is right there in the name, but no, the wings you get at a BW3 (or B-Dubs) are not very good quality; at least, not all of them. Per taste testers from Business Insider, the wings with milder flavors from Buffalo Wild Wings tend to be dry and bland, meaning most of what you're tasting with most of their wings has less to do with quality meat and more to do with potent sauces.

2

TGI Fridays

wing roulette platter from TGI Fridays
@TGIFridays/Twitter

Known for wings, ribs, apps, and more, this national chain is not known for top-quality food. And per Insider tastings, when it comes to wings the offerings are anything but. Their reviewer excoriated the wings, saying: "Nothing could have prepared me for just how bad these wings were. They were tough and dry, and they tasted as if they'd spent eons in a freezer, then in a microwave. Their skin was soggy, and the chicken itself tasted fishy. Chicken should never taste fishy."

3

KFC

KFC fried chicken
Shutterstock

KFC re-launched chicken wings a few years back in 2019, but maybe it would be better if they had stayed off the menu. First off, their "wings" are boneless so you know they're not in fact wings at all, but shaped chicken tenders. Cheaply churned out and heavy on the salt and cholesterol (and the fat—especially the Nashville Hot variety), you'd do much better to go for grilled chicken or their signature fried chicken if you absolutely have to have it.

RELATED: 11 Secrets KFC Doesn't Want You to Know

4

Chili's

chilis
Shutterstock

A panel of taste testers from MLive collectively had little positive to say about the wings from Chili's. One reviewer said they were "not meaty at all and it tasted like liquid smoke" while another simply used the word "gross."

RELATED: 10 Secrets Chili's Doesn't Want You to Know

5

Wing Zone

wingzone wings
Wing Zone / Facebook

The secret ingredient in WingZone's chicken wings is… fat. And lots of it. One single wing can contain a quarter of your daily allotted fat intake on a 2,000-calorie diet. Take their WingZone Original Wings with Cool Ranch: a single 151-calorie wing can contain 15.2 grams of fat, not to mention 3.2 grams of saturated fat.

6

WingStreet

wing street
Pizza Hut / Facebook

WingStreet is, of course, just Pizza Hut wearing a different name and logo. It's the exact same company, so maybe it's not all that surprising that a chain that uses low-quality pizza ingredients also offers wings of middling quality. Multiple Reddit users who sounded off on the wings derided them with terms like "soggy" and "drowning in sauce."

7

Applebee's

applebee's sign
Jonathan Weiss/Shutterstock

Applebee's boneless "wings" (oversized nuggets) are quite unhealthy, while their regular bone-in chicken wings are notoriously small. Per All Things Wings, that means you'll get a seriously over-priced, undervalued wing there.

RELATED: 7 Secrets Applebee's Doesn't Want You to Know

8

Zaxby's

Zaxby's wings
Zaxby's / Facebook

Zaxby's offers a lot of chicken options beyond wings, and it's a good idea to go with those—their wings are noted for being heavy on the breading and light on the meat. And when you order the popular meal at Zaxby's called Wings & Things, you really don't get very many wings at all. Instead, you'll get lots of fries, two pieces of Texas toast, some tenders, and a few of those wings that are, again, mostly breading. If you're looking for actual chicken, it's a good idea to look somewhere else.

Steven John
Steven John is a freelancer writer for Eat This, Not That! based just outside New York City. Read more about Steven