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Winging It: Picking Apart A Super Bowl Staple

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

One thing that is certain to be at just about every Super Bowl party today - chicken wings. They have become ubiquitous over the last decade. And get ready for this number: the National Chicken Council - yes, there is such a thing - it estimates that the number of chicken wings Americans will eat this weekend is more than one billion. Here now to talk about everything you have ever or never wanted to know about chicken wings is Dan Pashman. He is the host of "The Sporkful", which is a podcast and blog about food. He joins me from our bureau in New York. Hey, Dan, welcome to the program.

DAN PASHMAN: Hi, Rachel. Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: So, Dan, you say that chicken wings are actually - it's kind of a complicated culinary delight. How so?

PASHMAN: Well, certain parts of them are not so easy to eat. I mean, when we talk about chicken wings, there are a few different parts of the wing. There's the wing tip, which is generally discarded or just used for stock. Then the main pieces you're going to be eating are the mini-drumstick or drumette, and then there's the paddle. That's the flat piece with two parallel bones and joints at either end. The paddle is actually the better part of the wing, because there's more meat and the meat's usually more tender. But most people gravitate towards the drumsticks because they don't know how to eat the paddles.

MARTIN: OK. So, is there a right way to eat a chicken wing?

PASHMAN: There is. And to find the best method, I talked to a man named Tim Janus. Rachel, if you follow competitive eating as closely as I think you do...

MARTIN: You know I do.

PASHMAN: ...you know him better as Eater X, the third-ranked competitive eater in the world. He once ate more than five pounds of chicken wings in 12 minutes, and that's five pounds of meat, not counting the bones.

MARTIN: And he lived to tell the tale.

PASHMAN: So, he divulged his chicken wing technique.

TIM JANUS: The thing to do is you grab each end of the paddle, you know, the joint ends, and you twist them in opposite directions. And what that does is it snaps one of the joints. You kind of spread the broken joint out like a V. And so you put that wider end into your mouth and then bite down and then you rake it out of your mouth and you pull out just bones. And all the meat stays in your mouth.

MARTIN: Sounds pretty disgusting.

(LAUGHTER)

PASHMAN: Well, I would lean more towards awesome, Rachel. And now today, at your Super Bowl party, while everyone else is fighting over the drumsticks, you'll be feasting on the paddles.

MARTIN: OK. So, the other issue that comes up in conversations about chicken wings is the level of spiciness. It seems that there are also a lot of competitions where people sit down and they try to eat as many really spicy chicken wings as they can, which seems a little masochistic to me.

PASHMAN: I completely agree. Spiciness can be a great compliment to many foods, but it should never be the point of the food. So, I'd encourage people to put the focus on flavor instead of just heat. And I love wings with a nice smoky flavor. So, I've used smoked paprika and a variety of other spices to come up with a recipe for something I call: where there's smoke there's no need for fire wings. And I posted that recipe at Sporkful.com.

MARTIN: Sounds delicious. That is Dan Pashman, host of the Sporkful at Sporkful.com. Hey, Dan, thanks so much. Happy eating.

PASHMAN: You, too. Enjoy the game.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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