How to Cut Whole Chicken Wings into Flats and Drumettes

published Jan 18, 2023
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Drumstick, wingette and tip on cutting board.
Credit: Photo: Murray Hall; Food Stylist: Jessie YuChen

Order chicken wings at a restaurant or bar and you’ll likely receive a combination of drumettes and flats (aka wingettes). These portions (plus the wing tips) make up a whole chicken wing, as you’ll see when you buy packages of wings at a grocery store. So before you whip up the Buffalo sauce, you’ll need to cut the wings into separate portions. 

Whole chicken wings are just that: simply detached from the body of the bird, but not broken down further. If you have a choice between whole chicken wings or pre-cut drumettes and/or flats, it’s worth checking out the price difference. Often, whole chicken wings are cheaper than pre-cut wings. 

Separating the parts yourself takes almost no time at all, so it’s really worth knowing how to cut chicken wings. This is an easy job, and you don’t need any fancy equipment to do it.

Credit: Photo: Murray Hall; Food Stylist: Jessie YuChen

What’s the Difference Between Chicken Drumettes and Flats?

If you buy whole chicken wings, you’ll actually be dealing with three different portions; however, only two of those are edible. Chicken wing fans have long debated the tastiest part of the wing: the drumette or the wingette (commonly known as “the flat”).

The drumette is the meatiest and largest portion. A drumette looks like a miniature drumstick, with one large bone running up the middle. Drumettes connect the wings to the body of the chicken. 

A wingette, also known as the flat, is attached to the drumette. It’s thinner and made up of two narrow bones running up the edges. The meat is in the middle of those bones. Although flats have less meat than drumettes, they are easier to crisp up. If you’re a fan of crispy skin, you’re probably on Team Flats.

Finally, the wing tip is attached to the top of the flat. It looks just as it sounds: a small, pointed tip with little to no meat. It’s not worth cooking wing tips, but you can save them to make stock later. (You’ll need to have a lot of wing tips for that, or you could supplement them with more bones. Save the discards after you eat the drumettes and flats!)

How to Cut Chicken Wings, Step by Step 


  • Paper towels
  • Plastic cutting board
  • Chef’s knife
  • 3 bowls


Credit: Photo: Murray Hall; Food Stylist: Jessie YuChen

Step 1: Remove the chicken wings from their package and pat dry with clean paper towels.

Credit: Photo: Murray Hall; Food Stylist: Jessie YuChen

Step 2: Place one wing on the cutting board, skin-side down. Use your fingers to feel for the joints. The first is between the flat and the drumette. The second is between the wing tip and the flat. The joints will feel knobby, bulbous, and slightly rounded. That’s where you’ll be cutting — into the tiny crevice at the joint.

Credit: Photo: Murray Hall; Food Stylist: Jessie YuChen

Step 3: Hold the wing steady with your non-dominant hand, and place your knife against the first joint where the drumette and the two flat bones meet. Firmly apply pressure to the blade, cutting all the way through the joint to the board.

Credit: Photo: Murray Hall; Food Stylist: Jessie YuChen

Step 4: Place the knife against the second joint, separating the two flat bones from the small wing tip. Place the drumette in one bowl, and the flat in another bowl. Discard the wing tip, or save it in a third bowl to make stock at a later date (you can freeze wing tips and chicken bones in a freezer bag).

Repeat this process until you’ve cut the entire package of chicken wings. You’re now ready to season and cook them.

Tips for Cutting Chicken Wings

Dry the chicken wings before cutting.

Chicken straight out of the package can have a filmy or slightly slimy texture. But don’t be tempted to wash it in the sink. Washing chicken wings won’t kill bacteria (in fact, cooking it is the only way to do that), but it will spread potential contaminants around your sink and kitchen workspace. 

To avoid this, transfer the chicken immediately from the package to your cutting board, and pat it dry with paper towels before preparing it. Drying the chicken will give you greater control as you cut it — no slip-sliding all over the cutting board.

Use a plastic cutting board for cutting chicken wings.

No matter what part of the chicken you’re preparing, you should use a plastic cutting board. Plastic cutting boards can be disinfected and placed in the dishwasher for high-heat cleaning. A wooden cutting board is harder (although not impossible) to disinfect. Professional restaurants even use color-coded cutting boards to differentiate between veggie prep, raw meat, and cooked meat; red is the way to go for raw chicken wings. 

Psst: We recently tested plastic cutting boards and found some clear winners here.

Use a sharp knife for cutting chicken wings.

To cut chicken wings, you’ll be cutting through a joint. Chicken wing joints are much softer than, say, a breastbone, but this job still requires a sharp knife. The best way to cut chicken wings is with one confident and firm downward slice — there’s no need for “sawing” at the meat to separate the two portions. 

What type of knife is best for cutting chicken wings? A regular ol’ chef’s knife will get the job done, although if you prefer working with a smaller knife, like a paring knife, that will work just fine. 

Have bowls ready when you cut chicken wings.

It’s hard to work on a cluttered cutting board. As you cut your chicken wings, it’s helpful to have three bowls handy. Each time you separate the drumettes, flats, and wing tips, place the portions in separate bowls. This will keep your cutting board free for the next wing. 

When you’ve finished cutting all of your chicken wings, you can season the drumettes and flats right in the bowls. (The wing tips can then get discarded or saved for stock).

Credit: Photo: Linda Xiao; Food Styling: Brett Regot

How to Cook Chicken Wings at Home

Restaurant-style chicken wings are hot, crispy, and saucy. With the right recipe, you can recreate your favorite restaurant chicken wings at home. A special tool, like an air fryer, can help, but it’s not necessary. Here are some of our favorite baked, fried, and grilled chicken wing recipes. 

  • Baked Chicken Wings: No deep-fryer or air-fryer? No problem. This chicken wing recipe calls for baking the wings on a rack in a hot oven. The rack creates airflow all around the meat so it gets crispy without all that oil.
  • Extra-Crispy Fried Chicken Wings: Go big or go home? More like, go big and stay home. This recipe is full of expert tips for recreating restaurant-style fried chicken wings in your own kitchen. The seasoning blend is *chef’s kiss.*
  • Instant Pot Chicken Wings: Proving that this appliance really can do it all, Instant Pot chicken wings are the ultimate low-maintenance recipe. They’re fall-off-the-bone tender. Prefer them crisped? Just finish the batch under the broiler.
  • Air-Fryer Chicken Wings: If you have an air fryer, you probably already know how great it is for cooking chicken wings. We love this twice-cooked method for the ultimate crispy texture.
  • Grilled Buffalo Chicken Wings: Real-deal Buffalo sauce (Frank’s is a must) is the finishing touch on these grilled wings.