The world is now full of meat substitutes, from veggie burgers that bleed to lab-grown hamburger to, well, this. But until now, we haven’t heard of one made of, well, meat. But two pork farmers from Michigan are convinced that the next big thing in chicken wings is … pork.
Only, don’t call them that. “The correct name is pig wings,” says Bob File, president of Pioneer Meats. He and his partner, Bob George, trademarked it in 2003, after discovering that a cut that usually went into the trim bucket had some untapped potential.
It comes from the shank, or lower leg—on humans, where your calf would be—and according to File, “It’s very rich and dense, like osso bucco.” At two ounces, a pig wing has twice the meat of a standard chicken wing, and better yet, a bone handle to grip while you chow down, like a cross between a babyback rib and a lollipop. “Pork without the fork” is how the Bobs put it.
Today they do a brisk trade in pig wings, selling between 5 to 7 million pounds a year—a figure that doesn’t include copycats—mostly to restaurants like Hooters or Bar Louie.
Part of the appeal is how well the other white wing takes to different flavors, from standard barbecue and buffalo sauce to sweet and sour. They can be a bit tricky for the home chef, though.
“You can’t just stick them in the oven, you have to braise them,” says File. That’s why Pioneer sells them precooked but unsauced on their website. “Thaw them, season them, grill them 4 to 5 minutes per side, flip them, brush on sauce, and they’re good to go,” says George. He likes his pig wings smoked, deep fried, and doused in buffalo sauce.
Nutritionally, pig wings offer slightly more protein (24 grams for two 2-ounce wings) and slightly fewer calories and fat (170 and 8 grams, respectively) than chicken. Though of course, how they’re prepared makes a big difference.
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