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We Tasted Costco's Kirkland Wings & These Were The Best

costco cart with kirkland wings
costco cart with kirkland wings - Dora Nuss-Warren/Mashed

Whether you're prepping food for the Super Bowl or a family picnic wings are a must-have, and if you want good quality for a bargain Costco is the answer. The warehouse offers this delectable finger food in the deli and rotisserie areas, as well as the fresh and frozen meat sections. Ultimately, the package you carry out of the store will depend on your preferences regarding price, ease of preparation, taste, and possibly the amount of space you have left in your freezer.

If you need to provide food for a huge crowd on a tight budget, you might go for the cheapest option. In contrast, if you're a guest at a friend's house for the first time, you might want to bring something to share that is delicious, easy, and mess-free to get a repeat invitation. Price is not as much of a barrier in that case, whereas taste and convenience are key.

In the end, the only way to know which type of Kirkland wing is best for your get-together is by tasting and comparing each. That might take too much effort and time you don't have, so I've put in the work to give you the complete low-down on Costco's wing selection. I'll tell you more about how I did that later in the article. Take note that the prices indicated reflect the reality of Mid-Michigan in early 2024 and may vary at your local Costco.

Read more: Frozen Meatball Brands Ranked From Worst To Best

From The Rotisserie

plate of kirkland rotisserie wings
plate of kirkland rotisserie wings - Dora Nuss-Warren/Mashed

Enticing trays of wings bask under the heat lamps right next to Costco's famous $5 whole chickens. The rotisserie cooks smother them in garlic and seasoning, and these chicken bits look good enough to dig into while you're waiting in the checkout line. You'll especially enjoy them if you're partial to heavily salted, garlic-flavored dishes and don't mind a mildly rubbery, not-so-crispy texture. A word of caution: You'll need to provide your own sauce, which could be a problem if you can't wait until you're home to chow down.

Each tray costs $6.99 per pound or around $20 total. That may seem steep if you compare it to a whole, nearly 3-pound Kirkland chicken. After all, you're spending four times more for a similar amount of chicken meat. On the other hand, if you compare these rotisserie wings to restaurants, Costco's price is a deal. Both Buffalo Wild Wings and Rally's sell 20 wings for about $28. A greater selection of flavors is the advantage to paying more -- the restaurants have a far greater variety of seasonings than Costco's solitary flavor.

The plastic tray is a negative characteristic of Kirkland rotisserie wings. Undoubtedly, your morsels will cool down on the drive home, so you'll have to reheat them. You can't microwave or bake items in a plastic container, so you'll end up dirtying a dish -- just like that, the convenience of rotisserie wings disappears.

From The Deli

tray of kirkland deli wings
tray of kirkland deli wings - Dora Nuss-Warren/Mashed

Costco's deli is full of prepared foods that shoppers only need to heat up at home before serving. Wings are among the delicacies you'll find in the open refrigerators. An aluminum tray contains nearly 20 pieces along with two tubs of ranch for around $12, or $5.99 per pound.

These wings were baked and then chilled, so you have to heat them once you get home. The tray helps because after taking out the cups of sauce, you can just stick it in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Despite the cheaper price, there is not much of a noticeable difference in taste with the rotisserie wings. Texture-wise, these are drier and a little more rubbery.

The wings are seasoned with sugar, salt, dried red bell pepper, dehydrated garlic and onion, and paprika. The resulting flavor is heavy on the garlic and salt. Going down it tastes pretty good, but it leaves an unpleasant aftertaste for hours, even after you brush your teeth. If you're picking something up to eat with your date while you watch the game together, this isn't the most kiss-inspiring option.

Unseasoned Vs Seasoned

seasoned and plain raw wings
seasoned and plain raw wings - Dora Nuss-Warren/Mashed

If you love smoking, grilling, air-frying, or baking wings at home, you'll prefer Costco's fresh wings. There are seasoned, raw wings in the deli and unseasoned ones in vacuum packs in the fresh meat department. Both cost $3.99 a pound, making a 5-pound package of 40 to 50 wings about $20.

Costco's cooks prepare the seasoned wings with the same spice mix as the rotisserie and deli wings. The advantage is you avoid touching slimy chicken skin, which you'd have to do if you seasoned them yourself. If you're baking them in the oven, simply plop the pre-seasoned drumettes and flats on a tray and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, flipping them halfway through. The result is fantastically crispy on the outside and perfectly juicy on the inside, with the meat falling off the bone. The texture of a piping hot chicken wing you've baked yourself is exponentially better than what you'll find in the deli or rotisserie.

If you don't like Costco's spice mix, you're better off buying fresh, unseasoned wings. Then, flavor the wings however you want -- barbecue or jerk sauce, cayenne pepper, honey mustard, or lemon pepper. Heck, you could make several batches using a variety of rubs and marinades. These unseasoned wings allow you to get creative.

Frozen

frozen and thawed wings
frozen and thawed wings - Dora Nuss-Warren/Mashed

If you're looking for the biggest package at the best price, Kirkland's frozen wings are for you. Ten pounds of this product go for around $20 -- a super deal when you compare that to Best Value wings from Walmart which cost about $24 for 8 pounds. That said, some of the weight in the Kirkland package is due to added water. Each bag contains between 60 and 70 pieces, so just pull out as many as you need and reseal the bag for next time.

After thawing and baking, these wings tasted nearly identical to Kirkland's unseasoned fresh wings. The package claims home cooks can bake the poultry straight from frozen, but that might be a mistake. On one hand, it's true -- the U.S. Department of Agriculture says you can bake frozen meat without thawing, but it takes 50% longer and the results are uneven. In this case, you'd have to bake the wings for 60 minutes instead of 40. Additionally, if you compare the frozen and thawed wings, you'll see just how much water is stored in the former. There's no way you'll get a crispy exterior with all that moisture. It's much better to thaw, drain, and pat them dry with a paper towel. In other words, the bold letters on the packaging indicating "Cook from frozen" are misleading.

Which Wings Were Easiest To Prep?

seasoned wings baking in oven
seasoned wings baking in oven - Dora Nuss-Warren/Mashed

Whether you're planning on smoking, grilling, microwaving, or simply eating them in the parking lot, you'll find that Kirkland wings meet your needs. The rotisserie wings only require a drive to Costco, unless you want them newly piping hot once you're home. In that case, you'd have to transfer them to another container and stick them in the oven. If you plan on reheating the rotisserie wings, you'll expend less effort if you buy the ones from the deli instead, since they already come in an aluminum tray.

For maximum quality at a minimum effort, the tray of seasoned fresh wings may be the best deal of all. These take a total of 35 minutes to prepare in the oven, which isn't significantly longer than reheating pre-cooked wings from the deli, but the meat will be far more tender. Just place them on an oven tray, covering it with aluminum foil first so you won't even have to scrub it later.

The unseasoned fresh wings and the frozen ones require much more preparation and time. To season your wings, you'll need to gather ingredients and likely get additional containers dirty. Thawing the frozen wings requires some planning and leaving them most of the day in the refrigerator. Afterward, you still have to get more dishes dirty as you drain and season them before baking.

Ratio Of Drumettes To Flats

kirkland wing drumettes and flats
kirkland wing drumettes and flats - Dora Nuss-Warren/Mashed

Some people prefer drumettes which are meatier with fewer bones, while others crave flats because the more intense flavor makes the boniness worth it. If you're hoping for more of one, choose your tray or package of wings carefully. Although every chicken comes with exactly two of each, not every package comes with even numbers of the two. At the deli, you can see what you'll get just by looking through the transparent lid. The tray tested for this article contained 13 drumettes and just five flats. The plastic wrap on the fresh, seasoned wings also allows customers to see how many drumettes and flats are in the package; in this case, there were exactly 20 of each.

Buyers will not be able to see how many of each cut come in the vacuum packs of fresh wings or the sealed frozen bag. The fresh, vacuum-packed wings were divided into three packs, and one had just five drumettes and 12 flats. The bag of frozen wings held 29 drumettes and 36 flats. Both were heavier on flats, but this may not be the case universally. If you're worried about getting more of one or the other, head to the rotisserie or deli and you'll have more control over what you purchase.

Final Verdict

frozen wings at costco
frozen wings at costco - Dora Nuss-Warren/Mashed

All of Costco's Kirkland wings showed high quality and had cheaper price tags than comparable products from many other retailers, making it a great place to buy wings for an event. If you're looking for the easiest option, head to the rotisserie. To order in bulk, you can talk to a manager or one of the deli cooks to make the necessary arrangements.

For the best taste at the cheapest price, buy frozen wings and season them yourself. Kirkland's seasoning is passable, but only you can mix spices just the way you like them. The minimal difference in taste between fresh and frozen won't justify paying more for fresh, unseasoned wings, especially if you have time to thaw the frozen ones.

Finally, if you're looking for something simple but tastier and cheaper than the rotisserie, get the seasoned fresh wings from the deli and bake them yourself. The effort of putting them on a tray and in the oven is worth spending less than half the price per pound. You'll get the additional bonus of making them just as toasty as you want.

Methodology

fresh kirkland chicken wings packaged
fresh kirkland chicken wings packaged - Dora Nuss-Warren/Mashed

Testing chicken wings means paying attention to details. First, I delved into the Costco Subreddit to see what the internet said about Kirkland wings, including the different varieties available (the warehouse's website doesn't usually list perishables). There were vague mentions of several spice mixes and wings at Canadian Costco food courts. According to the manager at my local Costco, they have only ever had one flavor of wings. He seemed bamboozled by the idea of more diverse seasonings, responding, "Do you mean something like that so-so chicken? No, we don't have that." I think he meant General Tso's.

Once at the warehouse, it was easy to find the wings in the deli, fresh meat area, and freezer section without help from Costco employees. At home, I turned on the oven -- I wanted to see how the raw and baked seasoned wings from the deli compared -- and closely followed the instructions on the packages.

I measured the crispiness of the outer skin, tenderness of the meat, and flavor of the seasoning side by side. I also defrosted the frozen wings and compared the unseasoned frozen and fresh varieties. I baked both at 450 F for 20 minutes, flipped them, and put them back in for another 15. During the preparation process, I also assessed the number of drumettes and flats to determine the ratio of offerings.

Read the original article on Mashed.