One of the high points for me, if I can call it that, of heading down to the U.S. fairly frequently is getting to try new fast-food concoctions, which are inevitably released there before being exported internationally, if at all. This time around: McDonald’s Mighty Wings.
Chicken wings are an odd duck, so to speak, for McDonald’s. Sure, the chain has been a pioneer among burger peddlers in chicken, first with sandwiches and then with nuggets. But wings almost seems like a step too far, since they are a relatively difficult thing to get right. It’s easy to make them too dry, too bland, too small, too big or too greasy. It was accordingly with a good deal of trepidation that I tried them on a recent trip to New York.
The first off-putting thing: the portion sizes. Mighty Wings come in packs of three, five or ten, which is odd. Like McNuggets, a grouping of six just seems more natural – or 10, which is how they come in most bars. Yet 10 wings costs almost $10 and that seems like a bit of an obscene price to pay for anything at McDonald’s. At the other end, I can’t figure who might want just three wings. It reminds of that scene in I’m Gonna Git You Sucka, where Chris Rock goes into a restaurant and tries to order just one rib.
The five-pack thus looks to be the natural way to go, but again, at nearly $6 the price is a bit steep. I realize that this is the sort of subconscious price discrimination McDonald’s has to deal with – that’s not an amount that people would think twice about paying in a regular restaurant, but it’s not something they expect at a fast-food establishment. Regardless, I’m on a research mission so I fork over the money.
The cashier asks what sauce I want and I have no idea. I ask her what they’ve got and she says, “How about barbecue,” which sounds good to me.
The wings come in a box, not unlike the sort that KFC uses, and I’m off to my table. I’m a little surprised when I open it to find five decent-sized wings, with no sauce on them. I guess I’m supposed to dip them into the BBQ sauce containers provided. More on this in a second.
I figure I’ll try a wing with no sauce to get a true taste of the chicken, unmolested by outside substances. I’m actually very surprised – the skin is crispy, with just the right amount of spicy zing, while the chicken itself is warm and moist. I try another to see if this is a fluke but nope, all the wings are indeed fresh and tasty. Big points for McDonald’s so far.
The downside is the sauce. The dipping containers, at least for the BBQ flavour, are the same as those for McNuggets. And while they’re ideally sized for those oddly shaped Frankenstein creations, they’re poorly equipped for the considerably larger wings. It’s nearly impossible to get the Mighty Wings into them without contorting and misshaping the packages themselves. It’s a good thing the wings are tasty on their own, because I end up eating a good portion of them without any sauce.
McDonald’s has made an art of outsourcing its food labour onto customers; whether it’s getting your own napkins, straws and ketchup or pouring your own drinks, the restaurants save employees considerable time by cutting out how much work they do. The tradeoff is ultimately worth it, since the customer can refill their drink or take as many napkins as they want or need.
Yet, the coating of chicken wings with sauce is a task that should definitely be insourced – it’s a job that I just don’t want to have to do, especially when the wings themselves are one of the highest-priced items on the menu. I’m appalled when I order wings in a bar or restaurant and they come naked with a side of dipping sauce. Call it first-world privilege, but I expect my wings to be pre-coated, thank you very much.
So, while Mighty Wings are a tasty surprise for McDonald’s, they’re not something I’d be willing to go in for again. If I have a craving for chicken wings, I’ll go to an establishment that cares enough to put the sauce on for me or that at the very least provides a properly sized dipping container.