07 September, 2013
Chicken wings are a great addition to any backyard hero’s set of offerings. They are inexpensive, you can buy them in bulk, and they work equally well as an appetizer or main course. Plus, they are great smoked on the Big Green Egg, grilled on a Webber, or cooked on the gas grill.
Prep for wings is pretty straight forward, but there are a couple of options to consider. In most restaurants, wings are traditionally served cut. “Cut” refers to the separation of the drumette (upper wing) and mid wing, and often includes clipping the wing tip.
1. Separate drumstick from the wing
2. Use a sharp knife to cut between the bones
3. Discard the wing tip
Personally, I prefer to cook wings whole. With fewer pieces to tend, it’s much easier to manage a big batch on the grill. If cooking in this style, it’s as simple as washing the wings and moving to the seasoning step.
After washing the wings, I like to coat the pieces in a layer of ranch dressing. It provides a nice flavor profile and a great base for the dry rub that will follow. Drop the wings in a large bowl, add ranch dressing, and toss.
Next, sprinkle a layer of baking powder on the skin of the wings and place the bowl in the fridge. The baking powder helps promote a drying of the skin, ultimately resulting in a crispy outer shell. Ideally, the wings will sit in the fridge for around 2 hours.
Fifteen minutes prior to cook time, pull the wings and sprinkle a liberal coat of dry rub. I like Classic Cruiser for a wing with a little sweet, and Pedal to the Metal for a version with a little heat.
There are a few things to consider when cooking the wings. Wings are a small piece of meat, and will absorb smoke very quickly. If you are cooking them alongside other slow cook items, make sure and wrap the birds after 20 or 30 minutes. Also, wings tend to flare up over high heat. The grease from the skin drips onto the fire and will cause flames to char your birds. In an offset smoker, this generally isn’t a problem. If cooking on an egg or gas grill, you have to monitor the wings on a regular basis. Some people use a squirt bottle to gently douse hot spots on their grill. You can also move your wings to an elevated rack or utilize foil pans to prevent charring.
Second, crispy skin is much easier to achieve with high heat. (In the competitive BBQ circuit, crispy skin is often considered as the hallmark of good chicken) Many BBQ cooks will slow cook their birds, and then transfer to a hotter portion of the grill (or separate cooker altogether) to finish their chicken. The same rules can be applied to wings. Smoke ’em low and slow for 15 or 20 minutes, then move to high heat for finish. Wings are done when they reach an internal temperature of 180 degrees. If cooking whole, you can also tell for doneness by tearing a wing from the drumstick. If the two pieces separate with little effort, you are ready to serve.
If you prefer a glazed wing, remove them a few minutes before cooking is complete. Toss in a metal bowl of your favorite sauce, and then return them to the fire for 5 or 10 minutes. This will help caramelize the sauce to the wings.