Few snacks can surpass chicken wings as the favorite party food- whether it’s the big game on TV or poker night with your pals, wings in their various flavorful forms are a huge hit with many. The trouble is many wing restaurants deep-fry their wings to give them that characteristic flavor & crispiness, and unless you want a mess deep frying wings isn’t something everyone wants to do. Not to mention it’s a slow process for a party crowd unless you have a huge deep fryer. However, as with many meats, your favorite party food can be easily made on your kettle with your Slow ‘N Sear®, virtually mess-free (except for your fingers)!
What to buy:
Fresh is best and most supermarkets sell them that way. Many supermarkets will sell wings whole or as a mix of “drumettes” (the upper arm portion of the wing, resembling a small drumstick) and actual wing pieces (sometimes called “wingettes”). The indirect side of your 22” kettle grill equipped with your Slow ‘N Sear will easily contain 4lbs of wings, or even 5lbs if you pack tightly; the 26” kettle will of course hold many more.
Trim: You can cook wings whole or cut them at the joint to turn them into wingettes and drumettes. Toss the tips. They have too little meat on them and aren’t worth the trouble. Often the wing pieces could use some trimming to remove excess skin, which is easily done with kitchen shears. This isn’t mandatory, so you can skip trimming them if you wish.
Brine: Even if we plan to use a highly flavored sauce like classic Buffalo or BBQ, the wings should be salted. A light dry brine is a quick & easy way to amp up the flavor of the wings before cooking. Simply salt lightly using table or Kosher salt. Flip the wings and lightly salt the other side. Add what feels natural, don’t overdo it. They may be cooked right away without waiting any amount of time for the dry brine to happen, or if you have the time you may keep them in the fridge for an hour or more if you wish.
If you choose to wet brine them, start with 1 gallon of cold water and 1 cup of table salt. Soak only about 30 minutes. Pat dry.
All that said, wings are often a last-minute decision at our house and we often cook them using one of several store bought rubs we like. All of those have salt in them. They’re still great so don’t think you HAVE to brine. It’s just a step that will offer you a minor improvement in the final result if you have the time.
As with most poultry, we want to cook wings hot, at 325° or higher. Personally, I target 350 F to 360 F with clean smoke (thin white, thin blue, or clear smoke). If the smoke smells acrid let the cooker hold its temp for a few minutes until the smoke cleans up a bit. High heat with clean smoke produces FANTASTIC wings.
Follow our Hot & Fast 325° lighting technique with your Slow ‘N Sear. At this temperature, wings will typically take about an hour to cook, maybe up to 90 minutes if they are big pieces. This is fairly easy to achieve with about 1/2 to 2/3 of a chimney (~40-50 briquets) of hot, well-lit coals. If the weather is cool, rainy, or cold in your area, the “More Longevity” section of our 325° lighting technique can be followed, which involves adding about half a chimney of unlit coals to the Slow ‘N Sear first, then adding the half chimney of well-lit coals on top of the unlit coals.
Water is not necessary with a hot & fast cook such as with chicken wings, so the water reservoir may be left empty.
Place a thermometer probe at the grate, and be sure to maintain 2”-3” clearance on all sides from the cold meat. You’ll likely find it not feasible and certainly not necessary to place a leave-in probe in any of the chicken wings. An instant-read thermometer is a great idea to double check finished meat temperatures.
About 30 minutes into the cook, the wings may begin to look like they’re done, but odds are they’ll still need some more time. Wings are safe at an IT of 165° F, as verified by a good digital instant-read thermometer, but they will likely be unappetizing at this temperature. Due to the high fat level and high skin-to-meat ratio of wings, they are often more palatable at a ‘well done’ level with crispy skin and drier meat, which may be in the 180° to 190° degree range, but individual tastes will vary. Until you know exactly how you like them, a good practice is to flip the wings after about 30 minutes at 325°-350°F, and let them go about another 30 minutes.
Since individual tastes vary, this will be a matter of personal preference. If you intend to make the classic Buffalo-style wings, you may find it best to skip the wood smoke. If you’re going barbecue, or un-sauced, then you may wish to use smoke. Experimenting is the fun part!
Again, individual tastes will vary. Some do not like the taste of a char sear on chicken skin, and searing wings is very easy to char them due to high level of fat dripping. Cooked to the above guidelines at a temperature of 325°F or above, your wings should develop a nice golden brown hue and crispy skin simply by convection, no sear needed. If you choose to sear, do this when the wings hit 175 – 180 F internal temperature so searing does not overcook them. Flip every minute and be careful – skin burns fast.
Just about any sauce can be used on wings. Your local supermarket will likely have dozens of sauces to use, some even specifically tailored to wings. Frank’s Original RedHot™ and Frank’s RedHot™ Buffalo Wings are some easy to find favorites for the classic Buffalo wing flavor. Moore’s Original Buffalo Wing Sauce is another one of our favorite commercial Buffalo sauces.
Make your own Buffalo sauce
Using Franks Original RedHot™:
- melt 1/3 cup butter (~2/3 stick) in a saucepan over low heat
- add 1-2 tsp of minced garlic or 2 cloves of pressed garlic
- let the two simmer for only about a minute or two, don’t let the garlic burn
- add 1/2 cup of Frank’s Original. Stir well to mix.
Or, Frank’s has taken the labor out of it for you by bottling their Frank’s RedHot™ Buffalo Wings sauce. (But homemade is better, trust us).