It used to be a chicken wing was a chicken wing was a chicken wing. But innovative chefs, home cooks, and a never-ending demand have pushed the chicken wing envelope into new territories unheard of just a few short years ago.
In addition to the traditional, bone-in chicken wing, you’ll also find boneless, cauliflower, and tenders on our menu. Recipes for wings cooked in the air fryer, the Instant Pot, and the oven abound. Heck we’ve even added wings to a snack stadium for bowl games, arranged them fancily on a chicken charcuterie board, and explored all the ways to make them vegan.
But we’ve yet to explore smoked chicken wings. That is, until now.
Grilling vs. Smoking Chicken Wings: What’s the Difference?
If you’re going for a quick wing fix at home, grilled wings are your best bet. Most everyone has a grill (or an indoor grill pan) in which to fire up a few wings. They’re easy to cook and take on a woodsy, smoky flavor that tastes great when smothered in any of your favorite sauces or dry rubs.
If you prefer a deeper, smokier taste, try smoking wings. Traditionally, smoking meat was used as a method of preservation. Nowadays, it’s utilized as a way to impart a smoky flavor to all cuts of meat and seafood, and in particular tougher ones like pork butts or brisket. And, although chicken wings are far from a tough cut of meat, cooking them in a smoker or recreating that rich, smoky flavor in another way simply makes them taste so good.
Need an amazing smoked wings recipe or curious about how to achieve a smoky flavor without actual smoke? Try Chef Dan’s smoked wings recipe for achieving that smoked wing flavor.
How to Make Chicken Wings with a Smoker
Chef Dan recommends starting your chicken wings off in a simple brine before smoking and then finishing them off with your favorite Wings and Rings sauce.
Brined, Smoked Chicken Wings
- First, brine chicken wings in a water-and-salt mixture, adding in some herbs, garlic, or other spices if desired. (A good water-to-salt ratio is ½-1 tablespoon of salt for every cup of COLD water used. Whisk the mixture until the salt is completely dissolved.)
- The length of brine time is directly related to the amount of brine you’ve used. Heavy amounts of salt in your brine only need about 2 hours, while lesser amounts can soak into the wings overnight. For overnight brining, Chef Dan recommends starting with 1 gallon of water to ½ cup kosher salt.
- Drain the wings from the brine, toweling off any excess moisture.
- Place the brined wings in a 225° smoker on a rack ensuring airflow under and over the wings. “Cooking low and slow at 225° is key,” Chef Dan says. “The longer they cook, the smokier they will be plus the result is super tender wings.”
- Allow the wings to smoke at least until the temperature reaches 165° internally on an instant-read thermometer or a temperature probe.
- Serve with a variety of Wings and Rings signature sauces. Chef Dan says his go-tos include any of our BBQ sauces, and also the Ghost Pepper Ranch. “The heat goes well with the smoked wings and the ranch has a cooling effect...smoke, fire, and ice!” he says.
And, if you’re looking for the perfect food pairings to accompany the smoked wings, Chef Dan recommends the Buffalo Chicken Nachos, Fried Pickle Chips, and Pretzel Bites with Queso Dipping Sauce.
How Do You Smoke Chicken Wings Without a Smoker?
No smoker? No problem. You can still impart a smoky flavor to your chicken wings in several other ways.
- Use your charcoal grill. Chef Dan says you can put soaked wood chips on your coals (he prefers hickory). But he also cautions to watch your wings carefully because chicken wings on the grill have a tendency to flame up as the fat renders off. If you’re worried about too much flame, he suggests starting them on the grill and finishing them in the oven. (Not sure when they’re done? Use a meat thermometer. Fully cooked chicken wings need to reach an internal temperature of 165℉.)
- Add spice. Many spices can lend a smoky flavor to your chicken wings no matter how you choose to cook them. Examples include smoked paprika, black cardamom, chipotle peppers, and smoked salts. Use these spices in a dry rub before adding the wings to your grill or baking them.
- Add oil. Smoked olive oils can also impart a smoky flavor to your wings when drizzled right before eating. A little goes a long way.
- Liquid smoke. This simple ingredient has been adding a smoky flavor to foods since 1895. Made from collected, condensed hardwood smoke, liquid smoke can vary in wood smoke flavor, depending on the brand. Simply add a couple drops of it to chicken wing marinades or to wing sauces to achieve that smoky deliciousness you crave.
Have we convinced you to give smoked wings a go? Combine your homemade smoked wings with your favorite traditional wing order (and starters too, of course) from Wings and Rings for a meal that will be truly unforgettable. Order today!