Smoked chicken wings are always a great idea no matter what the occasion is and with these I just decided to go back to the drawing board and showcase the importance of brining poultry and using a world class rub on them to bring out the perfection that these morsels of goodness can be.
The main issue that most people run into with all chicken really is the skin.. in a smoker it just doesn't get crisp and never will have that fried crispiness that many of us enjoy. The next best thing is to try for a good bite through which isn't crispy but is in no way rubbery or difficult to eat.
This is the great thing about pellet smokers such as the Woodwind SG by Campchef, you can start them out low and slow to get a ton of great smoke flavor and then with the flip of a button, crank it up to 400-450°F for an excellent finish.
As with all poultry, I highly recommend giving it a soak in salty water. This allows some of the salt and water to get inside of the meat and through the miracle of science, this salty water gets trapped inside of the muscle fibers.
Since we know that all meat loses some water during cooking, this means even if the meat loses some water, it now has extra so it will end up juicier than it would have otherwise. And, it's got a little salt on the inside as well to bring out some of that natural flavor.
The perfect ratio of salt to water is 1 cup of coarse kosher salt to 1 gallon of cold water. I also add a cup of brown sugar for some extra flavor but know that you don't have to do this if you are trying to cut back on your sugar intake.
Add 1 gallon of cold water to a gallon sized tea pitcher then pour in 1 cup of coarse kosher salt and 1 cup of dark brown sugar.
Mix until the water is amber and clear enough to see to the bottom. This means the ingredients have dissolved.
Place the chicken wings into a large bowl and pour the brine over them to cover.
If you have a lid, cover it up and place the bowl into the fridge for 3 hours to let the magic happen.
At the end of 3 hours, remove the chicken wings from the fridge, discard the brine and rinse the wings one time in cold water.
They are now ready for the rub.
Make sure the chicken wings are fairly dry by patting them with paper towels.
In the same or similar container as you used for brining, add about 1 cup of Jeff's original rub* on top of the chicken wings and, if you have a tight lid, attach it and shake the container of rub and wings to evenly coat the meat.
*Purchase formula here | Purchase bottled rub
You can also do this in a large ziptop bag if that is easier.
I sometimes add more rub if I feel like it needs better coverage but that's up to you.
The wings, now well coated with Jeff's original rub*, are ready for the smoker.
*Purchase formula here | Purchase bottled rub
Set up your smoker for cooking at about 180°F if you are using a pellet smoker or 200-225°F if you are using a different type of smoker such as charcoal or electric or gas, using indirect heat.
If you have a water pan, leave it dry as this hinders the outside of the skin from cooking properly.
Lay the wings on the smoker grate making sure to leave a little space between them to allow the smoke and heat to flow more easily around them.
Let the chicken wings smoke cook for about 45 to 60 minutes.
If you are using a pellet smoker such as the Woodwind SG by Campchef, crank up the heat to about 350-400°F. If you have another type of smoker and can get up to 350°F or higher then do so. Otherwise, it is preferable to move the wings quickly to the grill and finish them there watching them carefully so they do not burn.
You can also just leave them on the smoker at it's highest setting and leave them there until they reach 180°F as measures by a tried and true digital meat thermometer such as the thermapen or thermopop.
You can also do these in the oven but you'd want to lay them on a large flat pan such as a cookie sheet so as to prevent a mess in the bottom of the oven.
Regardless of how you proceed within the realms of your equipment, let the wings cook until they read 180°F in the thickest part of the meat.
I did mine on the Woodwind SG by Camp Chef and it took about 30 minutes to bring them up to temperature once I fired up the smoker to High. There was a lot of wind and the smoker hovered around 350-375°F.
When the chicken wings are done, remove them to a pan and let them rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.
It seems that ranch dressing is what most people dip their celery in but I am here to tell you that the campfire sauce I made for those pork butt sliders I did a while back is heavenly when you dip your celery in it.
Mix equal parts Jeff's barbecue sauce*** with mayonnaise and mix well. I used ½ cup of each for this batch but you can make as much as you need and it also refrigerates well if you make extra.
***Make the sauce yourself* using my recipe or purchase “already made” sauce in a bottle
Why cook the chicken wings to 180°F when you are constantly saying that poultry is done and safe to eat at 165°F? Well, that's a great question! Wings have a lot of fat and connective tissues and while they are done and safe to eat at 165°F, I find that they are more tender when cooked to a higher internal temperature.