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Fired Up Smoked Chicken Wings

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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.

Helpful Information
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Brine Time: 3 hours
  • Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Smoker Temp: 180°F then 350-400°F
  • Meat Finish Temp: 180°F
  • Recommended Wood: Pecan
What You’ll Need
Step 1: Brine

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.

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Mix until the water is amber and clear enough to see to the bottom. This means the ingredients have dissolved.

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Place the chicken wings into a large bowl and pour the brine over them to cover.

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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.

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Step 2: Add Rub & Shake

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

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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

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Step 3: Smoke Time

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.

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Let the chicken wings smoke cook for about 45 to 60 minutes.

Step 4: Crank Up the Heat

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.

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Step 5: Finish Up & Serve

When the chicken wings are done, remove them to a pan and let them rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.

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Step 6: Forget the Ranch and Serve the Celery with Campfire Sauce

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.

CampFire Sauce

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

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Notes & Comments

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.

Print

Fired Up Smoked Chicken Wings – Near Perfect Skin

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.

  • Prep Time: 3 hours 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 4 hours 40 minutes
  • Category: Appetiser, Entree
  • Cuisine: Barbecue

Ingredients

Units Scale

Instructions

  1. Make a brine by mixing a gallon of cold water, 1 cup of kosher salt and 1 cup of brown sugar. Mix until dissolved.
  2. Place the chicken into a large plastic container and pour the brine over the chicken to cover. Place contain in the fridge for 3 hours. Rinse chicken with cold water when complete
  3. Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel and put back into brining container.
  4. Cover chicken with about 1 cup of Jeff’s original rub and stir to coat or place lid on container and shake to coat.
  5. Setup smoker for cooking at about 180°F using indirect heat. If you have a water pan, leave it dry.
  6. Place chicken on smoker grate and smoke cook at 180°F for 45-60 minutes.
  7. Increase smoker temperature to 350-400°F if possible and continue cooking wings for about 30 minutes or until they reach 180°F in the thickest part.

Notes

Note: If your grill will not reach 350°F, you can continue cooking them at the highest temperature your smoker will obtain until they reach 180°F in the thickest part or you can finish them on the grill or in the oven.

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22 Comments

  1. Jeff,
    I have a general question about smoking chicken and trying to char/crisp up the skins. I have a Recteq, I’ve only had it for about 2-3 months and I’ve done chicken quarters & thighs and I’m just not quite getting the skin where I want it to be even after trying to turn it up to 400. I just purchased the “sear plates” from Recteq. Do you think turning up the grill and then putting the chicken on the sear plates will work

    1. Barney, I don’t have the Reqtec sear grates however, I would think that it should help some if you let them heat on High for about 30 minutes or whatever Reqtec recommends. Theoretically, the sear grates get screaming hot and that transfers directly to the meat that is laying on it.

      Be sure to dry the chicken in the fridge uncovered overnight before cooking it as this helps to improve the final product as well.

  2. Hi Jeff, I love your website and rub recipe and use it for practically everything I smoke!!

    I’ve never made wings and I am thinking about making these for a get together at my dads house this weekend.
    Here’s my question: Could I cook these on my smoker to a particular point then take them to my dads and warm/finish cooking them in his oven? If this would work what is the best way to do this?

    Thanks, Jim!

    1. You can’t really cook them in 2 stages but you could possibly cool smoke them (as low as your smoker will go) for say 30 minutes and then get them right back into the fridge or packed in ice. Keep them ice cold until right before they go into the oven at your Dad’s house.

      You might have better luck by smoke cooking them all the way to done at your house, refrigerate quickly and keep them cold until you’re ready to reheat them in the oven at your Dad’s. They may not be quite as good as right off the smoker, but they’ll still be pretty darn good.

      1. Hi Jeff, Thanks for your reply!

        So what if I smoke cooked them to 160deg at my house & then immediately put them in the fridge. Then when I get to my dads house I put them in his oven on 200 until they get warmed up or reach 180deg? Do you think that would work?

        BTW I’ve been doing your maple syrup recipe on my turkey for the past 4 or 5 years and every year I get people asking how I did it and I just send them to your website!

        Thanks,

        Jim

        1. Jim.. that should work just fine. When you get to your Dad’s house and reheat them, they just have to be taken to a good eating temperature and of course the only way to truly tell if it they are ready to eat is to try one.. chef’s treat ;-)

          I usually reheat at 275°F but you can definitely do it hotter than that if you need to hurry them along.

          glad to hear that Maple turkey has been such a great recipe for you!

          1. Hi Jeff,

            Just a follow up & advice to those making these wings. I smoked (temp went back & forth between 118-224dg) these for an hour then turned the heat up to high (345-75). After 10 minutes on high the internal temp got to 188 so I pulled them right away (I was going to pull them at 160) covered and put them in the fridge.
            Today (a day later) I took these to my dads and we put them in his oven at 275deg for 25 minutes and they warmed up perfectly and did not over cook, HUGE SUCCESS!!…This recipe is a keeper!!!

  3. I was disappointed last time I smoked wings. They were rubbery. But I did not finish over high heat. I will next time.

  4. Jeff, you only allow rub to sit on wings for literally a few minutes? Patoooooey! I won’t touch the wings unless they are rubbed for a minimum 24 hours in fridge sealed. NO brine. Smoke in SI smoker for 1 hour @ 200, pull and put your BBQ sauce on, smoke for 1 more hour at 225. Put wings on HOT grill for 1-2 minute each side, done!

    1. Tim, This one is just one of many methods. As always, if you find a particular method that works really well for you then don’t change anything. Sounds like you have a good one ;-)

  5. Going to make this on Christmas party for my friends. Please give some tips that can be helpful for me. Actually i am hardly cook anything and don’t know anything about cooking. I used NorthBourne Foods chicken wings for better taste.

    Thanks
    Ryan William

  6. Any reason to leave the wing tips on? Virtually no meat on them and less space in the smoker for meatier pieces.

  7. Made these for the OSU game and they were awesome. Smokey and crispy! Skipped the brine. Smoked in my electric smoker with hickory chips @225 for 1 hour. Then got out my air fryer and fried them @400 degrees for 8 minutes per side. Finally I dredged them in some bbq sauce, air fried 3 more minutes, and puttem back in the sauce to serve. Yum. Thanks!

  8. Made these tonight and they were awesome. Brined for 7 hours. Electric smoker @225 for 80 minutes with applewood. Put ’em on a hot grill for about 4-5 minutes a side. Hard to beat the crispy skin and super flavor! Jeff, your recipes are always spot on for me, and I use your original rub on pretty much everything that goes into the smoker.