America loves to barbecue and one of my favorite things is grilled BBQ chicken wings. It’s one of my favorite ways to cook chicken. Smoking the chicken is a great way to add even more flavor to this summer favorite. Even if you do not own a smoker, you can still smoke these wings like a pitmaster using your grill – and it’s easier than you think!
Today, we are going to smoke some whole chicken wings on the grill. This works for both the gas or charcoal grill with no special smoker or attachments needed – just a handful or two of smoking chips which I pickup seasonally in the BBQ section of my local box store. The mild smoky flavor infused by the addition of Applewood smoking chips is amazing and perfect for the delicate flavor of the chicken meat.
I like to coat the wings first with a quick dry rub and allow them to marinate anywhere from 30-minutes up to overnight. This adds layers of flavors to the wings. They are then cooked predominately over indirect heat with the apple smoking chips smoldering on the other side of the grill.
These wings have so many layers of flavors between the smoky meat, peppery rub, and then a final slathering of sticky finger-licking BBQ sauce, like Newman’s Own Sweet & Spicy BBQ Sauce – did you know 100% of the profits from Newman’s Own brand products go to charity? That’s a brand I can really get behind.
Wet or Dry Smoke?
There are several schools of thought on whether or not to soak the wood chips before using them. Wet wood takes longer to smoke – which is okay for long smoking periods like briskets and pork butt but for chicken wings, we need instant gratification. If you are worried about chips catching on fire when you add them directly to the grill, make a smoke packet by wrapping the wood in foil and poking holes in the foil.
There are some wood flavors that just seem to go better with certain meats.
- Delicate Smoky Favor: Pecan, Apple, or Cherry
- I am cooking today with Apple wood chips. I also like this on pork butt.
- Assertive Smoky Flavor: Hickory or Oak
- I usually use Hickory wood chips on pork chops, pork belly, and slab pork ribs.
- Strong Full-Bodied Flavor: Mesquite
- Mesquite is most often reserved for large cuts of beef, like beef brisket or slab pork ribs, that can handle its assertive flavors.
Preprare the Grill:
To preheat the grill, turn one side of your grill to high and leave the other off. Place the wood chips on the hot side. When they begin to smoke, turn the burners down to low. Bring the grill to 215 degrees F. Then place the meat on the unlit side of the grill. Smoke chicken over indirect heat, maintaining temperature inside the grill around 215°F until done, about 1 1/2 hours.
Don’t Lift the Cover:
While the meat is smoking, resist the urge to open the cover and check them frequently because the smoke will escape. You also extend the cooking time every time you remove the cover and release the built-up heat.
Use an instant read thermometer to check the internal temperature is 165 degrees F and the juices run cleart before serving.
Glaze the Meat:
Durning the last 30 minutes, glaze the chicken with your favorite BBQ sauce then close the lid for another 30 minutes.
These wings are slightly pink from smoking them and are absolutely fall off the bone tender, juicy, and delicious. You’ve got to try these out!
Grilled Sweet and Spicy BBQ Chicken Wings
Ever since I was a kid, I've been hooked on the flavor of grilled chicken wings and they have always been one of my favorite ways to cook chicken. Smoking the chicken is a great way to add even more flavor to this old favorite. Even if you do not own a smoker, you can still smoke like a pitmaster using your grill - and it's easier than you think!
- 2 1/2 tablespoons ground black pepper [See Note 1]
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon seasoned salt (we use a spicy creole blend)
- 5 pounds chicken wings, rinsed and dried
- 1/4 cup honey [See Note 2]
- 3/4 cup Sweet and Spicy Barbecue Sauce (like Newman's Own)
- 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 handful of Apple Wood Smoking chips [See Note 3]
Mix together the pepper, onion powder, chili powder, garlic powder, and seasoned salt in a small bowl. Place half the chicken wings in a large zip-top bag. Pour in 1/2 the dry rub and shake to coat the wings well. Repeat with the second half of the wings. Allow the wings to marinade for at least 30 minutes at room temperature or up to overnight in the refrigerator. If you marinade overnight, bring the wings to room temperature for 30-minutes before putting on the grill. This allows the meat to cook evenly.
- For the Gas Grill: Light the gas grill to medium-high heat to warm the grill. When the grill is hot, turn down the heat to medium-low or low heat to sustain a grill temperature of 215 degrees F. Shut off the gas to the area(s) of the grill where the chicken will be placed in order to cook using indirect heat. Place the wings on the grill on the side away from the heat source. On the other side of the grill, place the smoking chips. If you think they may catch fire, make a foil packet around the chips and poke holes in the top for the smoke to escape. When the wood is lit and producing smoke, place the wings on the indirect heat (off) side of the grill, not over the flame, cover, and cook for 25 minutes. Turn the wings and cook for another 20 to 25 minutes.
For the Charcoal Grill: Light a chimney 3/4 full of charcoal. When charcoal is fully lit and covered in gray ash, pour coals out and arrange them on either side of the charcoal grate, keeping the middle empty. Add smoking chips to both piles of charcoal. When the wood is lit and producing smoke, place the wings in the middle of the grill, not over the coals, cover, and cook for 25 minutes. Turn the wings and cook for another 20 to 25 minutes.
While the wings are cooking, mix the honey, barbecue sauce, and apple cider vinegar together in a small bowl. With a BBQ mop, pastry brush, or large spoon baste the chicken with barbecue sauce. Turn the chicken over and repeat to sauce both sides of the chicken. Cover and cook for another 20 minutes, until the glaze becomes sticky and caramelized. Remove from the grill and either keep warm in a low oven [See Note 4] or serve immediately.
- Adjust the pepper to your personal spice level. It's the ground black pepper that gives these wings their heat.
- You can omit the honey or substitute with another sweetener like brown sugar, agave, or even maple syrup.
- For a more robust smoky flavor, use hickory or mesquite smoking chips. See guidelines in recipe post to chose your flavor profile.
- Cooking for a crowd? Grill them up before the party and keep them hot in a low oven - 175 degrees F will keep them warm without drying them out. If left for a long period of time in the oven (several hours) they will dry out, however.