Light the charcoal and make the best plate of Grilled Chicken Wings you’ve ever had. This simple process will level up your grilling game! Read along for the ultimate guide for grilling chicken wings and get ready for smoke flavor.
Nothing beats a pile of grilled chicken wings when you’re watching the big game, or just hanging out with your friends. Smoked chicken wings are delicious, but sometimes you just don’t have that kind of time. Let’s talk about how to enhance the flavors right over the grill so you can eat sooner.
Don’t forget to also check out our section Guides for Grilling to learn about more core recipes!
Why This Recipe Works
Quick and simple. Don’t wait hours for your wings, they will be ready much sooner using this method. A higher heat with smoke will give you extra flavor and speed of cooking.
Delicious smoke flavors. Put away the pellet smoker, your charcoal (or even gas) grill can generate enough smoke at high heat to get the job done for this recipe. Grilled wings taste better with a little wood-fired smoke flavor.
Crispy wings, not rubbery skin. Sometimes smoking wings at a lower temperature will either leave the skin rubbery or leathery. This process is not only faster but gives you absolutely delicious chicken skin worth chomping into.
Ingredients You’ll Need
There are so many ways to make chicken wings, that’s what makes them so fun to cook. This recipe focuses on cooking indirectly to add smoke flavor, and finishing them over high heat.
- Chicken Wings – Obviously you’ll need plenty of these! Make sure you purchase enough.
- Neutral Oil – This is used during the marinade process. I recommend using something that doesn’t have as much flavor with a higher smoke point, such as canola, peanut, avocado, grapeseed, sunflower, or vegetable oil. Olive oil can work, but it will impart its flavor into the wings as well just just be aware.
- Seasoning – Use what tastes good to you! Our classic Signature Sweet & Smoky Rub will give you that sweet heat, pairing with just about any barbecue flavor. If you’re looking for something less sweet, try Smoky Southwest Rub. One of my favorites for an aromatic bold flavor is Brad’s House Rub from the Chiles and Smoke Cookbook.
Recommended Grill Equipment
- Obviously, you’ll need a grill, and I highly recommend using a charcoal grill for grilling wings. That’s a very vague description, but any type of grill that uses wood-burning fuel that has a lid will work for this.
- Wood Chips or Chunks – This is the key to the puzzle, the extra fuel that will add more flavor and color to the wings. Adding some hardwood to the coals will create some additional smoke, adding both color and taste to the wings. The flavor and amount completely depend on your tastebuds.
- Gas grills can work, but you’ll need to use wood chips on a burner to replicate the indirect smoking phase. Check out this tutorial on How to use Wood Chips on your Gas Grill.
Step 1: Preparing the Wings
Make sure the chicken wings are thawed. Pat the wings dry with a paper towel once you remove them from the packaging.
Place the wings in a large resealable plastic bag, or another large container that can be sealed. Pour in a few tablespoons of oil and mix up the wings, coating them evenly.
Add in your preferred seasoning next, mixing up the bag again to coat the wings. Allow them to rest for at least 2 hours, up to overnight.
Mixing up the wings in this way is easier with a bag, rather than using a large bowl. You can see the wings easier and also lay the bag flat down in the fridge.
Step 2: Grilling Indirect with Smoke
Light up the grill for medium heat, around 350-375°F. You’ll want to light the coals and place them on one side of your grill, or directly in the center if you have a round grill such as a Weber.
Place your wood chunk or chips directly on the charcoal once it’s lit and the grill is at temperature.
Arrange your wings on the cool side of the grill, away from the coals. The chicken wings will be cooked indirectly with heat and seasoned with smoke for the first phase. Cook the wings until they register about 165°F.
Step 3: Sear Over Flames
Now that the chicken wings have had a glorious smoke bath, it’s time for some crispy action!
Make sure the charcoal is still hot, and open up the vents if necessary for searing. Once you remove the lid, the heat should increase quite a bit within a few minutes.
Sear the wings directly over the coals for a couple of minutes on each side. Flip as needed, making sure that they don’t burn. Sometimes chicken fat can drip down and cause flare-ups, so just be mindful.
Once the wings are crispy and around 180-185°F they are good to go. Remove them and allow them to rest for a few minutes before serving.
Do You Want Saucy Wings?
Do you like your grilled chicken wings saucy? No problem.
A little saucy: Once the wings are finished with Step 2 (165°F target temperature) go ahead and toss them in a bowl with some of your favorite BBQ sauce, or hot sauce. Sear them directly over the coals, carefully making sure the sauce does not burn.
Very saucy: Alternatively, you can also toss the fully cooked wings in sauce after you sear them. Do this right before you serve so they wings stay as crispy as possible.
BBQ Sauce Recommendations
- Mexican Buffalo Sauce
- Sweet Honey Bourbon BBQ Sauce
- Maple Chipotle BBQ Sauce
- Spicy Buffalo BBQ Sauce
More Chicken Wing Recipes to Love
Try some of these flavors out, using the process for smoky grilled chicken wings:
Frequently Asked Questions
It helps to prevent the wings from sticking to the grill. Nothing is more disappointing than having to rip your chicken wings off the grill grates, tearing open the skin and meat.
Oil helps to evenly coat the spices on the wings. If you were to simply pour spices into the bag with wings and shake, there will be a few wings that are completely coated with spices, and many that are left bare. The oil helps to transfer the spices across all surfaces of the wings when mixing.
It will crisp up the outside. Our technique of grilling wings indirectly means that they are cooking slower in the beginning before being seared. The oil helps to ensure that the skin doesn’t get rubbery. The heat from the coals will warm the oil, helping to render and tighten the skin.
Follow the same steps of cooking indirectly, and then searing for a finish. Using the combination of oil and spices also helps to prevent the wings from sticking to the grill grates. Just be aware of flareups from the oil and chicken fat as it drips into the burners.
Yes, especially when searing them at the end. Sometimes I will need to rotate them around on the grill during the first phase of cooking them indirectly as well, to make sure they are all cooking evenly. Use your instincts.
- 2 pounds of chicken wings
- 2 tablespoons of neutral oil (canola, grapeseed, vegetable, etc.)
- 1/4 cup of Signature Sweet & Smoky Rub (or preferred rub)
- Prepare the wings by patting them dry with a paper towel. Place them in a large resealable plastic bag and add in the oil. Seal the bag, and mix the wings well to ensure they are coated with the oil. Open up the bag and add in the spices, repeating the process to coat the wings completely. Make sure the bag is sealed and place it in the fridge for at least 2 hours to marinate, up to overnight.
- Preheat the grill for indirect cooking, aiming for about 350-375°F with the lid closed. Place the coals on one side, leaving you a cool side to place the wings on. If using a round grill such as a kettle grill, place the coals in a pile in the center, leaving the outside ring as the cool spot.
- Place the wings on the grill away from the heat to cook them indirectly. Close the lid and allow them to cook for about 30 minutes undisturbed. Check on the wings and rotate them as needed, making sure they cook evenly. Continue to cook this way for another 15-20 minutes or so until the wings reach 165°F.
- Move the wings over the coals directly to crisp them. Cook and flip the wings until they are about 180-185°F and crispy on the outside.
- Allow the wings to rest for a couple of minutes before serving. Don’t wait too long, you worked hard for that crispy skin!
If you want wings with sauce, you can either sauce and sear them during the final step, or you can toss them in sauce after the sear. It just depends on how saucy you want the wings.
Don’t skip out on the oil for the seasoning step. This is important for crisping up the wings and also helping to prevent them from sticking to the grill.
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Marinate Time: 2 hours
- Cook Time: 60 minutes
- Category: Chicken & Poultry
- Method: Grilling
- Cuisine: Appetizer
Keywords: chicken wings, grilled chicken wings, grilled wings, charcoal grilling