How To Grill Chicken Wings

Featuring a guide on grilled chicken wings.

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.

I’m here to tell you, it’s MUCH EASIER than you think!

Light up the charcoal grill and smoke the wings briefly with indirect heat. Searing the chicken wings over medium-high heat when they are almost done creates that crispy skin. Each bite is juicy, with a nice smoky flavor. Try this easy recipe for the best chicken wings you’ll ever make.

Look at this delicious, crispy grilled chicken wing.

Why This Recipe Works

  • QUICK AND SIMPLE. Don’t wait hours for your wings! Use this easy recipe and they will be ready much sooner. A higher heat with smoke will give you extra flavor, crispy skin, and juicy wing meat.
  • SMOKY FLAVOR. 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. Sometimes smoking wings at a lower temperature will either leave the skin rubbery or leathery. This process is not only faster but also gives you delicious chicken skin worth chomping into.
Searing the wings at the end helps to create that crispy skin.

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 – You’ll need plenty of these! Make sure you purchase enough. You can use whole chicken wings or separate them into wings and drummettes. They will cook the same.
  • 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 be aware.
  • Seasoning – Use what tastes good to you! Try out our recommended Sedona Sand All-Purpose Seasoning, packing the heat and herbs for an amazing southwest flavor.

Homemade dry rubs are delicious too. 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.

Prepare the chicken wings for seasoning.
  • Charcoal grill – You’ll need a grill, and I highly recommend using a charcoal grill for grilled wings. This is key for building that smoky flavor with crispy skin, making the best grilled chicken wings possible.
  • Meat thermometer – Having one on hand ensures that the wings hit that perfect internal temperature every time.
  • Wood Chips or Chunks – This is the key to the puzzle, the extra fuel that will add more smoky 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.
Seasoning the chicken wings in a resealable plastic bag.

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.

Kick up the flavor by adding a few dashes of hot sauce during the seasoning phase, as the wings are being tossed around. Pour a few drops in with the oil, and add the dry rub after they are mixed around. You’ll still have crispy skin, just with some extra flavor.

Smoking the wings over charcoal indirectly before searing.

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 with indirect heat and seasoned with smoke for the first phase. Cook the wings until the internal temperature registers about 165°F.

Searing the chicken wings at the end helps them to get pretty crispy.

Step 3: Sear Over Flames

Now that the chicken wings have had a glorious smoke bath, it’s time for the final step!

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. You’re looking for a medium-high heat, around 400-450°F.

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 have crispy skin and the internal temperature is 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. You can’t make buffalo wings without that sauce.

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 the wings stay as crispy as possible.

BBQ Sauce Recommendations

We have PLENTY of options for homemade barbecue sauce recipes. Try our favorite sauce, the Smoky Sweet Heat, or explore with something more potent like the Mexican Buffalo Sauce.

Mix any of these with a little mayo and sour cream for the ultimate dipping sauce, which pairs perfectly with any buffalo wings.

Do you prefer a dry rub or sauced wings?

More Chicken Wing Recipes to Love

Try some of these flavors out, using the process for smoky grilled chicken wings:

These grilled chicken wings are extra crispy and juicy

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I oil my wings before grilling?

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. 

How do I make crispy wings on a gas grill?

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.

Do you flip wings when grilling?

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.

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Featuring a guide on grilled chicken wings.

Grilled Chicken Wings

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! 

  • Total Time: 3 hours
  • Yield: About 2-3 1x

Ingredients

Scale
  • 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)

Instructions

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Allow the wings to rest for a couple of minutes before serving. Don’t wait too long, you worked hard for that crispy skin!

Notes

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.

  • Author: Brad Prose
  • 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

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