Pickle Brined Pastrami Chicken Wings
Smokey flavors with the bold crust of pastrami, right before you bite into that juicy zest of chicken. These are ultimate chicken wings.
It all started with a jar of pickle brine.
I can’t let that delicious brine go to waste! My family can only go through so many pickles. Sometimes the demand for the brine drives me to consume the last third of the jar. The puckering side-effects are SO worth it.
You might have noticed that I absolutely love cooking with pastrami flavors. It’s a recipe that I have yet to perfect – the best Pastrami rub. As IF that’s ever possible! It’s just as difficult as making the perfect fried chicken, or the perfect chocolate chip cookie.
The Pickle Brine
Pickle juice tenderizes meat like crazy. The acidic flavors penetrate into the fibers, dying it yellow and softening the chicken just slightly. Combine chicken wings with the brine and you have the most juicy, flavorful wings even before you season them.
One day I’ll have to write about pickle brined fried chicken, still one of my favorite ways to use that juice.
The Pastrami Rub
Pairing the flavors of pastrami to chicken wasn’t as difficult as I thought. I have about 5 blends of pastrami rub that I use for various cooks. I needed the right mix that wasn’t too floral with coriander or juniper berries, and had a little sweetness to round out that pickle brine.
Ironically the best pastrami rub to use was from my Pastrami Spiced Porterhouse Recipe.
The challenge with making Pastrami Chicken Wings is the dark color of the crust, and the ruby meat hidden inside. I didn’t want to cure the wings for that salty, pink color. Traditionally, pastrami is also smoked for quite awhile so it develops that dark crust on the outside.
Popping open my spice cabinet, avoiding falling items, I saw that bag of charcoal. PERFECT. A single teaspoon with a few pinches of bright red paprika and the new pastrami blend was ready to go.
Making the Pastrami Wings
Brine those wings. This was the easy part, just toss them in enough pickle juice to cover and stir them every so often. Let them hang out at least overnight.
Dry-brine those wings. Take the wings out of that juice and pat them dry. Toss them in a bag with the rub, making sure they are full coated. I like to put them on a wire rack in the fridge for a few hours to dry out the surface more, which will create a super crispy crust when you smoke them.
Smoke them. The hardest part, you must sit around and wait for the 3rd time now! You’re almost there. Just let these dark wings bath in that smoke at 225F for almost 2 hours until they are safe to eat (165F) and you’re ready to go!
Smokey flavors with the bold crust of pastrami, right before you bite into that juicy zest of chicken. These are the chicken wings you need.
- 2 lb chicken wings
- Jar of pickle brine (at least 3 Cups)
- 3 tbsp black peppercorns, toasted
- 2 tbsp coriander seeds, toasted
- 1 tbsp juniper berries, toasted
- ½ tsp fennel seeds, toasted
- 1 tsp yellow mustard seeds, toasted
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tsp paprika
- ½ tsp chile flakes
- 1 tsp activated charcoal (optional)
- Marinade the chicken wings with the pickle juice for at least 4 hours, overnight preferred. If using a bag with the wings and marinade, make sure you flip it at least once while in the fridge.
- Toast the first 5 spices lightly in a dry pan on med low heat, until they release their aromas. Grind them and mix them with the rest of the rub ingredients. Taste and adjust.
- Take the wings out of the marinade and pat dry. Season the wings generously. If you’re using the activated charcoal, I recommend putting the wings in a sealed bag and pouring the spice rub into the bag to evenly coat the wings. The charcoal is quite messy.
- Place the individual wings on a wire rack, set onto a baking sheet. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours to allow the spices to bond to the wings, releasing moisture which will help them crisp when cooking.
- Remove the wings from the fridge and heat an indirect grill or smoker to 225°F. Smoke the wings for an hour, then crank up the grill to 375°F. Continue to cook the wings, flip at least once, when the internal temp is at least 165°F they will be done.
- Serve with a side of the Dill & Pickle Remoulade.
Pickle juice is very acidic so don’t over-marinade the wings. Overnight at most is just fine, but you will definitely get enough flavor after just a few hours.
Keywords: chicken wings, pastrami