Crispy, flavorful, and fall-off-the-bone tender Smoked Chicken Wings are effortlessly delicious with every bite. This super easy dish needs no introduction when serving, whether as a fancy appetizer or a casual comfort food snack. You can easily make these at home with minimal effort.
Last night, my hubby and I had the television to ourselves because my son had to go to bed early. Whenever we have this time together, we binge-watch our favorite series until our snack runs out.
I don’t know if it’s the flavor, the crunch, or the slip-off-the-bone tenderness that makes it so addicting. I guess you’ll have to try it for yourself to find out. I’ll show you how to make the best-smoked chicken wings at home so that you can indulge as well.
America’s Love Affair with Chicken Wings
America has a powerful love for comfort food, particularly chicken wings. Gameday, movie nights, or a simple drive along the beach, you’ll see one typical treat that fits all these occasions. However, a few years back, it was a totally different story.
We love wings because of their convenience, affordable price, and versatility. Preparing dishes using wings is entirely sustainable if you think about it.
During the ’60s and ’70s, people opted for boneless and skinless chicken breasts. The wings attached to the breast would be cut off and sold for less.
Because it was more affordable and way more accessible, each household could make their favorite wing recipes. Frying was a popular way to prepare them, but did you also know there are other ways to cook wings?
That’s what we’re gonna talk about today.
How to Buy Chicken Wings
It’s really easy to find poultry at the supermarket or even from the local farmer’s market. However, not all offer the same quality. Let me tell you a few tips on choosing the right chicken wings. Another option is a bag of frozen chicken wings.
- Color – Check the color of the flesh. If it’s light pink, it’s probably fresh. Please avoid grayish or dull-colored chicken because it’s a sign that it’s probably old.
- Firmness – Fresh meats, in general, are plump and springy. If you give it a little press using one finger, it should immediately go back to its original shape; if not, skip those.
- Smell – I’d avoid chicken wings with foul odors because it’s a clear sign of decomposition. Yuk!
- Texture – A slimy film is a sign of further decomposition; I’d avoid those at all cost!
What Smoker to Use
Ya know, I don’t believe that there’s a specific way to perfectly smoke chicken wings. I’ve tried out a lot of smokers, large and small, and I think it all depends on your preference. Besides, you don’t want to miss out on the deliciousness of making chicken wings just because you don’t have the “right” smoker.
So here are some of my go-to techniques for this recipe:
My Choice: Pellet Smoker
- Super easy and tender – The long smoking period is totally worth the wait because of the meat’s tender juiciness. Additionally, it will intensify the flavors of the chicken wings.
- Flavored wood chips – You can mix and match woodchip flavors with this smoker. Yummmmm!
- Indirect heat – This type of heat means the heat source is distant from the meat, allowing a wonderfully slow and low cooking process.
- This smoker can be bulky – It does take up some space.
How to Use It
- Place the meat – Simply place the meat on the middle rack because the indirect heat source won’t create a hot spot. This will ensure your meat cooks evenly without burning it on one side.
- Install the water pan -Add a pan with half a cup of water to the smoking chamber to prevent it from drying out. This method also infuses the flavor of the wood chips in the chicken better. (I think Hickory flavored wood is excellent for chicken wings, but feel free to mix and match.)
- Catch the heat – Close the lid and start cooking! Yay!
Verdict: This is the easiest way to smoke chicken wings. The smoker automatically feeds the pellets and circulates the heat around the chamber. And no need to get dirty, just remember to check the meat from time to time!👍
I use a Traeger Pellet Smoker for my smoked chicken wings because it’s so versatile. I usually get my woodchips from Traeger, but Kingsford’s woodchips are a perfect substitute.
- Compact unit – This baby fits right in my shed when not in use. And I take it out when I’m ready to smoke. Easy peasy!
- No electricity – This smoker doesn’t need electricity. You can enjoy your Smoked Chicken Wings even when you’re on a camping trip.
- Low cost – It’s budget-friendly and waaay easier to clean! Woohoo!!!
- Direct heat – Although technically it’s indirect heat, the source is in the same chamber. Direct heat can result in roasting rather than smoking, which can burn one side of the chicken if you’re not careful.
You can use a simple, compact charcoal grill for smoking. This smoker is perfect if you don’t have much space in your backyard. However, I wouldn’t wear white when using this if I were you. At least not if you’re worried about it staying white. 😉
This smoking method uses charcoal which cooks using low but direct heat. And you can also use flavored wood chips to infuse a smoky aroma into your fabulicious chicken wings.
Barbecuing vs. Smoking – Barbecuing is usually slow roasting on an open fire or BBQ pit (watching the fire and turning the meat so it doesn’t burn on one side is part of the fun). In contrast, smoking uses slow, indirect heat so that all sides cook perfectly and infuse a more robust smoky flavor. Yum!
How to smoke meat with your charcoal grill
- Light the charcoal – Then, place the hot coals on one extreme side of the grill.
- Catch those drippings – Add a tin catch just below the grill so you can catch any juices that drip off.
- Picture-perfect placement – Place the chicken wings on the other side of the grill furthest from the coals and put the water pan beside it.
- Trap the heat – Close the lid because you don’t want all that heat to escape.
Verdict: This method is the most convenient. First, you don’t need a bulky unit in your backyard. 👍 Second, all you have to do is put your favorite wood chips in with the coals.
- Indirect heat – We won’t be using an open fire for this smoker, just heating rods and some woodchips.
- Built-in thermometer – It’s so nice to be able to see what the temperature is inside.
- Longer to smoke – It takes longer to cook because of the lower maximum temperature.
- Electric consumption – This smoker does use a bit of electricity. And while it doesn’t happen often, a power outage can be annoying, especially when you’re in the middle of smoking dinner.
- Tastes different – You’ll taste a slight difference without the authentic smoke from a burning woodchip. Also, if you don’t preheat the smoker, you may experience a subtle plastic taste.
Electric smokers use heating rods to create smoke with wood chips. A wood tray replaces the fire chamber, similar to a bullet smoker. It also uses convection heat, giving the food a slightly different flavor because it doesn’t have a real fire.
How to use an electric smoker
- Preheat the smoker – Pre-smoke the unit with the woodchips of your choice.
- Attach the water pan – Once it reaches the desired temperature, place the water pan in the unit’s lowest space.
- Perfect placement: Place the chicken wings on the rack and close the lid or door to start cooking it.
NOTE: If you’re using this smoker for the first time, I suggest seasoning it with cooking oil. It helps remove the manufacturer’s residue that could negatively affect your food’s flavor.
Verdict: Electric grills tend to take longer because they cook at a lower temperature.
You’re probably already drooling from all the jaw-dropping ways to smoke chicken wings; any sane person would. 😉
Let’s take it up a notch by showing you the amazing ingredients you’ll need for this deliciousness. So, let’s stop dreaming and check your local grocery store for the following:
- Chicken Wings – Does this even need an introduction? lol 🙂
Your choice of seasoning of any of these ones below:
- Creole Seasoning – go-to seasoning at home that adds boldness to any dishes. See my homemade version HERE.
- Italian Seasoning – An ensemble of dried herbs that brings out authentic Mediterranean flavors in your dish. This recipe makes it easy to make your own.
- Salt – A fundamental ingredient that intensifies other flavors. It’s also great for preserving, brining, or simply a light garnish.
- Onion Powder – Dried seasonings distribute the rich flavor without adding unnecessary moisture. Adding it to a brine gives it a sweet and aromatic flavor.
- Garlic – Fresh, dried, or powdered, garlic gives your whole dish a mouthwatering aroma. Here’s an easy guide to prepare this ingredient properly.
- Smoked Paprika – I know we’re already going to smoke these wings, but a little extra won’t hurt. It adds a fantastic peppery flavor without the heat.
- White Pepper – This mild spice has a less complex flavor than its counterpart, black pepper. Yet it gives you a light kick of heat.
- Cayenne Pepper – Now here is where the heat comes in. Feel free to adjust the amount to your tastes.
How Long Does It Take to Smoke Chicken Wings?
Compared to other food that goes into my Traeger smoker, chicken wings cook fairly quickly. So, how long does it take to smoke chicken wings? Just like what I say with my other smoking recipes, “Check the temperature, not the time.”
Different factors affect the cooking time of this dish, namely thickness, preparation, and temperature. And a meat thermometer like a super convenient Thermopro TP19H for your smoked dishes is a good investment.
It should be done once the internal temperature is about 160℉/71℃. However, my target temperature is at 175℉/80℃. That way, the skin is crispy and the meat super tender. Anything in between is good as well.
At what temperature do you smoke chicken wings?
The general practice is to cook it at 250℉/120℃, taking up to two hours to smoke. That is, if it’s not wet brined and the chicken is an average size.
Tips and Tricks
- Brining – This step is not necessary, but it does help make a juicier and tastier chicken wing. Brining usually takes a couple of hours, but you can do it a day or two in advance and keep them in the fridge. However, longer than 48 hours can result in rubbery skin.
- Split the wings – Use a knife to separate the tip, wingette, and drumette at the joints. This allows the wings to cook faster quicker. (I save the wing tips in the freezer for broth😉.)
- Keep the lid closed – Opening the top too much to move the chicken wings around can cause the temperature in the chamber to drop too far. Then it will take a super long time to cook your chicken.
- Chill the meat – Yeah, meat should be room temperature for grilling. On the other hand, it’s best to smoke your meat after chilling it. It takes longer to cook, allowing the flavor of the wood chips to penetrate better.
Pair it with your favorite dips! Contrasting the flavors with the smokiness of the chicken is absolutely delicious. But feel free to mix and match. Here are my top picks for the best sides for this chicken recipe:
- This White Pizza Sauce isn’t just for pizza.
- Dip your wings into this bowl of cheesy Blue Cheese Dressing.
- Who wouldn’t love Homemade Ranch with the smoky flavors of the chicken?
- Of course, a simple serving of Remoulade Sauce makes it a bit more extra.
More Chicken Comfort Food Recipes to try
How to Smoke Chicken Wings
Prepare the chicken
- Prepare the chicken – Cut off the wing tips and separate the wingettes and the drumettes.
- Dry it off – Pat the chicken wings dry. (Photo 1)
Season the Wings
- Season the chicken – Season the wings using your preferred dry seasoning. You can rub them on the meat or simply toss it around leave it for about an hour to brine itself. Keep them in the fridge to chill. (Photo 2)
- Close and Cook – When ready to smoke, place the wings in a chicken wing rack or directly on the grill. Place the meats inside the smoker and close the lid to start the cooking process. (Photos 3-4)
- Rest and Serve – Once it reaches the target temperature (It should be done once the internal temperature is about 160℉/71℃. However, my target temperature is at 175℉/80℃.), take the wings out of the smoker and rest them for about ten minutes. Once it reaches the target temperature, take the wings out of the smoker and rest them for about ten minutes. Serve it with your favorite dip like this BBQ Sauce here or this Mustard BBQ Sauce.
Smoked Chicken Wings
- 2 ½ – 3 lbs (1133.98g-1360.77g) chicken wings
- chicken brine or salt to taste
- Creole, jerk, or poultry seasoning or any of your preferred seasoning
- bbq or buffalo sauce as a dip
- Cut off the wing tips and separate the wingettes and the drumettes. Pat the chicken wings dry.
- Season the wings using your preferred dry seasoning. You can rub them on the meat or simply toss it around leave it for about an hour to brine itself. Keep them in the fridge to chill.
- When ready to smoke, place the wings in a chicken wing rack or directly on the grill. Place the meats inside the smoker and close the lid to start the cooking process.
- Once it reaches the target temperature (It should be done once the internal temperature is about 160℉/71℃. However, my target temperature is at 175℉/80℃.), take the wings out of the smoker and rest them for about ten minutes. Serve it with your favorite dip like this BBQ Sauce here or this Mustard BBQ Sauce.
Tips & Notes:
- Different factors affect the cooking time of this dish, namely thickness, preparation, and temperature. And a meat thermometer like a super convenient Thermopro TP19H for your smoked dishes is a good investment.
- It should be done once the internal temperature is about 160℉/71℃. However, my target temperature is at 175℉/80℃. That way, the skin is crispy and the meat super tender. Anything in between is good as well.
- At what temperature do you smoke chicken wings? The general practice is to cook it at 250℉/120℃, taking up to two hours to smoke. That is, if it’s not wet brined and the chicken is an average size.
- Please keep in mind that nutritional information is a rough estimate and can vary greatly based on products used.