Cooking chicken wings on a Traeger grill can be an easy and delicious way to enjoy this popular party food. Not only does the wood-fired flavor of a Traeger add a unique taste to the wings, but the precise temperature control and ability to smoke the wings can also enhance their flavor. In this article, I’ll walk you through the best techniques and tips for smoking chicken wings on a Traeger, including how to prepare the wings, what wood pellets to use, and how to achieve the perfect level of smoke and doneness.
The best temperature for smoking chicken wings is between 275°F and 300°F. This will allow the wings to cook through and get nice and crispy. Before cooking the wings, it’s important to dry them thoroughly with a paper towel.
This will help the rub to adhere and give the wings a nice crispy skin. After drying the wings, apply a rub of your choice and then add the wood chips. A mixture of fruit wood and a stronger smoking wood, like hickory or mesquite, will give the wings a nice balanced flavor.
Cook the wings for about 45 minutes on each side, rotating halfway through the cook. In the last 10 minutes, brush the wings with your favorite barbecue sauce to add another layer of flavor. When the wings are done, let them rest for a few minutes before serving. This will allow the juices to redistribute and make the wings even more tender and delicious.
“When smoking chicken wings, I like to smoke them indirectly and finish them off over direct heat to get a nice crispy skin.”– Johnny Trigg, Pitmaster and Barbecue Hall of Famer
- The best temperature for smoking chicken wings is between 275°F and 300°F
- Before cooking, dry the wings thoroughly with a paper towel
- Apply a rub of your choice and add wood chips (a mix of fruit wood and stronger wood like hickory or mesquite)
- Cook for 45 minutes on each side, rotating halfway through
- In the last 10 minutes, brush with barbecue sauce
- Let rest for a few minutes before serving
- Mild fruit woods like apple or cherry or nut woods like pecan, blend well with chicken
- Mix-and-match wood flavors like apple and cherry, apple and hickory work well.
- Large party wings
- Barbecue dry rub
- Barbecue sauce
- Smoking wood: apple, cherry, hickory
- Dry the wings thoroughly with a paper towel.
- Set the temperature of your Traeger between 275° F and 300° F
- Place the chicken wings on the grill, or on a rack for easy removal
- Cook one side of the wings for 45 minutes
- After 45 minutes, flip and cook the other side for 35 minutes
- In the last 10 minutes, take a basting brush and coat the wings with a barbecue sauce
- Cook for 10 more minutes to allow the barbecue sauce to set
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 302.9
What the Experts Say About Smoking Wings
According to Aaron Franklin, pitmaster and owner of Franklin Barbecue, “one of the most important things when smoking chicken wings is to make sure they’re dry before you put them on the grill. Any excess moisture will prevent them from getting that nice crispy skin.”
This means patting the wings dry with a paper towel or letting them air dry in the fridge overnight before smoking.
Temperature control is also crucial when smoking chicken wings. Chris Lilly, pitmaster and owner of Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q, advises to “use a meat thermometer to check for doneness. Make sure the internal temperature of the wings reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit before removing them from the grill.”
This ensures that the wings are fully cooked and safe to eat.
Myron Mixon, pitmaster and Barbecue Hall of Famer, has a trick to keep the meat moist and adds a nice flavor to the wings “I like to brine the wings before grilling.”
Harry Soo, BBQ Pitmaster and Founder of Slap Yo Daddy BBQ, emphasize that “you want to maintain a temperature between 225-240 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure they cook evenly without drying out.”
Tuffy Stone, pitmaster and Owner of Q Barbecue, suggests “to season them generously with a dry rub before smoking. This will help to create a nice crust on the outside of the wings and add an extra layer of flavor.”
Pitmaster and Barbecue Hall of Famer, Johnny Trigg, recommends “smoke them indirectly and finish them off over direct heat to get a nice crispy skin.”
Best Wood for Smoking Chicken Wings
When it comes to smoking wood, there’s no right or wrong answer. Chicken has a delicate skin, so milder woods are recommended. To infuse a strong smoke flavor into your wings, mix in some stronger flavored wood such as hickory, or mesquite.
Some people don’t like the taste of mesquite because it can give meat a bitter taste. However, for short cooks like wings, mesquite is a great way to infuse smoke flavor fast. Mild fruit woods such as apple or cherry blend well with chicken.
I like to mix-and-match wood flavors. For chicken, a 50/50 mix of apple and cherry, or apple and hickory work well.
|Myron Mixon||N/A||“The wood you use is as important as the rub, sauce, and cooking method. It’s the seasoning of the smoke.”|
|Malcolm Reed||Apple, Cherry||“I like to use fruit woods like apple and cherry for chicken. They add a nice sweetness to the meat, and the mild smoke flavor complements the chicken well.”|
|Tuffy Stone||Pecan, Fruit Woods||“I always recommend using milder woods for chicken, like pecan or fruit woods. You don’t want the smoke to overpower the delicate taste of the chicken.”|
|Harry Soo||Maple||“My go-to wood for chicken is maple. It imparts a mild sweetness and subtle smokiness that pairs perfectly with the delicate flavor of the chicken.”|
|Chris Lilly||Peach, Apricot||“I like to use fruit woods like peach and apricot for chicken because they have a sweeter, milder smoke flavor that complements the natural sweetness of the chicken.”|
Times and Temperatures
Chicken wings are best cooked between 275° F and 300° F. Any lower than this, you won’t get a nice crispy chicken skin. You can even go higher than 300°F.
Avoid going over 350° F. Temperature is crucial when smoking chicken wings on a Traeger. You can aim for a temp between 225 and 240 degrees Fahrenheit. This will ensure a slow and steady cook for those juicy, tender wings.
If you’re cooking within the standard 300°F range, it should 90 minutes to do the wings. As long as you have preheated your Traeger, and don’t keep opening the lid during the cook.
The outside temperature will also influence the total cook time. Pellet grills run cooler in winter, so there might be extra moisture in your Traeger.
“My advice for smoking chicken wings would be to season them generously with a dry rub before smoking. This will help to create a nice crust on the outside of the wings and add an extra layer of flavor.”– Tuffy Stone, Pitmaster and Owner of Q Barbecue
What the Pros Say
- “I like to smoke my chicken wings at around 225 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s a low and slow process that allows the flavors to really penetrate the meat and gives you a nice tender wing.” – Aaron Franklin, Pitmaster and Owner of Franklin Barbecue
- “When smoking chicken wings, the key is to keep the temperature between 225 to 240 degrees Fahrenheit. This allows the wings to cook evenly and prevents them from drying out.” – Chris Lilly, Pitmaster and Owner of Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q
- “I always smoke my chicken wings at a temperature between 225-235°F. This gives me the perfect balance of smoky flavor and juicy meat.” – Myron Mixon, Pitmaster and Barbecue Hall of Famer
- “For chicken wings, I like to smoke them at around 250 degrees Fahrenheit. This gives them a nice crisp skin and ensures they’re cooked all the way through.” – Harry Soo, BBQ Pitmaster and Founder of Slap Yo Daddy BBQ
- “The temperature for smoking chicken wings should be between 225-240°F, this allows the wings to smoke slowly and cook evenly without drying out.” – Tuffy Stone, Pitmaster and Owner of Q Barbecue
As you can see, most of the pitmasters recommended a temperature range between 225 to 240 degrees Fahrenheit, that allows to cook the wings low and slow resulting in tender, juicy and flavorful wings.
When are Wings Done?
The time it takes to smoke wings can vary depending on the size of the wings and how hot your grill is running. But generally, it takes about 2 to 2.5 hours to get the wings nice and smoked. Knowing when your wings are done is key. You want to make sure they reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the magic number for fully cooked and safe to eat chicken wings.
“One of my secret tricks when smoking chicken wings is to smoke them over a blend of different types of wood. This creates a unique and complex flavor profile that sets the wings apart.”– Ray Shelor, Pitmaster and Owner of Ray’s BBQ
Cooking Wings to Perfection
Chicken contains a lot of harmful bacteria, so they need to be cooked properly. The safe eating temperature for chicken is an internal temperature of 165° F according to the USDA.
Always use a good instant-read thermometer to probe the wings before you remove them from the grill. Never go by look. Visual checks are not safe, especially if the wings were smoked. Smoked wings are hard to tell if they are done or have a smoke ring.
“One of the most important things when smoking chicken wings is to make sure they’re dry before you put them on the grill. Any excess moisture will prevent them from getting that nice crispy skin.”– Aaron Franklin, Pitmaster and Owner of Franklin Barbecue
How To Avoid Rubbery Skin – 9 Ways
- One of the best features of the smoked wing is the crispy skin. The biggest mistake people make is smoking the wings too low. You can’t get the skin nice and crispy if the temperature is too low.
- Fire up your Traeger around the 300°F. Then you’ll get nice, crispy skin.
- Dry the wings prior to cooking. Get as much moisture out of the skin as possible.
- Don’t soak the wings in a wet brine prior to smoking. Brining will cause the skin on the wings to go soft rubbery.
- Remove the water pan from the smoker. A water pan will increase the humidity in your Traeger, making the skin on the wings soft.
- Don’t wrap the wings. Don’t cover them in foil, otherwise it will create steam and soften the skin.
- Don’t place the wings in any sort of pan because the bottom of the wings will go soggy. Also, don’t put a lid on the wings.
- Don’t spritz through wings as you would other smoking meats. The added moisture will make the wings moist.
- Sprinkle baking powder or cornstarch on the chicken wings before adding the rub. This will make the wings nice and crispy.
When to Flip Wings on a Traeger
When it comes to flipping, you want to do it every 30 minutes or so. This ensures even cooking and prevents burning. You don’t want any crispy, blackened wings. You only need to flip the wings once during the cook.
Wings take about 90-minutes, so flip them halfway through at 45 minutes. Then you’ll get a nice even cook. If you don’t flip, one side will be done quicker than the other.
Your Traeger should produce an even heat, so you can get away with not flipping the wings. But the heat source is coming from below, and the underside of the ribs will probably be more done.
“When smoking chicken wings, it’s important to use a meat thermometer to check for doneness. Make sure the internal temperature of the wings reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit before removing them from the grill.”– Chris Lilly, Pitmaster and Owner of Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q
Lowering the Rack
Some Traeger models like the Ironwood and the Timberline can lower that bottom rack. This allows you to cook at high temperatures. If you’re doing this with the wings, keep in mind that it will not take as long to cook, and it will end up being more like grilled wings. If you want to have more smoke flavor on the wings.
“I recommend using a mixture of wet and dry rubs when smoking chicken wings. The dry rub creates a nice crust while the wet rub add depth of flavor to the meat.”– Moe Cason, BBQ Pitmaster and Winner of BBQ Pitmasters
The Best Rub For Chicken Wings
If you really want to know your smoked wings, applying a decent amount of dry rub is an important step. Adding a decent layer of rub to the wings will help form a crispy outer layer. This will give the wings three layers of flavor; smoke, rub, and the basting.
If you want to make a rub at home, check out the rub recipes in this post. If you’re after a pre-made rub, I’ve got a couple of suggestions for you. These rubs are made by BBQ Pitmasters, so they’re guaranteed to be good. Killer Hogs by Malcom Reed or Slap Yo Daddy by Harry Soo.
“When smoking chicken wings, be sure to use a quality wood pellet that will complement the natural flavors of the chicken. I prefer using fruit woods like apple or peach for their sweet and mild smoke flavor.”– Malcolm Reed, BBQ Pitmaster and Founder of HowToBBQRight
- - ½ Cup Paprika
- - ½ Cup Salt
- - ½ Cup Sugar
- - ½ Cup Granulated Garlic
- - ¼ Cup Granulated Onion
- - ¼ Cup Chili
- - ¼ Cup Cumin
- - 2 Tablespoons Black Pepper
- - 2 Tablespoons Dry Mustard
- - 1 Tablespoon Cayenne Pepper
- Combine all the spices together in a large mixing bowl
- Store rub in rub shakers
Applying a Glaze
The important step in competition style smoked wings is to apply a glaze in the last 10 minutes of the cook. If you apply the sauce too early, it will burn. This is because most sauces contain sugar. Use any barbecue sauce. Popular brands like Sweet Baby Ray’s are suitable.
If you don’t want to use a barbecue sauce, try Asian sauces such as sweet soy, teriyaki, hoisin, etc. Take a basting brush, and baste both sides of the wings with the sauce, then close the Traeger and cook for another 10 minutes.
“Make sure to keep an eye on the temperature while smoking chicken wings. You want to maintain a temperature between 225-240 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure they cook evenly without drying out.”– Harry Soo, BBQ Pitmaster and Founder of Slap Yo Daddy BBQ
What the Pros Say About the Glaze
- “I like to use a mix of honey, hot sauce, and butter as a glaze on my smoked chicken wings. It adds a nice balance of sweet and spicy flavors that really complements the smokiness of the wings.” – Aaron Franklin, Pitmaster and Owner of Franklin Barbecue
- “I always serve my smoked chicken wings with a tangy and spicy sauce. The acidity cuts through the richness of the wings and adds a nice pop of flavor.” – Chris Lilly, Pitmaster and Owner of Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q
- “I like to use a sweet and spicy glaze for my chicken wings. My secret ingredient is adding in some apricot preserves for a unique flavor that pairs well with the smokiness of the wings.” – Myron Mixon, Pitmaster and Barbecue Hall of Famer
- “I like to serve my smoked chicken wings with a traditional buffalo sauce. It gives the wings a nice kick of heat and pairs well with the smokiness of the grill.” – Harry Soo, BBQ Pitmaster and Founder of Slap Yo Daddy BBQ
- “When it comes to glazing my smoked chicken wings, I like to use a mixture of butter and hot sauce. The butter helps to add a rich and creamy element to the sauce, and the hot sauce provides a nice level of heat to complement the smoky flavor of the wings.” – Tuffy Stone, Pitmaster and Owner of Q Barbecue
It’s worth mentioning that most of the time the BBQ sauce should be applied after the wing is cooked, not before, to avoid burn the sauce and make it bitter.
As you can see, pitmasters and BBQ experts usually recommend a balance of sweet and spicy flavors for the glaze or sauce to be serve with chicken wings and how to apply it.
If you want to get extra flavor and moisture into the wings? I would not recommend marinating prior to cooking. However, you will not get nice crispy skin if you’re the wings have been soaking in a marinade.
“One of the tricks I use when smoking chicken wings is to brine them before grilling. This helps to keep the meat moist and adds a nice flavor to the wings.”– Myron Mixon, Pitmaster and Barbecue Hall of Famer
Brining Wings Prior to Cooking
Brining is a great way to add flavor and moisture to meat, but it’s more beneficial for long cooks. Wings is a hot and fast cook, so it will not get any benefit of the brine.
Dry brining is a far better option. At least you can preserve the skin. Just rub kosher salt into the wings, then leave them in the fridge overnight. Be careful not to double salt the wings. Make sure there’s no extra salt in your rub or barbecue sauce.
“My advice for smoking chicken wings is to pay attention to the color of the smoke coming from the grill. Thin, blue smoke indicates a clean burn, while thick, white smoke indicates a smoldering fire that can impart a bitter taste to the meat.”– James Brown, Pitmaster and Owner of Big Daddy’s BBQ
Dipping Sauces for Wings
One of the best features of the smoked wings is the dipping sauce. There are hundreds of recipes online, but I use Malcolm Reed’s recipe and have found that to be the best for wings.
Malcolm’s recipe has one cup of mayonnaise, one tablespoon of lemon juice, half a cup of sour cream, 4 oz of blue cheese. Another recipe that I sometimes use is just a simple one cup of sour cream, half a cup of feta, and salt and pepper.
Here are some recipe from pitmasters you can try:
- Harry Soo’s Slap Yo Daddy BBQ Sauce
- Myron Mixon’s Jack’s Old South BBQ sauce
- Malcolm Reed’s Killer Hogs BBQ sauce
- John Markus BBQ sauce
I hope you have fun experimenting with different sauces and finding the perfect one to complement your smoked chicken wings.
How To Avoid Tough-Smoked Wings
If you overcook your wings, at a high temperature, your wings will turn out tough and chewy. Just stick to the 90 minutes at 300° F and you won’t have a problem.
In the last stages of the cook, just keep probing the ribs until you get that 165° F internal temperature. If you take the wings above that 165, then they’re going to be at risk of drying out or being tough and chewy.
My Favorite Meat Smoking Tools
Thanks for checking out this article. I hope you learned a few things. Here are some of my favorite tools I use when smoking brisket that may be useful to you. These are affiliate links, so if you decide to purchase any of these products, I’ll earn a commission. But in all honesty, these are the tools I recommend to my family and friends who are just starting out.
Meat Thermometer: There are dozens of fancy thermometers on the market, but I still use my trusty TP20. For around $50, I have a high-quality meat thermometer with two probes, and can track the temperature of my smoker with one probe, and my meat with the other probe. The ThermoPro TP20 is an Amazon Best Seller because it’s the easiest thermometer to operate, is durable, highly accurate, and comes with pre-programmed meat settings.
Instant Read Thermometer: Arguably, the second most important tool you need is a fast and accurate instant-read thermometer. These tools play an important role in the latter stages of the cook when the meat needs regular checking in multiple areas. I use the ThermoPro TP19 because it can do everything a ThermaPen can do, but for a fraction of the cost. You can check out the TP19 on Amazon here.
Wireless Thermometer: The latest thermometers on the market have no wires and can be controlled by wi-fi via your phone. Airprobe 3 is the best of this technology.
Butcher Paper: Wrapping brisket in butcher paper has become a huge trend in barbeque thanks to Aaron Franklin. Wrapping your brisket in paper will give you a nice brisket bark. However, you can’t just use any old paper, it has to be unwaxed, food grade paper. You can find it on Amazon here.
Advanced Thermometer and Automatic Temperature Controller: Once you’re ready to take things seriously, the FireBoard 2 Drive is a six-channel Bluetooth/Wi-Fi thermometer that can monitor up to 6 pieces of meat, control and graph your cook sessions on your smartphone, and attaches to an an automatic blower that will convert your charcoal smoker to a set-and-forget. This is one of the most advanced meat thermometers on the market. You can check it out on the FireBoard website here.