Chicken wings on a pellet grill are quick, easy and extra delicious with a dose of smoke flavor. The secret to a great smoked wing is knowing how to get a crispy skin. I wanted to find out how some of the world’s best barbecue experts get their wings so crispy and look and taste so amazing using a pellet grill.
To avoid soft, rubbery skin, remove as much moisture as possible and cook the wings at a high temperature. For best results, dry the chicken wings with a paper towel prior to cooking and set the temperature between 275*F and 300°F. Give the wings a decent covering of rub and use one of the softer fruit woods like apple or cherry. Cook for 45 minutes each side, and baste with a barbecue sauce in the final 10 minutes.
|1||Dry wings with paper towel|
|2||Apply dry rub to wings|
|3||Preheat pellet grill to 275-300°F|
|4||Place wings in smoker or on separate rack|
|5||Cook wings for 45 minutes, flip, then cook for an additional 35 minutes|
|6||Apply barbecue sauce and cook for an additional 10 minutes|
|7||Check internal temperature of wings, should reach at least 165°F|
|8||Tips for achieving crispy skin: keep temperature around 300°F, dry wings as much as possible, remove water pan, do not spritz or mop wings, consider sprinkling baking powder or corn starch on wings|
Smoked Barbecue Chicken Wings on a Pellet Grill
- 1 pack of large chicken wings
- Dry rub
- Barbecue sauce
- Apple or cherry wood pellets
- Dry the wings with a paper towel
- Apply the dry rub to the wings
- Set the pellet grill between 275°F and 300°F
- Place the wings in the smoker, or on a separate rack for easy removal
- Cook for 45 minutes
- Flip the wings
- Cook for another 35 minutes
- Apply the barbecue sauce with a basting brush
- Cook for another 10 minutes so the glaze can set.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 302.9Total Fat: 8.7 ggSaturated Fat: 1.7 ggCholesterol: 65.9 mgmgSodium: 1,398.3 mgmgSugar: 27.4 gg
The Best Wood Pellets for Chicken Wings
The best wood for smoking chicken wings are the fruit wood varieties like apple and cherry. Chicken has thin skin, so wood choice is especially important when smoking wings. Avoid using too much of the strong flavoured woods such as hickory or it will overpower the meat and make it taste bitter. You can experiment with wood and mix and match different combinations. Some pellets come pre-mixed like the Competition Blend from Pit Boss, or the Signature Blend from Traeger. If you want some charcoal flavor, mix some Charcoal Pellets with your wood pellets.
|Apple||Sweet, mellow smoking wood.||Works best with chicken, pork and fish||Apple can be mixed in with all meats but works particularly well with white meat.|
|Cherry||Mild, sweet wood.||Blends well with pork, turkey, chicken.||Mixes well with other woods and will give poultry a dark mahogany color.|
|Hickory||Bold smokey flavor||Beef and pork||Strong smoking wood used in Southern barbecue. Hickory can overpower certain meats such as fish or chicken. Works best with beef and pork but can be mixed with softer woods.|
|Pecan||Moderate smoke flavor. Has a slight nutty taste.||Beef, pork, chicken.||Pecan belongs to the hickory family, and has similar characteristics, although a lot milder. Blends well with most meats.|
|Oak||Strong smoke flavor. Can be overpower the more delicate meats.||Beef and pork||Bold smoke flavor. There are several varieties including red oak, black oak, white oak.|
|Mesquite||Harsh smoking wood.||Beef and pork||Very strong smoking wood mostly used in Texas-style barbecue. Not suitable for delicate meats. Can make meat taste bitter. Also a good wood choice for quick cooks to impart smoke flavor in a short period.|
What Temperature to Smoke Wings on a Pellet Grill?
The best temperature to smoke wings on a pellet grill is in the 275°F to 300°F range. If you smoke chicken any lower than 275°F, the skin will turn out soft and rubbery. You can go higher if you want, it’s not uncommon to smoke in the 350°F to 375°F range, but most of the barbecue gurus smoke wings at around 300°F.
How Long Does It Take To Smoke Wings on a Traeger?
It should take about 1.5 to 2 hours to smoke wings on a Traeger if the temperature is between 275°F and 300°F. The time may vary depending on the size of the wings, the weather conditions and the amount of times you opened the lid of your Traeger. Pre heat the Traeger to about 300°F before adding the wings and don’t open the lid until you need to flip the wings about 45-minutes in. Monitor the temperature of the pellet grill and make the necessary adjustments if the weather is causing temperature fluctuations. Probe the wings after about 1.5 hours and remove when the wings hit a 165°F internal meat temperature.
World Brisket Champion Harry Soo is now sharing his secrets with his Competition Meat Rubs.
When Are Smoked Wings Done?
According to the USDA, chicken wings are considered done at 165°F. The wings should be measured with a meat thermometer by sticking the probe into the thickest part of the wing. Extra care should be taken with chicken because there are many types of bacteria associated with chicken. Bacteria can multiply rapidly if the chicken is held at lower temperatures, so serving above 165°F internal is important.
How To Get Crispy Smoked Chicken Wings – 5 Tips
There’s nothing worse than soft, rubbery chicken skin on your smoked wings. However, you don’t want to overcook the wings and dry them out either. There are five things you can do to get crispy chicken skin.
- Keep the temperature around 300°F.
- Dry the wings as much as possible.
- Lower the moisture levels by removing the water pan from the smoker.
- Don’t spritz or mop the wings.
- Sprinkle baking powder or corn starch on the wings.
How Often Should You Flip Wings on a Pellet Grill?
If you’re cooking wings in the 300°F range, flip the wings once after 45-minutes, then cook for another 45- minutes to an hour. Turning the wings will give the skin on both sides a chance to crisp and brown. If chicken isn’t turned over, the side facing down will cook in the moisture and the skin will be rubbery. If your pellet grill has a hot spot, you may need to rotate the wings around so they all cook evenly.
The Dry Rub
The rub is one of the most important ingredients when it comes to smoked chicken wings. You can either buy pre-made rubs, or make a homemade rub. The type of rub also depends if you’re serving the wings with a dipping sauce. If the wings are going to be covered in sauce, then the rub won’t make much difference.
Homemade Rub Recipe
Homemade rubs are always better because it gives you more control. Find a few good recipes that work well with different meats, make a large batch and store them away. Below is a standard homemade barbecue rub that can be used for all cuts of meat including beef, pork and chicken. You can add and remove certain ingredients to suit your own tastes. If you don’t like spicy rubs, then reduce the chilli and paprika. If you prefer to salt or brine your meat prior to cooking, don’t add salt to the rub recipe. I make three versions of this rub; hot, sweet and a no salt batch.
Standard Barbecue Rub
I found this great rub recipe through How To BBQ Right. I use this recipe and alter it slightly depending on what I'm cooking. Made by the guys at Townsend Spice & Supply: https://townsendspice.com/
- - 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
The Best Pre-Made Rubs for Smoking Chicken
There are dozens of rubs on the market and most work well with chicken wings. Before using a rub, check the ingredients because most store-bought rubs contain a lot of sugar and salt. If the rub has a high salt content, don’t apply more salt or your wings will be way too salty. Sweet rubs are delicious, but sugar can burn easily and turn your wings black if you’re not careful.
Glaze for Smoked Chicken Wings
Most competition style wings apply a glaze in the last stages of the cook. For a glaze to set, it only needs about 10-minutes in the smoker at the very end. There are dozens of glaze recipes that work well with chicken, otherwise you can keep it simple by using a hot sauce or an Asian sauce.
A great way to get extra crispy chicken wings is to apply cornstarch to the chicken. Another popular method is to sprinkle baking powder on the wings when you are adding the rub. However, if you want crispy chicken skin, the most important thing you can do is to make sure the wings are dry before smoking. Dry the wings with a paper towel and remove as much moisture as possible. Also, when cooking, keep the temperature of the smoker above 275°F, otherwise the chicken skin will come out soft and rubbery.
Smoked Teriyaki Wings on a Traeger Pellet Grill
Teriyaki is a Japanese cooking technique, but in North America, teriyaki-style sauces are very popular—especially for chicken wings. There are several variations of a teriyaki sauce, but the basic ingredients include soy sauce, sugar, pineapple juice, ginger and garlic. Stores sell pre-made teriyaki sauce, but you can easily make a marinade at home.
Smoked Teriyaki Wings Recipe
A basic teriyaki recipe combines the following ingredients:
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup soy sauce
- 1 cup sugar
- ¼ cup pineapple juice
- ¼ cup cooking oil
- 1 tbsp crushed garlic
- 1 tbsp crushed ginger
- 3 lbs chicken wings
How To Smoke Teriyaki Wings on a Traeger Pellet Grill
- Mix ingredients in a mixing bowl until dissolved.
- Place the wings in the marinade and leave for at least 1 hour, or overnight in the refrigerator.
- When you are ready to smoke the wings on your pellet grill, drain the marinade and place the wings on an airing rack. Pat the wings with a paper towel. If the wings are moist, the skin will not crisp and will be soft and rubbery.
- Keep the temperature of your pellet grill above 275°F but no higher than 350°F.
- Smoke the wings for 45 minutes each side.
- In the last 10 minutes of the cook, brush the wings with teriyaki sauce, then place back into the smoker for 10 minutes and allow the glaze to set.
Should You Brine Wings Before Smoking?
Brining is optional and helps flavor the meat and prevent it from drying out. You can either wet or dry brine meat, but dry brining works best with wings because a wet brine will make the chicken skin soft and rubbery. A dry brine involves rubbing salt into the wings and letting it sit for at least 2-hours prior to smoking. Dry brining is more important for large roast that take hours to cook because the salt helps the meat retain moisture.
How To Brine Wings
Salt is not only a great way to add flavor to meat, it also helps the meat retain moisture while cooking. Most brines also contain sugar which helps with the browning of the wings during the cook. For the brine to work, you need to soak the wings for 24 hours. Don’t leave the wings soaking for any longer, otherwise they will end up too salty. You can either wet brine or dry brine the wings. A dry brine is as simple as rubbing salt into the wings and leaving them in the refrigerator overnight. A wet brine will add extra weight to the wings, but can cause the skin to become soft and rubbery if you don’t dry them out enough.
Wet Brine Recipe For Smoked Wings
I use the brine recipe found on the Traeger website. I’ve had good results using this recipe, so I’ve stuck to it. The below recipe is good for 2 pounds of chicken wings. Before cooking, drain the chicken wings and pat with a paper towel, otherwise the skin won’t become crispy. All you need is:
- 1/4 cup of salt ( I use kosher salt)
- 1/4 cup of sugar (brown works best)
- Crushed garlic (4 crushed cloves or 4 teaspoons of crushed garlic)
- Add in some herbs and spices such as dried thyme and red pepper flakes.
Can You Soak Wings in a Marinade Before Smoking?
There are dozens of marinade recipes online, but the best I’ve found in by barbecue guru Malcolm Reed from How To BBQ Right. Malcom’s recipe is quick, easy and really enhances the flavor on smoked wings. This marinade is for 12lbs of large wings.
Wing Marinade Recipe
- 2 Cups Hot Sauce
- 16oz Zesty Italian Dressing
- ½ Cup Worcestershire Sauce
- ½ Cup Soy Sauce
Combine all the ingredients and soak the wings for a few hours or overnight in the refrigerator. Drain the wings then place them on an airing rack to dry.
Dipping Sauce For Smoked Chicken Wings
There are a few different dipping sauces that I’ve used for smoked wings, and they really compliment the chicken and bring all the flavors together. Barbecue channel ‘How to BBQ Right’ has a great recipe with 1 cup of mayonnaise, 1 tbs of lemon juice, half a cup of sour cream and 4 oz of blue cheese. Another really simple dipping sauce recipe that works well is 1 cup of sour cream, half a cup of feta, and salt and pepper.
Why Are My Smoked Wings Tough?
If you smoke the wings at a high temperature for too long, the wings will become tough and dry. Keep the temperature of the smoker between 275°F and 300°F and cook until the chicken read a 165°F internal temperature. It’s important to use decent meat thermometers when smoking meat, otherwise you’re operating in the dark.
Why Are My Smoked Wings Rubbery?
The most likely cause of rubbery chicken wings is they weren’t cooked at a high enough temperature. For crispy skin, chicken should be cooked in the 300°F range. Also, the wings need to be dried as much as possible before smoking. To dry the wings, pat them with a paper towel prior to smoking. If you’re using wet brines or marinades, they’ll be full of flavor but may not have a crispy skin.
Do You Use A Water Pan When Smoking Chicken?
Water pans are important when cooking large roasts, but with chicken and poultry, water pans aren’t always a good idea. A water pan will add additional moisture to the cooking chamber, which may soften the chicken skin. As a safety precaution, I nearly always use a water pan in my Pit Boss pellet grill, but if your confidant you can control your smoker, then lose the water pan when smoking chicken.
Here is a summary of the steps to smoke chicken wings on a pellet grill to achieve crispy skin:
- Dry the wings with a paper towel
- Apply a dry rub to the wings
- Preheat the pellet grill to a temperature between 275°F and 300°F
- Place the wings in the smoker, or on a separate rack
- Cook the wings for 45 minutes, then flip and cook for an additional 35 minutes
- Apply barbecue sauce with a basting brush and cook for an additional 10 minutes to allow the glaze to set
- Use a meat thermometer to ensure the internal temperature of the wings reaches at least 165°F
- To achieve crispy skin, keep the temperature around 300°F, dry the wings as much as possible, remove the water pan from the smoker, do not spritz or mop the wings, and consider sprinkling baking powder or corn starch on the wings.
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.
How to Avoid Rubbery Skin on Smoked Chicken
Whole Chicken On A Traeger – We Asked The BBQ Gurus How They Do It