Wings are probably the most common meat I cook on my smoker. They are a quick-and-easy side dish, and can be smoked so many ways. There are several ways to smoke wings, so the cooking times vary. In this post, I’ll break it down for you.
On average, it takes about 90 minutes to smoke wings on a smoker if you are cooking between 275° F to 300° F. Rotate the wings halfway, which should be about 45 minutes into the cook. For an enormous flavor boost, baste barbecue sauce to the wings in the last 10 minutes of the cook, then put them back into the smoker until they reach an internal temperature of 165° F.
|225° F to 250° F
|Tender and moist
|Skin won’t be crispy
|250° F to 275° F
|Tender and moist
|Depends on wing size
|Finish in oven if using electric smoker
|275° F to 300° F
|Tender and juicy
|Apply sauce in last 10 minutes
|350° F to 375° F
|Watch for burning sauce
How to Nail your Wings Every Time
Smoking chicken wings on a grill typically involves setting the temperature between 275°F to 375°F and cooking for about 1.5 to 2 hours. Rotating the wings halfway through the cook can ensure even cooking.
To achieve crispy skin, the temperature should be set above 275°F and the wings should be dried thoroughly with a paper towel and placed on an airing tray or rack to allow air flow. The type of wood used for smoking can also infuse extra smoke flavor.
Some pitmasters also recommend using baking powder or cornstarch on the wings prior to smoking for extra crispiness. At the end of the cook, a barbecue sauce can be applied for additional flavor. It’s important to avoid brining the rib wings prior to cooking, as this will make the skin soggy.
Also, it’s important to avoid placing the wings in a pan, covering them with a lid, or wrapping them in foil, as these actions will create steam and make the skin soggy. To avoid drying out the wings, it’s important to monitor the temperature and time during the cook, and use techniques such as vortex or Slow&sear device
It’s important to also keep in mind that depending on the temperature, cooking time will vary. Lower temperature such as 225 to 250°F will take longer, around 2 hours, while higher temperature like 350°F to 375°F will take an hour or less.
It’s also good to remember, tips like not adding spritz or mop to the wings during the cook and removing the water pan from the smoker as these actions will add humidity and moisture, making the wings soggy.
How to Get Crispy Wings
getting crispy skin on chicken wings is all about the moisture. You gotta make sure the wings are dry, both inside and out, before you even start smoking them.
I like to pat the wings down with paper towels, and let them sit in the fridge for a bit to dry out the skin even more. Another tip for that crispy skin is to use baking powder or cornstarch on the wings before you apply the rub. Just a little bit will do the trick, it helps to dry out the skin and make it extra crisp.
Once you got your wings nice and dry, it’s important to not cover them while smoking or wrap them in foil. This will create steam and the skin will become soggy. The best way to smoke chicken wings is to put them on an airing tray or rack so air can flow underneath them. I also like to avoid using lid to keep the smoke on.
How to Avoid Soft, Rubbery Wings
When it comes to temperature, you gotta make sure you are cooking above 275°F, otherwise the skin will become soft and rubbery. Now, some folks might like that texture, but personally, I think crispy skin is the best feature of smoked wings.
The key is to keep an eye on your temperature and time, don’t let them stay too long on the smoker. That’s why it is also important to have a good thermometer.
Finally, let the wings rest for a bit after you take them off the smoker. This will allow the juices to redistribute and will prevent the skin from becoming too soggy from all the steam.
Here are a few quotes from pitmasters and competition barbecue gurus about smoking chicken and getting crispy skin:
- “The secret to perfectly crispy skin on smoked chicken is to make sure it’s dry before it goes in the smoker. Pat it dry with paper towels and let it sit uncovered in the fridge overnight. That way, the skin will dry out and crisp up nicely when it’s smoked.” – Myron Mixon, Pitmaster and Barbecue Hall of Famer.
- “For crispy skin on smoked chicken, I recommend cooking it at a higher temperature, around 325°F to 350°F. And don’t cover the chicken with foil or a lid while it’s smoking, that will create steam and make the skin soggy.” – Tuffy Stone, Pitmaster and Owner of Q Barbecue
- “Crispy skin is all about getting rid of the moisture. Make sure your chicken is dry and at room temperature before cooking. Add baking powder or corn starch to the skin for even crispier skin.” – Harry Soo, BBQ Pitmaster and Founder of Slap Yo Daddy BBQ
- “The key to getting crispy skin on smoked chicken is to make sure that the skin is dry and free of excess moisture before smoking. I like to pat the chicken dry with paper towels and let it sit uncovered in the fridge for a few hours to dry out the skin even more.” – Chris Lilly, Pitmaster and Owner of Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q
- “To get crispy skin on smoked chicken, start by removing the fat and extra skin, then dry it well and season it before smoking. I also put a little bit of cooking oil on the skin to make it crispy” – Malcolm Reed, BBQ Pitmaster and Founder of HowToBBQRight.
As you can see, most of the pitmasters recommend to start with a dry and seasoned skin, also they recommend high temperature, not covering it while smoking, and some add an extra tip of applying oil or corn starch.
Using a Vortex
A vortex for a kettle grill is a device that sits in the bottom of the kettle, usually made of metal and shaped like a funnel. The idea behind it is that it creates a swirling of hot air and smoke inside the kettle, allowing the smoke to fully envelop the food and increase the smoky flavor.
To use it to smoke wings, you would first light your charcoal and place it in the center of the vortex. Once the coals are hot, you would then arrange the wings around the perimeter of the vortex, being careful not to overcrowd the grill.
Close the lid and allow the wings to smoke, checking them regularly and adjusting the vents as needed to maintain the desired temperature.
Using a Slow n’ Sear
The Slow n’ Sear device is a add-on for kettle grill, also known as a “rotisserie ring” or “kettle rotisserie” that can be placed on top of the grill and allows for better temperature control and it also allows you to make a rotisserie cooking, which is also known as indirect cooking.
This will allow you to cook wings at a lower temperature for a longer time, while still getting a crispy skin.
You would then use the sear portion of the device to increase the heat and achieve the desired level of char on the wings. To use it, you would first assemble the Slow and Sear device according to the manufacturer’s instructions and place it on top of the grill.
Then light your coals and place them in the center of the device. Arrange the wings on the rotisserie skewers, making sure to not overcrowd.
Close the lid and cook the wings for the desired amount of time. Once the wings are cooked through, you can use the sear portion of the device to increase the heat and crisp up the skin.
How To Avoid Dry Wings
When it comes to smoking wings, one of the biggest concerns is drying them out. Now, there are a few things you can do to avoid this pitfall.
First and foremost, you want to pay attention to the cooking temperature. If you’re cooking at a high temperature, the wings will cook faster, but there’s a risk of drying them out. That’s why it’s important to keep a close eye on the wings, and check them frequently.
Another thing to consider is the size of the wings. If you have a mix of large and small wings, the smaller ones will cook faster and be at risk of drying out. Try to separate the wings by size, and cook them in batches if necessary.
Another tip is to avoid exposing the wings to too much direct heat. This can dry them out quickly. Instead, try to keep the wings away from the direct heat source and cook them with indirect heat.
Another thing to consider is Avoid cooking the wings in a pan. This will cause the bottom of the wings to become soggy. Use an airing tray or a rack so air can flow underneath.
Lastly, avoid over-smoking the wings. It might seem counterintuitive, but too much smoke can dry the wings out. So, it’s important to pay attention to the amount of smoke you’re using and make sure it’s not overpowering the wings.
All in all, to avoid drying out wings, it’s important to pay attention to the cooking temperature, size of the wings, the exposure to direct heat, the use of tray or rack, and the amount of smoke. Remember, it’s a balance, you need to experiment and find what works best for you.
Wings At 225° F – Is It Too Low?
Smoking wings at 225° F is the standard low-and-slow cooking range. The wings will become tender and juicy at this temperature. However, at this low temp, the skin won’t be crispy.
So that’s the trade-off. I, and most people, would agree that crispy skin is the best feature of smoked wings. So to avoid soft, rubbery skin, you need to cook above 275°F to 300°F.
Can You Smoke Wings At 250°F?
Wings smoked at 250°F also won’t have a crispy skin, but the meat will be tender and moist. If you have an electric smoker, 250°F may be as high as you can go. If that’s the case, finish the wings in the oven at 350°F. Just keep a close eye on them. You don’t want to dry them out.
Wings At 350° F
The maximum temperature to smoke wings is around 350°F to 375° F. At this temp, the wings will only take about 1 hour to cook. Check the wings after 30 minutes because they are at risk of burning at this high temperature. Also, be careful adding barbecue sauce at 350°F.
Most sauces contain sugar. So if the sugar burns, the wings will turn black.
How Long Will Wings Take At 275°F To 300° F?
It should take the wings about 90 minutes to cook within the 275°F to 300° F range. Flip the wings after 45 minutes, then apply the barbecue sauce in the final 10 minutes.
How Long To Cook Wings At 225 To 250°F
It should take about 2 hours to cook wings in this lower range. Obviously, it depends on the size of the wings. Standard sized wings should take about 2 hours if you’re cooking low-and-slow. Rotate the wings after 1 hour, then apply the sauce in the last 20 minutes.
How Long To Cook Wings At 350°F To 375° F
It should take about 1 hour to cook the wings in this high temperature range. Flip the wings after 30 minutes, and they should be done within the hour.
How To Smoke Chicken Wings
The biggest mistake people make when smoking wings is not having the temperature high enough. Set your smoker above 275° F so the skin doesn’t become rubbery. Although we want the wings tender and juicy, we also want that skin nice and crispy.
Tips And Tricks For Smoking Wings
- The best feature of the smoked wing is the crispy skin. Before smoking, dry the wings thoroughly with a paper towel.
- Avoid brining the rib wings prior to cooking, as this will make the skin soggy.
- Use baking powder or cornstarch on the wings prior to smoking. This will make the wing nice and crispy. To try this, sprinkle some cornstarch or baking powder onto the wings before applying the rub.
- When smoking, don’t put the wings in a pan. This will cause the bottom of the wings to become soggy. Use an airing tray or a rack so air can flow underneath.
- Don’t cover the wings with a lid and don’t wrap in foil. This will create steam and the skin will become soggy.
- Don’t spritz on mop the wings. You don’t need to apply moisture during the cook. Wings are a hot- and-fast cook, so they don’t need moisture.
- Remove the water pan from the smoker, as this will add humidity and moisture and make the wings soggy.
How to Get Juicy Wings
When it comes to getting tender, juicy, and moist chicken wings, it’s all about the temperature and cooking method. Cooking low and slow at 225-250F is the way to achieve that tender and juicy meat. That’s the sweet spot for breaking down all the connective tissue, and infusing the wings with smoke flavor.
But, as I mentioned earlier, cooking at low temperatures like that might make the skin a bit rubbery. So, one way to avoid that is to finish the wings in a hot oven.
That will crisp up the skin and make it nice and crackly. Another tip is to avoid covering the wings or wrapping them in foil. The lack of airflow will trap the humidity and make the skin soft.
Another important thing to consider is avoiding applying moisture. Wings are a hot and fast cook, they don’t need any extra moisture. I would avoid spritzing or mopping the wings during the cooking process. And remove the water pan from the smoker. that will add humidity and moisture and make the wings soggy.
Finally, the type of wood you choose can play a role in the juiciness of the wings. Some woods like hickory and mesquite are known for producing a dryer smoke and will make the meat less juicy.
Meanwhile, fruitwoods, like apple and cherry, will produce a sweeter, more moist smoke. Play around with different types of wood and see what you like best.
Layers Of Flavor
One of the best features of the smoked wings is the dry rub. Good barbecue is all about building layers of flavor. One layer of flavor is the smoke, the other layer of flavor is the rub.
The other layer of flavor is the barbecue sauce. And then you’ve got the texture, which comes from the crispy skin and the tender, juicy meat.
Otherwise, make your own rub at home. I’ve written an article on the best rubs, and a good homemade rub recipe.
The Wood And Smoke
If you want to infuse some extra smoke flavor and a hurry, use mesquite or hickory wood. Fruit woods always work well. Keep in mind, chicken has a sensitive skin, so strong wood flavors can overpower. Apple and cherry blend nicely with chicken. Cherry will also give the wings a nice mahogany color.
Here are a few quotes from pitmasters and competition barbecue gurus about smoking wood for chicken:
- “The wood you use is as important as the rub, sauce, and cooking method. It’s the seasoning of the smoke.” – Myron Mixon, Pitmaster and Barbecue Hall of Famer.
- “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.” – Malcolm Reed, BBQ Pitmaster and Founder of HowToBBQRight
- “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.” – Tuffy Stone, Pitmaster and Owner of Q Barbecue
- “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.” – Harry Soo, BBQ Pitmaster and Founder of Slap Yo Daddy BBQ
- “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.” – Chris Lilly, Pitmaster and Owner of Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q
As you can see, the wood choice can be a personal preference and most of the competition pitmasters recommend fruitwoods or nut woods for chicken for a mild and sweet flavour.
Best Smoker For Wings
You can smoke wings on just about any smoker. Electric smokers are a little more difficult to smoke wings, because often they can’t reach a high enough temperature.
Charcoal smokers such as kettle grills, Weber Smokey Mountain grills, and ceramic kamado grills like the Big Green Egg are perfect for smoking wings. Any charcoal smoker will give the wings more flavor.
Charcoal and chicken go well together. That’s why I mostly use my kettle grill to smoke wings. Pellet grills also make great smoked wings, and they are one of the quickest and easiest ways.
Pellet grills will give the wings less smoke flavor than charcoal grills, but if you use a strong wood pellets like hickory, oak or mesquite, you should be able to infuse enough smoke flavor onto the wings.
How to Setup a Kettle Grill for Smoking Wings
Cooking chicken wings on a kettle grill can be a delicious and easy way to get that smoky flavor we all love. Here’s how to set up your grill and cook the wings using the settings provided above:
- Start by prepping your grill. Remove the grill grate and empty out any old ash or debris from the bottom of the grill. Place a chimney starter filled with charcoal on one side of the grill and light it using newspaper or a charcoal starter fluid. Allow the coals to get ashy and hot, about 20 minutes.
- Once the coals are hot, use tongs to distribute them evenly across the grill bed, following the hot coal setting in the table provided.
- Now you can add your wood chunks, following the Fuel Supply in the table provided. You can add the wood chunks to the hot coals, or wait until the coals have settled a bit and then add the wood on top.
- Next, place the grill grate back on the grill and adjust the top and bottom vents as recommended in the table provided. Close the lid and wait for the grill to stabilize and reach the target temperature.
- Once the grill is at temperature, it’s time to add your chicken wings. Arrange them on the grill, being careful not to overcrowd the grate. Close the lid and cook the wings for the approximate cook time provided in the table.
- Check the wings regularly, turning them as needed. If the skin starts to get too dark, you can move the wings to a cooler part of the grill. For even cooking, rotate the wings halfway through.
- Once the wings are cooked through, remove them from the grill and let them rest for a few minutes before serving.
A charcoal starter is a tool that helps light charcoal quickly and easily. It typically consists of a metal cylinder with a handle on top and holes on the bottom.
You fill the cylinder with charcoal, light the newspaper or starter fluid inside, and then place the cylinder on the grill grates. As the coals at the bottom light, they ignite the coals above, creating a bed of hot coals.
|1/2 -3/4 open
How to Buy the Best Wings for Smoking
When it comes to buying chicken wings for smoking, you want to make sure you’re getting the best quality possible. First and foremost, you’ll want to look for wings that are plump and meaty.
Avoid any wings that look skinny or have any discoloration on them. Next, you want to pay attention to the size of the wings. You want to aim for wings that are about the same size so they’ll cook evenly.
When it comes to the cut of the wings, there are a couple options. Drumettes and flats are the two most common cuts, and they’re great for smoking. Drumettes are meatier and the flat part has more connective tissue, so they take a bit longer to cook. Flats are smaller and cook faster but more tenderer.
Another thing to consider is whether you want to buy fresh or frozen wings. Both can work well, but you’ll want to make sure the wings are properly thawed before smoking. Frozen wings can have a bit more moisture than fresh wings.
Lastly, it’s always best to buy wings that are raised humanely and fed a proper diet. The wings from chickens that have been treated well and raised on a natural diet will be more flavorful and taste better.
Remember, you get what you pay for, so don’t skimp on quality when it comes to buying chicken wings for smoking. In the end, it’s worth paying a bit more for high-quality wings. They’ll make all the difference in the taste and texture of your final dish.
The Best Sauce For Wings
Glaze the wings with your favorite barbecue sauce. Popular brands like Sweet Baby Rays work well. If you want to give the wings an Asian flavor, experiment with teriyaki, sweet soy sauce, plum sauce, oyster sauce, etc.
However, just keep in mind, Asian sauces contain a lot of salt and sugar. So be careful using salty or sugary rubs if you’re using Asian sauces.
Applying a glaze or sauce to the wings at the end of the cook can really take them to the next level in terms of flavor. Here are a few ideas on how to do it:
- Baste: One of the most popular methods is to brush or spoon the sauce onto the wings in the last few minutes of cooking. This allows the sauce to stick to the wings and caramelize, creating a delicious crust on the outside.
- Toss: Another option is to toss the wings in a bowl with the sauce after they come off the smoker. This can be a great way to evenly coat the wings and ensure every bite is packed with flavor.
- Dip: If you want to offer a variety of dipping sauces, you can serve the wings plain and let guests dip them in the sauce of their choice.
- Spray: Some people like to spray the sauce on wings using a mister or a spray bottle, that way the wings don’t get soggy.
Here’s a list of those ideas:
It depends on the type of smoker, the size of the wings and personal preference, but the best thing about this is that you can play with the timing, how much sauce you want to use, or even try different sauces to see which one is your favourite. The possibilities are endless!
Dipping Sauce For Smoked Wings
There are several good dipping sauces for smoked wings, and the simplest is just one cup of sour cream, half a cup of feta with salt and pepper.
Dipping sauces can take your smoked chicken wings to the next level! There are so many delicious options to choose from, and you can never go wrong with a classic buffalo sauce. But if you’re looking to branch out and try something new, there are plenty of other tasty options too.
One popular choice is a honey mustard sauce. It’s a great balance of sweetness and tanginess that pairs perfectly with the smoky flavors of the wings. A honey BBQ sauce is also a great option, giving you the sweetness of honey combined with the smoky flavors of BBQ sauce.
For a more traditional barbecue flavor, you can try a vinegar-based sauce. This type of sauce has a tangy and slightly spicy flavor that pairs well with the smokiness of the wings.
If you like spicy food, a hot sauce is perfect, usually made from cayenne pepper, it gives a great kick to the wings. And some people like it as a combination of buffalo and hot sauce.
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.