What we love about smoked chicken wings is the deep smokey flavor that comes from smoking the chicken along with a touch of heat from the dry rub all wrapped up in a nice little finger-licking package.
The best smoked chicken wing recipes have an excellent dry rub that compliments the chicken’s flavor.
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What makes this recipe so delicious is the addition of Tabasco before the dry rub and a combination of brown sugar and spices that create deep smoky flavors along with some heat that is balanced out by the brown sugar’s sweetness.
This chicken wing recipe will work for wings cooked in a smoker, on a grill, or in an oven. We prefer to use a smoker because it’s easier to control the temperature and it’s the best way to infuse the chicken with a deep smokey flavor.
Get To Know Your Wings
There are three general ways to buy chicken wings that are based on the different parts of the wing. The drummette looks like a smaller version of a drumstick. The wingettes, which are also called flats, are the middle part, with the last section being the tip which is almost all skin and bone.
Most grocery stores sell bags that have drummettes and wingettes as individual pieces. Some also sell whole wings or wings that have just had the tips removed.
We prefer wings where the drummettes and wingettes come as separate pieces. The smaller pieces are easier to eat as party food and to dunk into sauces. Most chicken wing recipes, including this one, will work fine with all three cuts.
How to Smoke Chicken Wings
Learning how to smoke chicken wings is a great way to get started when you’re first learning how to use a smoker. They don’t take a long time to cook, are relatively forgiving, and aren’t very expensive – so it’s not the end of the world if they don’t turn out.
Our preferred time and temperature for smoking chicken wings is 250ºF for 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
The wings can be smoked anywhere between 215ºF and 275ºF depending on how much time you have. To make sure they turn out juicy, we don’t recommend cooking them at temps much higher than 250ºF.
Smoking wings on a gas or charcoal grill works well as long they’re cooked over indirect heat, and smoke is added either through a smoke box, hardwood lump charcoal, or with some wood chips. It’s worth noting that smoking chicken wings on a grill usually takes less time than in a smoker.
The main thing is to make sure the wings’ internal temperature reaches a minimum of 165ºF.
Tips for Better Smoked Wings
Here are a few tips to help you make delicious chicken wings at home. The first is don’t bother brining the wings, brining little chicken wings ends up making the skin tough without making the chicken any juicer.
We always use a dry rub that uses a combination of spices to create deep, bold flavors rather than one that is cloyingly sweet or so hot it burns your tongue. Our dry rub for smoked chicken uses brown sugar and smoked paprika to create depth along with Ancho chili powder and some chipotle to add a little heat.
An easy way to get the spice rub to stick to the wings is to add a little Tabasco or other hot sauce to the wings before mixing them up with the spice rub. The hot sauce adds another layer of flavor and means you don’t have to drench the wings in cooking oil like a lot of other recipes do.
We also found that mixing the wings and the spice rub in a colander is easier than mixing them in a plastic bag and helps to drain off any excess liquid, which can be a big problem with wings that have just been defrosted.
When it comes to choosing what type of wood to use, we prefer using more flavorful woods like hickory or mesquite over woods that tend to have sweeter flavors like apple or maple.
For more ideas about how to use your smoker to make tasty food read The Best Meats for Smoking & How to Make Them Delicious.
To Sauce or Not to Sauce
A lot of recipes include saucing the wings at the end. The reason ours doesn’t is that we think they taste pretty amazing without the sauce and we don’t want anything to overpower the flavors from the dry rub and the smoke.
If you want to sauce the wings, we recommend using our Flip, Fire, and Paint technique along with a little homemade BBQ sauce, rather than adding the sauce and throwing them back into the smoker, which can make the wings turn out gummy.
Our favorite thing to serve with this chicken wing recipe is our Creamy Blue Cheese Dip and Quick Pickled Spicy Carrots. The funkiness of the blue cheese and the coolness of the dip are the perfect foil for the spices in the dry rub.
These wings can be served as an appetizer or a main course. They go particularly well if you’re serving them for dinner or a party with our Smokehouse Potato Salad, Creamy Mac and Cheese, and Garlicky Refrigerator Pickles. For more recipes like this one check out Umami’s Grilling section.
More Chicken Wings
If you’re interested in more about chicken wings we wrote an entire piece about All the Best Chicken Wing Recipes we could find on the internet. It’s filled with tons of ideas and unique flavor combinations. If you’re looking for some wings that are easy to make and have bright, bold flavor try grilling some Tequila Lime Grilled Chicken Wings.
We also have a great recipe for Korean Chicken Wings that are full of ginger, garlic, and the deep umami flavors that make Korean BBQ so delicious as well as some delicious Crispy Baked Chicken Wings that are the best way we’ve found to cook wings that balance plump and juicy chicken on the inside with crisp skin on the outside.
- 3 lbs chicken wings
- 1/2 tbsp Tabasco
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp Ancho chili powder
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/4 tsp chipotle
- Start by combining the brown sugar, smoked paprika, cumin, chipotle, salt, and pepper with the Ancho chili and garlic powders.
- Place the wings in a large colander in the sink and add the Tabasco sauce, mixing the wings and the sauce together.
- Add in the dry rub and mix it thoroughly with the wings, making sure the wings are evenly coated.
- Smoke the wings at 250℉ for 2 to 2-1/2 hours, making sure to turn the wings halfway through so they cook evenly.
- The wings are done when they’re cooked all the way through and have an internal temp of 165ºF.
- Let the wings rest for a few minutes before serving.