I love chicken, but like a lot of chefs and cooks, I get tired of preparing it the same way – Marcus Samuelsson
Celebrity and professional chefs might get tired of preparing chicken the same way day in and day out, but that’s probably because they don’t get the chance to make chicken wings sit up and dance with a smoker.
It’s easy to get bored when you’re not given the opportunity to flex your culinary muscles and push the limits of what can be achieved, and the flavor-filled highs that can be reached with the humble chicken wing.
And, much as we love fried chicken, it’ll always be the bridesmaid and never the bride when it’s forced to compete with our love of smoked chicken wings.
Smoking Chicken Wings – Getting Started
A lot of dedicated backyard cooks will tell you that how a wing eventually tastes depends entirely on where you buy them from and whether you buy pre-prepared party wings or wings that you’ve got to slice and dice in the comfort of your own kitchen.
It doesn’t, but the extra prep time that’s involved in the latter can take a little of the fun out of the cook, so we always choose the former as it means that we can just dive straight in and get on with doing the thing that we love the most, smoking chicken wings.
To Rub Or Not To Rub, That is The Smoking Question…
While you’re probably sitting there shaking your head and thinking “Of course you’re going to use a rub, you’re going to be smoking wings. What else would you do?” the question isn’t quite as crazy as it seems and the answer isn’t a simple or straightforward yes or no.
Even though we prefer to, and have always used a rub (don’t ask us for the recipe, we won’t hand it over, it’s our patented super-secret rub that might or might not include a couple of different chili’s, seas salt, and white and black pepper), some of the chefs in our smoking circle prefer to use a marinade.
It’s not that we don’t believe in using a marinade (we don’t, but that’s a different story for another day), it’s just that we’ve never had any use for one.
We’ve always preferred to mix and then rub everything in by hand, rather than letting our wings soak in a marinade, which is then placed in a refrigerator for up to twelve hours before they can be smoked.
Taking the time to prepare your wings that way is admirable, but we don’t have the patience to do it and we just prefer to rub, smoke, and eat.
But if you do have the necessary patience, then by all means use a marinade instead of a rub, and prepare your wings the way you like them.
Turning Up The Heat
As much as we’ve moaned about being prepared, there are some inescapable truths that you’ll need to be ready for before you start smoking your wings.
Make sure that your smoker is on and that you’ve brought it up to temperature before you add the wings to the cooking racks or the main chamber, because if your smoker is anything like ours is, it’s going to take it a while to get up to reach the required heat.
And while we’re on the subject of temperature, you’ll need to set your smoker to around two hundred and fifty degrees, and only add your wings to it when it’s hit that number.
If you start smoking them before your machine is hot enough, it’s going to take longer to smoke them, and the longer it takes to smoke your wings, the longer you’ll have to wait before you can share them with your friends and family.
Timing Is Everything
As we’ve already touched on the subject, we feel like we need to warn you that it’ll take some time to make sure that your smoked wings are cooked to perfection.
You’ll need to leave them in your smoker for somewhere between two and two and a half hours, but as you don’t need to turn, play around with or move your wings while they’re smoking, you can use the time to hang out and catch up with your family and friends.
When the time is up and you do take the wings out of the smoker, before you start serving them to your guests or begin piling them high on your own plate, take a minute or two to test a couple of the wings (chosen at random) with a meat thermometer to make sure that they’re cooked properly.
We know that we don’t have to tell you how dangerous raw or undercooked chicken can be, so it’s better to be safe than sorry and make sure that your wings are thoroughly cooked.
How will you know if they are, you ask? The numbers on the thermometer will tell you everything that you need to, and ideally, the reading should be at least one hundred and sixty-five degrees.
If it’s any lower than that, put the wings back in your smoker for another thirty minutes and let them cook a little longer.
Where There’s Smoke, There’s Taste…
One of the undisputed joys of using a wood pellet smoker is the extra flavor that the smoke that it makes, along with the heat, adds to your chicken wings.
Because we use a lot of heat in our super-secret rub (it’s all down to the chili), we like to add a little sweetness to our wings with the pellets that we use.
And because there’s no skin on smoked wings, it’s all about the flavor that you put into, and add to the meat.
That’s why we usually smoke with cherry wood pellets, as the sweetness they add to the wings works in perfect partnership with the heat of our rub.
That is literally all there is to it, it’s that easy to smoke chicken wings. If it wasn’t we probably wouldn’t do it as we honestly don’t have the patience or the concentration that it takes to fry, roast, or broil chicken. That’s why we smoke.