Friday, 3 July 2015

Sticky Smoked Chicken Wings

Chicken wings are usually messy, sticky and so good and we don't eat them very often. Last night I went all out making them for dinner, and they lived up to their reputation!

The only thing I was trying to use up was some buttermilk...I picked some up to make Corn and Zucchini Pancakes. I am aware of the buttermilk sitting in the fridge and am trying to use it before it is too late. Since it is a great tenderizer and makes an excellent marinade, that was the route I took with these wings. While pulling out spices to make a basic rub I found some leftover from another time, so that made my job easier.

Place the chicken wings into a large dish and add enough buttermilk to cover them.

Add a pinch of chili flakes.

Mix well, making sure all the wings are coated with buttermilk. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

About half an hour before starting to cook the wings, remove them from the buttermilk. Allow the excess to drip off.

Place on a tray and sprinkle the basic rub onto the wings.

Gently massage the rub into the wings, making sure to coat all sides.

Prepare the wood chips for smoking:

Tear off two sheets of foil, and place them on top of each other so that you have a double layer.

Place 1 - 2 cups of wood chips in the middle of the foil.

Fold the foil up, enclosing the wood chips in a foil package.

Use a skewer to make holes in the top of the foil package.

Before turning the BBQ on, place the package of wood chips under the grate, over one of the burners. If the temperature gauge on the BBQ is not accurate, place an oven thermometer on the rack.

Turn the burners on, medium low worked for me. Close the lid and wait until the temperature inside the BBQ is between 275F and 300F. By this time the wood chips should be smoking.

Leave the burner under the foil lit, turn the others off.

Place the chicken wings directly onto the grill, keeping them on the unlit side of the BBQ.

The indirect heat will cook them slowly, while infusing them with flavour from the smoke.

Cook until the internal temperature of the wings is 160F, this took about 1 1/2 hours. Keep an eye on the temperature, adjusting the heat as needed. You are looking for a small amount of smoke, not copious amounts of white smoke.

Now it's time to add the sticky, messy part of the meal! Combine BBQ sauce and honey; do this to taste, making them as sweet or spicy as you like.

Using tongs lift the burner over the foil package and remove the wood chips. Turn the other burners on, and adjust the heat to 350F.

Brush the wings with the honey BBQ sauce and continue to cook until crispy and sticky, turning them once and brushing the second side with the honey  BBQ sauce. I cooked them for a further 20 minutes.

Remove the wings from the BBQ, pile onto a platter and serve, with lots of napkins!

  • The chicken wings I had were sold as 'drumettes', which basically means that the wing tip, which has no meat to speak of, has been removed, and the rest of the wing has been cut into 2 pieces at the joint. If you buy whole wings, this is easy to do, with a sharp knife. Save the wing tips to use for making chicken stock or flavouring soup. They can be frozen until you need them.
  • The wings can be soaked in the buttermilk overnight, but I put them into the buttermilk in the morning and cooked them that night. 
  • Herbs or spices can be added to the buttermilk for an extra flavour boost...thyme, rosemary, basil, garlic, cayenne pepper, fennel seeds, cumin, lemon or lime zest.
  • I used a store bought BBQ sauce. If you want to make a quick basic BBQ sauce combine ketchup with brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, chili powder and ground cumin. Do this to taste, adjusting the acidity and sweetness accordingly.
  • A basic rub consists of brown sugar, paprika, chili powder, ground cumin, black pepper and salt.You can add heat by using cayenne pepper, or dried chilies such as ancho chilies or chipotle chilies. The ratio of sugar : salt depends on you. I usually start off with 1/4 cup of brown sugar and add the other spices to taste.
  • When smoking you do not want huge amounts of billowing smoke. This means the heat is too high and the chips are burning, not smouldering. Aim for a thin, steady stream of bluish smoke and you are doing well. 
  • I used hickory chips. Wood chips are available at stores that sell BBQ supplies, including some hardware stores.
  • The smoky flavour was very subtle. For a more intense smoke flavour the meat needs to be cooked 'low and slow', allowing the smoke more time to penetrate the meat. Usually my husband does the smoking around here, as he has a smoker, but I wanted to experiment with using the BBQ to add smoke. I was happy with the results.
  • When the wood chips are removed from the BBQ open the foil and allow them to cool off completely before discarding them. We always put the used wood chips into the compost. It is important that they are completely cold; it only takes a spark to make a fire! If in doubt, run the hose over the chips to cool them off.
  • These wings can be cooked without the smoke...heat the grill as you usually would and cook them until fully cooked, basting with the honey BBQ sauce every 20 minutes. They can also be tossed into the honey BBQ sauce and cooked in the oven.
  • Messy as they are, they make a great picnic item, or cold lunch box meal, with a bit of potato salad, what could be better?

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