Grillaholics, fall is quickly approaching, and while the end of summer can be a depressing time for many barbecue enthusiasts, true Grillaholics know the beginning of falls means football, and football means tailgating. There’s no better way to prepare for the big game than to crack open a cold beer, fire up the grill, and throw some delicious burgers onto the hot grates.
But as Grillaholics, we pride ourselves on the ability to bring more to the tailgate than just basic burgers! For Grillaholics, nothing is ungrillable, including one of football’s favorites: hot wings.
While traditionally and most commonly thought of as a fried food, chicken wings are just as delicious on the grill, but in a completely different way. While you lose a bit of the crunchiness that fried chicken wings bring to the table, you gain the smoky flavor that anything prepared on the grill gets, and, spoiler alert, it’s delicious. You also are able to cook a ton more wings at a time on a grill than you can in the fryer (important if you’re entertaining a large group), and as an added bonus, grilled wings are healthier than fried wings. So basically, it’s wins all around (unless you’re a Cleveland Browns fan).
We’ve already given you 4 tips for grilling chicken perfectly, but with those tips in mind, we want to give you a step by step guide for preparing and grilling chicken wings guaranteed to impress at any tailgate.
Buying Your Wings
When buying raw chicken wings for a party, there are several things to consider before pulling out your wallet. This first, and most important thing to consider is whether the chicken wings you’re buying will be pre-cut or not. Buying pre-cut wings will save you some time, but you’ll end up spending more money per wing, so make your choice based off of which is more important to you: time or money. We like to get entire wings and cut them ourselves (the money saved goes right towards more beer for the tailgate!). Cutting the wings yourself is extremely easy to do. Each wing is comprised of a drumstick, a flat, and a tip, each separated by a bend in the wing. Cut the wing along each bend and you’ll be good to go.
The second thing you’ll have to worry about is how many wings to buy. If the wings are just an appetized, the general rule of thumb is to buy about 3lbs of wings for every 10 people attending the party. If the wings are the main course, you’ll want closer to 5lbs of wings for every 10 people (or if the people attending the party are all about my size, 10lbs of wings for every 10 people attending). If you don’t want to leave it up to chance, check out this handy calculator to see exactly how many wings you should buy for your party.
Grilling Your Wings
Now that you’ve got your wings bought and cut (if you bought whole chicken wings), you’re ready to start grilling!
Before grilling the wings, it’s important to season them properly to add a nice amount of flavor. If you’re going to be tossing the wings in sauce after grilling then this isn’t as important, but if you’ve got guests that like their wings plain, you’ll want those plain wings to taste good. At the very least, you should season every chicken wing with salt and pepper. Wing can also be soaked in a marinade for several hours before grilling for added flavor. Just make sure if you’re also tossing them in a sauce that the marinade actually matches or compliments the final sauce (i.e. lemon pepper seasoned wings covered in buffalo sauce probably won’t be a hit).
Once your wings are seasoned, it’s time to move them to the grill. Wings have a tendency to flare up during grilling, and nobody likes burnt chicken, so grilling indirectly is our preferred method. If you’re using a charcoal grill, pile up the coals tightly in the center of the grill, leaving room along the outer edge for the wings, safe from the flames. If you are using a gas grill, just turn on the flames (about medium heat) on half of the grill, and place the wings on the side opposite the flames. Alternatively, you can utilize a tool like a grill mat to prevent flare ups and keep your chicken safe from charring.
Wings have a tendency to stick during grilling, so before placing them on the grill, lightly brush the grates with a bit of oil to prevent sticking. If you’re using the grill mat (which we recommend!) you won’t have to worry about anything sticking.
Once the wings are on the grill, it’s a waiting game. Because grilling indirectly essentially turns your grill into giant smoky convection oven, cooking times will be a bit longer: probably somewhere between 30 and 40 minutes. To make the skin on the wings a bit crispier, and to simulate the process of frying, lightly brush vegetable oil onto the wings every 10-15 minutes during grilling. You’ll know the wings are done when the skin is crisp and dark brown in color, but to be certain, you should use a barbecue thermometer to test for doneness. 160°F is the threshold you’re looking for.
Once your wings are finished, transfer them from the grill to a platter. If you want to toss them in sauce, it’s best to do it right as they come off the grill.