How to Cook Chicken Wings in a Smoker

Make smoked chicken wings for dinner tonight.
Make smoked chicken wings for dinner tonight. (Image: Images)

Chicken wings are a classic American pub staple that are normally served deep-fried and dripping in sauce. Many people can feel intimidated by the thought of making wings; if you don’t have a deep fryer, spark up your backyard smoker to make delicious (and somewhat healthier) chicken wings at home.

Things You'll Need

  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • Chicken wings
  • Paper towels
  • Dry rub mix
  • Plastic wrap
  • Wood chips
  • Smoker
  • Oil
  • Instant-read thermometer
  • Side dishes (optional)

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Begin preparing the wings at least 4 hours before they need to be smoked. Dissolve ¼ cup of salt and ½ cup of sugar into 1 quart of water to make a simple brine.

Add the chicken wings to the brine and refrigerate for up to an hour.

Transfer the wings to a large plate covered with paper towels; discard the brine.

Make sure the wings are thoroughly dry before adding your seasoning of choice. Almost any dry seasoning can be used for a smoked chicken wing; salt and pepper, sugar-based dry rubs or spicy chili powder rubs all work well. Massage the seasoning into the wing; cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 4 hours.

Place wood chips in a bowl; fill with water until chips are covered completely. Soak chips for at least 30 minutes so they absorb enough moisture necessary for smoking. Almost all wood that comes from a tree that produces fruit or nuts can be used for smoking chicken wings. Hickory is a popular choice for chicken, but should be used sparingly due to the strong flavor it can impart; for a subtler flavor, use Pecan wood chips. Fruit tree woods are generally more delicate in flavor than nut-bearing and hard woods.

Pull the cooking racks out of the smoker; clean if necessary, then lightly oil the grates. Preheat the smoker to 200 degrees. Add the pre-soaked wood chips to the bottom of the smoker.

Place the seasoned chicken wings onto the grates. Close the door promptly to help keep the smoke in. Cooking times may vary based on how many wings are being smoked, but the whole smoking process should take between two to four hours. The wings are fully cooked when the meat reaches 180 degrees according to an instant-read thermometer. Do not overcook the wings; the meat will become dry and stringy. Once the wings are thoroughly smoked, they can be eaten as is or quickly grilled to crisp up the skin.

Serve the chicken wings with a variety of accompaniments. Carrot and celery sticks are a classic side dish. Set out bowls of blue cheese or ranch salad dressing to help cool the palate. For those who like their wings saucy, provide a variety of barbecue and hot sauces. Creamy coleslaw and buttered corn on the cob can round out the menu

Tips & Warnings

  • Follow the manufacturer's instructions for your specific smoker; different brands may vary.
  • When testing the temperature of meat, be sure to not hit a bone; this will result in a false reading.
  • Don't use any wood from an evergreen tree in your smoker.


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