The Meatwave: Barbecue & Grilling Recipes, Reviews, Tips, and Tricks

Tue Feb 1, 2011

Ultimate Grilled Buffalo Wings

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Buffalo Wings

I'm fresh off a solid week of wings thanks to the best assignment given to me by Serious Eats. The mission that I chose to accept was to find five non-buffalo wing recipes that would entice serious eaters. Seeing as I'm a man of excess, I ended the week with eight recipes, over a hundred wings, and a severely broken New Years resolution. I was also left with one nagging desire that had to be fulfilled—Buffalo wings, well, not just Buffalo wings, but ultimate grilled Buffalo wings!

Buffalo Wings

Now I can't take full credit for these wings, since they're a combination of the work of J. Kenji Lopez-Alt and Cooks Illustrated with my own grilling know-how thrown in. To start these off, the baking powder method to perfectly crisp skin was implemented. Basically, the wings are tossed with baking powder and given at least 8 hours to sit in the fridge, which creates the super crisp and textured skin.

Ultimate Buffalo Wings

A good rest for the chicken allows proper time to contemplate sauce. I used to be a solid Frank's and butter man, but the more I made wings, the more I fiddled with the ingredients. During that time is when Cook's Illustrated came out with their master recipe for buffalo sauce, which I quickly adopted with a few minor revisions. Although Frank's still dominates, the addition of another hot sauce, brown sugar, honey, vinegar, and cayenne creates a depth that instantly elevates any wings above the commonplace.

Buffalo Wings

Here's where my contribution comes into play, wings meant for the oven or fryer are instead taken to grill. Over indirect high heat for about 30 minutes, the wings get fully cooked, browned, and crisp. From here, some grilling magic is applied by giving the wings just a little time over direct heat, producing beautiful little char blisters.

Buffalo Wings

That time over the hot coals also creates added texture and flavor, making these grilled wings stand out among their non-grilled brethren. You get the crispy, you get the juicy, but you also get that char and little smokiness that makes grilling anything a pretty good idea.

Buffalo Wings

Tossed with the sauce, these are now wings that cannot be beat. That burning spice with just a hint of sweetness is exactly what was needed after a week of exploring the immense varieties wings can come in. I loved everything I created for Wing Week, but there's something about the Buffalo wing that is just so right, so perfect, that nothing could ever take its place.

Ultimate Grilled Buffalo Wings

Grilling adds another layer of flavor and texture to Buffalo wings that make them stand apart from their baked or fried brethren in spicy, crispy, and juicy wing perfection.
  • Prep Time:
  • 15 Minutes
  • Inactive Time:
  • 8 Hours
  • Cook Time:
  • 45 Minutes
  • Total Time:
  • 9 Hours
  • Yield:
  • Serves 2-3

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds chicken wings, cut into drumettes and flats
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  •  
  • For the Sauce
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup Frank's Louisiana Hot Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Texas Pete's or other hot sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons cider vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, plus more to taste

Procedure

  1. Pat the chicken wings dry with paper towels. Place the wings in a large bowl and sprinkle with the baking powder, cayenne, and salt and toss to evenly coat. Arrange the wings in a single layer on wire rack placed over a baking sheet. Refrigerate uncovered for at least 8 hours.
  2. Place butter in a small saucepan and melt over low heat. Whisk in the hot sauces, brown sugar, honey, cider vinegar, and cayenne to taste until combined. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  3. Light a chimney 3/4 full of charcoal. When charcoal is fully lit and covered in gray ash, pour coals out and arrange them on one side of the charcoal grate, keeping the other side empty. Clean and oil the cooking grate. Place the wings skin side up over the cool side of the grill, cover, and cook until skins are crisp and are starting to brown, about 30-40 minutes. Flip the wings over and move to the hot side of the grill and continue to cook until the skins just begin to char, about 1-3 minutes. Remove the wings to a bowl. Pour the sauce over the wings and toss to coat evenly. Remove wings to a plate and serve hot.

Comments

  • 01
  • Chris says
    Looks like you put together a winning combination. I follow the air drying (not as long though) and definitely think the grill works better than the fryer. Nice job.
    Posted Sat, Feb 5 2011 3:44pm
  • 02
  • BrooklynQ says
    Great technique, but the sauce wasn't anywhere near hot enough for me.
    Posted Fri, Feb 25 2011 6:42pm
  • 03
  • Phil in France says
    Well that settles it, I will be doing this Saturday on my deck. 20c and sunny, with a load of hoppy beers in the fridge. Thank you!
    Posted Thu, Apr 7 2011 8:03am
  • 04
  • Gregg says
    Love the tastes the grilling gives wings. I made some tweets to the sauce but the drying and grilling made them great.
    Posted Tue, Jul 5 2011 7:48pm
  • 05
  • Eric says
    Awesome wings! I added a couple things to the sauce but not much. I had my group from work over and I could not get them to stop eating them! Great job! Thanks for posting the recepie.
    Posted Sat, Jul 9 2011 4:02pm
  • 06
  • Eric says
    OK The wings themselves were incredible. The skin is crisp and the chicken falls off the bones. The sauce, on the other hand, is not what I was expecting. My theory is: Why mess with perfection? I tried the sauce and kept expecting to taste buffalo wing sauce, but it was way too sweet for that. Maybe some prefer the sweet, but not me. Now when I cook wings I follow this recipe, but toss the wings in a traditional buffalo sauce. For me it is perfect that way.
    Posted Sun, Jul 10 2011 1:46pm
  • 07
  • Phil in France says
    Made these again tonight. Jiminy Cricket on a Crutch, they're always good. I dunno about what Eric says (perhaps using the wrong kind/too much honey?) but the sauce adds the extra dimension these wings are missing. Freakin' awesome. Although, I do sub agave nectar for honey, and chipotle tobasco for pete's.
    Posted Sun, Aug 14 2011 2:45pm
  • 08
  • Eric says
    I dunno - I have measuring utensils and I'm a pretty good cook. This is a very simple recipe. For me, the sauce just isn't as good as regular old fashioned buffalo sauce. I mostly came to this site to see if there was a better way to grill wings than what I'd been doing, and this recipe is unbeatable. I use it every time now. the wings are perfect every time. I gave the sauce a go just for fun.

    I will say - a couple of the women seemed to like this sauce is better than regular buffalo. I'm not knocking it. I just think buffalo sauce is pretty much perfect without adding sweeteners or more vinegar to it. That's my opinion, which contrary to some people's beliefs doesn't have to be the same as everyone else's. Hence the reason for sharing it here.
    Posted Sun, Aug 14 2011 4:55pm
  • 09
  • Josh says
    @Phil in France I made these yesterday too! So glad you like them!

    Regarding the sauce, I obviously like the added complexity to and the little sweetness the sugar and honey brings, but to Eric's point, Frank's and butter is the classic and authentic, so it's probably preferably to a fair number of people out there.
    Posted Sun, Aug 14 2011 5:02pm
  • 10
  • Marieva says
    Wow - so lucky to stumble on this while searching for the perfect wing recipe - made these last night - we couldn't stop eating them, they were fantastic - had to modify the sauce with the hot sauce brands we had on hand (Tapatio for the 1/2 cup and B&B for the really hot one) but still out of the park!
    Posted Mon, Sep 5 2011 1:35pm
  • 11
  • scotty says
    perfectly awesome!!!

    grilled them on my primo kamado, loved it.
    Posted Sun, Apr 15 2012 2:03am
  • 12
  • Dd says
    Just used this recipe but the skin was tough as leather when it cooled. I had one wing hot off the grill and it was perfect. It's so odd how quickly the skin texture changed with the cool down. Any tips?
    Posted Mon, Sep 3 2012 10:42pm
  • 13
  • Josh says
    @Dd That's odd, I've only had great results with this method, never had any tough skin, even when the wings start to cool. Was the skin on your wings overly thick? Early on I made the switch from Perdue or supermarket chicken to the more "organic" brands (hormone free, antibiotic free, etc) because the flavor of the chickens were much better and the skin was noticeably thinner and, in turn, more tender.
    Posted Tue, Sep 4 2012 11:23pm
  • 14
  • Dd says
    Maybe I did not put them over direct fire long enough at the end. How long should I keep them on?
    Posted Wed, Sep 5 2012 11:20am
  • 15
  • Josh says
    @Dd I only put them over direct fire quickly go give them some color, most of the crisping of the skin actually happens over indirect heat.
    Posted Wed, Sep 5 2012 11:21am
  • 16
  • Susie says
    I would love to try your recipe but I only have a gas grill. Would it still work and how would I adjust the grilling time! Thank you!
    Posted Thu, Jan 31 2013 12:58am
  • 17
  • Josh says
    @Susie A gas grill is no problem. For indirect grilling, turn one burner zone on and leave another off. Let the grill heat up covered, then place the wings over the cool side of the grill and cover. Cook until skin crisps, should be about 30-40 minutes if the grill is in the 400-425 degree range. If the grill doesn't get that hot, it'll just take a little longer to cook.
    Posted Thu, Jan 31 2013 1:13pm
  • 18
  • Dan Gunther says
    I make the basting sauce with Franks, tobasco to taste, butter, minced garlic, cracked black pepper and a dash of worchestershire sauce. Let charcoal get going and put one one end, place wings on opposite end, add apple wood or other wood for smoke, then baste wings every 15-20 minutes, turning each time. After 2-2.5 hours, wings are done. Moist, spicy and ready to eat. Do not need to pour sauce over wings at end of cooking time. Rule of thumb is 2-2.5 hours or 6 beers. By the time the wings are cooked, so are you. Great smoky flavor with heat. The smoke adds a great flavor and the butter keeps them moist. You'll make a lot of friends with this recipe I guarantee!
    Posted Thu, Jul 4 2013 1:04am
  • 19
  • Kels says
    Great wing recipe! Made them thus evening for my family with pizza! They were the best my husband has had. I did alter two things. Less vinegar and used an additional tsp of cayenne :-) fabulous!
    Posted Tue, Aug 27 2013 7:08pm
  • 20
  • stumbled across this blog and recipe says
    Everything about these wings is great. The sauce is delicious and the drying/baking powder combo works like a charm.

    I've made these three times now I tend to need more time to get the final crispiness/grill marks but that is probably just a function of me only using about 2/3 of a full chimney of lit charcol piled on one side of my weber kettle.

    Anyway, I've shared these with several people and everyone loves them. Thanks!
    Posted Wed, Oct 16 2013 11:23am
  • 21
  • Meredith says
    So, I'm an expat living in Belgium, and I don't have access to Frank's hot sauce. I did have some other hot sauce from the last time I visited the States.

    I substituted Frank's with El Yucateco Red Chile Habanero (85% the amount called for) 3 drops of Dave's Insanity Ghost Pepper.

    Super hot wings, but the flavour was outstanding. Definitely recommended, especially with a nice punchy blue cheese sauce (Roquefort please, or Danish Blue!)

    Thanks for the basis recipe!
    Posted Sun, Jun 8 2014 2:16pm
  • 22
  • Amy says
    These were outstanding! My husband and son loved them as well. I'm working on recipes getting ready for football season, and this is definitely a "make again"! Thanks for the recipe!
    Posted Tue, Jul 8 2014 11:21pm
  • 23
  • Andy says
    Tell me where I went wrong. The only thing I did different from you process was that my wings were soaking in Italian Dressing when I saw your recipe. I did everything as posted. Indirect heat at 450 for 40 mi and still no crispy. One hour I put on hot direct heat to finish. Good wings but not crispy. Was the marinade the problem ?
    Posted Sun, Jul 27 2014 10:42pm

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