Alabama White Sauce Wings
For our third stop on this wingtastic January journey, I'm pulling out an oldie, but goodie. Well, it's not really old as I've never made white sauce chicken previously in a wing-only variation, but it is a recipe I've cooked a number of times over the years in its more common whole bird form. For the uninitiated, slow smoked birds dunked in a mayo-based barbecue sauce is an Alabama tradition, one that I learned from Chris Lilly at Big Bob Gibson in Decatur that has some grand results that transfered exceedingly well to this smaller scale application.
I started these wings off with a two-to-one rub-to-baking powder ratio that has worked well for me in delivering good flavor and baking powder coating to help wings achieve their full crispy potential on the grill—baking powder aids in developing a textured, crunchy skin when cooked.
I used my personal rub mixture here, which is what's outline in the recipe below, but you can substitute two tablespoons of your favorite rub or whatever you have on hand if you're not about pulling almost every spice in the cupboard for what is otherwise a pretty simple recipe.
Once the rub-baking powder mixture was tossed onto the wings, I transferred them to a wire rack set in a sheet pan, then placed the entire thing in the fridge overnight to air dry.
I made good use of at least five minutes of that downtime to whip up a fresh batch of white barbecue sauce. I stuck with the tried-and-true Big Bob Gibson's recipe here, but scaled down the amounts to make just enough needed to both sauce the wings and have some leftover for additional dipping as well.
While the traditional Alabama chicken is slow smoked, that process tends to result in chewy, flabby skin, which isn't great for wings that ideally should have at least a little crunch to them. So I cooked these as I do with the majority of my wings—over indirect high heat until the skins crisped, about 45 minutes.
I then transferred those browned beauties to a bowl and tossed them with half of the barbecue sauce, admittedly making chicken that look mouthwatering into something less than with its out of place white dressing.
But the thing with white sauce is that it doesn't just sit on the chicken like your average sauce or glaze, but seeps in, enhancing the richness and flavor all the way down into the meat. And that's exactly what it did here, giving these slightly sweet and earthy rubbed wings a boost of tang and savoriness that heightened their overall flavor. The only downside was that the same quality that made white sauce work also de-crisped the skins a bit, but the loss was certainly made up for in the gains in flavor. Having the extra sauce on the side for dipping was also key since it added an extra layer of tangy, slightly sharp white sauce flavor that stood out more than what had already melded with the chicken. Bonus was that the sauce also was an excellent pairing with the celery, which I'm apt to leave for others when there isn't a dip as tasty as this white sauce alongside.
Alabama White Sauce Wings
- Yield 4-6 servings
- Prep 15 Minutes
- Inactive 8 Hours
- Cook 45 Minutes
- Total 9 Hours
- For the Wings
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon turbinado sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
- 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/4 teaspoon mustard powder
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/8 teaspoon onion powder
- 3 pounds chicken wings, cut into drumettes and flats
- For the Sauce
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons apple juice
- 1/2 teaspoon prepared horseradish
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed juice from 1 lemon
- 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/8 teaspoon mustard powder
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- For the wings: In a small bowl, mix together baking powder, brown sugar, Kosher salt, turbinado sugar, paprika, celery salt, granulated garlic, chili powder, mustard powder, black pepper, cumin, and onion powder. Place wings in a large bowl and sprinkle in spice mixture, tossing to evenly coat, until liberally seasoned. Arrange wings in a single layer on wire rack set inside a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, leaving a little space between each wing. Place baking sheet with wings in refrigerator for 8 hours to overnight.
- To make the sauce: Place mayonnaise, vinegar, apple juice, horseradish, black pepper, lemon juice, salt, mustard powder, and cayenne pepper in a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Transfer to an airtight container and store in refrigerator until ready to use.
- Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange the coals on one side of the charcoal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Place the wings skin side up over the cool side of the grill, cover, and cook until skins are crisp and and browned, about 45 minutes.
- Transfer wings to a large bowl. Add in 1/2 of the sauce and toss to thoroughly coat wings. Transfer to a platter and serve immediately with remaining sauce.
White barbecue sauce recipe adapted from Big Bob Gibson's BBQ Book by Chris Lilly
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BBQ Grill Parts This is an interesting recipe. I am glad that you included the ingredients for making these white sauce wings. Look forward to trying them this summer.
Don Hopkins I have made this as all I can say is it's great. Super flavor and you can't stop eating them. Great grilled recipe.
Shay B This was an amazing recipe! I made as is and it completely wowed my family. The second time making it, I basted the wings with a bit of the sauce while grilling, and to the dry rub I added a little bit of ground chipotle pepper and ground chile de árbol (we love spicy!!). Added about a teaspoon more horseradish to the white sauce and doubled it. Mmmmmm so good. Thanks for sharing!
Josh @Shay B Happy to hear you liked the recipe!