Why It Works
- Hot Turkish pepper paste forms the spicy base for a hybrid marinade/dipping sauce that pairs perfectly with grilled chicken wings.
- Threading chicken wings on pairs of metal skewers makes it easier to turn and cook them evenly on the grill.
- A special skewer setup for a charcoal grill, using a cooking method similar to that used at Turkish kebab shops, makes it easier and faster to cook the skewers.
If you're in need of a new spicy treatment for chicken wings, you've come to the right place. This recipe draws inspiration from the grilled wings that can be found in Turkish kebab shops (such as those Kenji visited on his 2014 trip to Istanbul), using a mixture of hot Turkish pepper paste, olive oil, spices, parsley, garlic, and a touch of pomegranate molasses as both a marinade and a dipping sauce for the wings.
After marinating, the wings are threaded onto pairs of metal skewers, making them easier to turn and cook at an even rate on the grill, which is set up to mimic the same charcoal-grilling rig you'd find at a real-deal kebab shop.
These are wings made for summer—save the Buffalo ones for the colder months.
- 1 cup (260g) Turkish hot pepper paste (see note)
- 1/2 cup (120ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup (35g) chopped fresh parsley leaves
- 4 medium cloves garlic (20g), minced
- 1 tablespoon (15ml) pomegranate molasses
- 1 tablespoon (12g) kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons (4g) isot pepper (optional; see note)
- 1 teaspoon (2g) ground cumin seed
- 1 teaspoon (2g) paprika
- 3 pounds (1.4kg) chicken wings, cut at joints, wingtips discarded
In a medium bowl, stir together pepper paste, olive oil, parsley, garlic, and pomegranate molasses with a rubber spatula until well combined. Stir in salt, isot pepper (if using), cumin, and paprika. Transfer 1/2 cup (120ml) pepper paste mixture to a small bowl and set aside. (If you're marinating the chicken wings overnight, cover and refrigerate this pepper paste mixture until you're ready to grill the wings.)
Combine chicken wings and remaining pepper paste mixture in a 1-gallon zipper-lock bag. Seal bag, pressing out as much air as possible. Massage bag until wings are evenly coated in marinade. Lay bag flat on a rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate, turning bag occasionally, for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours.
When ready to cook, thread chicken wings onto sets of 2 metal skewers, spacing the skewers 1 to 1 1/2 inches apart. Try to keep the chicken wings in a relatively even and flat layer on the skewers. If you're working with both flats and drumettes, thread them on separate sets of skewers. For flats, thread each flat through the gap between the two bones; for drumettes, alternate their end-to-end alignment on the skewers as if they are sleeping head to toe next to each other. Make sure the wings are bunched tightly together, leaving no parts of the skewers exposed except for a 2-inch handle at the bottom of each pair and the pointy tips at the top.
Set up grill for skewers, making sure to adjust distance between bricks to match the length of your skewers. Light 2/3 chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread the coals over half the channel between the bricks, creating a modified two-zone direct fire.
Place half the skewers directly over the hot coals and the other half on the cooler side of the grill, balancing the skewers on top of the bricks, with the handles overhanging the bricks closest to you and the tips balancing on the farther wall of bricks. Cook, turning frequently, until wings on the hot side of the grill are lightly charred on both sides, 4 to 6 minutes; if flare-ups occur, move the skewers to cooler side of grill as needed to get them away from the flames.
Switch the sets of skewers so that the ones cooked on the cooler side of the grill are now positioned over the hot coals, moving the charred wings to the cooler side. Cook, continuing to turn the skewers frequently, until all the wings are evenly charred, 4 to 6 minutes longer. Continue cooking, moving skewers around over the coals, until chicken is cooked through, 2 to 4 minutes longer. Transfer skewers to a serving platter and let rest for 3 to 5 minutes before removing skewers. Serve immediately with reserved marinade for dipping.
Turkish pepper paste (biber salçasi) is made by roasting, puréeing, and dehydrating (traditionally via sun-drying) sweet or hot Turkish peppers. You can find both sweet and hot pepper pastes at Turkish markets or online. This recipe calls for hot pepper paste.
Isot pepper is often labeled urfa biber or Urfa pepper in the United States and is also available at Turkish markets or online. If it's not available, simply omit.
Make-Ahead and Storage
The grilled wings are best enjoyed immediately. The marinade can be made in advance and refrigerated for up to 3 days. The wings can be marinated for up to 24 hours.