My grilling nerdery comes out whenever I order "barbecue wings" and get fried chicken tossed in barbecue sauce. I'm not saying that can't be good, but if I'm ordering barbecue wings, I want all the greatness of smoky chicken with layers of sauce baked into the wing.
Now I may get some flack here. Admittedly, when I make barbecue wings, I don't go low-and-slow. The merits of slow cooking—turning an otherwise tough piece of meat into something irresistible—are lost with wings, which benefit more from a crisp crust and just a little smoke, best achieved with a high temperature indirect cook.
Rubbed wings stay juicy and get a nicely browned skin after about 30 minutes of cooking, at which point barbecue sauce is applied and let to caramelize. Another coating of sauce and some time directly over the coals creates the the layers of sauce that I love. It's a little sticky, a little charred, and just overall delicious.
This particular batch were coated with a roasted habanero sauce, because a touch of heat on a smoky wing just makes it all the better, right?
- For the sauce
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 habanero chiles
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped green bell pepper
- 2 cups tomato sauce
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/4 cup molasses
- 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons yellow mustard
- Kosher salt to taste
- For the rub
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 3 lbs of chicken wings, cut into drumettes and flats
- 1 or 2 chunks of light smoking wood, such as apple or cherry
- Type of fire: two-zone indirect
- Grill heat: medium-high
To make the sauce: Heat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Place garlic cloves and habaneros in the skillet and cook, turning occasionally, until they are blackened in spots, about 10 minutes. Remove from skillet and let cool. Peel and roughly chop garlic. Seed and roughly chop habaneros.
Heat olive oil In a medium saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly browned. Add garlic, habaneros, and green bell pepper and cook for 1 minute. Add tomato sauce, vinegar, honey, molasses, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, and mustard and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until thickened, stirring occasionally, about 20 to 30 minutes. Season with salt to taste. Pour sauce into the jar of a blender and puree until almost smooth. Pour sauce into a jar and store in refrigerator until ready to use, up to two weeks.
To make the wings: Combine paprika, granulated garlic, salt, black pepper and cayenne in a small bowl to make the rub. Place chicken wings in a large Ziploc bag and sprinkle in the rub. Seal bag and toss wings to evenly coat with the rub. Store in refrigerator up to one day (optional).
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. Add the wood chunk(s) on top of the grill, and once burning and producing smoke, place wings on the cool side of the grill, cover, and cook over medium-high heat until skin is browned and crisp, about 30 minutes. Brush wings all over with sauce, cover, and let cook until sauce caramelizes, about 5 minutes. Brush with sauce again and move wings to the hot side of the grill. Cook until slightly charred, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove wings to a platter and serve immediately.