Learn the best culinary techniques and tips for making crispy skin smoked chicken wings on an electric smoker.
Is there anything more classic than delicious chicken wings? Whether you love them slathered in hot sauce, BBQ sauce, or just seasoned with the perfect dry rub, smoking the best wings is always a goal we all want to achieve when we fire up the grill.
If you have made your way here to this recipe, it’s likely that you are smoking on a pellet smoker grill. This recipe is specifically geared towards those with pellet or electric smokers but can be done on any grill using indirect heat.
You can also check out this guide to hot and fast grilled chicken wings using direct heat with a charcoal grill or gas grill if you want to try this method instead.
This article breaks down everything you need to know about prepping chicken wings to get the crispiest skin, tips for seasoning, and everything you need to know about smoking them to perfection.
No doubt that this will be your go-to crispy chicken wings recipe. Grab all the details and best wing tips below and let’s dive in!
First time at smoking wings? If you’re just starting out on your BBQ journey and need a quick overview of the critical fundamentals of grilling and smoking? Don’t stress, grab a quick free copy of the Bon Appeteach BBQ Basics to help you to become confident on the grill in no time.
- Paper Towels
- Large Bowl
- Small Bowl
- Meat Thermometer
Welcome to my virtual classroom! Use the guided notes below where I often answer commonly asked questions I get from readers and cooks just like you.
This information is meant to help you have a stronger understanding of making the best crispy smoked chicken wings and the process so you can find success all on your own.
Ready to begin cooking? Simply jump to the recipe below and begin.
How should you choose to season your chicken wings? This really comes down to preference and what flavor profile you are looking for and what sauce you plan on using to finish them off.
There are countless chicken rubs out on the market, so I always encourage you to use what you like.
In general, I recommend avoiding rubs with a lot of brown sugar or any sugar that could burn and become bitter during the smoking process (save the sugars for the sauces).
Here are standard go to spices to add to chicken wings:
- Black Pepper
- Garlic Powder
- Onion Powder
- Smoky Paprika
Crispy Chicken Wing Preparation:
While proper smoking techniques help you achieve crispy chicken skin, the preparation of the wings ahead of time is equally important. Here are the steps I follow whenever I make chicken wings on my electric smoker.
This recipe works with whole wings or divided wing pieces (drums and flats alike).
- Remove Moisture: Moisture is always the number one enemy when it comes to browning any meat (because it will actually steam your food instead). Chicken wings can come in butcher paper wrapped in a plastic bag or sometimes in a vacuum-packed styrofoam container when you buy them from the local grocery store. They are often very wet when removing them from the package and need to be thoroughly patted dry with paper towels.
- Absorb Moisture: Once you do your best to physically remove as much moisture on the wings, there is still often a lot trapped under the skin or they are somewhat damp in general. Use baking powder or cornstarch to dust the wings at least 2 hours prior to smoking. It will absorb into the chicken skin and create a crispier end result.
- Seasoning and Dry Brining: Dry brining is a common technique I love to use with poultry (like with this smoked turkey breast) and large steak cuts (like this picanha or beef tenderloin) to maximize flavor and retain moisture. Without adding any additional liquid (like marinades or wet brines do) this process is essentially adding your seasonings ahead of time with the addition of salt. The salt draws moisture out and then as it sits it will be reabsorbed with the added flavor. If your rub doesn’t stick well naturally, add a little olive oil to help everything stick.
- Refrigeration: Finally, store the wings exposed to the open air in the fridge for a few hours or overnight. The air from the fridge is a great way to also help dry out the chicken skin.
How To Smoke Wings On A Pellet Electric Smoker:
- Preheat your pellet grill or electric smoker to 250 F. Use your favorite wood chips and pellets.
- Remove your prepared chicken wings from the fridge and place them directly onto the smoker racks. You can also use a wire rack to help transfer them on and off the grill.
- Smoke at a lower indirect consistent temperature for about an hour. This helps allow more smoke flavor to adhere to the chicken.
- In order to get crispy skin however and for the fat to render you need to increase the smoker’s temperature to high heat. Increase the temperature to 425 F. and allow the wings to continue to smoke and get crispy and golden brown.
How Long Do You Smoke Chicken Wings?
Cook time can vary when smoking wings based on the thickness of the wing, how cold they are when you place them on the smoker, and the amount of food on your grill at one time.
An average smoke time for wings typically takes about an hour and a half following the temperature guidelines listed above. The best way to know when your wings are actually done is by checking the internal temperature.
While the USDA notes chicken is safe to eat when it hits an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. I would encourage you to actually smoke the chicken wing recipe to 175-180 degrees F. for the best texture and bite.
Why? Chicken wings contain both white meat and dark meat fibers, but more importantly, they contain a lot more fat (similar to the thigh meat) than other white meat areas of the chicken (breast meat).
The higher cooking temperature renders the fat and helps break down the collagen inside the wing, yielding a much better texture along with the crispy skin on the outside.
Tips For Saucing Smoked Wings:
Plan on adding sauce to your wings? When choosing your favorite wing sauce, it’s important to keep a few things in mind when smoking them on your grill.
- Don’t sauce the wings with a cold sauce. Use a warmed or room temperature sauce on the food so it doesn’t cool it down.
- Wings are easier to sauce in a large bowl or foil to fully coat them (especially if you’re smoking a lot of wings at one time) then place them back on the smoker.
- Sauce the wings during the last 10 minutes of the grilling process to prevent super soggy skin.
- Often times barbecue sauce contains sugar (which is what makes it taste delicious and provides that beautiful shine), causing too early can cause the sugars to caramelize more and taste slightly burnt.
- Prefer dry chicken wings? Me too! Serve your favorite sauce up on the side to preserve the crisp skin on the smoked wing.
Want to make your own homemade sauces? Here are some of my favorites!
Favorite Wing Recipes:
Love wings? Here are my favorite different flavors of BBQ wings you should try.
- Hot Honey Hawaiian Wings
- Bacon Wrapped Wings
- Butter Chicken Hot Wings
- Thai Curry Wings
- Firecracker Wings
- Pumpkin Spiced Wings (trust me these are amazing)
I’d also love for you to check out my friend Paula from @Queenofthegrill ‘s book, Wing Crush: 100 Epic Wing Recipes for Yoru Grill or Smoker too for more amazing recipes!
Smoked Chicken Wings On An Electric Smoker
- 2 lbs. Chicken Wings whole or split
- 2 tbsp. Baking Powder
- 2 tsp. Olive Oil
- 2 tbsp. Dry Rub of Choice
- Plan at least 2 hours ahead of time to season and prep the wings. For best results, let them sit overnight. See more details listed in the article above.
- Remove the chicken wings from the packaging. Pat them as dry as possible with paper towels to remove excess moisture.
- Place the wings in a bowl and coat in the olive oil, baking powder, and the dry rub of your choice. See article above for homemade dry rub recipe ideas.
- Allow the rub and baking powder to sit on the wings uncovered in the fridge for at least two hours (longer is better) to allow the seasoning to dry brine and the air to reduce even more moisture on the skin of the chicken.
Smoking Instrcutions (electric smoker/ pellet grill)
- Preheat the electric smoker to 250 degrees F.
- Keep the wings cold until ready to smoke. Place the chicken wings directly onto the grill grates of the electric smoker.
- Smoked for about 45-60 minutes or until the chicken wings register at an internal temperature of about 145- 150 F. Lower temperatues allow more time for smoke flavor to develop on the chicken wings.
- Increase the temperature of the grill to 425 F. to help render the fat of the chicken skin and help the skin get extra crispy. Smoke until the wings hit an internal temperature of about 175 – 180 F. Chicken wings can cook to a higher temperature than white meat as this helps with the texture of the wing by breaking down connective tissues.
- If saucing the smoked chicken wings, add the sauce the last 5-10 minutes of smoking to help it get slightly tacky or serve the chicken wings dry with the sauce on the side.
- Serve with smoked chicken wings with sliced carrots and celery and favorite sauces and dressings.