To take this barroom classic from the fryer to the grill we had to figure out how to handle the fat and connective tissue from the wings, which creates a problem as it drips into the fire.
To get crisp, well-rendered chicken wings with lightly charred skin, succulent, smoky meat and minimal flare-ups, we quick-brined the wings and tossed them in cornstarch and pepper. These steps helped the meat retain moisture and kept the wings from sticking to the grill.
We then cooked them right over a gentle medium-low fire. The moderate temperature minimized flare-ups and the direct heat accelerated the cooking process. Also, though we normally cook white chicken meat to 160 F, wings are chock-full of collagen, which begins to break down upwards of 170 F. Cooking the wings to 180 F produced meltingly tender wings.
These few minor adjustments gave us crispy, juicy chicken that made a great alternative to fried wings. We also developed several easy spice rubs to take the wings up a notch if you’re looking for some new flavour options.
GRILLED CHICKEN WINGS
Makes: 24 wings
Start to finish: 1 hour and 30 minutes
If you buy whole wings, cut them into two pieces before brining. Don’t brine the wings for more than 30 minutes or they’ll be too salty.
1/2 cup salt
2 pounds chicken wings, wingtips discarded, trimmed
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon pepper
Dissolve salt in 2 quarts cold water in large container. Prick chicken wings all over with fork. Submerge chicken in brine, cover, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Combine cornstarch and pepper in bowl. Remove chicken from brine and pat dry with paper towels. Transfer wings to large bowl and sprinkle with cornstarch mixture, tossing until evenly coated.
For a charcoal grill: Open bottom vent completely. Light large chimney starter half filled with charcoal briquettes (3 quarts). When top coals are partially covered with ash, pour evenly over grill. Set cooking grate in place, cover, and open lid vent completely. Heat grill until hot, about 5 minutes.
For a gas grill: Turn all burners to high, cover, and heat grill until hot, about 15 minutes. Turn all burners to medium-low.
Clean and oil cooking grate. Grill wings (covered if using gas), thicker skin side up, until browned on bottom, 12 to 15 minutes. Flip chicken and grill until skin is crisp and lightly charred and meat registers 180 F, about 10 minutes. Transfer chicken to platter, tent with aluminum foil, and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Serve.