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Best Tips for Smoking Chicken Wings

Learn how to get perfect results every time, plus a secret ingredient!

Smoking chicken wings makes them tender and juicy on the inside with perfectly crispy skin on the outside. Serve as-is or add your favorite sauce!

a pile of smoked chicken wings on a white plate

These crispy smoked chicken wings make for some pretty amazing Game Day food! Brining overnight gives them a delicious flavor and keeps the meat just the way we like it —juicy and finger-lickin’ good!

Whether you’re a pro at smoking chicken wings or just beginning to experiment, this recipe is a real crowd-pleaser that comes out perfect every time.

And when you’re ready to take your skills up a notch, try our dry rubbed brisket recipe or this creamy mac and cheese with bacon-breadcrumb topping!

Best tips for smoking chicken wings

  • Calculate the amount you will need. Typically, there are 4 to 5 chicken wings per pound which is also the recommended serving size. So plan for the same number of pounds as the number of people you will be serving.
  • Preheat your smoker. I like to set the smoker temperature 25 degrees above the cooking temperature to help boost the initial cooking process — and because some of the heat will be lost when you open the door to load the wings. Once the food is in, adjust the heat back down to the recipe’s cooking temperature.
  • Don’t soak the wood chips.  You can if you really want to, but we found that it only seems to create steam instead of the nice wood smoke and flavor we desired.
  • But do add some liquid! Adding water or apple juice (or a 1 to 1 blend of both) to the drip pan helps keep the smoked chicken wings moist and tender as they cook.

Special Supplies

  • I really love these OXO poultry shears for cutting the wings safely at the joints. For me, it’s much safer and easier than using a big knife!
  • And, of course, you will need an electric smoker. If yours is brand new, be sure to clean and pre-season it before making this recipe.
tongs lifting a smoked chicken wing out of the electric smoker

How to make smoked chicken wings?

STEP 1 | Break down the poultry

Pat all of pieces dry with paper towels. Cut each wing at the joints to create three parts — the drumette, the wingette (flat), and the wing tip. You can also leave the flat and wing tip as one piece if you prefer.

STEP 2 | Brine overnight

Refrigerate the meat for one hour before making the brine. Combine the brown sugar, garlic, salt, and seasonings in a large tub, then add the water and stir until the mixture is dissolved. Submerge the meat and place the tub in the refrigerator overnight (up to 24 hours).

STEP 3 | Toss with baking powder

Drain the poultry and pat dry, then place the pieces on a wire rack (set inside a sheet pan) and refrigerate for another hour. Add them, in batches, to a gallon-size Ziploc and sprinkle with baking powder and black pepper. Shake until all of the pieces are well coated.

STEP 4 | Smoke

Transfer the meat to the smoker rack and seal shut. Cook for about 1 ½ hours, flipping them at the halfway point. Once they’re done, move them to a serving platter and dig in!

tip

  • Because this recipe takes so long, you might be tempted to skip a few steps. I highly recommend following each step carefully (especially the extra chilling times) for the best results.

Smoking chicken wings FAQs

What is the best wood for smoking chicken wings?

Apple, cherry, or maple are always good wood choices when smoking poultry, but I’d have to say that my favorite for this particular recipe is applewood.

How long does it take?

Smoked chicken wings should cook for 1 ½ to 2 hours at 250 degrees, or until they reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees. An instant read digital thermometer is my go-to method for checking that they are done.

Can I save leftover smoked chicken wings?

Absolutely! Allow them to cool, then transfer to a storage bag or airtight container. Refrigerate for 3 to 4 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

a plate of smoked chicken wings with carrots and celery in the background

Serving suggestions

If you’re smoking chicken wings for a party, then you’ll want to serve them with other finger foods and party dips.

However, if you’ll be serving these as part of a meal, I suggest the same sides you might serve at a picnic or barbecue. Cole Slaw, Baked Beans, and Potato Salad are delicious at any time of year. Plus, you’ll have plenty of time to make sides while the wings are in the smoker!

Please share!

Your shares are how this site grows and I appreciate each one. Do you know someone who would enjoy this recipe? I’d love it if you would share it on Facebook or on your favorite Pinterest board!

a plate of smoked chicken wings with carrots and celery in the background
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4.76 from 29 votes

Crispy Smoked Chicken Wings

Smoking chicken wings makes them tender and juicy on the inside with perfectly crispy skin on the outside. Serve as-is or add your favorite sauce!
Servings 3 servings
Course Appetizers
Cuisine American
Keyword electric smoker, game day food
Prep Time 1 day
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 1 day 1 hour 30 minutes

Ingredients

Brine

  • 4 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 4 cloves garlic crushed
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon Trader Joe Onion Salt

Wings

  • 3 pounds chicken wings
  • 2-1/2 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Instructions

Brining the Wings

  • Pat the chicken wings completely dry with paper towels. Break down the chicken wings by cutting them at the joints with poultry shears. Add the wings to a pan and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  • Add water, salt, brown sugar, garlic, and dried spices to a large tub or bowl and stir until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Submerge the chicken wings in the brine and return to the refrigerator for 24 hours, or overnight.

Smoking the Wings

  • Remove the chicken wings from the refrigerator. Drain and discard the brine and pat the chicken wings very dry with paper towels.
  • Place the wings on a wire rack (inside a sheet pan) and refrigerate another hour, or until fully dry.
  • Preheat the electric smoker to 275 degrees. Add apple chips to the chip loading tray. Pour a 1-to-1 mix of apple juice and water to the drip pan.
  • Place the chicken wings in a gallon-size resealable plastic bag and sprinkle with the baking powder and black pepper. Shake the bag until the chicken wings are well coated. 
  • Place the wings on the smoker racks and close the door. Reduce the temperature to 250 degrees.
  • Smoke for 1-1/2 hours, turning once after 45 minutes. The chicken wings are done when an instant read digital thermometer reads 165 degrees when inserted into the thickest part of the meat.

Notes

Remember to always preheat the electric smoker ahead of time. I like to set the smoker temperature 25 degrees above the cooking temperature to help boost the initial cooking process and because some heat will be lost when you open the door to load the wings. After the wings are on the smoker racks, adjust the heat per the recipe’s cooking temperature.

Nutrition Information

Serving: 1g | Calories: 1559kcal | Carbohydrates: 65g | Protein: 77g | Fat: 110g | Saturated Fat: 39g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 62g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 372mg | Sodium: 8797mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 16g
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sheila thigpen in her kitchen

About Sheila Thigpen

Recipe Developer, Food Photographer, Food Writer

Sheila Thigpen is the publisher of Life, Love, and Good Food — a Southern food blog — and the author of Easy Chicken Cookbook and The 5-Ingredient Fresh and Easy Cookbook. After 20+ years in the publishing industry, she retired in 2018 to focus on her own creative endeavors full time. She and her husband live near the beautiful Smoky Mountains and have a precious little granddaughter who has stolen their hearts. As an influencer, Sheila has collaborated with brands like Creamette, Kroger, HERSHEY’S, Hamilton Beach, Garafalo Pasta, OXO, Smithfield, Valley Fig Growers, and more.

Recipe Rating




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Sandra Newsome

Thursday 16th of July 2020

My chicken skin came out rubbery. What did I do wrong?

Kevin

Sunday 7th of March 2021

@Sandra Newsome, I've always had this problem smoking wings. I've found that deep frying them quickly and then tossing them in buffalo sauce is what brings them from chewy to incredible, off the charts. It's a second, messy step but the results are epic. I'm going to get an air fryer soon and try doing the same in one of those as I'm not wild about deep frying. But the skin def needs to be crisped up.

Sheila Thigpen

Thursday 16th of July 2020

Sandra, I'm not sure if this is the problem, but you may want to make sure the temperature of your smoker is reading accurately. Thanks!

David

Tuesday 24th of March 2020

Your recipe states to use baking soda and I want to make certain as we use baking powder in our recipe. There’s a big difference. The baking powder does a wonderful job of extracting moisture and creates the crispy skin your looking for. I’m uncertain about the taste of baking soda on wings. Your feedback would be appreciated

Sheila Thigpen

Wednesday 25th of March 2020

Hi, David. You are absolutely right. Although my recipe card listed baking powder as it should, the paragraph in the text mentioned soda which was a mistake. Thanks for pointing this out, it's been corrected!

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