No party is complete without a platter of these crispy smoked chicken wings with all the fixings! After cooking low and slow for the perfect smoky flavor, these wings are blasted with a blaze of heat to ensure you get that crispy skin everyone loves — talk about one crowd-pleasing party snack. Whether you’re hosting a casual backyard cook-out or tailgating on game day, these best-ever smoked wings belong on your menu.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
That crisp skin and juicy meat: Thanks to a few tips and tricks, we get both crispy skin and perfectly smoky, tender meat. Some smoked wings recipes are great at delivering one or the other, but we get the best of both worlds here.
Tried and true recipe: We’re big wing lovers in our house, but we’re also particular about how we like our wings. I experimented with so many smoking temperatures and cooking times before feeling completely satisfied with the results, so you can enjoy the very best smoked chicken wings on your first try.
Always a party favorite: These wings always fly off the plate and leave everyone licking their lips, wanting more. You will look like the ultimate pitmaster when you serve these wings.
Mostly calls for hands-off work: Sure, these wings take some time, but most of the work doesn’t require your constant attention. That makes party planning and hosting as simple as can be.
Chicken wings: I recommend buying whole wings rather than pre-cut party wings. Whole wings are significantly cheaper, and splitting them is much easier than you might think. Plus, I always find whole wings are meatier — so often those pre-cut party wings are sad and scrawny.
Baking powder: This is a key ingredient to achieving that crispy skin.
Salt: We use this to dry brine our wings, which not only enhances the chicken’s flavor but also contributes to the skin’s texture.
Dry rub: For this, we use the same dry rub as my favorite smoked chicken. This seasoning blend includes chili powder, brown sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, cayenne pepper, smoked paprika, ground cumin and dry mustard powder. Of course, you're welcome to use your favorite dry rub if you already have one.
Olive oil: We brush this on the wings at the end before blasting them with high heat. You guessed it — this is another trick to get that ultimate crispy skin.
Trim the Wings
Step 1: Let’s show you how easy it is to trim your own wings. We start by slicing off the wing tip (photo 1). Now we find the knobby bone between the drumette and flat (photo 2) and use a shape knife to cut right underneath that bone to separate the two pieces (photo 3).
Dry Brine and Season the Wings
Step 2: For the best flavor and texture, we absolutely want to dry brine the wings. To dry brine, we dry off the chicken skin with paper towels, generously sprinkle the skin with salt and place them in the refrigerator uncovered (photo 4).
Pro tip: Plan ahead for this step. I recommend dry brining for 24 hours, but even at least eight hours will help. While you could dry brine for four hours in a pinch, it really makes a difference if you can give the dry brine process more time.
Step 3: After dry brining, we remove the wings from the refrigerator, stir together the baking powder and spices in a small bowl, and toss the mixture with the wings (photo 5). I find stirring together the baking powder with the spices helps them both adhere to the chicken more evenly.
Smoke the Chicken Wings
Step 4: Now we spread the chicken wings on the greased racks, insert the racks into the baking sheets and then place the wings in a 250-degree F smoker with a water pan (photo 6). We close the lid and smoke the wings for two hours.
Step 5: After two hours of smoking low and slow, we’re ready to crank up the heat to crisp up the skin and finish cooking. We remove the wings and turn up the smoker to 400-425 degrees F. As the smoker heats to that higher temperature, we brush the wings with olive oil (photo 7) and put them back in the smoker.
Pro tip: I recommend waiting until the smoker reaches at least 400 degrees F before putting them back in the smoker to maximize their exposure to high heat, but this does take a little extra time. If you’re short on time, you can put them in after brushing with oil.
Once the wings reach their final internal temperature, we remove them from the smoker and serve. You’ll never want to eat wings any other way.
Recipe testing notes: I tested these smoked wings on my Pit Boss vertical pellet smoker, but you can you any type of smoker, such as another type of electric smoker, charcoal grill, gas grill or offset smoker.
Best Internal Temperature for Smoked Wings
Chicken wings are safe to eat when the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F. But we’re talking about the best internal temperature here — 165 degrees F is not the ideal temperature for chicken wings.
At a minimum, we want our wings to reach 175 degrees F, but chicken wings reach their sweet spot between 180-200 degrees F. Wings have a lot of connective tissue and collagen that don’t break down until wings reach that higher internal temperature.
By allowing those to break down, we’re left with ultra juicy, tender chicken that easily falls off the bone. You won’t get the same succulent bite at 165 degrees F.
To check the internal temperature, we insert an instant-read meat thermometer into the middle of the meat without touching the bone. If the thermometer hits the bone, it will skew the reading.
Tasty Serving Ideas
These wings are great with your classic accompaniments, such as baby carrots, celery sticks, and a side of ranch or blue cheese dressing. But considering that wings are on your menu, you might need a few more appetizers for the occasion. These party snacks are always a hit, and you can make them right on your smoker as well.
How to Store, Freeze and Reheat Leftovers
For the best crispy texture, we want to serve our smoked wings immediately, especially for company, but if you have any leftovers, you can certainly enjoy them on your own. The skin won’t be as crispy, but the meat will still be delicious. Here’s how you can store and reheat your leftover chicken wings.
- Once the chicken wings cool completely, place them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three to four days.
- When you’re ready to reheat the wings, pull them from the refrigerator and keep them at room temperature for 15-30 minutes.
- Spread the wings in a single layer on the greased rack of a baking sheet and spritz them with water for some extra moisture if desired.
- Place the baking sheet in a 350-degree F oven for five minutes, flip the wings and bake for five additional minutes.
You can also freeze your wings to enjoy at a later time.
- Like above, allow the wings to cool and transfer them to a freezer bag and lay it flat.
- Freeze the wings for three to six months. While they’re still safe to consume after that, the quality eventually degrades.
- To thaw, move the wings to the refrigerator for 24 hours, or place the sealed bag in a bowl of cold water in the refrigerator if you need them sooner. Do not place the wings in warm water, thinking that will speed up the process — this creates a breeding ground for bacteria.
- Follow the above directions to reheat.
To help render the fat for crispy skin, we want to first use a low temperature — 250 degrees F for two hours. After that, we increase the heat to 400-425 degrees F for another 20-30 minutes. Of course, we also want to account for the time it takes the smoker to come to temperature, which is about 20 minutes, and then if you let the smoker hit 400 degrees F before the second smoking phase, that’s another 20 minutes or so.
That means we’re looking at a grand total of three hours with the caveat that smoking isn’t an exact science, so the time can vary. But planning for three hours is a good rule of thumb. Considering that smoking meat is generally a slow process, this really doesn’t take too much time.
My favorite wood for smoking wings is hickory, which gives us a prominent smoky flavor without overwhelming the chicken. If you prefer a more subtle wood flavor, try a fruit wood, such as apple wood or cherry wood.
No, you do not need to flip the wings.
Technically, dry brining is an optional step, but I highly recommend it for best results, especially if you want crisp skin. When we dry brine the wings, the salt brings out the moisture from meat to the surface of the skin. As the wings sit in the refrigerator, the moisture reabsorbs the salt back into the meat for juicier chicken while drying out the skin to give us that perfect crackling finish.
This depends on how you serve the wings. If these wings are an appetizer, four trimmed wings, or two whole chicken wings, per person is a good estimate. For dinner, plan on serving eight trimmed wings, or four whole chicken wings, per person.
Favorite Sauce and Flavor Variations
With that flavorful spice rub, you don’t need any sauce for serving, but you certainly can toss them in a sauce if you’d like.
- Classic Buffalo sauce
- Mango-habanero wing sauce
- Honey-sriracha sauce
- Coffee-bourbon BBQ sauce
- Jerk sauce or jerk seasoning
- Blueberry BBQ sauce
- Cajun seasoning or hot sauce
- Lemon pepper seasoning
Thaw the wings before smoking: Frozen wings will not absorb the smoky flavor, and I can’t even imagine how long smoking from frozen would take. We absolutely need thawed wings for this recipe.
Don’t mistake baking soda for baking powder: These are two entirely different products. Make sure you use baking powder, not baking soda.
Serve with small plates and napkins: Wings are messy, so make sure you have plenty of small plates for the bones and napkins or wet wipes to keep fingers clean.
Don’t overcrowd the wings: They need space for the smoke to circulate, and if they overlap, they won’t develop the proper crisp skin texture.
Let the wings rest: While we want to serve the wings right away, give them five minutes to rest to allow the juices to redistribute to the meat after cooking.
Don’t rinse after dry brining: We want to keep the skin nice and dry for crispy wings. Otherwise, we risk gummy, rubbery skin.
With smoked chicken wings, an IPA is the perfect beer pairing. The hops accentuate the spice from the dry rub while the malt backbone nicely complements the brown sugar.
For a wine pairing, look for a dry riesling. The touch of sweetness contrasts the spices, and it has a kick of acidity to cut through every meaty bite.
When you need a party appetizer everyone is sure to love, these smoked chicken wings are a guaranteed hit. With that crispy skin and succulent meat, these wings will have everyone left licking their lips and wanting more.
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Crispy Smoked Chicken Wings
- 2 9-inch-by-13-inch baking sheets with wire racks
- Wood pellets or wood chips hickory, apple and cherry wood recommended
- 4-5 pounds whole chicken wings thawed
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 2 teaspoons packed brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon mustard powder
- Olive oil
- Favorite wing sauce for serving, optional
- Ranch dressing or blue cheese dressing for serving, optional
- Celery and carrot sticks for serving, optional
- Trim off the wing tip. Locate the knob-like bone at the bottom of the drumette. Cut right underneath that bone to separate the drumette and flat into two pieces. Repeat for all wings.
- Pat the wings dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle the skin with salt. Place in the refrigerator uncovered for at least eight hours and up to 24 hours to dry brine. For best results, 24 hours is recommended.
- Stir together the baking powder, chili powder, brown sugar, garlic powder, black pepper, smoked paprika, onion powder, cayenne pepper, ground cumin and mustard powder in a small bowl. Remove the wings from the refrigerator and toss with the baking powder mixture to coat evenly.
- Place the wings skin-side up on a greased wire rack in a baking sheet, ensuring that the wings don't touch to avoid overcrowding. Let the wings sit at room temperature for 15-30 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the smoker to 250 degrees F.
- When the smoker reaches temperature, place the baking sheets in the smoker with a water pan. Close the lid and smoke for two hours.
- Remove the wings from the smoker and crank up the heat to 400-425 degrees F. As the smoker heats, brush the wings with olive oil. When the smoker reaches 400 degrees F, place the wings back in the smoker and let the wings finish smoking until they hit an internal temperature of at least 175 degrees F, though they can go up to 180-200 degrees F for the meat to easily fall off the bone. This should take about another 20-30 minutes. Remove the wings from the smoker, allow them to rest for five minutes and then toss with your favorite sauce if desired. Serve with ranch or blue cheese dressing, celery and carrots sticks. Enjoy!
- Leftover wings can be stored in the refrigerator for three to four days. When you're ready to reheat, remove them from the refrigerator for 15-30 minutes. Spritz them with water and bake in a 350-degree oven for 5 minutes, flip and bake for another five minutes.
- To freeze leftover wings, place in a freezer-safe bag and freeze flat. Thaw them by placing them in the refrigerator overnight. Once thawed, you can reheat them as directed above.
- Don't mix up baking powder with baking soda. They are not interchangeable.
- Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.