Skip the whole bird and make these crispy smoked turkey wings for your next holiday dinner! Thanks to a simple dry brining technique, these wings show off tender, succulent meat with that crispy turkey skin everyone loves. Preparing these wings only requires about 20 minutes of hands-on time, and then they smoke to absolute perfection. You’ll love this new holiday tradition for your delicious Thanksgiving dinner.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
No gummy skin: With smoking, the low cooking temperature can make it harder to achieve that crisp texture, but we work around that with a couple tricks to ensure you don’t have to cut away unappealing, rubbery skin. It’s just pure crackling perfection with this smoked turkey recipe.
Those baby turkey drumsticks: Turkey wings are just like chicken wings in that we get a flat and drumette, but we’re dealing with a big bird here. That means those drumettes are more like mini turkey drumsticks! Get excited, my fellow drumstick lovers.
Frees up your oven space: The holidays mean your oven is working overtime and space is at a premium. Save the oven space for all those side dishes and pies because these wings only require your outdoor smoker.
Great for holiday dinners and game day alike: For a smaller holiday gathering, cutting up some turkey wings makes for an economical, low-key dinner as opposed to roasting a whole turkey, especially considering the little hands-on time required. At the same time, how fun would these giant turkey wings be for a game day for something different than your standard chicken wings?
Turkey wings: Obviously, the star of the show are these wings. You can generally find them packaged next to the chicken at the grocery store. Outside of the holiday season, they’re a little harder to find, but you can usually pick them up without a problem from October through December. If it's outside of the season, I recommend checking with a local butcher — they tend to have more inventory.
Baking powder: If you’ve ever made baked or smoked wings, you may already know that baking powder is the secret to get that extra crispy skin without frying. I figured it made sense to bring that same concept here, and you will love the results.
Salt: We use this to dry brine the turkey wings before smoking. Like the baking powder, it helps achieve that perfect crispy skin.
Olive oil: We use this to brush the wings to promote better browning on the skin.
Spice rub: To make our dry rub, we use a simple mixture of brown sugar, chili powder, smoked paprika, garlic powder and onion powder. Any of your favorite rubs also work.
Step 1: The first easy step is to trim our wings. We begin by slicing off the wing tip (photo 1) and then cutting the flat and drumette into two separate pieces. To ensure you cut at the right spot, find the circular, knob-like bone at the bottom of the drumette (photo 2) and cut right below it to make two pieces (photo 3). If you'd like to see this step in action, check out the video in the recipe card.
Step 2: Now it’s time to dry brine. We pat the wings well with a paper towel to remove as much moisture as possible, generously sprinkle the wings with salt (photo 4) and let them sit in the refrigerator for at least six to eight hours or up to 24 hours.
Step 3: After dry brining, we coat the turkey wings with the baking powder (photo 5), stir together the spices in a small bowl and then cover them with the BBQ dry rub (photo 6). Make sure you use your fingers to get some of the spice mixture underneath the skin to season the meat as well.
Step 4: Now we place the seasoned wings in a 250-degree F smoker (photo 7), insert a leave-in thermometer and close the lid. While I placed the turkey wings on a baking sheet with a rack, you can also add them directly to the grill grate if you prefer.
Keep in mind, the flat pieces will cook faster than the drumettes, so I recommend monitoring that piece. Or better yet, use two meat thermometers — one for the flat and one for the drumette.
Step 5: Once the internal temperature of the meat hits about 120-130 degrees F, we pull them from the smoker rack and crank up the smoker to 400 degrees. As it heats, we brush the skin with the olive oil (photo 8). When the temperature hits 400 degrees, we put the turkey wings back in the smoker to finish cooking.
Tip: We increase the temperature to a high heat to help crisp the skin. If you don’t plan on enjoying the skin, feel free to continue smoking the wings at 250 degrees F.
And that’s it! Our perfect smoked turkey wings are ready to devour. If you’d like, you can toss them with Buffalo sauce or your favorite BBQ sauce. Some of my favorites include:
But don’t feel like you need to use a sauce. Between the BBQ rub and smoking process, these wings are plenty flavorful on their own. Serve them with your favorite sides, such as some smoked mashed potatoes and smoked mac and cheese, for a great holiday meal.
Note: I prepared this smoked turkey wing recipe on a Pit Boss vertical electric pellet grill, but any kind of smoker works from any manufacturer works.
How to Store and Freeze Leftovers
If you have any leftover meat, simply shred it from the bones and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. The leftover turkey should last three to four days.
You can also freeze any cooked meat. Store the meat in a freeze-safe container or freezer bag, and it will keep for four to six months. After that, the turkey is still safe to eat, but the quality will start to diminish over time.
Of course, the leftovers make great turkey sandwiches, and I just used some to make taquitos. It's also perfect in my Thanksgiving enchiladas, or you can use it for tacos, nachos, grilled cheese, pasta bakes, quesadillas, salads, casseroles — there are so many options, so feel free to get creative.
With the dry brine method, we simply salt the meat and allow it to rest. As it rests, the salt draws out the moisture from the skin and meat. That moisture then dissolves the salt, which the meat reabsorbs to give us a more flavorful, juicy meat with a drier exterior to get that crisp skin we all love.
You will love hickory with these wings. It gives these wings a noticeable smoke flavor without overwhelming the meat. For a gentler smoke flavor, you’ll also love apple, cherry, pecan or maple.
For best results, I highly recommend trimming the wings since the flats tend to cook faster. Plus, trimming makes for a more fun presentation and you can feed more people with trimmed pieces.
It may seem a little intimidating if you’ve never trimmed wings, but as long as you have a sharp knife, you’ll see it’s much easier than you’d think. After you trim wings once, you’ll be a pro.
While turkey wings are safe to eat at 165 degrees F, you want to smoke them until the internal temperature reaches 175-180 degrees F. Wings have a lot of connective tissue, and it takes a higher internal temperature to break down those tendons.
Expect the cooking time for turkey wings to take about two and a half to three hours, but remember that smoking meat is not an exact science. The cut of meat, the heat consistency and even the weather can affect the cook time.
You want to have some flexibility on serving time. Fortunately, since smoking frees up your oven, you can set it to 200 degrees to keep any side dishes warm if your smoker needs a little extra time.
Save the wing tips for making turkey stock: The wing tips don’t have any meat and tend to burn, which is why we cut them off, but that doesn’t mean they’re useless. Keep them to make a wonderful stock for a turkey soup.
Shake off excess baking powder: We just need a dusting, not a heavy coating. Also, make sure you use baking powder, not baking soda. They are not interchangeable. Baking soda will leave you with bitter wings.
Don’t let the meat thermometer hit the bone: If the thermometer hits the bone, you won’t get an accurate reading. Place the thermometer in the thickest part of the meat without touching the bone.
Let the wings rest: You always want to let meat rest after cooking to allow the juices to redistribute. This avoids dry meat — about 10 minutes does the trick.
A Scotch ale is a favorite with smoked turkey, especially with wings. While turkey wings are technically white meat, they have a richer, gamey flavor that works well with the prominent malt backbone of a Scotch ale.
If wine is more your style, try a pinot noir. Those earthy, herbal notes pair well with not only turkey but also many of your classic Thanksgiving side dishes, and the berry flavors contrast nicely with the smoky preparation. Plus, it has a plenty of acidity to add a little pop.
Whether you’re looking for a holiday dinner alternative or a new option for game day, you will love these smoked turkey wings. They’re tender, juicy and loaded with the perfect touch of smoky flavor.
Enjoy More Smoked Meats
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Crispy Smoked Turkey Wings
- Smoker any kind
- Wood pellets or chunks preferably hickory
- 4 whole turkey wings
- 1 ½ tablespoons salt
- 2 tablespoons baking powder not baking soda
- 2 teaspoons packed brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
- Using a sharp knife, slice off the wing tips and discard or reserve for making stock. Locate the circular, knob-like bone on the bottom of the drumette and cut right below that to separate each whole wing into two pieces — the flat and drumette.
- Pat the wings with a paper towel to ensure the skin is as dry as possible. Sprinkle salt all over the wings. Place uncovered in the refrigerator for at least six to eight hours or up to 24 hours to dry brine. This helps get that crispy skin and creates a more flavorful meat.
- Remove the wings from the refrigerator. Coat with the baking powder and shake off any excess powder. Stir together the brown sugar, smoked paprika, garlic powder, chili powder and onion powder in a small bowl to make the dry rub. Then, rub the spices all over the skin and underneath it to season the meat as well.
- Place the wings in a 250-degree F smoker with a water pan. Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the meat without touching the bone. Close the lid and smoke until the wings reach an internal temperature of 120-130 degrees F. This should take about 1 ½-1 ¾ hours, though exact cooking time varies.
- For crispy skin, remove the wings and crank up the heat to 400 degrees F. As the smoker comes up in heat, brush the skin with olive oil. When the smoker gets to 400 degrees F, place the wings back in the smoker, close the lid and cook until they reach an internal temperature of 175-180 degrees F.
- Allow the wings to rest for 10 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute to the meat. If desired, toss with your favorite sauce, though this is optional. Enjoy!
- Keep in mind, the flat pieces will cook faster than the drumettes, so I recommend monitoring that piece. Or better yet, use two meat thermometers — one for the flat and one for the drumette.
- We increase the temperature to a high heat to help crisp the skin. If you don’t plan on enjoying the skin, feel free to continue smoking the wings at 250 degrees F.
- Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.