When Jeff’s outside smoking meat, it’s a relaxing experience – for me. I’m lounging on a lawn chair, sipping lemonade, laughing and watching Henry the Wonderdog poke around in the back yard. But Jeff is One with the meat and the smoke and the fire. For him, it’s a Zen experience. I’m just there for the wings.
If you’ve always been a little hazy on the difference between grilling and smoking, grilling is done quickly over high heat; smoking is a slower process done over lower, indirect heat. Smoking the meat tenderizes it, infusing it with the flavor of the wood as well as the smoke, so that – with a little time and care – you can turn a cheap cut of meat into something people will fight over.
Like these Spicy Smoked Chicken Wings.
Instead of deep-frying them, Jeff coats them in a spicy rub, smokes them for about an hour and finishes them off in the oven, so those spices stay on the skin instead of floating away in a tub of oil. The rub forms a crust and locks in the moisture, keeping the chicken moist and tender. You could brush on a sauce, but we prefer to eat them naked. Between the chicken, the spices, the smoke and the wood, these wings come with plenty of flavor already.
Fingers are licked.
What if you don’t have a smoker? You can still smoke your wings on a grill. Soak your wood chips in water overnight, wrap them in aluminum foil to make a packet, and poke some holes on top. If you have a charcoal grill, move your charcoal to one side, put your packet directly on the coals, and place your meat on the “cold” area of the grate. With a gas grill, light one burner, and place the packet on it while you set your meat on the unlit burner.
Wings are perfect for beginning barbecuers, because they’re simple, and they cook much faster than other cuts of meat. Plus, you can immediately taste the difference in smoking the chicken versus frying, grilling or baking it.
Jeff likes to smoke a huge mess of these to take to parties, but he loves the process so much, he’ll also work for hours on wings just for the two of us. He makes it look like one of the most satisfying things on earth.
I’m just glad to be the eater.
Spicy Smoked Chicken Wings
Courtesy of Jeff Crump (EzraPoundCake.com)
Makes about 20
- Hickory chips or chunks, depending on what kind of smoker you have
- 2 lbs. whole chicken wings (about 10)
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon smoked Spanish paprika
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1/2 to 1 tablespoon ground cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tablespoon onion powder
- 3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 3/4 teaspoon celery salt
- 1/4 teaspoon course ground black pepper
- If you are using wood chips instead of chunks, start soaking them in water 1 hour before you plan to cook your meal.
- To Prep the Chicken: Rinse the chicken wings under cold water, and dry thoroughly with paper towels. Use kitchen shears to trim off the wing tips at the joint, but leave the rest of the wing intact. Set aside.
- Combine all of the ingredients for the rub in a small bowl, and mix well. Rub the mixture liberally on each wing.
- Fire up your smoker to 220 degrees F.
- Place your wood chips or chunks in the appropriate chamber in your smoker, and get a good rolling smoke going.
- Put the wings in the smoker, directly on the grate in the cooking chamber. Cook for 1 hour.
- In the meantime, preheat your kitchen oven to 350 degrees F.
- After the chicken has cooked for 1 hour, transfer the wings to a baking sheet, and cover with aluminum foil.
- Put the baking sheet in the oven, and cook the wings until the thickest part of each wing registers 165 degrees F on a meat thermometer, about 10 to 20 minutes.
- Pull the wings out of the oven, and let them rest for 5 minutes, using the aluminum foil as a tent for the meat. Uncover. Once the chicken has cooled enough to handle, take a knife or poultry shears, and cut each wing at the joint so you have two pieces. Serve immediately.