Grilled Chicken Wings With Crispy Skin
Nov 16, 2020, Updated Feb 02, 2024
Grilled Chicken Wings are a delicious alternative to the deep-fried version. One of the challenges to grilling chicken wings is to get crispy skin without scorching the wings. Corn starch is the simple ingredient to get the classic crunchy texture, without needing to deep fry. This chicken wing recipe is finished with a flavorful BBQ sauce.
- The best way to get crispy grilled chicken wings is by adding corn starch to your seasoning.
- Grill the whole wings indirectly as drums and flats and take them to an internal temperature of 175 degrees.
- Add your favorite BBQ sauce for that extra BBQ Wing flavor.
Table of Contents
- Chicken Wings – We prefer flats and drums. Plan 12 wings for a pound. Try to make sure the wing tips aren’t attached to save a little money.
- Seasoning – Use simple salt and pepper, or go with big herbal and savory notes with our chicken seasoning. The added secret to get crispy skin is corn starch added to your rub.
- Sauce – We use our Kansas City Style BBQ sauce combined with butter and honey for the BBQ wings flavor. They get slightly sticky and the flavor combination is insane.
We learned long ago with our Smoked Buffalo Sauce Chicken Wings that getting the skin crispy can be tricky, but well worth learning the tips. You can dehydrate the wings in the refrigerator, or you can speed up the process by simply adding corn starch to your dry rub before grilling.
Corn Starch vs. Baking Powder
Corn starch has been a main star in fried chicken recipes for a long time. Combining the corn starch with the dry rub (which has salt) raises the pH level of the chicken skin and helps the skin dry out. So, by coating the wings with the corn starch, you help along the process that gives it that crunch versus rubbery texture.
Some recipes for grilled chicken wings call for baking powder, but the main ingredient of baking powder is corn starch. With baking powder, you run the risk of the other ingredients giving the wings a metallic-like flavor. So trust us, stick with corn starch!
Adding an equal ratio of corn starch to dry rub will give the perfect combination for the crispy chicken wing texture that we’re looking for here.
One pound of chicken wings (also called party wings) typically yields 12 wings. There are two parts to a chicken wing.
- Drummets – The single bone part of the wing.
- Flats – The double bone part of the wing.
If you can, buy them pre-separated versus whole chicken wings, which is easier for prep. But if they are together, then simply use a sharp boning knife or filet knife to cut the wing into two pieces (drum and flats). To do this, move the joint back and forth to find where it pivots, and using your sharp knife cut through the joint so you have a clean break between the two. You can discard the wing tips.
The final step is patting the wings dry with a paper towel. We place the wings on a large sheet tray with a drying rack on top. We then use paper towels to dry the wings after we’ve trimmed them. Dried wings are important when you season the wings and before grilling.
There is also no need to marinate the wings. We find that the dry rub and the sauce are all the flavor needed.
Grilled Chicken Wing Seasoning
We use our chicken seasoning, which is herbal in flavor with no sugar. No sugar is important when grilling wings because sugar in the rub can over caramelize (read that as burn) and give a bitter flavor.
For this recipe, we are using two pounds of chicken wings. For every pound of chicken we cook, we use the same ratio: 1 tablespoon of chicken seasoning and 1 tablespoon of corn starch. So if you are scaling up this recipe for a hungry family, then simply follow that ratio.
The easiest way to season the chicken wings:
- Place the two pounds of wings in a one gallon sealable bag.
- Drop the seasoning and corn starch into the bag and seal it.
- Shake the bag, moving the wings around with your hands to get the coating on all of the wings.
- Remove the wings from the bag and place back on the rack that was used to dry them. Any excess rub and corn starch will drop onto the sheet pan.
How to Grill Chicken Wings
Grilled wings are best using two-zone cooking, or direct and indirect heat. For this specific recipe, we use a technique in which we build a pile of lump charcoal in the center of the grill and get the internal temperature of the grill at 400 degrees. We then place the wings around the pile of lit charcoal in a circle.
- When the internal temperature of the grill reaches 400 degrees, place the seasoned wings on the grill grates in a circle around the heat.
- Cover the grill and grill wings for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, flip the wings.
- Flip the wings again after 10 more minutes.
- After 10 more minutes flip the wings a third time. At this point, the wings should be crispy on all sides to the touch. If not you can flip one last time and remove the wings when they have the right texture.
The circular setup isn’t for show, it’s to allow even cooking around the grill. Placing the lump charcoal on one side will cook the wings closer to the fire first and make more work. So this method makes it easier for you.
For a gas grill – Turn one burner on medium-high heat until the internal temperature reaches 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Follow the same steps grilling indirect.
Pellet Grill – Because most pellet grills are indirect cooking method we suggest turning the grill on high. Place the chicken wings on the grill grate and then flip every 10 minutes until you like the texture.
Grilled Chicken Wings deserve a good sauce. And for this we are using our Kansas City inspired sauce. That sweet and molasses flavor makes for a great combination.
- Over medium heat in a small saucepan, place one cup of the sauce, 2 tablespoons of butter, and 1 tablespoon of honey.
- Stir to combine until the butter and honey are incorporated into the sauce.
- Place the sauce in a large bowl and then add the wings as they come off the grill. Stir with tongs or just toss them around in the bowl.
- Serve with your favorite dipping sauce. If you want a more classic Buffalo style sauce, simply use a good Buffalo wing sauce (but keep the cooking method the same).
Frequently Asked Questions
30 minutes. When we typically cook chicken, we grill until the chicken’s internal temperature is between 160 to 165 degrees Fahrenheit (F). But with chicken WINGS the actual temperature range will be closer to 170 – 180 degrees F. The wings can take the higher heat without drying out.
Note – The larger the wings, the longer they will take to cook. If you have small wings, adjust the flip time back to every 7 minutes until you like the texture.
It is important to be sure that you start with dry wings. So be sure before seasoning that you pat dry the wings so they don’t have any water or residual moisture to them.
More Chicken Wing Recipes
Check out all of our appetizer and chicken recipes or explore some of our favorites. And if you are looking for some for big sports playoffs check out our round-up of Big Game Recipes on the grill and smoker.
- Grilled Buffalo Chicken Wings
- Wings with Thai inspired chili sauce
- Grilled Hot Honey Wings
- Honey Bourbon Wings On The Grill
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Mary (a certified sommelier and recipe developer) and Sean (backyard pitmaster) are co-authors of the critically acclaimed cookbook, Fire + Wine, and have been creating content for the IACP nominated website Vindulge since 2009. They live in Oregon on a farm just outside Portland.
Grilled Chicken Wings Recipe
Wing BBQ Sauce:
- 1 cup KC barbecue sauce
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon honey
- Prep Grill: Preheat the grill using a two-zone method or direct/indirect. Target 400 degrees Fahrenheit as the internal cooker temperature. For this method, place the lump charcoal in a pile in the center of the grill.
- Season: Place dry wings in a one-gallon plastic sealable bag. Then add the dry rub and corn starch. Seal the bag and shake it to season. Remove the wings and place on a sheetpan with a cookie drying sheet on top (this will help excess rub and corn starch drop to the bottom).
- Grill Indirect: Place the wings on the grill in a circle surrounding the heat source. Close the cover and grill and grill for 10 minutes.
- Flip: After 10 minutes, flip the wings and cover again.
- Finish: After 10 more minutes flip again, and grill for another 10 minutes. The wings should be crispy on all sides and read at least 170 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove and then place directly into the sauce and toss together. Serve warm with your favorite dipping sauce.
Wing BBQ Sauce:
- Combine: In a small saucepan over medium heat add the KC sauce, butter, and honey. Stir to combine until the butter is melted. Then transfer the sauce to a large mixing bowl. Place wings directly from the grill into the sauce and toss to incorporate.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.