The Ultimate Smoked Chicken Wings (with crispy skin!)

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Smoked Chicken Wings (Buffalo Style) makes for an incredibly flavorful chicken wing. Understand the challenge of achieving crispy skin while smoking for flavor and texture, and then learn the expert tips and tricks for crispy skin and great flavor in this popular smoked chicken wing recipe.

Smoked Buffalo Chicken Wings with crispy skin on a serving platter

Buffalo wings, a pub staple, are usually fried for crispy perfection when you get them at a restaurant. But for those of us who want to make them at home, especially in a smoker or grill, the problem arises – how do you get crispy skin without deep frying wings?

If you’ve been trying to smoke your wings and keep getting rubbery skin results, keep reading for the solution to getting crispy skin without deep frying.

Smoked Chicken Wings Highlights

  • Dehydrating wings is a natural way to dry out the skin, which helps in achieving a crispy texture without using baking powder or corn starch, and also without deep frying.
  • Start by smoking the wings at a low temperature and then crank up the heat to finish them, which helps render the remaining fat.
  • This tried and true recipe for works on any type of smoker or grill, from a charcoal grill to a pellet smoker. 

Recipe Ingredients

  • Chicken Wings – You’ll also see them labeled as “Party Wings”. If you go by number, look for around 24 wings for these ratios, which you’ll find about 20-24 wings in 2 pounds of wings. 
  • Seasoning – We use a touch of olive oil to help the kosher salt and coarse black pepper stick. You can explore all of our seasoning recipes for more flavor.
  • Buffalo Wing Sauce -This is classic Buffalo sauce with Frank’s RedHot hot sauce and butter. Just like the original.

See the recipe card for specific portions 

Buffalo Wing Origins

Buffalo Chicken Wings are an upstate NY original and an American pub staple. And by “Buffalo” I’m referring to Buffalo, NY, the city where these indulgent treats originated at Anchor Bar. The classic way to prepare them is deep fry them.

But what about those of us who don’t want to deep fry, but still want that fried texture? There’s a great solution for that.

We’ve been making Buffalo style hot wings for years, and found the very best way to emulate the same signature style while maintaining crispy skin, and while cooking on the smoker for that sweet kiss of smoke flavor. 

How to Smoke Chicken Wings

Follow these steps for the most incredible smoked chicken wings WITH crispy skin.

  1. Dehydrate Wings: First dehydrate the wings in the refrigerator. This allows for the skin to be fairly dry before you even start the smoking process. Pat dry your wings with some paper towels, then place them on a baking sheet and place them in the refrigerator for up to 3 hours. This is crucial to the end texture of the chicken. This process will prevent the wings from steaming when you cook it, which will result in a rubbery texture. We’re going for crispy here, trying to emulate the texture of fried wings.
  2. Season Wings: Toss them with olive oil then salt and pepper.
  3. Smoke: Smoke your wings for one hour at a low temperature (225 degrees F) to get that delicious smoke infusion.
  4. Increase Heat: Right towards the end, increase the heat to at least 375 degrees F (or higher) for 30 minutes to finish them off at that higher temperature.
  5. Alternatively (and not mentioned in the recipe or video) you can transfer them to a hot grill to finish them off, or place them under the broiler for a couple of minutes.

How long to Smoke Chicken Wings?

It takes roughly 90 minutes for smoked chicken wings. Smoke the wings at 225 degrees for one hour. Then increase the temperature to 375 for an additional 30 minutes. Conditions will affect the exact time.

The key is to not pull the wings until you feel that crispy skin on the exterior. You can tell by touch! If you’re looking for temperature, in addition to touch, we like to pull smoked chicken wings at around 175-180 F degrees internal temperature of the wings, using a good digital instant-read thermometer. 

The Classic Buffalo-Style Sauce

We’re going classic for this sauce, and that means a Buffalo Style Wing Sauce, like they used at the classic Anchor Bar. For us that’s the one and only Frank’s RedHot hot sauce and some butter.

It is hands down my favorite sauce, and the most classic tasting. Our ratio is 2 tablespoons of butter for every 1 cup of Frank’s. If you’re looking for a BBQ sauce flavor, then I recommend our grilled BBQ chicken wings, you can adapt the recipe using any BBQ sauce in place of the hot sauce. 

Slowly simmer the butter and hot sauce together, but DON’T melt at a high heat. If you melt the butter at too high a heat, and then add the Frank’s, the result is oily and the hot sauce does not integrate with the sauce. Instead, the hot sauce separates from the butter. You just want to slowly melt them together. Then place the sauce in a large bowl, and toss the cooked wings in the bowl while they’re still hot. 

Crispy Smoked Chicken Wings on a platter

For best results serve immediately, in the classic style with carrot sticks, celery, and blue cheese dressing (or ranch, based on your personal preference). 

Wine Pairing

In the wine and food pairing world, they say “what grows together goes together.” Well my two favorite things from Upstate New York (besides my husband!) are the chicken wings, and the wine.

And yes, they actually do go quite well together. Look for semi-dry Rieslings from the Finger Lakes Wine Region of New York State for smoked chicken wings. They have lovely crisp juicy fruity aromas, lively acidity, and a cooling sweetness that will refresh and cool your palate from these wings.

Why is this so? Because these wines have a small amount of residual sugar in them, leaving a slightly sweet and refreshing feeling that cools the palate. When your mouth is hot from spicy food, what do you want? Something to cool it. It’s the same thing that happens when you take a sip of an ice-cold beer after a bite of something spicy, which is why beer is the typical drink of choice for most wing enthusiasts.

Alternatively, these wings work fantastic with a fruity rosé!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Best Wood for Smoked Wings

Fruit wood, specifically apple or cherry wood is ideal for smoked chicken wings. The wood burns sweet and gives a touch of smoke flavor. Mesquite or oak will have a more intense smoke flavor if you want to really go big.

How Long to Smoke Chicken Wings for Crispy Skin 

Plan 90 minutes of total time for crispy skin. One hour for smoke time and 30 minutes at 375 degrees at a higher temp to finish off. 

Should you spray wings when smoking?

There is no need to spray the wings. Simply start with an air dry in the fridge, then season with olive oil and your favorite seasoning then smoke. We don’t want to add any additional moisture, to avoid rubbery skin.

Expert Tip

Be sure that the wings have time to sit in the refrigerator uncovered to dehydrate.

More Grilled and Smoked Chicken Wings Recipes

Buffalo-Inspired Recipes


*This recipe was originally published in October, 2013, and updated in September, 2023, with new photos. The original recipe remains the same.

If you like this recipe we’d truly appreciate it if you would give this recipe a star review! And if you share any of your pics on Instagram use the hashtag #vindulge. We LOVE to see it when you cook our recipes. 


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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.

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Smoked Buffalo Chicken Wings with Crispy Skin on a serving platter
4.66 from 87 votes

Smoked Buffalo Chicken Wings Recipe (with Crispy Skin)

The best method for smoked chicken wings with crispy skin. This success of this recipe is ALL in the technique. Well, that, and the sauce. But seriously pay attention to the technique! 
Prep: 3 hours
Cook: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total: 4 hours 30 minutes
Servings: 4 servings

Ingredients 

  • 2 pounds Chicken Wings, or "Party Wings" as you'll sometimes find them labeled
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon coarse ground pepper

Buffalo Wing Sauce:

  • 1 cup Frank’s RedHot hot sauce
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Instructions 

  • Dehydrate Wings: Pat dry your wings with some paper towels, then place them on a baking sheet and place in the refrigerator for up to 3 hours. This is crucial to the end texture of the chicken. This process will prevent the wings from steaming when you cook it, which creates a rubbery texture.
  • Preheat Smoker: When ready to cook, preheat smoker to 225 degrees F, and remove wings from fridge.
  • Season Wings: In a large bowl, toss the wings with olive oil, salt and pepper.
    raw Wings on Cookie Sheet
  • Smoke Wings: Place wings on the smoker for one hour, at 225 degrees F.
  • Increase Heat: After one hour, increase the heat to 375 degrees F for 30 minutes to finish them off at that higher temperature.
  • Serve: Remove from smoker and toss immediately with Buffalo wing sauce mix. Serve with your favorite ranch or blue cheese dip.

For the Buffalo Wing Sauce:

  • Prep sauce just before the wings come off the smoker.
    In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring butter and sauce to a simmer (not boil!!) and remove from heat. Place into a large bowl to toss with the hot wings just as they come off the smoker. *see notes

Video

Notes

Read these tips before you make this to avoid making any mistakes (trust us!).
1. The first, most important step, is patting dry, and then dehydrating your wings in the fridge. If you don’t do this you run the risk of your wings steaming in the smoker, creating a rubbery skin. 
2. Troubleshooting crispiness: If, when they are fully cooked, you don’t see a nice char or crispy outside, feel free to adjust the temperature on your smoker. I like to jack up the heat for a few minutes to give them a burst of heat helping to create a crispy outside.
3. The sauce: Watch the temperature as you melt the butter. Slowly simmer and don’t fully melt at a high heat. If you melt the butter at too high a heat, and then add the Frank’s, the result is oily and the Frank’s does not integrate with the sauce. Instead, the hot sauce separates from the butter and the sauce won’t stick to the wings. 

Nutrition

Calories: 463kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 36g | Fat: 34g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 149mg | Sodium: 2279mg | Potassium: 313mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 296IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 33mg | Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Prep Time: 3 hours
Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time: 4 hours 30 minutes
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: American
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 463
Keyword: crispy skin smoked wings, smoked buffalo chicken wings, smoked chicken wing recipe, smoked chicken wings, smoked wings, the best smoked wings
Like this recipe? Leave a comment below!

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About Mary


I'm Mary, a wine/food/travel writer, Certified Sommelier, mom of twins, former vegetarian turned BBQ fanatic, runner, founder of Vindulge, and author of Fire + Wine cookbook. Thanks for stopping by!

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86 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Today will be my 4 weekend in a row that I have used your recipe and the wings have been as good (but certainly healthier) as my favorite wings place in Westchester County, NY. You were spot on with everything. I’m using the BGE for the smoking and grilling!

  2. 5 stars
    This was by far the best recipe for wings ever! We smoked them for an hour with Cherry wood, and then transferred them to the grill for the last 30 minutes (may have been too long, but they were crispy).

    1. Tom, saw both comments! I would say you can finish in your oven for the higher temps and to get crispy. At the lower temp your options are limited. Baking powder allegedly helps, but we have not used that method. So I would just finish them in the oven at the temp recommended.

      1. 5 stars
        Tossing the wings in a little baking powder (NOT Bi Carb Soda) after patting dry, then putting then on a rack in the fridge for a few hours produces amazing crispy skin. Ive done wings with and without the baking powder. The baking powder makes for even crispier skin.

  3. 5 stars
    Awesome wings! I’ve used this method several times now with impressive results and always crispy skin. I’ve used different rubs and not used the baking soda–but you have to dry the wings in the fridge! I have friends that smoke their wings and then fry them for crispiness–this method is just so much better. Thanks so much for posting. Also I really appreciate the tip on melting the butter at lower temp. I got in a hurry once and the wing sauce separated–had no idea why–now I know! Every time I make these wings, I remember you folks and appreciate you taking the time to share your experience.

  4. 4 stars
    Great recipe and good instruction. Only thing I’ve found to help get extra crispy skin is to add ~2 Tsp of baking powder per # wings and rub thoroughly after drying. I smoke at 225 flipping once for about 80 minutes then sear over super high heat turning constantly. Sauce after, or none with a nice dry rub when doing the baking powder.

  5. 5 stars
    Been using this recipe for a few years now. It’s the only way we will cook Chicken wings! I am also from upstate NY, so finding a good recipe is a must!!!

  6. I use an electric smoker that only goes up to 275 how do I compensate not being able to up the temp to 350?

    1. Brian, I might suggest after smoking, that you use the oven. You can broil them off since they will be cooked to temp. Another option is to grill them over direct heat to crisp them up.

  7. Does the skin come out like smoked chicken legs (bite through, but not rubbery)? Or are they crispy consistent with frying?

    1. Stephen, they are not exactly like frying, that is its own texture, but they will come out crispy like roasting in the oven. The wings will take on the smoke and can handle going up in internal temp until the skin is the texture you like. Even with an internal temperature of 180 degrees they will still be juicy and crispy.