The Ultimate Smoked Chicken Wings (with crispy skin!)
Sep 27, 2023, Updated Feb 07, 2024
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.
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.
Table of Contents
- Smoked Chicken Wings Highlights
- Recipe Ingredients
- Buffalo Wing Origins
- How to Smoke Chicken Wings
- How long to Smoke Chicken Wings?
- The Classic Buffalo-Style Sauce
- Wine Pairing
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Expert Tip
- More Grilled and Smoked Chicken Wings Recipes
- Buffalo-Inspired Recipes
- Smoked Buffalo Chicken Wings Recipe (with Crispy Skin)
- 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.
- 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.
- Season Wings: Toss them with olive oil then salt and pepper.
- Smoke: Smoke your wings for one hour at a low temperature (225 degrees F) to get that delicious smoke infusion.
- 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.
- 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.
For best results serve immediately, in the classic style with carrot sticks, celery, and blue cheese dressing (or ranch, based on your personal preference).
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
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.
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.
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.
Be sure that the wings have time to sit in the refrigerator uncovered to dehydrate.
More Grilled and Smoked Chicken Wings Recipes
- Grilled Buffalo Chicken Wings (hot and fast style)
- Hot Honey Grilled Chicken Wings
- Grilled Chicken Wings with Spicy Peanut Sauce
- Grilled BBQ Chicken Wings with Crispy Skin
- Smoked Buffalo Chicken Dip
- Grilled Buffalo Chicken Salad
- Smoked Buffalo Chicken Jalapeno Poppers
- Smoked Buffalo Chicken Pizza
*This recipe was originally published in October, 2013, and updated in September, 2023, with new photos. The original recipe remains the same.
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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.
Smoked Buffalo Chicken Wings Recipe (with Crispy Skin)
- 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
- 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.
- 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
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.