Serious Eats Grilled Chicken Wings

Cook Dates: February 8 & 13, 2022

Last fall I bought a 4 burner gas grill to augment my pellet grill. The pellet grill is great for just about everything; but it is more like an oven than a grill. I got the gas grill so I could do two-zone cooking and get insane amounts of heat for grilling steaks. Two-zone cooking is where you have a hot zone and a cool zone. It’s perfect for things like chicken where you want to start on a cooler side so it doesn’t burn, then finish on the hot side for browning.

I’ve adapted J. Kenji López-Alt’s Oven-Fried Buffalo Wings Recipe (per his notes) for the grill. We had our family Super Bowl party and a yoga group happy hour the next week so I cooked the recipe using two two-zone cooking techniques. Let’s get into it.

The key to this recipe is dry-brining the wings overnight in a mixture of kosher salt and baking powder.

Baking powder and kosher salt for the dry-brine

After sitting uncovered in the refrigerator overnight, they have a nice dry surface and a slightly higher pH which means the wings will crisp up instead of steaming. Here they are the next morning – ALERT! raw chicken picture ahead.

Chicken wings after dry-brining.

I fired up all four burners on the gas grill to get it plenty hot then turned off two burners to create two zones. It was pretty chilly Super Bowl weekend and I was concerned that a two-zone set up with a hot side and a cool side but end up with the cool side being, well, too cool. So, I left the outside burners on and used the center area over the unlit burners in the center. You can see the outer burners are lit because the corresponding dials are red.

Cool zone is in the middle.

After 20 minutes I moved the wings around moving the ones closer to the heat (on the edges) to the center and vice-versa. They roasted that way for another 15 minutes or so. If you make these, make sure you take their temp, undercooked chicken is bad stuff.

For our happy hour the following week I went with a more traditional two-zone setup: hot side and cool side. In the picture you can see the left side is the cool zone because the dial lights are blue. This picture was taken after the first 20 minutes when I moved the wings that were closer to the hot zone to the very left – coolest – part of the grill, and put those that were on the coolest side next to the heat. Notice I started the drumettes closer to the hot zone since they need a bit more heat. I don’t think that is critical, it just seemed the thing to do.

Wings on the cool side to start

After a little more than half an hour total roasting in the cool zone (cook to temperature, not time) , I flipped them onto the hot side to brown them; and flipped every 2-3 minutes. Keep an eye on them, we want them crispy, not burned.

Wings on the hot zone for final crisping and browning.

While they are cooking I prepared the simple Buffalo sauce: butter and hot sauce. I like Frank’s Original; like the ad says, I put that $#!+ on everything. Warm over medium-low heat and whisk/stir to combine. It’s spicy but not too hot for my not-too-hot-please pallette.

Starting the Buffalo sauce – butter and hot sauce.

To finish, put the hot wings in a large mixing bowl and pour the warm, combined Buffalo sauce on the top and toss to coat. Then put on a platter to serve. For both events I held some wings back from saucing ’cause not everyone likes spicy. Unsauced wings are on the right.

Grilled Buffalo wings, ready to eat.

I had a jar of blue cheese dressing for the dipping. I’ve made my own in the past but it’s plenty of work when jarred is okay. But no celery. Are they good? Here is my taster from the Super Bowl party: Gobble Gobble. And they disappeared quickly at the happy hour.

Grilled chicken wings! Yum!

I made these back in October 2020 for our boys’ birthday. I cooked them on the pellet grill which is more like the oven technique in J. Kenji López-Alt’s recipe. You can read my post about it here. You can find my version of the recipe for a pellet grill here.

Rating: ★★★★ 4 stars. They are so good and are really easy to make – especially if you use the oven instead of a grill.

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