Call me crazy, bu…”Hey, that’s a little quick over there buddy. It’s an expression, that’s all, just an expression. It wasn’t a request, you know“. It’s just that, unlike most people, I find, whilst thinking of the perfect chicken wing, it is indeed smoked rather than fried. Yep, that’s right, I prefer smoked chicken wings over their fried counterparts. You could call it an obsession at this point I guess. Ever since that fateful day that I first bit into that ultimately satisfying chicken wing, I’ve been on a mission of sorts, to replicate that bite, complete with a seasoned, crusty bark and juicy meat that nearly falls off the bone. Lordy, I get the sweats just telling you about it. There have been many experiments performed, let me tell you, with varied results. Hitting rock bottom with rubbery chicken skin was the worst, and most embarrassing as well. But having nowhere to go but up, I persisted, researched, and with pit jockey beverage clutched tightly in hand, technically planned my next move, just waiting for the day to redeem myself in my quest for the Holy Grail of wings.
So on a warmer than usual day, an early spring if there ever was one, I set forth and walked proud. Wings in hand, I began the process, confident that this time would be different. And it was. This method that I used, and will describe forthright, is a keeper, bringing admirable results as well as damn tasty smokehouse wing. And now, for the next 20 callers, for just two easy payments of $29.95…. Hehe, just kidding. Now let’s get after it and smoke some wings, shall we?
The one thing I always like to do with chicken, all chicken, any chicken, before grilling or smoking is give it a good rinse, pat dry, and put it on a rack to dry in the refrigerator, preferable at least 2 to 3 hours, but longer or even overnight is great. This dehydrates the skin somewhat so that when grilled or smoked, it’ll crisp up more than that floppy, rubber, goosebumps skin that will have you exercising your jaw muscles in Stretch Armstrong fashion.
The smoker was huffing and puffing, spewing hickory smoke reminiscent of Grandpa’s old wood stove on a cold winter morn. The plumes were chugging skyward, forced to suck enough oxygen to hang in that 190 – 200 range. Yeah, this one needed to be slow, and I was gonna make sure of it. A generous rub was concocted and mixed together. No matter the ingredients, just use what you like. Mine happened to be some of my own general barbecue rub, using the basic ingredients that they all use, enhanced with a couple extra teaspoons each of cayenne pepper and celery salt. In a separate bowl, add together olive oil (1/2 cup) and the juice of a lemon. If you don’t add garlic in your own rub, add some fresh garlic here, as much as you can take, and then juuuust a bit more. Mix the dry ingredients with the wet, and add to a ziplock bag with the wings, getting them all slathered up and coated with the mixture. Let those wings get all relaxed in the marinade for at least 30 minutes.
Confident that the smoker will honor my request to keep the temperature around 200, I grabbed the sauced up wings and laid them on the smoker rack, directly over the coals, ready to catch the drips from the chicken and the marinade, turning them into little sizzling bits of aroma reaching upward towards the chicken. This pleases me, and tansforms the surrounding spring time air into a sampling of wood fired, chicken-smoking smells. Deep breaths are happening. I waited for about an hour and a half, enjoying a little “me” time around the homestead, always keeping my nose attuned to the smoke. The aroma was intoxicating, and against all the rules that say not to, I had to peek. I liked what I saw. And I loved what I smelled.
Give it another hour, I said to myself, just as I also noticed that I needed a refill on my chicken wing smokin’ pit side beverage. Gave it another hour, and got myself another drink.
After that 2 1/2 hour mark is hit, it is time for action, so relinquishing my pit jockey posture in that comfortable web chair, I walked up to the smoker and opened all the vents, letting that fire suck in a deep breath of air and start it’s fire-breathing ways. With the hard work completed, I returned to my web chair for another 30 minutes, watching the smoke billow while listening to the sweet sounds of those juices dripping down on the burning hardwood. I was nearly hypnotized by the moment.
The final half hour of heat made that chicken skin finish off into that crusty, barky, tasty yet tender wrapping for the juicy, smokey chicken wings. This type of taste and texture is just what I was looking for, and by golly, on this day, it was exactly what I got.
Smokehouse style chicken wings,
Because Life Is Better Wood Fired