Learn how to make the best smoked chicken wings with crispy skin using a Pit Boss pellet grill!
We take you step-by-step through preparing and seasoning your smoked chicken wings, setting up your Pit Boss for the cook, smoking them to perfection, and then tossing with one of our favorite sauces.
After covering the basics of smoked chicken breasts, thighs, and legs on a Pit Boss, as well as our Pit Boss Whole Smoked Chicken, Spatchcocked Chicken, and the always fun and popular Beer Can Chicken, we thought it would be fun to finally turn our attention to smoked chicken wings!
First we are going to do an easy overnight dry brine to make sure they are moist and flavorful and that the skin stays nice and crispy.
Overnight Dry Brining is NOT at must-do if you don’t have the time or the desire, but it WILL give you crispy skin on your Pit Boss Smoked Chicken wings.
Then, we will season them up with one our all time favorite rubs for chicken wings before we cook them on the Pit Boss using our favorite 2-step process for smoked chicken wings.
First we hit them with medium heat to partially cook while absorbing some smokey flavor, and then we finish with high heat indirectly until they are perfectly cooked and crispy!
Then you can eat your Pit Boss smoked chicken wings crispy and dry, or toss them in one of our favorite wing sauces to finish them off saucy.
How to Get Crispy Skin on your Pit Boss Smoked Chicken Wings
The problem with “most” smoked chicken is that while the meat inside gets tender and delicious, the skin is usually a little rubbery and unappetizing.
This is because conventional low and slow smoking temperatures that work great on foods like brisket and pulled pork will never render out all the fat in the skin of a chicken wing before severely overcooking the meat itself.
While brisket and pork shoulder taste great when cooked to 200°F internally with all the fat rendered out, chicken meat will be dry and nearly inedible at that point, so who cares if the skin is crispy?
This is why with our smoked chicken wings we are going to cook first at 275°F to give the meat time to cook and absorb smoke, and then finish as hot as possible around 450°F for only the last few minutes to crisp up the skin without overcooking the meat underneath.
Dry Brining the Chicken Wings Before Smoking on the Pit Boss
Smoking your chicken wings at a high enough temperature on the Pit Boss to render out the fat underneath the skin is important, but so is the seasoning and the way you do it.
So if you want the crispiest skin possible at the end, it all starts with dry brining at the beginning.
This is what will separate you from all those wannabe chicken smoking amateurs out there.
It works on all cuts of skin-on chicken…and turkey too.
After rinsing and drying, simply coat the outside of your chicken wings with kosher salt, or your favorite BBQ or chicken rub that has already salt in it.
Do NOT use oil to help the rub adhere.
As you apply the rub the skin will start to get more wet as the salt in the rub pulls the moisture up to the surface.
This is all the moisture you need to get the salt or rub to adhere so just give it a few minutes and be patient if it is not adhering at first.
Place the chicken wings on a wire rack set on top of a baking sheet in the refrigerator overnight.
We like this wire rack and baking sheet combo because you want maximum airflow around every side of each chicken wing.
This overnight seasoning does 3 things:
- That salty moisture that formed on the surface will work its way BACK into the meat to help flavor the interior of the chicken wings.
- The salt inside will help the chicken wings retain moisture and not dry out while smoking on the Pit Boss.
- It pulls moisture OUT of the skin allowing it to dry out before you smoke and therefore crisp up the wings that much better while they cook.
Moist meat, and dry crispy skin.
Exactly what we want.
The next day the skin should look kind of powdery and very dry.
This is good.
It means the salt has penetrated into the meat where you want it to be and has taken all the moisture with it.
The skin will now crisp up nicely on the Pit Boss while the inside meat stays moist.
In the morning, if there is still A LOT of salt or seasoning on the outside, wipe it off with a dry or only slightly damp paper towel.
If you need to add MORE rub, go ahead and do this before putting the wings on the Pit Boss.
Pro Tip: DO NOT use cooking oil to help additional rub adhere to the chicken skin. The more oil you apply, the less the skin will crisp up when it cooks.
What about Spraying or Spritzing my Pit Boss Smoked Chicken Wings?
Don’t be tempted to spray butter or apple juice or cola or any of the other spritzes you might see cooks use on BBQ cooking videos.
No basting, and no spraying poultry.
Not if you want crispy skin.
If you want to put bbq or wing sauce sauce on your Pit Boss Smoked Chicken wings, great.
But it goes on at the very end, AFTER the skin has already gotten nice and crispy.
If you put any sauce on while the chicken skin is still raw it will NEVER crisp up.
Our Favorite Rubs and Sauces for Pit Boss Smoked Chicken Wings
Best Store Bought Rubs for Smoked Chicken Wings
Since we are finishing these HOT, you want to avoid any rubs with sugar in them or it will burn on the chicken wings and leave an acrid taste.
So choose any savory, no sugar rub you like and sprinkle it on generously on all sides of each chicken wing
Again, no need to oil them up, this will just inhibit the skin from getting crispy.
We are particular fans of Kosmos Wing Dust because they have a whole lineup of rub flavors specifically made for chicken wings with LITTLE to NO sugar depending on the flavor you choose.
Another quality rub without ANY sugar, we are big fans of is Bad Byron’s Butt Rub Seasoning.
Although we typically use it on cuts of beef and steaks where we are also using high heat, it also works great on Pit Boss smoked chicken wings if you are looking for big flavor without all the sugar.
Homemade Smoked Chicken Wing Rub
Sometimes, you forgot you ran out of your favorite rub, or don’t have all the ingredients on hand to make a complex one from scratch.
If you just want to get a good classic chicken rub on your Pit Boss smoked chicken wings before throwing them on, then we’ve got you covered with this simple rub recipe with seasonings most people have on hand in the pantry:
- 1 Tbsp Paprika
- 1 Tbsp Kosher Salt (Or 1/2 Tbsp table salt, go easy, you can always add more salt later)
- 1 Tbsp Chili Powder
- 1/2 Tbsp Garlic Powder (adjust to taste)
- 1/2 Tbsp Onion Powder (adjust to taste)
- 1 Tsp Coarse Ground Black Pepper
- 1/2 Tsp Cayenne Pepper (optional)
You may recognize this is similar to our classic “In a Pinch Rub” seen in other recipes but we’ve taken out the brown sugar.
Mix thoroughly, (using a re-usable plastic shaker works best), and then sprinkle directly on your chicken.
You can replace the paprika with smoked paprika and you get a sweeter flavor profile without adding sugar.
Our Favorite Sauces for Pit Boss Smoked Chicken Wings
Now, remember the wing sauce will go on at the VERY END.
After the chicken wings have smoked and crisped in the Pit Boss we will toss them in a bowl with your favorite sauce and serve immediately.
You can go traditional with a classic buffalo sauce like Franks Wing Sauce or Sweet Baby Ray’s, or even Hooters sells their award winning sauce by the jar.
You can also go for a sweeter BBQ flavored sauce like one of our current favorites, Capital City Mambo Sauce.
The Best Wood Pellets for Smoking Chicken Wings on a Pit Boss Pellet Grill
Poultry, like fish, absorbs smoke very quickly and a little goes a long way.
The best woods for smoking chicken include the fruitwoods like apple, cherry, and peach, but also the milder smoking woods like pecan, oak and alder.
Mesquite and hickory will give a very aggressive smoke flavor and should only be used if mixed in with some of the other types mentioned above.
For the best results, store your unused pellets in a sealed room temperature container like this 20 lb pellet container rather than in the Pit Boss hopper outside.
Pellets do not last forever, but will definitely last a LOT longer if stored indoors in a quality airtight container.
Here’s a great example of how to smoke chicken wings on a Pit Boss pellet grill from Grill and Smoke BBQ
How to Smoke Chicken Wings on a Pit Boss Pellet Grill
We have previously covered how to season a Pit Boss, how to start a Pit Boss, as well as how to troubleshoot the smoke level of your pellet grill.
So if you need a more in-depth review on how to use your Pit Boss for the first time, check those articles out first!
But below is a brief overview of how a Pit Boss pellet grill works and how to start it up properly to prepare to smoke your food.
How a Pit Boss Pellet Grill Works
In order to cook ANYTHING well on a Pit Boss pellet grill, you need to first have a basic understanding of how a pellet grill works.
***Completely New to Using a Pellet Grill? No Worries!****
Hop over and check out this Complete Guide to Understanding How a Pellet Grill Works if you are interested in learning more in depth. We’ll be here when you get back!***
Add your Hardwood Pellets
First, you add hardwood pellets into the side hopper.
The Pit Boss pellet grill automatically feeds these small wood pellets via an auger mechanism to a fire pot where they are burned up, providing both heat and smokey flavor.
The pellet grill automatically controls the flow of pellets depending on your temperature setting so that you maintain an even temperature throughout the entire cook.
How to Start up the Pit Boss Pellet Grill
- Fill your hopper with pellets as described above.
- Make sure the fire pot is cleaned out from the last cook and not full of ashes. You can remove it from the bottom and dump or vacuum it out and then put back and clip into place.
- Plug in and start up the pellet grill, keeping the lid open. Set the temperature dial to “Smoke” and press the “Power” button.
- If there are no pellets in the auger or firepot yet, only in the hopper, you need to now hold the “Prime” button until you hear pellets begin to drop into the firepot.
- The “Prime” feature on a Pit Boss pellet grill speeds up the auger so that pellets fill it quickly and get to your fire pot before the pellet grill “times out” from a lack of pellets coming into the fire pot.
- Once pellets are in the firepot, stop holding the “Prime” button and wait about 5-7 minutes with the lid open for a torchy burner lighting sound. This means the fire rod has come up to temperature and has ignited the pellets. At this point, a more significant amount of smoke will begin coming out of the pellet grill. This means the pellets are ignited and the pellet grill is working. Now you can close the lid.
- Close the lid and change the temperature setting to 350°F. Pit Boss recommends always preheating to this temperature FIRST, even if you are eventually going to cook at different temperature.
- This will take about 10-15 minutes to preheat the grill.
- Using a good bristle free grill brush, clean off the grill grates.
- Now adjust the temperature to where you need it to cook your food.
Why Bristle Free Grill Brushes?
Check out our Ultimate Guide to How to Keep your Family Safe by using ONLY Bristle Free Grill Brushes, along with a selection of some of our favorites!
What Temperature do you Smoke Chicken Wings on a Pit Boss Pellet Grill?
You will need to watch both your cooking temperature and internal temperature carefully when smoking the chicken wings on your Pit Boss.
We recommend setting up the grill or smoker for indirect heat to cook at 275°F to begin with.
As we said before, this will be the temperature at which we cook the chicken wings most of the way, and add the smokey flavor, however, the skin will still be rubbery and flabby once the meat underneath is cooked.
Once we near the end of the cook, we will crank the heat on the Pit Boss for the last 5-6 minutes and bring the cooking temperature up to 450-500°F to really crisp the skin.
This is what’s so great about the Pit Boss!
Or, if you have the Direct Heat option on a newer model Pit Boss, you can leave the lid open and cook them directly over the open flame broiler to crisp the skin up that way.
Be careful if you use direct heat like this you will need to constantly be moving and turning the chicken wings with a pair of long handled BBQ tongs so that they gte crispy on all sides and do not burn.
Target Internal Temperature for Pit Boss Smoked Chicken Drumsticks
You HAVE to use a good instant read meat thermometer to know where the internal temperature is of your smoked chicken wings on the Pit Boss.
If you don’t yet own an instant read thermometer, ThermoPro makes a good one.
We are going to bring the internal temperature of our smoked chicken wings up to 165*F.
Make sure not to touch the bone with your instant read thermometer when checking your temperatures.
How Long Does it Take to Smoke Chicken Wings on a Pit Boss Pellet Grill?
Remember, we are bringing them all the way up to 165°F on your instant read thermometer.
In a 275°F Pit Boss, it will take roughly 1 hour to smoke the chicken wings up close to 150°F.
This is the point at which you will want to turn the heat up to 450°F INDIRECTLY with the lid closed or switch over to the direct flame broiler option DIRECTLY with the lid open.
Now, it will take a few minutes for the Pit Boss to rise the almost 200°F needed in temperature, so don’t start the clock immediately
You will start to hear the skin crackling as the temperature rises and the fat in the skin begins to render out.
This is how you know the magic is happening.
Once you begin to hear and see the skin on the wings crackling away, you will need to give them at least 5-10 minutes to continue to crisp up, but watch them clsoely for any burning.
If you are using the Direct Flame Broiler option on your Pit Boss, keep the wings turning and moving with long handled BBQ tongs as mentioned above and try to cook about 5 minutes on each side total.
You’ll start to see and feel the wing skin crisp up and know when to take them off the Pit Boss.
Pro Tip: To keep the skin crispy when you take them off the Pit Boss, place the wings on a wire rack to cool spaced out from each other rather than piling them all on top of each other where they will steam up and the skin will get soggy and ruin all your hard work.
Serving Pit Boss Smoked Chicken Wings
The Pit Boss smoked chicken wings will need to cool for about 5 minutes before you toss them in the sauce and serve.
Make sure not to toss them in the sauce until everyone is ready to eat or the skin will start to get soggy sitting in the sauce.
Smoked chicken wings are great on their own with an ice cold beer and a side of ranch or blue cheese dipping sauce.
If you want to offer a real BBQ spread to your guests, try offering them up alongside our Pit Boss Smoked Baby Back Ribs!
What Else Can I Smoke on my Pit Boss?
So glad you asked!
Check out some of our other favorite recipes below that can all be easily modified for a Pit Boss if not done so already.
You’ve come to right place!
- Pit Boss Pulled Pork
- Pit Boss Smoked Baby Back Ribs
- Pit Boss Smoked Pork Loin
- Pit Boss 3-2-1 Ribs
- Pellet Grill Smoked Pork Chops
- Pellet Grilled Bratwurst
- Smoked Fresh Holiday Ham
- Spiral Sliced Smoked Hot Dogs
- Smoked Bratwurst with Beer Braised Onions
- Roasted Pig in Your Backyard
- Pit Boss Beef Brisket
- Pit Boss Smoked Beef Tenderloin
- Pit Boss Smoked Prime Rib
- Pit Boss Smoked Chuck Roast
- Pit Boss Smoked Beef Ribs
- Perfect Smoked London Broil
- Smoked Ribeye Roast
- Smoked Corned Beef
- Smoked Ribeye Steaks
- Smoked Filet Mignon
- Hot and Fast Pellet Grill Beef Brisket
- Pellet Grilled Steak
- Smoked Eye of Round Roast Beef
- Easy Smoked Flank Steak
- Smoked Tomahawk Steaks
- Smoked Bottom Round Roast
- Smoked Sirloin Tip Roast
- Honey Smoked Salmon
- Smoked Oysters in a Garlic White Wine Sauce
- Smoked Scallops with Lemon Butter Sauce
- Smoked Lobster Tails
- Honey Smoked Tilapia
- Perfect Smoked Halibut
- Smoked Mahi Mahi Fillets
- Smoked Swordfish Steaks
- Smoked Crab Legs with Cajun Clarified Butter
- Smoked Mackerel with Maple Balsamic Glaze
- Smoked Catfish with Cajun BBQ Rub
- Smoked Red Snapper with Blackening Rub
- Smoked Trout
- Pit Boss Smoked Whole Chicken
- Pit Boss Smoked Chicken Thighs
- Pit Boss Smoked Chicken Breasts
- Pit Boss Smoked Chicken Legs
- Smoked Chicken Leg Quarters
- Beer Can Chicken on a Pellet Grill
- Spatchcocked Chicken on a Pellet Grill
- Pellet Grill Smoked Turkey Breast
- Pellet Grill Turkey
- Easy Smoked Turkey Legs
- Spatchcock Smoked Turkey on a Pellet Grill
- Trash Can Turkey – OK, technically not made on a grill or smoker but one of the most fun ways there is to cook a Turkey…at over 700 degrees in only 2 hours!
- Smoked Leg of Lamb with Guinness Marinade
- Smoked Lamb Chops with a Balsamic Butter Sauce
- Smoked Rack of Lamb with Garlic and Rosemary or Smoker
- Smoked and Pulled Lamb Shoulder with a Turkish Spice Rub
- Smoked Lamb Shanks
Other Odds and Ends
- Smoked Gouda Cheese
- Smoked Asparagus
- Easy Smoked Broccoli
- Smoked Cauliflower
- Sticky Smoked Sweet Potatoes
- How to Steam Tamales
- Smoked Pineapple in a Maple Bourbon Sauce
- Smoked Carrots with a Honey Balsamic Glaze
Pit Boss Smoked Crispy Chicken Wings
- Pit Boss Pellet Grill
- Wood Pellets preferably a fruitwood like apple or cherry; or oak
- Large Baking Sheet with Wire Rack
- Paper Towels
- Instant Read Thermometer
- Long Handled BBQ Tongs
- Wire Rack
- Aluminum Foil Tray
- Large Mixing Bowl
- 4 lbs Chicken Wings about 40-48, thawed
- 4 Tbsp Kosher Salt for dry brining only, not for rub
- 1 Cup Buffalo Wing Sauce such as Sweet Baby Ray's, Frank's, or Hooter's
No Sugar Chicken Wing Rub
- 2 Tbsp Paprika or smoked paprika
- 2 Tbsp Kosher Salt
- 2 Tbsp Chili Powder
- 1 Tbsp Garlic Powder or to taste
- 1 Tbsp Onion Powder or to taste
- 1 Tsp Course Ground Black Pepper
- ½ Tsp Cayenne Pepper optional, can be increased for more heat
- Remove the thawed chicken wings from their packaging and rinse under cold running water. Pay dry with paper towels.4 lbs Chicken Wings
- If your chicken wings are whole wing sections, cut off the wing tips and then cut through and separate the wing from the drumette of each section.
Dry Brine Overnight
- Place the chicken wings on a wire rack placed on top of a baking sheet.
- Mix together the 4 Tbsp Kosher salt sprinkle generously over all sides of each chicken wing. DO NOT use cooking oil to adhere or skin will not get crispy.4 Tbsp Kosher Salt
- Place the baking sheet in the refrigerator overnight or for at least 4-6 hours.
Remove the Next Day
- Take the chicken wings out of the refrigerator and wipe off any salt still remaining on the outside of each wing with a paper towel.
- Mix the Chicken Wing Rub ingredients together and apply to all sides of the chicken wings. Or use some one of your favorite BBQ rubs for chicken without any sugar in it.2 Tbsp Paprika, 2 Tbsp Chili Powder, 1 Tbsp Garlic Powder, 1 Tbsp Onion Powder, 1 Tsp Course Ground Black Pepper, ½ Tsp Cayenne Pepper, 2 Tbsp Kosher Salt
Start the Pit Boss Pellet Grill
- Remove the fire pot from the bottom of the Pit Boss and clean out any ashes left over from the last cook. Replace it and make sure it is secured in place with the clips on either side. Also, wrap the drip tray in aluminum foil to limit cleanup needed later.
- Add your chosen pellets to the hopper, start the Pit Boss pellet grill and put it on the "Smoke" setting.
- If there are no pellets in the auger, hold the "Prime" button until you hear pellets begin falling in the fire pot. This will speed up the auger to prime it full of pellets before you start preheating.
- Once the Pit boss begins to produce thick white smoke, let it run for about 5-7 minutes until the smoke turns more of a clearish blue color. This means the fire rod has fully heated up to burn the pellets more cleanly.
- Next, set the temperature to preheat the Pit Boss pellet grill to 350°F. We will drop this temperature before we start cooking.
- Place a disposable bucket liner in the grease bucket as well if you want to limit cleanup later.
- Once the Pit Boss has come up to 350°F, drop the temperature on the control panel to 275° and clean the grill grates with a good grill brush and close the lid.
Smoking the Chicken Wings on the Pit Boss Pellet Grill
- Place the chicken wings on the Pit Boss. You can flip and rotate for even cooking as needed. You can even leave them on the wire rack if you wish.
- Continue smoking the chicken wings, until the internal temperature reaches about 150°F internally. This may take about 1 hour.
Getting the Smoked Chicken Wings Crispy on the Pit Boss
- Once the chicken wings reach this temperature, increase the temperature of your Pit Boss to 450°F.
- It will take a few minutes for your Pit Boss to rise in temperature, then you will begin to hear the skin crackling and it will take another 5-10 minutes for the skin on the wings to crisp up. You can rotate, flip, and watch your wings during this time but try to keep the lid closed as much as possible.
- Once the skin on the wings has gotten crispy and the internal temperatures have reached at least 165°F, remove the wings from the Pit Boss and place on a clean wire rack to cool so that they do not get soggy.
Toss in the Wing Sauce and Serve
- Pour your Buffalo Wing Sauce, or whatever chicken wing sauce you prefer, into a large mixing bowl.1 Cup Buffalo Wing Sauce
- When you are ready to serve the wings toss them in the sauce and serve immediately while skin is still crispy.
- Serve with dipping sauces such as ranch and/or blue cheese dressing and carrots and celery on the side.