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 dry brine to make sure they are moist and flavorful and that the skin stays nice and crispy.
Dry Brining is NOT at must-do, 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 low heat to partially cook while absorbing some smoky 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
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 220°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.
Rather WATCH than READ?
Check out this video on How to Make Smoked Chicken Wings with CRISPY Skin on a Pit Boss Pellet Grill.
Trim the Wings
To begin, trim any hanging fat from the wings that may end up burning during the cook.
Once the wing are trimmed as needed, spread them out on a wire rack set over a baking sheet.
Dry the skin of the chicken wings with paper towels on both sides to remove any excess moisture.
Dry Brine Before Smoking
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.
Place the wings in a large bowl and toss them with a few teaspoons of baking powder and your favorite BBQ or chicken rub that contains salt but is low in sugar.
Because we will be cranking up the heat at the end of the cook to get crispy skin, we don't want the sugar to burn.
If you prefer plain wings or plan to toss them with wing dust after cooking, just toss them with some baking powder.
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 for at least 1 hour or as long as overnight.
The dry brine 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.
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 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
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. We like using Bad Byron's Butt Rub, which has NO sugar.
Again, no need to oil them up, this will just inhibit the skin from getting crispy.
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.
We are particular fans of Kosmos Wing Dust because they have a whole lineup of rub flavors specifically made for chicken wings, but the dust goes on at the VERY END, after the chicken wing are fully cooked and crispy.
Our Favorite Sauces
Now, remember the wing sauce will go on at the VERY END. If you're using Kosmos Wing Dust, it goes on at the end as well.
After the chicken wings have smoked and crisped in the Pit Boss, you can toss them in a bowl with your favorite sauce and serve immediately, or placed the sauced wings back on the grill for a brief time to warm and firm up the sauce.
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. Our favorite wing sauce is Syberg's Wing Sauce.
You can also go for a sweeter BBQ flavored sauce like Blue's Hog Original.
For a dry rub style wing, we like tossing cooked, plain wings with Kosmos Wing Dust. You can go traditional with their Buffalo Seasoning, or get more fancy with the Garlic Parmesan or Kickin' Cajun if you wish.
Our Favorite Wood Pellets
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.
Set Up the Pit Boss
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!
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 220°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 smoky flavor; however, the skin will still be rubbery and flabby once the meat underneath is cooked.
We like using cloth gloves with food-safe disposable nitrile gloves on top when the wings are cooking on the low temperature to more easily move and flip the wings without fumbling with tongs at this stage.
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 get crispy on all sides and do not burn.
Target Internal Temperature
You HAVE to use a good instant read meat thermometer to know the internal temperature 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.
Remember, we are bringing them all the way up to 165°F on your instant read thermometer.
In a 220°F Pit Boss, it will take roughly 1 ½ hours to smoke the chicken wings up close to 165°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. We recommend turning the Pit Boss to "High" to get the temperature up quickly.
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 closely 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 3-5 minutes on each side.
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 of your hard work.
Tossing and Serving
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. Another option is to toss them in the sauce and then put them back on the grill over high heat for a few minutes to set up the sauce.
If you're using wing dust, you can toss the crispy wings with as much dust as you desire. The more dust you use, the more intense the flavor.
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!
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
- 2 lbs Chicken Wings about 20, thawed
- 2 tablespoon BBQ rub low or no sugar, such as Bad Byron's Butt Rub
- 2 teaspoon baking powder
- ⅓ Cup Buffalo Wing Sauce such as Syberg's, Sweet Baby Ray's, Frank's, or Hooter's
- Remove the thawed chicken wings from their packaging. 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. Trim off any hanging fat that will not cook evenly.2 lbs Chicken Wings
- Place the trimmed wings on a wire rack set over a baking sheet and pat dry with paper towels.
- In a large bowl, toss the wings with BBQ rub and baking powder until well coated. DO NOT use cooking oil to adhere or skin will not get crispy.
- Transfer the wings back to the wire rack, making sure to spread the wings out so they are not touching.
- Place the baking sheet in the refrigerator, uncovered, for 1 hour or up to overnight.
Smoking the Chicken Wings
- Lightly oil the grates of the Pit Boss, then start it up. After it has run through the start up cycle, set the temperature to 220°F.
- Place the chicken wings on the Pit Boss. You can flip and rotate for even cooking as needed.
- Continue smoking the chicken wings until the internal temperature reaches 165°F. This may take about 1 ½ hours.
Getting the Smoked Chicken Wings Crispy on the Pit Boss
- Once the chicken wings reach 165°F internally, increase the temperature of your Pit Boss to 450°F (or "high" to heat faster).
- 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. If your Pit Boss has a direct heat option, you can open the flame broiler and crisp the wings with the lid open. Make sure to move the wings around and be careful not to burn your wings. They will take less time to crisp up with direct heat than with indirect.
- Once the skin on the wings has gotten crispy, 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 sauce you prefer, into a large mixing bowl.⅓ 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.
- If you prefer firm sauce, place the sauced wings back on the grill for a few minutes to warm the sauce.
- Serve the wings with dipping sauces such as ranch and/or blue cheese dressing and carrots and celery on the side.