Learn how to make the best smoked chicken wings (with crispy skin) on a Traeger pellet grill!
We take you step-by-step through preparing and seasoning your smoked chicken wings, setting up the Traeger to cook them, smoking them to perfection, and then tossing with one of our favorite sauces.
After covering the basics of smoked chicken breasts, Traeger chicken thighs, and Traeger smoked chicken legs, as well as our Traeger 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 on the Traeger chicken wings 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 Traeger 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 Traeger using our favorite 2-step process for smoked chicken wings.
First on the Traeger 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 Traeger smoked chicken wings crispy and dry, or toss them in one of our favorite wing sauces to finish them off saucy.
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?
With our Traeger 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 Traeger Pellet Grill
Smoking your Traeger chicken wings at a high enough temperature 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.
In addition, a little cornstarch and baking soda will also help make the skin on the chicken wings extra crispy.
Some recipes call for baking powder rather than baking soda, but you have to use a lot of it to get the same effect.
Many experts prefer a combination of cornstarch and baking soda since you only need a small amount of each and it won't affect the flavor of your smoked chicken wings as much as a lot of baking powder will.
After rinsing and drying, simply coat the outside of your chicken wings with the kosher salt, or your favorite BBQ or chicken rub that has already salt in it, mixed with the baking soda, and cornstarch.
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 salt 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 Traeger.
- The salt 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 Traeger 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 paper towel.
If you need to add MORE seasoning, go ahead and do this before putting the wings on the Traeger.
What about Spraying or Spritzing my Traeger 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 Traeger 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 wing skin is still soft it will NEVER crisp up.
Our Favorite Rubs and Sauces for Traeger Smoked Chicken Wings
Best Store Bought Rubs for Smoked Chicken Wings
Since we are finishing these HOT on the Traeger, you want to avoid any rubs with lots and lots of sugar in them or it will burn on the chicken wings and leave an acrid taste.
If you want a sweeter flavor, we recommend choosing a sweet BBQ, mustard or wing sauce you like and then tossing the wings in it AFTER you cook them.
But keep the initial rub savory, not sweet.
So choose any savory, no sugar rub you like, mix it with the baking soda and cornstarch, 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.
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 Traeger 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 tablespoon Paprika
- 1 tablespoon Kosher Salt (Or ½ tablespoon table salt, go easy, you can always add more salt later)
- 1 tablespoon Chili Powder
- ½ tablespoon Garlic Powder (adjust to taste)
- ½ tablespoon Onion Powder (adjust to taste)
- 1 teaspoon Coarse Ground Black Pepper
- ½ teaspoon 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 Traeger Smoked Chicken Wings
Now, remember the wing sauce will go on at the VERY END.
After the chicken wings have smoked and crisped up on the Traeger, 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 Traeger
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 Traeger hopper outside.
Traeger pellets will not last forever, but will definitely last a LOT longer if stored indoors in a quality airtight container.
How a Traeger Pellet Grill Works
In order to cook ANYTHING well on a Traeger pellet grill, you need to first have a basic understanding of how a pellet grill works.
***Completely New to Using a Traeger Pellet Grill? No Worries!****
We also recently compared our two favorite Traeger models head to head if you're in the market for a new Traeger or to upgrade your old one.
Or hop over and check out this Complete Guide to Understanding How a Pellet Grill Works first if you are interested in learning more.
We'll be here when you get back!
Add your Hardwood Pellets
First, you add hardwood pellets into the side hopper.
The Traeger 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 Traeger
There is a specific start up process for the Traeger brand pellet grills you can read all about in depth here if you aren't sure how to fire it up the first time.
Otherwise, here is the basic process for how to start a Traeger before throwing on your food:
- Plug in the grill.
- Flip the power switch to ON and turn the dial to "Smoke".
- You will hear the fan kick on and the auger start to move and begin to kick pellets into the fire pot. Your fire rod will begin to heat up as well.
- Leave the lid open for about 5-7 minutes until you start to see white billowing smoke come out of the grill. This happens when the pellets are first igniting.
- Once a smoke is being produced, close the lid and change the temperature dial to your desired temperature setting.
- Allow about 10-15 minutes to preheat the grill.
- While you are waiting, make sure you've got the drip pan in place and the grease bucket hanging to catch any grease that comes out during the cook. Use a grease bucket liner to minimize cleanup later.
- Put your grates on if they aren't already in place.
- Using a good bristle free grill brush, clean off the grill grates if there is any leftover stuck on food from the last cook.
- When the pellet grill comes up to temperature go ahead and put on 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!
Here's a great example of how to smoke chicken wings on a Traeger pellet grill from
How to Smoke Chicken Wings on a Traeger Pellet Grill
Now that our chicken wings are brined and seasoned, and the Traeger is all set up, let's talk about exactly how we are going to smoke our chicken wings on the Traeger pellet grill.
What Temperature Should you Smoke Chicken Wings on a Traeger?
You will need to watch both your cooking temperature and internal temperature carefully when smoking the chicken wings on your Traeger.
We recommend setting up the Traeger 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 Traeger 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 Traegers and other kinds of pellet grills!
If you have the Direct Heat option on a newer model Traeger, 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 for Traeger Smoked Chicken Wings
You HAVE to use a good instant read meat thermometer to know where the internal temperature is of your smoked chicken wings on the Traeger.
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 Traeger Pellet Grill?
Remember, we are bringing them all the way up to 165°F on your instant read thermometer.
In a 275°F Traeger, it will take roughly 45 minutes to smoke the chicken wings up close to 140°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 Traeger 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 closely for any burning.
If you are using the Direct Flame Broiler option on your Traeger, 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 Traeger.
Pro Tip: To keep the smoked chicken wings crispy when you take them off the Traeger, 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 Traeger Smoked Chicken Wings
The Traeger 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.
Traeger 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 Traeger Smoked Baby Back Ribs!
What Else Can I Smoke on my Traeger?
So glad you asked!
Check out some of our other favorite recipes below that can all be easily modified for a Traeger if not done so already.
You've come to right place!
- Traeger Baby Back Ribs
- Traeger Smoked Pulled Pork
- Traeger 3-2-1 Pork Ribs
- Traeger Smoked Pork Loin
- Traeger Smoked Pork Spare Ribs
- Pellet Grill Smoked Pork Chops
- Pellet Grilled Bratwurst
- Gas Grilled Bratwurst
- Smoked Fresh Holiday Ham
- Spiral Sliced Smoked Hot Dogs
- Smoked Bratwurst with Beer Braised Onions
- Roasted Pig in Your Backyard
- Traeger Smoked Prime Rib
- Traeger Beef Tenderloin with Horseradish Cream
- Traeger Smoked Beef Brisket
- Traeger Smoked Chuck Roast
- Traeger Smoked Pot Roast
- Traeger Smoked Beef Short 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
- Perfect Grilled Hamburgers
- Smoked Eye of Round Roast Beef
- Easy Smoked Flank Steak
- Smoked Tomahawk Steaks
- Smoked Bottom Round Roast
- Smoked Sirloin Tip Roast
- Smoked Rump Roast
- Traeger Smoked Salmon
- Honey Smoked Salmon
- Smoked Oysters in a Garlic White Wine Sauce
- Smoked Scallops with Lemon Butter Sauce
- Smoked Lobster Tails
- Easy 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
- Smoked Tuna Steaks
- Traeger Smoked Whole Chicken
- Traeger Smoked Chicken Thighs
- Traeger Smoked Chicken Breasts
- Traeger Smoked Chicken Legs
- Smoked Whole Chicken in Masterbuilt Electric Smoker
- Smoked Turkey in a Masterbuilt Electric Smoker
- 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
Sides and Desserts
- Masterbuilt Smoked Cheese
- 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
- Smoked Mac and Cheese
Traeger Smoked Crispy Chicken Wings
- Traeger 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
- 1 Cup Buffalo Wing Sauce such as Sweet Baby Ray's, Frank's, or Hooter's
- 4 tablespoon Kosher Salt for dry brining only, not for rub
- ½ teaspoon Baking Soda
- 1 teaspoon Cornstarch
No Sugar Chicken Wing Rub
- 2 tablespoon Paprika or smoked paprika
- 2 tablespoon Chili Powder
- 1 tablespoon Kosher Salt
- 1 tablespoon Garlic Powder or to taste
- 1 tablespoon Onion Powder or to taste
- 1 teaspoon Course Ground Black Pepper
- ½ teaspoon 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 tablespoon Kosher salt, baking soda, and cornstarch. Sprinkle generously over all sides of each chicken wing. DO NOT use cooking oil to adhere or skin will not get crispy.4 tablespoon Kosher Salt, ½ teaspoon Baking Soda, 1 teaspoon Cornstarch
- 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 dry paper towel.
- Mix the Chicken Wing Rub ingredients together and apply to all sides of the chicken wings. Or use one of your favorite BBQ rubs for chicken without any sugar in it.2 tablespoon Paprika, 2 tablespoon Chili Powder, 1 tablespoon Garlic Powder, 1 tablespoon Onion Powder, 1 teaspoon Course Ground Black Pepper, ½ teaspoon Cayenne Pepper, 1 tablespoon Kosher Salt
Start the Traeger Pellet Grill
- Remove the fire pot from the bottom of the Traeger 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.
- Load the hopper of the Traeger with your chosen wood pellets.
- Turn on the Traeger and move the dial to the "Smoke" setting.
- Leave the lid open for 5-7 minutes until you start seeing white billowing smoke stop coming out of the grill. This means the initial pellets are now ignited.
- Place a disposable bucket liner in the grease bucket as well if you want to limit cleanup later.
- Set 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 Traeger Pellet Grill
- Place the chicken wings on the Traeger. 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 reach about 140°F internally. This may take about 1 hour.
Getting the Smoked Chicken Wings Crispy on the Traeger
- Once the chicken wings reach this temperature, increase the temperature of your Traeger to 450°F.
- It will take a few minutes 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 Traeger and place them spread out 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.