Sunday Dinner: Grilled Chicken Wings

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Do you like chicken wings? Of course you do.

Does your spouse/partner/significant other/roommate/pet let you deep fry chicken wings inside of your domicile? Of course they don’t.

Deep frying anything indoors is about as bad as smoking cigarettes with the windows closed. Your clothes stink. Everything gets a film of ick (technical term) on it. And it’s not as fun as doing it at your favorite bar.

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Seriously, cooking your own wings is nowhere near as fun as someone else cooking them. If I were to rank the best way to consume wings, it would go like this:

  1. Eat them at a bar/restaurant alone (Sharing is terrible.).
  2. Eat them at a bar with others.
  3. Eat takeout wings at home.
  4. Eat takeout wings in the car on the way home from picking them up.
  5. Being run over by a car.
  6. Eat homemade chicken wings.

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Take deep-frying out of the equation and you are left with two options. The first is baking. This is clearly the healthiest way to cook chicken wings because the little bastards will fuse themselves to the aluminum foil that you used to line the bad, rendering the wings inedible.


The second method involves fire…the sweet golden fire of your grill.

There are four steps to making wings on the grill: brining, cornstarching, grilling, and tossing. The saltwater brine flavors the wing and causes them to swell up a little before they are heated. The corn starch keeps them from sticking to the cooking surface. The grill keeps you from getting salmonella. The tossing adds the flavor that makes your wings good.

WHAT WORKED: Corn starch. Effing corn starch is all it took to keep the wings from not sticking. I’m both relieved to have found this out and angry for not learning this before. I feel like I’ve learned something profound and should be rewarded with something. Chicken wings, for instance.

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WHAT DIDN’T: Fire. Now, it’s not that the fire didn’t work, but you have to keep something in mind here. Chicken wings are extraordinarily fatty little buggers, which makes deep frying the perfect cooking method. Cook fat in fat, right? By doing this on the grill, you are cooking your wings by intentionally starting a grease fire. I highly encourage you to keep a close high on your grill — gas or charcoal — to control flare ups and prevent the accidental incineration of your deck/garage/neighborhood.

WHAT DID THE WIFE SAY: “These are good, but they’re a little small.” Yeah, so grocery store chicken is shot up full of saline solution. Letting them sit in the brine puffs them up a little more. So, what happens when you cook them at high temperatures? The same things that happens to you on a 95-degree day. The chicken sweats out all of that salty goodness. Unfortunately, that causes the chicken to shrink. Look for chicken that hasn’t been injected with any saline solution.

WILL IT MAKE ANOTHER APPEARANCE: Absolutely. This could become a regular thing here at Al Dente HQ.

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Grilled Chicken Wings
By Jared Paventi with a hat-tip to Cooks Illustrated

  • 2 lbs. chicken wings, tips trimmed
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • sauce(s) for tossing (NOTE: I used Frank’s Sweet Chili sauce and Dinosaur Bar-b-que Roasted Garlic Honey sauce. This is totally your preference)

Rinse chicken wings under cold water and place in a large bowl. Cover the chicken with cold tap water. In a separate small bowl, whisk together kosher salt and a cup of warm water until it dissolves. Pour the salt water over the wings, stir with a large spoon and let stand 30 minutes to 2 hours.

Drain the wings and pat dry with paper towels. Place in a clean, dry mixing bowl. Sprinkle half of the corn starch over the wings and toss with a large spoon, reserving the rest of the cornstarch in case you need to further coat the chicken.

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Clean and oil your grill grates (I use vegetable oil and a paper towel to do the latter), then preheat your grill for 10 to 15 minutes, letting it reach at least 600 degrees (I have a gas grill, so all I do is turn on the propane, press a button and fire happens. Do whatever you have to do for the charcoal thing to work.). Place the wings on the grill and cook 8 to 10 minutes. The key is for them to get crispy and browned without burning. Flip and cook an additional 5 to 7 minutes.

Remove from the grill and add to a mixing bowl with your favorite sauce. Toss with a large serving spoon, then transfer to a serving dish or bowl. Serve immediately.

Start a fire, letting it preheat to at least 600 degrees.

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