Smoked Chicken Wings with Honey & Chipotle


Smoked chicken wings with honey and chipotle

Last weekend I decided on a whim that it was, without a doubt, the official start of BBQ season. It was a beautiful day and we flung open the doors on to the balcony, letting sun stream into the flat, fired up the grill and had a bunch of mates over to devour what I rather modestly titled a ‘Mexican Feast’. We ripped through a mountain of tacos, piled with slow-cooked pork with blood orange and chipotle plus about seven different salsas, guac and sour cream (got carried away) followed by chocolate mousse sprinkled with honeycomb. To start, it was a big pile of these wings, which we set upon like a bunch of feral animals.

When cooking wings on the BBQ, there’s always the question of how to get the skin nice and crisp (i.e you’re not deep-frying them). I spent a lot of time last year cooking chicken wings, a LOT of time, and I found that even 40 minutes over indirect heat can sometimes leave them a little flabby of skin. Recently however, I discovered a new method via Serious Eats. A new method! Joy! The meat is treated in a mixture of salt and baking powder, then suspended on a wire rack over a dish in the fridge. This needs to happen for at least 8 hours, preferably overnight. I also added dried oregano (on the Mexican vibe) and some Old Bay Seasoning.

The wings don’t really look that different in the morning, but when they’re cooked over indirect heat on the BBQ for about 45 minutes, they go all sort of dry and weird looking. I was a little worried at that point.


They’re then doused in the sauce and flashed over direct heat to caramelise and char. It turned out I needn’t have worried, as the result was the crispest skin I’ve ever achieved on a BBQ and some juicy meat within; the wings are so fatty that they can be cooked for ages without ever drying out inside. The sauce is a mixture of smoky spiced chipotles in adobo (that’s smoked jalapeño chillies in a sweet sauce) which I was kindly sent by the Cool Chilli Co. but have also made at home with much success. They’re incredible and will add smoky intensity to many dishes. I used quite a lot in this recipe which gave the wings a good kick of heat. Balanced with plenty of honey they were super sticky too, cut with the tropical astringency of lime juice.

They’re so good I just made another batch yesterday and I’m making a third next week for a mate’s birthday. The buzzing heat of the chipotles builds with every wing, yet is numbed by the sweet honey, making for an addictive cycle which makes you go back for another and another and another. Have plenty of kitchen roll handy.

Smoked Chicken Wings with Honey & Chipotle

Makes enough for 15-20 wings (depends on their size really)

For the rub

1 heaped teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon chilli powder
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning

For the sauce

3 heaped tablespoons canned chipotles in adobo (the ones I had were from Cool Chilli Co. and were chopped up in the sauce, in contrast to the ones I’ve made at home/bought before)
1 tablespoon chipotle ketchup (optional)
50g melted butter
Juice 2 limes
5 tablespoons honey

You will also need a handful of hickory wood chips, for smoking.

Start this the day before you want to eat. Mix all the ingredients for the rub together. Pat the wings dry then cover them with the rub, making sure to massage it in to each wing. Spread the wings out on a rack (I used a cake cooling rack) and suspend this over a baking dish or other large flat dish, so that the dish can catch any drips and the air can circulate around the wings. Refrigerate the wings but don’t cling film them, as they need exposure to air.

The next day, make the sauce. Melt the butter then add it to a blender with all the other ingredients and whizz until well combined.

Fire up your BBQ and set up the coals for indirect cooking (by which I mean wait for them to turn white then move them across to one side of the BBQ). Place the wings skin side down on the side of the grill that is NOT over the coals, throw your soaked chips into the coals, then put the lid on and cook for 20 minutes. After this time, turn the wings and cook for another 20 minutes or so (with the lid on).

After this time, douse each wing in sauce then return to the grill, this time OVER the coals; this is to get some char on each wing and caramelise that sauce. This takes about 15-20 minutes.

Once the wings are good and caramelised, you may want to douse them in any remaining sauce.

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  • Avatar
    Reply Paul March 19, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    Serious Eats is a bloody good website, I probably look at their burger site 3 or 4 times a week just to drool over the pics.

    These look frikkin amazing!

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen March 19, 2012 at 1:45 pm

      Cheers Paul! Yeah, me too – loving their work!

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    Reply Luke Robinson March 19, 2012 at 3:41 pm

    Will have to give these a try.

    My solution for crispiness has always been to make up a spiced flour mix and lightly bread the wings before putting them on direct heat for a shorter amount of time (say 15-20 minutes) which crisps them up nicely. Hot sauce (Franks’s Extra Hot Sauce heated up + butter) goes on post-cook and tossed before serving. Always gets rave reviews. And heart palpitations.

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      Reply Helen March 19, 2012 at 3:42 pm

      Ah the traditional Frank’s n butter. I’ve overdone it on that recently, don’t think I can eat em for a while! Yeah I know, how is that ever possible?! I’ve eaten a lorra wings man.

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    Reply ileana March 19, 2012 at 3:43 pm

    This looks and sounds delicious. Thanks for the tip to make crispy wings!

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen March 19, 2012 at 3:44 pm

      Cheers! Tippy tip tippage

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    Reply Niamh March 19, 2012 at 4:32 pm

    Good looking wings and top tip from Serious Eats – will try it!

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen March 19, 2012 at 4:33 pm

      Good old Serious Eats, eh?!

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    Reply Lizzie March 19, 2012 at 5:53 pm

    Mmm. I spent so many minutes drooling over that Serious Eats article; some incredible research going on there. These look GAWJ!

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen March 19, 2012 at 6:05 pm

      Phew! Glad you think so because you’ll be eating them next week!

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    Reply Ben March 19, 2012 at 6:41 pm

    A beautiful day at the end of winter always means the start of grilling season. Those wings look delicious!

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen March 19, 2012 at 6:57 pm

      Absolutely! AND, it’s summer next week!

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    Reply John March 19, 2012 at 8:08 pm

    Baking powder in the rub- Crack Chicken!


    • Avatar
      Reply Helen March 19, 2012 at 8:09 pm

      CRACK CHICKEN! Ahem.

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    Reply Shu Han March 19, 2012 at 9:44 pm

    haha “and it’s summer next week!” will keep that in mind.
    the chicken looks freaking good, need to give seriouseats more attention from now on!

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen March 20, 2012 at 6:14 am

      Ha! It is! ‘British Summer time begins’ – no excuses!!

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    Reply Patrick March 20, 2012 at 9:58 am

    These looks amazing Helen.

    Do you think there is any way these could be done without a kettle BBQ? My stupid BBQ has a flat lid rather than domed. Would some sort of tin foil covering work at all?

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen March 20, 2012 at 9:59 am

      Hi patrick, yep! I reckon get some of that strong foil and make a good domed lid with it. Just be careful of your fingers on the BBQ! Sorry to sound like your mum…

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    Reply Emma March 20, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    What an intriguing method – I wonder exactly what the baking powder does? I’m utterly obsessed with getting the perfect chicken wings, and crisp skin is a must for me too, so shall definitely be giving this a go – might wait a little longer for a bit more heat with the sunshine though before barbecuing! 🙂

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen March 20, 2012 at 1:12 pm

      Hi Emma, if you have a look at that Serious Eats post I linked to it gives you a bit more of an idea what the baking powder does. It’s a nifty trick fo’ sure. Totally understand that not everyone is as dedicated to the BBQ cause!

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    Reply Robert March 20, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    Mmm… I wonder if you have a stall at Brockley etc? You’ll give mike and ollie a run for their money with your wings…

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen March 20, 2012 at 1:30 pm

      Brockley Market is full, Robert 😉

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    Reply s March 20, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    love how you use so many spices, Helen- and everything looks so delicious and ready to gobble up in a large gather. real food, for real people. and what about that choccie mousse w/ honeycomb? please blog it! gorgeous post, as always. x s

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    Reply review March 21, 2012 at 8:43 am

    i can smell it from here!

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen March 21, 2012 at 9:12 am

      Ah, good to know the smellivision for WordPress is working.

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    Reply Favourite Table March 23, 2012 at 5:28 am

    WOW…Smoked Chicken Wings with Honey and Chipotle… it was just away some i liked it very much

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    Reply Dan March 24, 2012 at 7:46 pm

    Made this tonight and it was superb, girlfriend says its the best thing yet off the barbecue. Really really good. Will need to find another source of cipotle now as I am now down to half a tin and I need to make this again.

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen March 25, 2012 at 10:32 am

      Awesome! Really pleased you (and your girlfriend) enjoyed it.

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    Reply Sally - My Custard Pie April 7, 2012 at 9:52 am

    I made these last night – FANTASTIC and slightly addictive. Couldn’t find anything remotely chipotle-like here so used a hot sauce instead…probably not as smokey as yours but damn good.

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen April 7, 2012 at 6:03 pm

      Wicked! Nice improv, too. Really pleased you enjoyed them.

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