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Grilled chicken wings

September 14, 2011 by Daniora

In honor of the first weekend of the regular football season, we’re going to talk about one of the quintessential football snacks: chicken wings.

Grilled chicken wings

Cooking chicken wings without using a deep fryer is a time consuming and intensive process.  There’s a lot you have to do to make sure that the skin winds up crispy. Until recently, I followed Alton Brown’s method of first steaming the wings and chilling them uncovered in the refrigerator before roasting them in the oven. It’s a process that takes hours and hours, but ultimately you wind up with good results.

This summer, I decided that we should try grilling the wings. Our local market, Butcher Boy, has marinated wings for sale, as well as big bags of plain wings. I picked up a package of teriyaki marinated wings for our first experiment. Those first results were a little hit and miss.

The biggest problem we encountered was that there were a lot of flare ups on the grill from the chicken skin, and we didn’t have a spray bottle of water handy.  A rookie mistake, I know, but most of our other grilling hasn’t really required this sort of preparation. The second problem was that the wings stuck to the grill, especially with the marinade on it.  The flavor of the finished wings was good, but the teriyaki flavor really got lost.

Grill Flare Up

A spray bottle is a necessity to keep flare ups under control.

Our second attempt yielded much better results. We started with plain wings, got some Pam for grilling and liberally sprayed down the grill before cooking, and coated the wings in sauce after cooking. Something about the char from the chicken mixing with the sauces really added a new level of flavor to the wings. I made two types of sauces, Alton Brown’s orange glazed wings and a basic buffalo (see below). Both were outstanding on the crispy skin (even though the char did turn the buffalo sauce a sort of muddy brown color).

Grilling wings is still a fair amount of work.  It takes constant vigilance to combat flare ups and make sure that all the little wings get crispy and don’t stick to the grill.  It is, however, much faster than the steam-and-roast method and has much better results. Depending on the size of your grill, it can be a great way to cook up food for a large crowd.

Basic Buffalo Sauce

I’m not a huge fan of  very spicy buffalo wings. I avoid anything with the words “volcano” or “atomic”. I like them to have a bit of heat, but still retain a depth of flavor. You can substitute any hot sauce of your choice and increase the amount to your desired heat level.

  • 3 ounces unsalted butter
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup hot sauce (I prefer Frank’s)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt


  1.  Melt the butter in a small bowl along with the garlic.
  2. Pour melted butter and garlic, along with hot sauce and salt, into a bowl large enough to hold all of the chicken and stir to combine.
  3. Remove the wings from the grill and toss with the sauce. Serve warm with a side of blue cheese dressing if desired.


As the season progresses, stay tuned for lots more football snacks and party ideas.

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