Tangy Grilled Hot Wings
if you can grill a hot dog, you can grill wings
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Wouldn’t it be funny if I published a recipe for hot wings just to include another way to enjoy celery? People who hate celery would be so upset, and I have found out there are many of you out there. That’s not why I did it, although tough to beat bites of spicy hot wings in between bites of crisp, refreshing celery, one of the best vegetables out there. You should try it.
Anyway, I don’t want to make this GRILLED WING recipe about why you shouldn’t fry wings (never fried a wing that was better than a dive bar and that’s a problem) or why doing them in the oven is fine (they never quite get crisp enough without drying out?), and more focus on the positive, which is: grilling your wings is really the best way to experience wings.
Sure, grilling meat can require a bit more finessing and sometimes, it’s simply not better than doing it in a cast iron skillet on the stovetop (see smashburger, steak, most meat IMO), which is annoying, because summer is allegedly the time to grill “everything.” But wings are an exception to this summer tragedy, truly singing on the grill. Fatty bits slowly rendering, skin getting crisped, meat staying juicy and tender, hot sauce kissing the bits of char, it’s all just so wonderful.
They also happen to be super hands-off and extremely hard to ruin, which can not be said for all meats, making them my best and most favorite trick to employ at large gatherings (I have done this for 30–50 people at multiple soirees, and everyone will want to make out with you if you make these wings).
Again, I am not reinventing the wheel here (just showing you the wheel), but I have made some bad wings before and I will say what I’ve learned in my trials and errors is: Don’t forget the butter in the buffalo sauce. It’s there to make things more palatteable by cutting the heat a bit and also…just don’t leave the butter out, okay?
Resist the urge to over sauce the wings, the sauce just ends up at the bottom of the bowl. You want them evenly coated but not dripping— serving additional sauce on side (SOS) for dipping is good.
Don’t bother with trying to make a better hot wing than seasoning your chicken simply with salt and pepper and tossing them in a sauce made of primarily Frank’s RedHot and butter. It doesn’t exist, this isn’t the time or place, it will never hit the same, your creativity will not be rewarded, you will only be left wishing you had a wing that tasted like a buffalo wing. If you try to pre-season the wings with paprika or crushed red pepper flakes or doctor the sauce with a dash of something you’ll make them and say “they’re good” out loud to keep a stiff upper lip but deep down know that they aren’t as good as if you had simply kept to a salt and pepper wing with a hot sauce and butter coating. You will fall asleep wondering why you couldn’t just do the thing you know is the best version of something and wish you could do it all over again, a missed opportunity to satisfy a very specific craving. “Why am I like this,” you’ll ask yourself as you lie awake at 4:15 am, wondering if your friends also knew the wings weren’t as good. You know they did, and you feel embarrassed. You think about an invoice you forgot to pay and also try to remember the name of your favorite camp counselor from 5th grade day camp, the one you thought had a crush on you because they paid attention to you, except they were 18 paid attention to everyone because it was their job. You feel embarrassed all over again. You google the nearest “Buffalo Wild Wings” or “Best Hot Wings in [insert where you are].” You find a Buffalo Wild Wings and make a plan to stop by at some point in the next few days.
Tangy Grilled Hot Wings
When grilling your wings, the goal isn’t hot and fast, it’s more low and slow, to give the chance the skin on the wings (famously flabby if not done well) the opportunity to render and crisp up. The wings, are, of course, the best part of a roasted chicken, and doing them on the grill this way actually recreates that energy a bit (lower flame, lid on rather than high flame, open air).
The sauce itself, I’m sorry– or, depending on how you look at it, pleased– to report is unabashedly classic. Hot sauce, butter, salt, pepper. Yes, I’ve added white distilled vinegar for additional tang, but that’s hardly a revelation. Regarding hot sauces, Frank’s RedHot is the best to ever do it, but I do enjoy employing an alternative hot sauce for additional flavor and more or less heat, depending on the brand you go for. I’m Valentina all the way, and recently discovering their extra-hot variety has changed me as a person for the best. Be sure to thin out the sauce with that white distilled vinegar for tang and proper wing-coating consistency (use water if you want to skip the extra tang).
2 pounds wings, a mix of the wingette and drumette, also known as PARTY WINGS
Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper
1 cup Frank’s RedHot hot sauce
¼ cup Valentina or other hot sauce of your choosing
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons white distilled vinegar
1–2 tablespoons canola, vegetable or grapeseed oil
Celery sticks, for fun
1. Make the buffalo sauce: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the Frank’s, Valentina, and butter, season with salt and pepper, and cook until the butter is melted and the sauce is well-combined. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding a little white distilled vinegar if you like them extra tangy (use water if you prefer them less tangy)
2. To grill the wings: If using a gas grill, turn it on medium heat or if you’re using charcoal, build a medium hot grill. Place the top on either way and let the grill get as hot as it can be.
3. Season wings in a large bowl with salt and pepper and toss with 1–2 tablespoons oil. Place them skin side-down directly on the grates, close the top and grill until they easily release from the grates and are nicely golden brown with a few spots of char, 8–10 minutes. Flip them, and continue cooking until they are equally golden brown on the other side with a nice crispy skin and completely cooked through, another 8–10 minutes.
While you wait for them to grill, wash out the bowl so you can toss them in the sauce once they’re ready.
To do the wings in the oven:
Preheat oven to 450°. Season wings with salt and pepper on a rimmed baking sheet (I never line with anything, but you can if you like) and toss with 2 tablespoons of oil. Roast until wings are golden brown and starting to sizzle
4. Transfer the wings to that large bowl you washed out (or a large bowl if you roasted), and toss them with about half of the buffalo sauce, until they are dressed and glazed but not too saucy.
5. Serve wings with more sauce (and wedge dressing) on the side for dipping, and celery sticks for fun.