Thursday, February 12, 2015

Fried Smoked Chicken Wings

As good as smoked or fire roasted wings taste, it is hard to beat the crispy bite of a fried chicken wing.

Hot Chicken wings recipe made at home are ideal for tailgates and gameday menus

Grill masters have a few tricks to get their fire roasted wings to have crispy skin.  Some will mix in a little corn starch to the wing seasoning.  Air drying the wings in a refrigerator for an hour helps dry the outer surface of the wings before putting them on the grill.  But these methods only come close to the texture of a crispy fried wing.  

To get the best of both worlds, you can smoke AND fry your wings. This time I used Harry Soo's method.  Harry Soo is the Pitmaster of Slap Yo Daddy BBQ (click for recipe) and he has some of the more advanced ideas and techniques for chicken so I followed his lead.  His wing times have them in the smoker for less time and in the fryer for longer than my normal technique but both ways work.

Wing Prep
First I took 4 pounds of wings and cut them into wingettes, drummettes, and the chunk-its (wing tips).

I call them "chunk-its" but the wing tips are actually great to freeze and use later to make chicken stock.
I did not do the buttermilk soak like Harry did because I was short on time but I will definitely try it next time because buttermilk chicken is the bomb.  I seasoned the wings with garlic pepper seasoning on both sides.

Kamado Grill Set Up
Harry smokes his for 15 minutes at 275°F.  I set up a large Big Green Egg for a raised direct cook at 275°F.  You could just use an indirect set up with a plate setter/heat diffuser instead - at this temp it doesn't make much difference. 

I used hickory chunks for my smoke flavor.  Hickory can be over-powering for poultry but at this brief of a "dose" it is fine. 

Phase 1 - Smoking The Wings
I cooked the wings raised direct, with the dome lid closed of course, for 15 minutes.  I flipped them half way through but I don't think that was really necessary at this low of a temp. 

This phase is all about putting a little smoke flavor on the wings and you are not cooking the wings through to a food safe internal temperature.  It is important to keep this in mind for a few food safety reasons.
  • If you are doing large batches, you will need to ensure the "smoked" chicken doesn't sit around for long at room temperature because all of the possible food borne pathogens probably weren't killed yet.  It's best to go straight from the smoker to the fryer.  If not, hold the wings at or above 140°F until you fry them.
  • Any surfaces that the "smoked" wings and their juices touch should be considered contaminated and quickly cleaned and sanitized.
Phase 2 - Frying The Wings
Have your fryer preheated to 350-375°F.  Harry goes with 350°F for 4-5 minutes but next time I'd go back to 375° for 3-4 minutes. Either way, don't over crowd the fryer and give it time to recover it's heat between batches. 

As each batch came off, I seasoned them with Meat Church's Honey Hog Hot Barbecue Rub just enough to get a light coat on both sides.  It is important to do it just as soon as they come out because the heat and surface oils will bind that rub onto the wing, really getting that flavor on them.

Unless you have a commercial deep fryer, you will probably be doing this in batches (Batches? We don't need no stinkin' batches!).  Keep the cooked wings in a warming drawer or 200°F oven or kamado grill.  When they are all done, then I tossed them in a simple buffalo sauce of 1/2 cup butter, 1/2 cup Frank's Red Hot Sauce, 3/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, and a few pinches of BBQ rub.

You can do this with just about any flavor profile you like,  just switch out the rubs and finishing sauce.  For example, you can use a fajita style rub and garlic cotija wing sauce for a Southwestern flavor.  Or go with a sriracha finishing sauce for more heat and an Asian spin.  

Phase 3 - favorite phase
I like to serve this with the obligatory celery sticks, ranch dressing, and extra buffalo sauce on the side.  Oh yeah, and a frosty cold one!

Smoke/Fry In Advance
With a few changes, you can use the smoke/fry technique to make a prep ahead snack.  To do that, you need to smoke the wings until they reach an internal temperature of 175°F so they are food safe.  If you are going to use them in the next few hours, hold them at a temp of 140°F or above.  If you are using them much later, chill them down to under 40°F.  Then when you are ready to finish them, flash fry them at 375° for 2-3 minutes until crispy and golden on the outside.

So is the twice cooked method a bit of a pain in the arse?  Yeah, that's why we normally just fire roast our wings.  But are these good enough to make the trouble worth it?  Absolutely. 

[Standard FTC Disclosure]  I received no compensation for this post from any of the brands mentioned other than I did receive a free sample of rubs from Meat Church.