Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Knoxville Style Dry Rubbed Wings

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What food is your city or town known for?

  • Memphis has Memphis style dry ribs (dry-rubbed, not dry meat)
  • St Louis has pork steaks
  • New Orleans has beignets
If Knoxville has a food style like this, I think it might be the naked or dry-rubbed wing. When I think of wings in town, the first ones that come to mind are Big Kahuna Wings. They have been doing dry-rubbed wings since the early 90s. There is also Dead End BBQ with their Naked Wings, KTown Tavern's Jumbo Ole Smokey Naked Wings, and Sweet P's Downtown Dive's has wings tossed in Soul Rub. These all have a few things in common.
  • Jumbo-sized wings
  • Heavily seasoned, almost coated, with a bold dry rub
  • Smoky flavor (Note: BKW's aren't smoked at the restaurant, but the Fire has a smokiness to it)
  • Extra crispy skin
Here's my version of the Knoxville-style Dry Rubbed Wings. 

Knoxville Style Dry Rubbed Wings on the Big Green Egg
I served these with a potato salad that I'm working on for this weekend's brisket. The base is a fire-roasted jalapeno and garlic mayo.

Jumbo Ole Smokey Naked Wings from KTown Tavern.

Grill Setup

This is an indirect cook, meaning you don't cook directly over the heat source. I used a Big Green Egg but whatever you use, give your grill a good cleaning. That's just standard procedure.
  • For kamado grills like the Big Green Egg, that means using a heat deflector of some type.
  • For a kettle grill like a Weber, you'll bank the coals to one side and cook over the void or make a fuse/snake burn and cook them in the middle. BTW, did you see the Oklahoma Joe's Blackjack kettle grill that came out this week? Tres cool. 
  • You probably don't have to do anything for a pellet grill unless you have a smoke/sear flexible setup. In that case, set it up for smoking. 
  • I'd recommend using a heat deflector for a drum smoker if so equipped, like the Oklahoma Joe's Bronco.
  • For a gas grill, run out to your grill store and buy a charcoal grill. Okay, sort of kidding. Preheat the grill and then shut off all but one of the burners. You will grill over the burners that aren't on.
I like the Kick Ash Can because it makes it so easy to maintain clear airflow for my kamado grills.
I swept out the fire bowl with a whisk broom and dumped my Kick Ash Can to ensure the airflow was free and clear.

Shake that ash with a Kick Ash Basket
I had a good bit of lump charcoal leftover, so I shook that ash and dumped that used coal into a steam pan. I filled up the Kick Ash Basket with fresh lump charcoal (used Frontier this time) and then topped that off with the used coal. 

My indirect setup was a Raiser Rig (Innovations by Chance), a heat stone (Ceramic Grill Store), and a Craycort cast iron grate. There wasn't a significant strategic advantage for this choice. A stock grate and ConvEGGtor would work equally well.

The Prep

You need a jumbo wing for this, which I would say is 3.5 ounces or more. We were cooking our wings whole, so there wasn't a lot of prep to do.
  • Trim off any feather quills or excess skin.
  • Pat dry or place uncovered in the fridge for 20 minutes. Moisture is the enemy of even browning.
  • Spritz with high-temperature cooking oil like peanut oil or avocado oil.
  • Season heavily with a boldly flavored dry rub. 
My preferred wing when I can get them is Springer Mountain, but the nationwide wing shortage has made it a "beggars can't be choosers" situation. These were just what Sam's Wholesale Club had on hand, but they were hefty.

Ktown Krack chicken wings in Knoxville
Since we are on a Knoxville theme, I went with K-Town Krack, which my older son bought for me at Christmas. BKW Fire is another good one to use for Knoxville wings.

The Cook

The cook is pretty straightforward. 
  • Smoke the wings at 250-275f until they hit an internal temperature of 165°f. 
  • Butter them up. When the exterior of the wings starts to dry up (internal temp of about 160-165°f), I sprinkle more dry rub and then spritz them with a light amount of spray "butter".
  • Turn up the grill heat to 350°f and let them go until they hit an internal temperature of 175-180°f.

Smoking wings on the Big Green Egg kamado grill
About 5 minutes before cooking, I placed a MojoBricks Hickory MiniQube near where the coals were burning for my smoking wood.

Crispy smoked wings on the grill
Starting to get that color. Notice the wings are still glistening from the fat rendering. When you see that start to dry up (about 160-165f internal), that's when I like to hit them with a spritz of spray butter. I use I Can't Believe It's Not Butter.

BBQ Guru Ultra Q driving the Big Green Egg
After spritzing, let the cooking temperature start rising. For a kamado, just open the bottom vent up a bit more. I was using a controller, so I just turned up the temp to 350°f and let it ride.

I was using the BBQ Guru UltraQ. I've been testing it out for a few weeks and like what I have experienced. Here I'm using a Thermoworks ThermaQ (affiliate link) to test the calibration. 

Crispy Knoxville style dry rubbed wings
I pull the wings off once they pass an internal temperature of 175°f.  Don't just check one wing; some will cook faster than others.

The Results

The Knoxville-style wing is crispy, juicy, smoky, and flavorlicious. Sauce? Get that weak stuff outta here! Well, I'll allow it on the side :) 

Crispylicious Knoxville style dry rubbed wings on the big green egg

Enjoy, and I hope that you all have a wonderful 4th of July weekend coming up!