Smoking crispy chicken wings in an electric smoker can be a challenge, but if you know a few tips and tricks, you can nail smoked wings every time. I wanted to find out how to smoke the perfect wings, so I asked some of the world’s best pitmasters.
The Challenge With Electric Smokers
The problem with electric smokers is 275° F is usually the highest they will go. Anything under 300°F is usually too low if you want crispy chicken skin. However, there are ways you can smoke delicious wings in your electric smoker, and still get a crispy skin.
- Chicken wings
- Dry rub
- Barbecue sauce
Dry your chicken wings with a paper towel. Remove as much moisture as possible.
Cover the wings with a barbecue rub.
Place some wood chips in the wood tray, using apple, cherry, a little of hickory.
If you have removable racks in your electric smoker, take them out and place the chicken wings onto the racks.
Turn on your electric smoker to the highest setting (275°F to 325°F).
Place your wings into the electric smoker and cook for about 1 hour, or until they reach an internal temperature of 165° F.
Apply a barbecue sauce with a basting brush, and then place back in the oven for 10 minutes so the glaze can set. Ideally, you want to remove the wings once they reach an internal temperature of 165° F.
Optional. If your electric smoker won't go over 275°F, finish the wings in the oven to crisp the skin. Preheat your oven to 350° F. Remove the wings from the electric smoker and transfer them into the oven. Cook in the oven for about 25 minutes, then remove and check with an instant-read thermometer.
Serving Size:6 wings
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 313
Soft Rubbery Skin
There’s no point cooking chicken wings if the skin is going to turn out soft and rubbery. However, there’s There’s a few things you can do to avoid this happening.
- Don’t wet brine your wings. This will make the skin soft.
- Make sure you dry the wings with a paper towel and remove as much moisture as possible.
- Remove any water pans from the smoker, because this will soften the skin.
- Keep the temperature above 300°F.
- Finish your wings in the oven or the grill to crisp the skin.
The Best Temperature For Smoking Chicken Wings
In order to get a nice crispy chicken skin, smoke the wings in the 300° F range. However, most electric smokers will only go up to about 275° F. If that’s the case, finish the wings in the oven or on the grill.
Pre Brine The Wings
Brining is a great way to add some extra flavor and moisture to the chicken wings. The only problem with a brine is it will make the skin soft. However, as long as you dry the chicken the skin should still be able to become crisp. Salt will help the chicken wings retain moisture during the cook, which is why brines are so beneficial. There are a two ways you can brine chicken. You can use a wet brine or a dry brine.
To make a wet brine, here is a basic recipe. There are many variations, and you can add different herbs and spices. This is the most basic recipe which will be suitable.
- 1 cup of sugar
- 1 cup of salt
- 1 gallon of water
Dissolve the sugar and salt on the stove in a small amount of water, and then place in a container with a lid. Pour in the remaining water and the chicken wings. Let the wings soak overnight or for at least 6 hours. Remove the wings from the brine and give them a rinse and place them onto an airing rack. Place the wings back into the fridge to dry out the skin. Remove them from the refrigerator, and pat them dry with a paper towel.
The Dry Brine Method
Another way to brine the chicken wings is by rubbing kosher salt into the chicken the day before smoking. Use Morton’s kosher salt or similar and give the wings decent covering. Then allow the salt time to penetrate the meat, and it will help add flavor and retain moisture.
Warning: If you are using a brine method, be careful not to over salt your wings. Do not put salt in your rub mixture and be careful what sauce you use for the glaze.
Best Rub For Wings
If you’re after a chicken rub recipe, check out this article. The Best Dry Rub Recipe For Chicken. If you prefer to keep things simple, use a simple salt and pepper seasoning with a little paprika. For the best pre-made rubs, check out Slap You Daddy Chicken Rub by Harry Soo.
Lose The Water Pan
Don’t use a water pan in your electric smoker when wings. The water will suck too much heat out of the smoker and take the temperature even lower. Water pans are normally recommended, because they will add some moisture to the cooking environment—which is usually a good thing. But with chicken, the moisture will soften the skin, and it will suck some of that temperature from the smoker.
As mentioned before, wings need to be cooked above 300°F to get crispy skin, and electric smokers usually only go as high as 275°F. A water pan is only going to lower the temperature even more. For wings, you want to run your electric smoker as hot as possible.
If You Can’t Go Hot Enough, Finish The Wings In The Oven
As mentioned above, electric smokers usually cannot go above 275° F in most cases. So the solution to this problem is to finish the chicken in the oven. To do this, smoke your wings in the electric smoker as normal, and use the highest setting. Then, in the final 30 minutes, place the wings into the oven set to 350° F. This should be enough time to make the skin crispy.
Finish on the Grill
The other option is to finish the wings on the grill. Smoke the wings as normal in your electric smoker, then fire up the grill, and cook the wings over a high heat for 5 or 10 minutes.
The Glaze – For Next-Level Wings
It’s always good to finish chicken wings with some kind of glaze—like a barbecue sauce. Apply the barbecue sauce in the last 10 minutes of the cook. The glaze needs just enough time to set, but not too long, otherwise it will burn. Use a basting brush and brush a thick layer of sauce on the wings. If you baste the wings with sauce too early, the sugar in the sauce will burn and turn your wings black.
What To Use For The Glaze?
Use your favorite barbecue sauce such as Sweet Baby Rays. You can also experiment with Asian sauces, but be just be careful not to over-salt the wings. Some sauces contain lots of sodium, so be careful when choosing a sauce, a rub and deciding whether to brine. All this salt will accumulate and ruin the wings.
Smoking Tubes – A Game-Changer
Discovering a smoking tube was a real game changer for me—and my electric smoker. As you would know, electric smokers don’t produce as much smoke as charcoal, offset, or pellet smokers. Smoking tubes will double your smoke output with your electric smoker. You can buy them on Amazon or at your hardware store in the barbecue section.
Tubes are basically cylinders with holes, and you fill these tubes with wood pellets and ignite one end. You don’t want the wood pellets to burn; you want them to smolder, producing a consistent smoke.
Then, all you need to do is place the smoking tube at the bottom of your electric smoker—and you’ll produce twice as much smoke as you normally would. There are dozens of smoking tubes on the market. Check them out on Amazon here.
Step by step, How To Smoke Chicken Wings In An Electric Smoker
- Dry your chicken wings with a paper towel. Remove as much moisture as possible.
- Apply a decent layer of your favorite barbecue rub into the wings. If you want a great recipe, check out this link for a homemade rub recipe. If you want to find out all the best rubs on the market, check out this post.
- Switch on your electric smoker, and turn it up to the highest setting.
- Place some wood chips in the wood tray, using apple, cherry, a little of hickory.
- If you have removable racks in your electric smoker, take them out and place the chicken wings onto the racks. Otherwise, use an earring rack or similar so you can easily add or remove the wings from your smoker without leaving the door open too long.
- Place your wings into the electric smoker and cook for about 1 hour.
- Apply a barbecue sauce with a basting brush, and then place back in the oven for 10 minutes so the glaze can set.
- Ideally, you want to remove the wings once they reach an internal temperature of 165° F.
My Favorite Meat Smoking Tools
Thanks for checking out this article. I hope you learned a few things. Here are some of my favorite tools I use when smoking brisket that may be useful to you. These are affiliate links, so if you decide to purchase any of these products, I’ll earn a commission. But in all honesty, these are the tools I recommend to my family and friends who are just starting out.
Meat Thermometer: There are dozens of fancy thermometers on the market, but I still use my trusty TP20. For around $50, I have a high-quality meat thermometer with two probes, and can track the temperature of my smoker with one probe, and my meat with the other probe. The ThermoPro TP20 is an Amazon Best Seller because it’s the easiest thermometer to operate, is durable, highly accurate, and comes with pre-programmed meat settings.
Instant Read Thermometer: Arguably, the second most important tool you need is a fast and accurate instant-read thermometer. These tools play an important role in the latter stages of the cook when the meat needs regular checking in multiple areas. I use the ThermoPro TP19 because it can do everything a ThermaPen can do, but for a fraction of the cost. You can check out the TP19 on Amazon here.
Wireless Thermometer: The latest thermometers on the market have no wires and can be controlled by wi-fi via your phone. Airprobe 3 is the best of this technology.
Butcher Paper: Wrapping brisket in butcher paper has become a huge trend in barbeque thanks to Aaron Franklin. Wrapping your brisket in paper will give you a nice brisket bark. However, you can’t just use any old paper, it has to be unwaxed, food grade paper. You can find it on Amazon here.
Advanced Thermometer and Automatic Temperature Controller: Once you’re ready to take things seriously, the FireBoard 2 Drive is a six-channel Bluetooth/Wi-Fi thermometer that can monitor up to 6 pieces of meat, control and graph your cook sessions on your smartphone, and attaches to an an automatic blower that will convert your charcoal smoker to a set-and-forget. This is one of the most advanced meat thermometers on the market. You can check it out on the FireBoard website here.