By Chef Adam Cole of Maple Block Meat Co.
The inspiration for this dish came from wanting to create really delicious wings that are moist, flavorful and juicy (because of the brine and low cooking temperature, whether smoking or baking) and crispy (because of the grill) and don’t make you wish they had been deep-fried. This same set of steps and techniques can also be applied to drumsticks, legs and breasts of chicken.
1 tablespoon black peppercorns, whole
1 tablespoon mustard seed (yellow), whole
1 tablespoon coriander, whole
½ gallon water
1 cup Kosher salt
¾ cup sugar, light brown
1 teaspoon red chile flake
1 oz. fresh ginger, sliced 1/8-inch thick
2 lemons, juiced, strained (put rinds aside)
10 sprigs fresh thyme, bruise lightly with back of knife.
Ice, enough to cool hot brine completely
In stock pot over medium heat- toast peppercorns, mustard and coriander seeds.
Add water, salt, sugar, red chile flake, and ginger.
Turn heat up to high and bring brine to a full boil, stirring occasionally to completely dissolve salt and sugar.
Once brine has come up to a full boil, remove from heat and add lemon juice, lemon rinds, and thyme.
Steep for 15 minutes.
After 15 minutes, add ice and stir to dissolve and cool brine completely. Total yield should be 1 gallon (a few pieces of ice still floating on top is ok).
Store in refrigerator.
5 pounds of chicken wings
1 gallon of brine
Make your brine at least one full day before the event.
Once the brine is made and completely cool, pour over your wings. They should be completely submerged.
Brine wings overnight in the refrigerator (for 12-16 hours).
Pull the wings out of the brine and place in an even layer on a baking rack (or multiple racks, depending on how many wings you are making). Make sure the wings aren’t touching- you want to have a little space in between each one so they cook evenly. The rack(s) will allow you to easily cook a lot of wings at once.
Smoke your wings at 225ºF for about 1-1.5 hours. (Small wings should be done in about 1 hour, large wings will take a little longer.) Check one after 1 hour for doneness- they should fully cooked, but not dry. If you don’t have a smoker, you can bake the wings in the oven at the same temperature, for the same amount of time and achieve a similar texture and doneness (without the smoke flavor, of course).
Remove finished wings from smoker (or oven). Finish on the grill right away (see below) or cool completely and refrigerate until the tailgate. These fully cooked wings will be fine to keep refrigerated for 3-4 days before your event, if needed.
Light your pile of charcoal, stacked high and tight (lump is preferable but briquettes will do). Make sure you start with enough that once they are completely ignited (red and white, no longer black) you can spread them out into an even layer a couple inches thick over the entire bottom of the grill.
Place the grill grate on top of the coals and get it hot. Rub with a dry towel dipped in a little vegetable oil to help prevent sticking.
Throw in some soaked wood chips or chunks (especially if you baked the wings to begin with and still want to impart a smoky flavor).
Place your wings on the hot grill and flip a few times as needed to heat all the way through. Since you have already smoked (or baked) them to fully cooked, you really just want to get them hot and crisp up the skin to golden brown. This is a fool proof way to make great grilled wings and be able to enjoy your company and beverages without having to spend too much time contemplating whether or not you’ve cooked them all the way through.
Serve wings with your favorite hot sauce (and beer).