Chicken Wings Dry Rub – Delicious Recipe For The Grill
Flavoring Your Chicken Wings
Few foods have more opinions written about them than chicken wings. That makes sense, considering they're a comforting source of protein that can be flavored to your liking and then repurposed for later meals. Not only that, but great chicken wings are pretty easy to make - but they're just as easy to make boring, too, if you're not careful. Our personal philosophy when it comes to cooking food is that there's isn't a single best way to do anything. The "right" method is whatever will taste the best and feel good in your belly. That said, much of your chicken wings' success relies on the seasoning you apply. You can brine your meat, marinate it, season it, or apply a dry rub depending on your preference. No matter what you pick, you need to season your wings aggressively. White chicken meat in particular tastes pretty bland without any added flavor, and you can't stop at just seasoning the surface. So make sure to have a foolproof recipe for chicken wings dry rub at your disposal!
The basic process of marinating wings involves soaking the meat in heavily salted water overnight. During this time, the meat soaks up that water and its concentration of salt. Most brines are about 5 to 8 percent salt to water by weight.
More importantly, the water that the chicken absorbs doesn't dry out even after cooking it. Brining is a great way to reduce moisture loss by up to 40 percent.
What's the science behind it? Look at the structure of the chicken muscles. Chicken's muscles are long, bundled fibers that are wrapped in protein sleeves. As the chicken cooks, these sleeves start to squeeze as the proteins contract. Naturally, this forces much of the bird's juices to escape from the meat. By the time the meat reaches the safe 160-degree temperature, you're left with dry meat.
By adding salt into the muscles, the proteins start to dissolve overnight. This allows the fibers to loosen up, which means they won't squeeze as much water out of the chicken as it cooks. The result is a much juicier bite.
Typically, a mixture of oil, seasonings, and an acid, marinades allow the chicken to come up juicier, tasty, and tender.
The use of oil gives the meat the ability to retain more of its moisture when cooked, much in the same way the brine does. The use of acids, whether that's vinegar or fruit juice, further break down other proteins, which allows the meat to come out more tender. The use of seasonings, of course, provide the flavor to the mix.
When you decide to make your own marinade instead of buying something at the store, you get to decide all the ingredients you put into it. You can leave out all the additives, colorings, and preservatives while keeping the sugar and sodium in check.
We recommend using olive oil instead of other oils that are commonly found in commercial marinades.
Even if you're not big on marinating meat, it's important to preseason your chicken.
Make sure to give yourself at least several hours before cooking time to preseason your meat. We like to aim for one to three days in advance, which gives the salt more than enough time to reach the center of your meat.
Because you're seasoning the chicken before you cook it, you obviously can't rely on taste to see how your seasoning blend is going. The more you experiment with your blend, however, the better you'll learn how to eyeball the amount of salt you need.
Some foods need little more than just some salt and pepper, like a well-cut steak.
On the other hand, pork ribs and other similar kinds of meat are just begging to sit in sauces. Others still lack flavor on their own, making them something of a blank canvas waiting to be painted with liquids, spices, and herbs.
That leads us to our favorite way to season cajun chicken wings and the like. Spice blends, also known as dry and wet rubs, are pretty self-explanatory: They're blends of different spices mixed together with either oil or water. Pesto is an example of a well-known wet oil rub.
Dry rubs for chicken wings are a mix of dried herbs and spices that get rubbed all over the poultry before cooking. At the store, you'll find all kinds of rub recipes, like curries, barbecue rubs, sate, jerk seasoning, chili powder, and more, but you'll have no control over their ingredients.
Because of that, we highly recommend experimenting with your own personal dry rub for chicken wings. Start by copying a recipe to gain an understanding of how that profile tastes, and then make the changes you want in future batches.
The Perfect Chicken Wings Dry Rub Recipe
Creating a good dry rub is like a good orchestra: It uses a group of complementary instruments that come together to play in perfect harmony.
In the case of dry rubs, there are four main players:
You'll want to add sugar to a dry rub for several reasons. Not only does it enhance the other flavors, but you'll see it helps form a crust that browns beautifully. There's no substitute for sugar in this case; its chemical properties are unique.
Not to be confused with the savory herb, the savory component of a dry rub comes from certain amino acids. You can add savory flavor with garlic, green herbs, glutamates, and other kinds of flavor.
Spices and Herbs
The spice rack is filled with all kinds of flavors that you might love on your chicken wings. Paprika is a common choice, but it's usually for the color rather than the flavor.
Finally, the spice rounds out the dry rub by adding some more excitement to the flavor profile. If you're making the wings for more than yourself, pay attention to how much spice you add to the mix. We like to go for ginger, cayenne, black pepper, horseradish, or chipotle.
Adding Salt to Dry Rubs?
Salt is a penetrative material, so how much you want to add to a dry rub depends on how heavy the meat is. Everything else is a big molecule that doesn't go more than an eighth of an inch deep.
By applying the salt separately from the rest of the rub, this is another technique known as dry brining. Essentially, you salt thicker cuts of meat at least 24 hours before cooking or thinner cuts about an hour before. As we mentioned before, it's good to allow this time to give salt the ability to penetrate the chicken for flavor.
Adding herbs and spices early on doesn't benefit the chicken in the same way, though. They don't penetrate, so you might as well save the application for right before cook time.
Outside of chicken wings, you'll find you'll need more salt for thicker cuts of meat because there is more ground to cover. You'll need far more salt to season a shoulder compared to ribs, for example. Simply put, keeping your dry rub and salt separate lets you better judge how much of each to use on your wings.
Besides that, there are good reasons to separate your salt for other cooking experiments:
- Cured meats like ham and bacon don't need any salt, but you might want to throw on some spice, savory, or sweetness.
- Chicken and other poultry often come with a salt solution injected into them to retain meat moisture and give it some salty flavor. You might already have all the salt you need in the mix.
Chicken Wings Dry Rub Recipe
- 1/3 cup, packed, of light or dark brown sugar, for sweetness
- 1 tbsp of onion powder, for savory flavor
- 1 tbsp of smoked paprika, for the red color
- 1 1/2 tsp of chipotle powder, for spicy flavor
- 1 1/2 tsp of garlic powder, for savory flavor
- 1 1/2 tsp of black pepper, for spicy flavor
Take all of the ingredients and thoroughly mix them together in the same small mixing bowl. Right before you're ready to cook your chicken wings, rub the contents all over on every side, applying the flavor generously.
It's easy to start off by buying pre-mixed dry rubs at the store, but they're so easy to make right at home. It's surprisingly cheaper, too, especially because most of these pre-mixed rubs come with lots of salt that you don't want in the first place.
Every master of chicken wings should have an arsenal of house rubs to show off when everyone comes over for the game. Start with our favorite dry rub recipe above, featuring classic ingredients like garlic, onion powder, black pepper, brown sugar, paprika, and chipotle powder, and then change it up as you go along.
Just remember not to judge the mix of your dry rub raw. It'll taste very different once it goes on your chicken and then cooks. Not only does toasting the rub mix change the profile itself, so too does the mixture with the chicken's juices.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to cook chicken wings on the grill?
Chicken wings take anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the heat inside the grill. We like preheating the grill and turning it down to medium-low heat. This ensures the chicken wings won’t burn before they reach a safe eating temperature.
What temperature do you grill chicken wings?
Like most cuts of poultry, chicken wings are safe to eat when they reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s difficult to probe chicken wings to see if they’re done, though, since they contain a lot of bone and a little bit of meat. If you’re having trouble probing a chicken wings with a thermometer, cut into the chicken wing to make sure the meat is white without any traces of pink.
How do you cook chicken wings on a charcoal grill?
Chicken wings taste fantastic on a charcoal grill because the flavor of the charcoal infuses with the meat. You’ll want to set up a two-zone fire with the charcoals once they’re all ignited and preheated. You can push the coals to one side and place the chicken wings on the other side, or you can arrange the coals in the middle of the grill and line the wings around the perimeter of the grill grate.
Do you remove the skin from chicken wings before grilling them?
The skin on the chicken wings contains most of the fat on the chicken wings, so some people like to remove them. That said, the skin acts as a protective barrier, keeping the wings from drying out as they cook. The wings will be juicier and more tender if you leave the skin on.
Should you marinate chicken wings?
Chicken wings can be tossed directly onto the grill, but we think they taste better when they’re been marinated or brined. Better yet, use the dry rub recipe above to create the best wings you’ve ever tasted.