Chicken Wings Dry Rub – Delicious Recipe For The Grill

Dry rub for grilled chicken wings

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.

Use seasoning on chicken wings


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.

Dry Rub

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.

Apply dry rub

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.

Dry rub for grilled chicken wings
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4.58 from 7 votes

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.

Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time5 mins
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Dry Rub
Servings: 1
Calories: 5kcal


  • 1/3 cup light or dark brown sugar, for sweetness
  • 1 tbsp onion powder, for savory flavor
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika, for the red color
  • 1.1/2 tsp chipotle powder, for spicy flavor
  • 1.1/2 tsp garlic powder, for savory flavor
  • 1.1/2 tsp 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.


Serving: 1g | Calories: 5kcal

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Homemade chicken wings dry rub


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

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