Crispy Smoked Chicken Wings

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Fire up your Traeger grill and make these Crispy Smoked Chicken Wings that are juicy on the inside and crunchy on the outside. They promise to be the hit of your next backyard barbecue!

Crispy smoked chicken wings with blue cheese dip.
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Why This Recipe Works

  • Tested Method: this recipe has been tested many times to make sure it works!
  • Crispy Skin: use corn starch as the secret ingredient to create crispy smoked chicken wings that are extra crunchy.
  • Smoky Flavor: start off low and slow to add smoky flavor to the meat, then crank up the heat to get that crackle we love to hear!
  • Great Party Food: the perfect snack for Game Day, cookouts, picnics and parties of all shapes and sizes.
  • Easy Recipe: this method is much easier than drying wings in the fridge or marinating them overnight in a wet brine.
Smoked wings with blue cheese dip.

Ingredients

The first step to making crispy smoked chicken wings is to mix up a dry brine that also acts as a tenderizer. My dry rub of choice starts with brown sugar and adds a dash of cornstarch for that crispy, crunchy skin. 

Some folks use baking powder to coat their hot wings, but I'm not a fan of the bitter taste. Cornstarch is not bitter and you'll never even notice it's there. Both do a great job of creating crispy chicken wings, but I've had better results using a combination of cornstarch and brown sugar together.

See quantities in recipe card

Dry Brine

  • brown sugar
  • corn starch
  • onion powder
  • garlic powder
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • smoked paprika
  • cayenne pepper

Chicken

  • fresh or frozen chicken wings (thawed completely)
  • buffalo sauce (or favorite sauce of your choice)
Bag of frozen chicken wings.
Crispy chicken wings on a cast iron skillet.

Choosing the Right Chicken

Look for smaller pieces that include flats and drumettes, but not big chicken legs. These are sometimes called party wings in your grocery store freezer.

You can also buy whole wings and cut them yourself, but it can be a little tricky if you don't have the right equipment. For this recipe, I bought a bag of frozen wings and thawed them in the fridge overnight so they would be ready to cook the next day.

Equipment You'll Need

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Instructions

Pat wings dry with paper towels to remove excess moisture. You want them to be as dry as possible! Squeeze each wing with a paper towel until all the moisture is gone. 

Wings that have been dried with paper towels.

Mix the dry brine in a small bowl. If you have a large group, you'll need to make extra seasoning to cover all of the pieces.

Dry rub for chicken wings.

Place pieces in a large baking pan. Sprinkle dry rub over chicken until each wing is fully coated. Turn them over and sprinkle again.

Wings after dry rub has been added.

Turn the smoke setting to 225 degrees F on your Traeger grill. Go ahead and add the chicken directly to the grill grates in a single layer as the smoker is heating up. This helps infuse intense smoke into the meat as the unit is preheating. 

Chicken wings on grill grates.

Once the temp reaches 225 degrees F, close the lid and smoke the wings for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the wings and turn up the temperature of the smoker to 450 degrees. 

Wings after cooking 30 minutes.

When the smoker temperature reaches 450 degrees, add the chicken wings back to the grill.

Continue to cook chicken about 30 more minutes until the internal temperature of the wings reaches 175 degrees F, or even higher. Turn each piece over frequently with tongs to make sure the skin is getting crispy and not burning.

Remove chicken from the smoker and serve as is, or toss in your favorite bbq sauce or buffalo sauce. Be sure to provide plenty of Homemade Blue Cheese Dip, my favorite Blueberry BBQ Sauce, or Carolina Gold BBQ Sauce for dipping!

Wings after smoking.

What Makes Wings Crispy?

Adding cornstarch is one of the secrets to making crispy wings!

The other secret is to crank up the heat. A wood pellet grill uses indirect heat to get that smokehouse flavor by cooking at a low temperature of 225º F. After 30 minutes, turn up the smoker to 450 degrees to crisp up the outer layer of skin.

Toss them in your favorite chicken wing rub and throw them on a Traeger grill to create crispy chicken wings with tons of flavor. No more tough and rubbery skin!

In a nutshell, the lower temperature allows your pellet grill to produce smoke that penetrates the meat. The higher temperature creates crunchy chicken skin that we love to bite into!

Variations

Don't have a smoker? There are many ways you can cook crispy chicken wings if you don't have a Traeger grill. Use my homemade dry rub and try these other methods to see which one you like best:

  • Air Fryer - Set air fryer to 390 degrees for 16 minutes. Cook for 8 minutes, then turn over wings and cook for 8 minutes longer for crispy skin.
  • Gas Grill - grill pieces for 25 minutes at 350ºF, turning frequently
  • Oven Baked - bake at 425ºF for up to 1 hour, turning at the half way point
  • Charcoal Grill - cook over medium high heat for 25 to 30 minutes
  • Pan Fried - heat the oil to 375ºF and fry for up to 15 minutes, turning frequently

There are also different flavors of wings you can make with other seasoning blends. Experiment with these tasty ideas:

  • Jerk Seasoning - include a teaspoon of jerk seasoning to the spice rub in this recipe
  • Coffee Rub - add instant coffee granules to my homemade dry rub
  • Lemon Parmesan - add lemon zest and grated parmesan cheese
Bowl of blue cheese dip with crispy wings.

What to Serve with Smoked Chicken Wings

Besides the usual celery sticks, buffalo sauce, and ice cold beer (yay), here are my favorite dishes that make great accompaniments for smoked wings:

Recipe FAQs

How does cornstarch make chicken wings crispy?

Using cornstarch draws out the moisture in the meat. This process creates a crispy coating without any aftertaste. 

Should I wet brine chicken wings before smoking them?

I recommend a dry brine in this recipe because excess liquid is usually not a good thing when smoking meat. It tends to make the skin rubbery and tough.

What if my smoker won't reach 450 degrees F?

If this happens, there are several ways to fix the issue. Use a regular gas grill to finish the cooking process. Or, fry the wings in a cast iron skillet on the stove until they reach your desired crispiness. You could also bake them in the oven until they reach 175 degrees F, or finish them in an air fryer.

Pro Tips

  • You'll get more smoke flavor if you set your Traeger grill (ad) at a lower temperature during the beginning of the cook. 
  • Be sure to add cornstarch to the rub for the crispiest skin. 
  • Cooking chicken at a low temperature for an extended period of time will cause it to have rubbery skin. That's why we crank up the heat after 30 minutes of smoke time. 
Wings on a cast iron skillet.

Storage and Freezing

Leftovers - Store leftover chicken wings in an airtight container for up to 3 days in the refrigerator. 

Freezer - You can freeze cooked chicken wings in an airtight container for up to 3 months.

Reheat - The best way to reheat wings is to cook them in an air fryer, or put them back on a smoker and reheat to at least 165 degrees F.

More Traeger Grill Recipes

Love the smoky flavor you get from a Traeger pellet grill? Try these other great recipes that are perfect for your next cookout or barbecue:

Recipe Card

Crispy smoked chicken wings with a bowl of blue cheese dip.

Crispy Smoked Chicken Wings

Fire up your Traeger grill and make these Crispy Smoked Chicken Wings that are juicy on the inside and crunchy on the outside. They promise to be the hit of your next backyard barbecue!
5 from 3 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Appetizer, Game Day, Main Dish
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings4
Calories: 520kcal

*See notes in blog post for detailed tips, photos and instructions.

Ingredients

Chicken Wings

  • 4 pounds chicken wings (drumettes and flats)
  • ½ cup buffalo sauce (optional)

Dry Brine Rub

  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Instructions

  • Pat wings dry with paper towels to remove excess moisture. You want them to be as dry as possible! Squeeze each wing with a paper towel until all the moisture is gone. 
    4 pounds chicken wings
  • Mix the dry brine in a small bowl. If you have a large group, you'll need to make extra seasoning to cover all of the pieces.
    ¼ cup brown sugar, 2 Tablespoons cornstarch, 2 teaspoons smoked paprika, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Place pieces in a large baking pan. Sprinkle dry rub over chicken until each wing is fully coated. Turn them over and sprinkle again.
  • Turn the smoke setting to 225 degrees F on your Traeger grill. Go ahead and add the chicken directly to the grill grates in a single layer as the smoker is heating up. This helps infuse intense smoke into the meat as the unit is preheating. 
  • Once the temp reaches 225 degrees F, close the lid and smoke the wings for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the wings and turn up the temperature of the smoker to 450 degrees.
  • When the smoker temperature reaches 450 degrees, add the chicken wings back to the grill.
  • Continue to cook chicken about 30 more minutes until the internal temperature of the wings reaches 175 degrees F, or even higher. Turn each piece over frequently with tongs to make sure the skin is getting crispy and not burning.
  • Remove chicken from the smoker and serve as is, or toss in your favorite bbq sauce or buffalo sauce. Be sure to provide plenty of Homemade Blue Cheese Dip, Blueberry BBQ Sauce, or Carolina Gold BBQ Sauce for dipping!
    ½ cup buffalo sauce

Notes

  • My Homemade Blue Cheese Dip recipe is shown in the photos.
  • Use fresh or frozen wings - If using frozen, be sure to thaw completely before beginning recipe.
  • Leftovers - Store leftover chicken wings in an airtight container for up to 3 days in the refrigerator. 
  • Freezer - You can freeze cooked chicken wings in an airtight container for up to 3 months.
  • Reheat - The best way to reheat wings is to cook them in an air fryer, or put them back on a smoker and reheat to at least 165 degrees F.

Nutrition

Calories: 520kcal | Carbohydrates: 19g | Protein: 45g | Fat: 39g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Sodium: 1686mg | Potassium: 446mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 14g | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 48mg | Iron: 3mg

Nutrition info is an auto generated estimate.

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3 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Never associated baking powder with a bad taste while making smoked/baked wings, it's usually what I use. Baking soda on the other hand...down right awful.

    1. Hi there! I can see where you would prefer baking powder to baking soda. But, since baking powder contains baking soda and cream of tartar, it can also leave a metallic taste behind. That's why I like to use cornstarch instead.

  2. 5 stars
    We made these at our tailgate party and they were perfect. Crispy and really tasty. Will make again for sure.

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