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Cooking Tips

Yes, You Can Get Crispy, Crunchy Chicken Wings on the Grill

Make fried chicken without the frying.

Published May 24, 2023.

I love fried chicken, but I never understood why it’s considered a summertime food. While I’ll gladly eat it any time of year, making it is another story. In the summer, heating up my kitchen with a pot full of oil isn’t the most appealing proposition.

But as it turns out, there's another way to make fried chicken in the summertime. For crispy-coated, deeply seasoned chicken wings, I now just bring the cooking out to the grill.

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Grill-fried chicken” sounds like an oxymoron, and when the Cook’s Country test cooks first set out to develop a reliable recipe for it, they thought it might get the better of them.

The recipes they found turned out dry, bland wings and coatings that either stuck to the grates or cooked up thick, hard, or chalky.

After hundreds of wings and lots of time in the hot sun (hey, better than a hot kitchen, right?), they arrived at a recipe that produced wings that were downright devourable. To get there, they broke down the process—and the common problems—step by step.

grill fried wings
That's right—these crispy wings came from the grill.

How to Make Grill-Fried Chicken

Yes, you read that correctly! Follow these tips to get crispy-crunchy chicken without a deep fryer.

1. To avoid flare-ups, use a half-grill fire: With hotter and cooler sides, this versatile setup is ideal for gently cooking the wings through.

2. For even cooking, separate the wings: The two parts of a chicken wing—the flat and the drumette—each have different amounts of meat and fat on them. The drumettes, with more of both, are placed closer to the hot side of the grill, while the flats go farther away. If your wings have the tips on them, trim them off and use them for stock.

3. To keep the wings moist, brine them: Brining is meat’s best defense against overcooking. For 3 pounds of wings, we use 2 quarts of water, ¼ cup of table salt, and ¼ cup of sugar.

4. To make sure that the coating sticks, let the dredged wings rest: Packing the heavily seasoned coating onto the brined wings and letting them sit on a wire rack in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour gives the coating time to really adhere to the meat.

5. To get that “fried” texture, brush the wings with oil as they cook: Oil is the key to glistening chicken, but incorporating it in the coating resulted in greasy wings. The key was brushing oil on the wings halfway through cooking, at about the 30-minute mark. This gave the coating time to set up and absorb some of the oil, creating a shiny exterior.

Watch Bridget and Julia walk through our Buffalo-Style Grill-Fried Chicken Wings below.

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