Sweet, tart and snappy with healthy shots of hot sauce, and grilled to near potato chip crispness, in our book the chicken wing approaches celestial perfection. Neither light meat nor dark, they are a coupling of both, and nothing pulls in flavor and crisps up in cooking quite like wings. It’s that wonderful proportion of luscious skin to meat and bone.
Give these wings plenty of marinating time and keep your fire low so most of their fat cooks off as the skin crisps. One last thing: no “drummies,” please. This recipe is for the entire wing because each of its three sections is a different eating experience. Serve up these wings with Cucumber Stick Salad.
Cook to Cook: Grilling guru Steven Raichlen, author of The Barbecue Bible! and other titles on grilling, suggests this ingenious tip to ensure the maximum amount of crispy skin: Before marinating the wings, arrange them on long bamboo skewers, starting at the wing tip and threading the skewer through the wing so it lies flat and straight.
1. Two days before cooking, combine all ingredients except the wings in a bowl. Taste for hot/sweet/sour/salt balance, and adjust to your preference. Flavors should be strong.
2. Pierce each wing in several places with a knife to help the marinade penetrate. Place the wings in heavy plastic zip-top bags and divide the marinade between them. Seal and refrigerate 2 days, turning bags occasionally for even marinating.
3. Two hours or so before serving, set up the charcoal grill for three-zone indirect grilling so you have a hot zone and a medium-hot zone, with most of the cooking area in the low heat zone. Do this by piling the preheated wood charcoal deepest against one side of the grill so the pile diminishes toward the center. If using a gas grill, heat to high to sear the wings, then lower the heat to medium-low.
4. When the coals are ready, drain the wings from their marinade, saving the marinade in a saucepan. Oil the grate and spread the wings out on the grill. You want to move them around so they lightly sear over the hot area, then move them to the low heat area. If using a gas grill, sear all the wings over high heat then lower it to medium-low.
5. Cover the grill and keep the fire at medium-low by adjusting the vents. Cook the wings, turning often and checking for burning, about 90 minutes, or until they are crisp and their meat is tender.
6. As the wings cook, boil the marinade for 5 minutes, adding 1/2 cup water to it. In the last 30 minutes of grilling, baste the wings with the marinade. You want them glazed but not burnt. Serve the wings piled on a platter lined with a bed of fresh mint, if possible (nothing beats the combination of chiles and sweet mint). Serve with extra Tabasco on the table for those who believe it’s never hot enough.
Keep up to 5 days covered in the refrigerator; reheat nicely; excellent hot, at room temperature, or cold.
From A Summertime Grilling Guide by Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift. Copyright © 2012 by American Public Media.
Adam Rapoport, editor in chief of Bon Appetit magazine and the website www.bonappetit.com, knows his way around a grill. He has edited an entire book on the subject: The Grilling Book: The Definitive Guide from Bon Appetit.