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How To Make Smoked Turkey Wings That’ll Rival Its Chicken Counterparts


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As the summer draws to a close and the fall season approaches, Southerners (and Americans from all regions) eagerly look forward to the return of football games, tailgating, and watch parties. All of these events call for fun, crowd-pleasing, and tasty game-day snacks, so if you're looking for a spin on the reliable standby known as chicken wings, then we have a flavorful alternative for you: smoked turkey wings.

What's the Difference Between Chicken Wings and Turkey Wings?

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Fundamentally speaking, turkey wings and chicken wings are very similar. They come from different birds, but they're the same cut of meat. In terms of their general flavor, both chicken wings and turkey wings have the gently-savory taste common to poultry.

That said, these wings aren't identical. The meat of a turkey wing is darker than that of a chicken wing, and the flavor has a richer, gamier quality. Also, cookbook author and six-time World Barbecue Champion Tuffy Stone tells us that turkey wings "are bigger than chicken wings and will take a longer time to cook. The skin is thicker, so I often will finish off the cook by directly cooking over the coals or a hot flame after they have been smoked. By doing this, I crisp up the skin, making a better bite."

How Does the Smoking Process Affect Turkey Wings?

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While fried wings are the standard move at sports bars and most football watch parties, letting your turkey wings spend time in the smoker first will take them from expected to unforgettable. "I like to smoke turkey wings because the smoke adds another layer of flavor. I like to treat smoke like a seasoning-similar to how I use ingredients, like salt and pepper. I do not want too much smoke, as that can make the wings taste acrid or bitter. I aim for a nice, gentle smokiness," explains Stone.

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What are the Best Ways to Season Smoked Turkey Wings?

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As Stone points out, smoke is a flavor agent in and of itself. Therefore, if you're cooking turkey wings on a smoker, it's smart to be judicious with your seasonings and to only select spices and marinades that cooperate well with the natural taste of smoke and meat. Operating partner Michael Lectworth of Sam Jones BBQ in North Carolina, for instance, likes to start by brining his turkey wings in "a simple salt/sugar brine for about 6 hours. Wings are then taken out, rinsed, and dried off." He then rubs a dry spice blend on the wings before placing them on the smoker.

As for Stone, "I like to use dry rubs or seasoning blends to season turkey wings. Sometimes, the rubs I make will be a classic barbecue rub, containing ingredients like salt, sugar, chili powder, granulated garlic, granulated onion, paprika, and pepper. Sometimes, I make savory rubs with dried thyme or rosemary. It depends on my mood." He warns against using bottled BBQ sauces or rubs that contain sugar, as "they can burn if they get too hot." If you want saucy turkey wings, "do not sauce until after the wings have been cooked to the desired doneness."

How to Smoke Turkey Wings

1. Season the Wings

Lectworth starts his wing-smoking process by brining the turkey wings for six hours. A brine typically includes 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of salt for each gallon of water. After removing his wings from the brine, rinsing them, and drying them, he rubs a dry seasoning into the wings. You can use any blend of spices, salt, and sugar that you prefer, whether it be a homemade mixture or a store-bought combination. Next, he "allows the wings to sweat in [the dry rub] for 15-20 mins," to allow them to fully absorb the flavors.

2. Smoke the Wings

Lectworth goes on to put the turkey wings on a smoker that's been heated to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. He then "smokes the wings for about 1-1.5 hours, until an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit is achieved." After pulling the wings from the smoker, he lets them rest until they've cooled to room temperature, or you could "cool them and keep them in the fridge for a later time."

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3. Fry the Wings

Now that the wings have a wonderfully smoky essence, it's time to get that famous crispy exterior, which is best achieved via the deep fryer. "Fry them in oil heated to 375 degrees until crispy," Lectworth says.

4. Sauce the Wings

We'll start by saying that there's no need to add sauce to your smoked turkey wings if you'd prefer them without. But if you're craving classic Buffalo-style wings or wings slathered in BBQ sauce, then put them in a large mixing bowl post-frying, add your sauce of choice, and toss until they're fully coated.

READ: Like a Sweet and Spicy Sauce? This Copycat Buffalo Wild Wings Mango Habanero Recipe is For You!

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