This post is sponsored by Kingsford, but the content and opinions expressed here are my own.
I don’t know many people that don’t enjoy eating chicken wings. The beauty of chicken is that it lends itself to a wide variety of flavors. I’m certainly guilty of going out for wings and ordering classic buffalo instead of venturing into different flavors. When at home cooking on my grill however, all bets are off. That is when I love to experiment. The days of 10 cent wings are long gone and in a restaurant you are often paying about a dollar a wing. I just bought a pack of 15 whole wings (30 total drums and flats) at the store for only thirteen dollars . If that is not motivation for you to cook your own wings at home, then I don’t know what is.
Wings are also so easy to cook. If you’re a novice griller, I promise you, you got this! As someone who loves to cook on a wide variety of grills, one of the most common questions I am asked is, “I’m on a tight budget, what kind of grill should I buy?”. If someone’s budget is under $200, a kettle is certainly the way to go. For that price you can pick up a Weber kettle for $100 and enough Kingsford charcoal briquets to last you through the better part of summer. I love Kingsford because it’s affordable, readily available and perfect for use in my kettles. They even sell briquets with hickory, pecan, mesquite, applewood and cherrywood.
Once you learn basic techniques for indirect cooking on a kettle or any grill for that matter, you can grill just about anything. For this recipe, we want to avoid cooking the wings directly over the coals. Whether there is sugar in your rub or sauce, you risk burning the outside of the wings prior to the outside being finished. For the purpose of this article I will refer to kettle style grills, but the principles remain the same for indirect cooking no matter what grill you are cooking on.
Lighting the charcoal
I prefer to use a charcoal chimney starter to light my briquets. A charcoal chimney starter is a metal cylinder with vents for air flow. For under $20 it is convenient and allows you to light the briquettes and be ready to cook in about 15 minutes. To do this, fill up the chimney with charcoal to the top (about 100 briquets), add bunched up newspaper, a paper towel with some vegetable oil on it or a starter cube below the briquettes and light on fire. The flames will ignite the edges of the charcoal. After about 10 minutes, the coals will glow and flames can be seen over the top layer of coals.
Pour the coals out into a pile in the grill and wait until the coals are mostly covered in ash and gray in color then spread the coals out. Since we are cooking indirect, or creating a “two-zone” fire, position the coals all on one side of the grill. If you wanted to cook something like a steak over direct heat, you would cook directly over the coals where it is much hotter. Cooking over the indirect side allows for slower cooking without the risk of flare-ups.
After the coals are pushed to one side of the grill, and the other side is left empty for indirect heat grilling, close the lid and let the temperature come up to 450F. Prior to placing the wings on the cooking grate, carefully rub the grates with oil or spray with cooking spray to help prevent the wings from sticking.
Without removing the excess marinade from the wings, place the wings on the grill surface away from the coals. Close the lid and cook for 30-35 minutes flipping once throughout the cook. I like to rotate the wings if necessary closer to the hot coals to get a bit of extra char on them if needed. That’s the beauty of having an indirect and direct cooking area on the same grill.
This recipe is adapted from a recipe created by pit master Chris Lilly for Kingsford. What I love about this recipe is that it is easily adaptable based on your preference for the level of spiciness. I love the bit of heat from the black pepper but as I get older, the cayenne can be a bit much for me to handle. So for my version, I decreased the amount of cayenne in the marinade to one-half teaspoonful instead of one teaspoonful. Although this recipe utilizes apricot preserves, the actual taste of apricot is not inherently obvious in the finished product. I bet it would work just as well with orange marmalade, grape, or raspberry jam. I like to look at recipes as a guideline. It’s fun to look in your pantry or cupboard to see what you might have on-hand to experiment a little. In a similar fashion, the dijon mustard can be swapped out for other mustard. Most of the other ingredients are staples that the majority of people have already in their homes. Make sure you do allow time for the chicken to sit in the marinade for a good 4 hours. It truly does make a difference in the flavor once finished.
So, grab your bag of charcoal, light it up and make yourself or your family a great meal you can enjoy in your own home for a fraction of the cost of ordering or dining out.
Spicy Grilled Apricot Wings
1⁄2 teaspoon ground ginger
1⁄4 cup brown sugar
1⁄4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 cup apricot preserves
1⁄2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (may increase to 1 teaspoon if desired)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons paprika
4 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
14 whole chicken wings (28 pieces total), cut into wings and drumettes.
Mix the marinade ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until blended. Place the chicken in a resealable plastic bag, bowl, or shallow dish. Pour the marinade over the wings being sure to coat all surfaces. Cover and seal the container, then place in the refrigerator for 4 hours.
Set up grill for indirect grilling with Kingsford charcoal. When temperature reaches 450F remove wings from the marinade without shaking off excess and place on grill away from the coals. Close the lid and cook for approximately 30-35 minutes, flipping each wing piece once. Remove the wings from the grill and serve.
Click here for more great recipes using Kingsford charcoal and here to visit Kingsford's Pinterest page. Purchase Chris Lilly’s book “Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ Book” here.