5 Ways to Have the Best Super Bowl Wings on the Block

Quick: what do Buffalo wings and the Super Bowl have in common? (Besides consuming large quantities of the former while enjoying the latter.)
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Quick: what do Buffalo wings and the Super Bowl have in common? (Besides consuming large quantities of the former while enjoying the latter.)

They have an entwined history on the shores of Lake Erie in Buffalo, New York. The Buffalo wing was born at Buffalo's Anchor Bar, where bar mistress Teressa Bellissimo had the genial idea to deep-fry wings and douse them in a spirit of excess with melted butter and hot sauce. It was the Buffalo Bills, earning a place in four consecutive Super Bowls (1991 - 1994) that landed the local wings in America's culinary mainstream.

The original Buffalo wing was deep-fried, which is indisputably tasty. But by now you know Raichlen's Rule: If something tastes good baked or deep-fried, surely it tastes better grilled.

So what does it take to ace chicken wings on the grill? Here are some tips to help you up your game.

  1. Save money. Buy whole wings and break them down yourself. Lay each wing flat on a cutting board, then slice through the two knobby cartilaginous joints with a chef's knife or cleaver. Reserve the "drumette" (it will look like a miniature chicken leg) and "flat" and either discard the wing tips or freeze them for stock.

  • Avoid charring, flare-ups and singed arms by setting up your grill for indirect grilling. Arrange the wings skin-side up on the grate over the drip pan. (Be sure to first brush and oil the grill grate well as wings have a tendency to stick.) Figure on 30 to 40 minutes of grilling time.
  • Get a smokier flavor by tossing one and one-half cups soaked, drained hickory or other hardwood chips on the coals or placing in the smoker box of your gas grill. Avoid the "guy syndrome" (if some is good, more is better). Some smoke is good, but too much smoke is, well, too much.
  • Test for doneness by making a small slit with a sharp knife in the thickest part of the wing meat. There should be no trace of pink at the bone -- that is, unless you have smoked the chicken wings. Then you will see a reddish smoke ring just under the skin.
  • Avoid rubbery skin. I prefer indirect grilling at a moderate temperature (350 degrees) to smoking low and slow (at 250 degrees). The reason is simple. Indirect grilling crisps the skin; smoking makes it rubbery.
  • Here are six wing recipes to get you started:


    Steven Raichlen is the author of the Barbecue! Bible cookbook series and the host of Primal Grill on PBS. His web site is