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Q&A: Chicken Wing cooking tips with Chef Andres

We’re celebrating National Chicken Wing Day all week!

Ruth, one of our sales reps in North Carolina, recently spoke with Chef Andres Kaifer as he prepared chicken wings, with tips for you to perfect yours at home.

Q&A: Chicken Wing cooking tips with Chef Andres


Ruth: Chef Andres, can you walk us through a little bit about what you're doing?

Chef Andres: Yeah. So we have some chicken wings that we've brined. We brine them in a solution that is made with water, sugar, garlic powder, and then you boil that solution. You cool it down and then you pour it over the chicken wings. You let them sit in that solution. And what it does is that it permeates the skin and it just seasons the meat throughout, for anywhere between 24 to 48 hours. Twenty four hours being a minimum because we want it to sit in that liquid for a certain period of time.

Then after they've gotten nice and brined, we'll pull them out and then we'll rub them with this chicken rub that we have, which has more garlic powder. It has oregano. It has fresh red chili flakes. It has some paprika in it. Then lightly drizzle that on there. You really want to get in there and actually rub them so that they're properly coated because lot of that rub will fall off throughout the smoking process.

Ruth: Is this something people can do at home pretty easily? The brine too?

Chef Andres: Yeah. Brining is a really, really common seasoning procedure. A lot of people do it for pork as well. It really is one of the best ways to season an item throughout. So, for something like a long, slow roast, if you wanted to brine, that would be the best way to do it. Pork and chicken take really well to brining. Pastrami also takes well to brining.

So, this is really what you want your chicken to look like after you've rubbed it. It's going to have some excess moisture on it, which is fine because that'll just dry out throughout the smoking process. But it's got a little excess moisture. That's just the excess brine and then it helps create this nice little coating/marinade for them before they go into the smoker. We'll put them in the smoker now.

Ruth: Is there anything people should look at in their chicken in terms of what kind of chicken to buy? How do you know a good wing?

Chef Andres: It's really a matter of preference. We use jumbo wings just because they're larger. The larger the wing, the better. The only difference that that'll mean is how long you smoke it for. And still, even when you're smoking anything, what you want to do is take a temperature always, because that's when you know something is truly done. So you will need a thermometer, which is essential.

Ruth: What temperature should chicken be if you smoke it?

Chef Andres: You're going to want to pull these out at 165, and it's okay if you pull them out around anywhere between 160, 165. If one of them is temping at 165 and you have another one temping at 160, that's fine because they will carry over. And we're also going to finish these on the grill later, so that way they'll be thoroughly cooked. The last thing you want is over cooked chicken, everybody hates overcooked chicken.

We use Southern Pride smokers. That's just the brand, but really what it is, it's just a larger rotisserie smoker. All it does is hold the temperature to a set temperature. It's essentially like a nice controlled cooking method. Pretty much, that's it. The whole time it just slowly rotates in there so that you get a nice even coating of the smoke.

So, these smokers are gas powered… it's got an electrical thermostat to control the temperature. Now over on the side there's this gate which then you would put a couple of blocks of wood. So for us, we do tons of smoking, for someone at home, they might have an actual individual wood smoker, which would be great. That would be the purest form of doing this. But for us, this is essentially to control the temperature. It allows us to have a consistent product all the time. These are necessary for us.

Ruth: What kind of wood do you recommend?

Chef Andres: Hickory, always, unless you want to get fancy and you want to use like a fruit wood, you can use peach flavor wood which is always great, but a hickory is... Me, personally, hickory is my favorite wood flavor. It gives a nice clean, like smoky, it isn't overbearing. Oak is also great.

Traeger grills makes incredible at-home smokers, that would be the most similar at-home thing to this because they have control key boxes that will control the amount of smoke that moves into the grill. And you can utilize it like a normal at-home grill.

Smoking and cooking the wings

Chef Andres: Now when loading them, you don't want to overcrowd them. You also don't want them to be too separated.

So these, we now throw them on the grill to finish them off. So, we grill the wings, a lot of people fry their wings traditionally because the skin gets really crispy. Now that just incorporates a lot of fat, extra fat. So, the chicken that already has a natural fat that's delicious as it is. So, we just finish them on the grill it crisps up the skin more than enough, and renders out the fat throughout the smoking process as well. And then we also like to toss them in sauce and then regrow them, which adds an additional tart, additional crisp to them. And then we're going to do that here with this Two Hearted Bell's barbecue sauce that we made together with Bell's Brewery. So, we're going to toss that in.

You want to lightly cook these, you don't want to get too aggressive with the sauce. You can always add more sauce later and you also don't want to take away from the actual flavor of the brine and the flavor of the chicken itself and the rub and all that hard work that went into it originally.

We lightly toss them. And now we'll put these right back on just so they can get a little more color. And the whole idea is that the sugar in the sauce caramelizes a little bit and adds a whole other layer of flavor through the chicken.

(It’s) the same process (on your home grill), just make sure your grill is super hot. Make sure that you don't over sauce because then that's awful just drips down into your grill and that's a cleaning nightmare. Other than that, as long as your grill is nice and hot it should be a relatively quick process. Pretty simple, make sure your grill is clean.

Ruth: So, how did you know when these were ready?

Chef Andres: Just you see these nice, light grill marks right here. That's just the sauce getting nice and caramelized. Some would say that's burnt, but I say that's awesome. To get really technical, you can smell the sugars in the sauce caramelizing.

The hard hitting questions


Ruth: Okay. Hard hitting questions with Chef Andres. Drum or flat?

Chef Andres: Flat, all the way. It's easier to eat. Less cartilage, more meat in my opinion. Flat all the way.

Ruth: Okay. Celery or carrot?

Chef Andres: Me personally, carrot. I am not a big fan of raw celery. That's just me. I love celery for cooking and using it as an aromatic. Raw celery tends to be really like fibers gets stuck in your teeth. Like popcorn kernels, it drives me nuts. I would go carrot at all the way, but everybody loves celery.

Ruth: Now for the most controversial question out there. Ranch or blue cheese?

Chef Andres: Oh man, that's tough. That is really tough. It depends on my mood. If you held me at gunpoint, I would say ranch, and the only reason why I would say that because more ranch, ranch tends to be more consistent across the board. There are weird blue cheese dressings out there, but I love blue cheese dressing. Don't get me wrong. But I would say if I had to choose, ranch.

Ruth: What's your favorite beer style to drink with wings?

Chef Andres: I have proviso for a wheat-based beer.

Ruth: Why's that?

Chef Andres: I feel that they're crisp and acidic at the same time, but they also have depth of flavor that goes well with the smokiness of our wings.

Ruth: Like a Bell's Oberon?

Chef Andres: Yeah!

Ruth: Thanks so much to Chef Andres, showing us some great tips and tricks on how to make the perfect chicken wings for National Chicken Wing Day. Cheers, you all.