Brining wings before smoking is a popular way to keep them moist when you are cooking. But do you have to brine wings before smoking? And if so, what’s the best way to do it? We will answer these questions and more in this blog post!
Do You Have to Brine Wings Before Smoking?
The answer is “no.” You do not have to brine wings before smoking, but it can help keep the wings moist. Brining involves soaking the poultry in a saltwater solution for a period of time. The saltwater solution will penetrate the meat and create a moist texture as the water evaporates during cooking. It may also improve the flavor by allowing spices or other seasonings to infuse into the meat.
That said, it’s a lot of work so you’ll want to know how to brine the wings, what you’ll need, and how brining the wings can improve your experience.
Can You Brine Wings?
Yes, you can brine wings, although brining is more commonly used for white meat such as chicken breast, turkey, and other meats.
But some backyard grillers brine their wings ahead of time to infuse the meat with savory, finger-licking flavors.
In fact, there are tons of brine recipes online and smoking forums you can use. I’ll share one below, so keep reading.
Why You Should Consider Brining Chicken Wings?
It seems like brining chicken wings before putting them on the smoker is too much extra work. But taking the extra effort and time to brine the chicken before smoking has its reasons.
Brine solutions are made of salt, sugar, and water. As the chicken sits in the solution, osmosis occurs which carries the sugar and salt inside the cell walls. Osmosis is the process of the diffusion of water through a semi-permeable membrane – in this case the meat cells.
Brining differs from marinading, in where the proteins are broken down. However, the diffusion process of the brine results in juicier, flavorful as opposed to dry and bland chicken wings.
This step isn’t necessary if you’re cooking the wings over indirect heat over a temperature-controlled grill. But if you’re cooking them over an open flame, charcoal, or gas grill, they will be better when brined.
How to Brine Wings Before Smoking
So now that it’s possible to brine chicken wings and why you should consider it. Let’s take a look at how to do it, in the easiest way possible.
How to Wet Brine Chicken Wings
The two basic ingredients you need are kosher salt and water. Anything else such as sugar, dill pickle juice, buttermilk, etc is simply for flavor. Since the meat will retain the flavor of the solution, it’s vital to choose a flavor you enjoy.
Here’s a rundown of everything you’ll need:
- Chicken Wings: 1 or more pounds of fully defrosted poultry.
- Large container: Any large plastic or stainless steel container in your kitchen will work, as long. it is big enough to hold enough water to cover the chicken.
- Liquid: Some people will soak their wings in pickle juice, buttermilk, beer because they want to infuse the meat with a flavor. I personally prefer using good old-fashioned water.
- Kosher salt: Choose a salt without additives as it can affect the purity of the solution. Kosher salt is the recommended salt for brine solutions because it doesn’t have any iodine content.
- Plate: Use a heavy plate to keep the chicken fully submerged.
- Sugar: This is what makes the skin crispy and helps the caramelization process.
- Seasonings: Choose your favorite seasonings such as; black pepper, white pepper, red pepper flakes, garlic, etc.
Here’s a great recipe that I’ve recently used while smoking wings at a friend’s house.
Add the ingredients to the water until you’re happy with the taste and flavor.
If this is your first time making a brine solution, it will take a little testing and tweaking. This video will walk you through on a simple brine recipe if you’re not sure what to use.
Pro Tip: Use about 1 1/4 cups of kosher salt per gallon of water.
Step One: Create the Solution
Add the ingredients, to the large bowl and fill it with the proper amount of water to fully submerge your chicken.
Step Two: Bring It to a Boil
Place the pan on the stove and bring the mixture to a boil. Once the sugar and salt are dissolved, remove from heat and allow the solution to cool completely. Subermurging the raw chicken into the solution while it is hot or warm can introduce bad bacteria to the meat.
Step Three: Let It Sit In The Solution
Once the wings are fully submerged, cover the pot with a lid or plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 20 hours before smoking. If you leave the chicken in the solution too long or use too much salt, it will cause the wings to come out too salty.
Step Four: Remove the Wings
Remove the wings from the brine and discard the brine. Don’t rinse the wings off in the water, just pat dry with a paper towel to ensure they are dry before smoking.
How to Dry Brine Chicken Wings
Dry brining consists of sprinkling salt on the wings and setting them in a refrigerator overnight. The next day, pat dry with paper towels to remove any excess salt and proceed to your favorite method of cooking.
Step One: Prepare the Chicken
Make sure you’re starting with raw defrosted chicken wings. Mix 1/2 cup of kosher salt, baking powder, and any herbs or spices you like. The amount of salt you use will depend on how many chicken wings you have.
Step Two: Dry the Chicken and Coat With Mixture
Use paper towels to pat the chicken dry before sprinkling the bird with the mixture. Ensure to coat the entire wings with the mixture. Any leftover mixture can be discarded.
Step Three: Cover and Refrigerate
Place the brined chicken wings in a covered Pyrex bowl, vacuum-sealed bag or on a plate covered with plastic wrap. For the best-flavored wings, leave the wings in the fridge for a minimum of eight hours and no more than 3 days.
When you’re ready to smoke the wings, throw them on the smoker with the solution on. Rinsing them off will void the brining process.
Brining your chicken wings before smoking comes down to a personal choice. If your wings always come out moist, juicy, and flavorful, then you don’t have to brine them.
But if they are constantly coming out a little dry when you cook them over an open flame, you may want to consider soaking them in a brine solution.
If you don’t want to go through all the trouble of brining them, then a good BBQ sauce can give the wings a more flavorful bite.