How to Grill Chicken Wings with Homemade Wing Sauce

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Got a batch of chicken wings, thighs or legs? Follow this guide and learn how to grill chicken wings.

When I was a kid, there was always a stash of chicken wings in the freezer. My mother would buy a bag of chicken whenever we went to Costco or the local deli, and the result was a frozen surplus that could feed the family (or a small army) on any given night.

My mom’s chicken-hoarding habits have stuck with me throughout the years. Whenever I see a sale on chicken wings, I buy them in bulk and freeze them for later. Turns out, knowing how to grill chicken wings is a valuable skill, and buying in bulk is a smart way to save money at the grocery store. Thanks, Mom!

My favorite way to enjoy a batch of grilled chicken wings is to slather them in a rich, tasty barbecue sauce. And hey—as long as there are a few napkins around, who doesn’t love getting a little messy?

Follow along as Taste of Home food editor Peggy Woodward drums up her best tips for a super saucy grilled chicken recipe. Feel free to size the recipe up or down to suit your needs. (Leftover sauce will keep in the refrigerator for about a week.)

How to Grill Chicken Wings, Thighs or Legs

Ingredients

  • 1 broiler/fryer chicken (3-1/2 to 4 pounds), cut up (or equivalent volume of your favorite chicken parts)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/8 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/8 cup chili sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon celery seed
  • 1/2 tablespoon prepared mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 dash hot pepper sauce

Tools

  • A grill. The best grill really depends on your grilling style and how much time you want to spend outside. For a quick-and-easy grilling session, look to a gas grill like Weber Genesis gas grill. If time isn’t a concern and you want to add smoky flavor to your wings, we recommend a Weber charcoal kettle grill.
  • A pair of long grilling tongs. You’ll need to turn the wings occasionally to make sure they cook evenly. While you could use the same tongs you use inside, we prefer to have a pair of 16-inch long grilling tongs to keep our hands from getting too close to the fire.
  • A basting brush. The easiest way to sauce chicken wings is with a basting brush. You’ll find this brush comes in handy anytime you’re looking to apply sauce or marinade to meat, poultry, fish or vegetables.

Directions

Step 1: Make the sauce

making sauce for chicken wingsTMB studio

When it comes to a crowd-pleasing chicken dish, the secret is in the sauce. (Using store-bought barbecue sauce? Skip to Step 2.) Begin by sauteing the minced garlic in butter in a large saucepan. Stir until it’s tender and fragrant. Next, add the remaining sauce ingredients. Bring the mixture to a boil, but don’t step away! Stir constantly, taking care it doesn’t burn. Then remove the pan from the heat and set it aside for later.

Step 2: Clean and grease your grill grates

cleaning grill gratesTMB studio

It’s essential to start with a clean grill. The quickest way to clean grill grates is to turn up the heat to burn off the gunk, let it cool and then scrub it down with a sturdy grill brush (or clean the grill with an onion half, because apparently that’s possible!).

Once clean, brush the grill rack with oil. If oiling a hot grill, moisten a paper towel with cooking oil and use long-handled tongs to carefully rub it over the grill rack, moving from back to front. Be aware there will be a brief moment of flare-ups, so be sure to observe proper grilling safety tips during this step.

Test Kitchen Tip: Take the extra time to clean and oil your grill grate. It’ll prevent the chicken from sticking.

Step 3: Grill the chicken

grilling chicken on the grillTMB studio

Bump the flame up to medium heat, place the chicken on the grill rack and cover with the grill lid. Grill for 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken, using tongs to turn the meat occasionally until it begins to turn golden brown.

Test Kitchen Tip: If using a charcoal grill, you can gauge the temperature by holding your hand 5 inches above the cooking grate. If you can keep it there comfortably for 5 to 7 seconds, it’s at medium heat.

Step 4: Baste

basting chicken wings on the grill with sauceTMB studio

It’s time for your sauce to make its grand debut. Using a basting brush—or a spoon, in a pinch—baste each piece by spreading the sauce all over the chicken. Turn each piece over and repeat. Continue to baste and turn the chicken for about 5 to 15 minutes longer, depending on the size of the chicken. Sugary sauces tend to burn quickly, so keep a close eye for any sign of charring.

Think it’s cooking too quick? Move the chicken to indirect heat during this step.

Test Kitchen Tip: It’s important to leave basting until the last 15 minutes of grilling. If you start adding the sauce too soon, you run the risk of burnt chicken. Don’t baste if the chicken still looks raw, since doing so runs the risk of transferring bacteria from uncooked to cooked chicken. To learn more about food safety, check out our tips on how to handle raw chicken.

Step 5: Check for doneness

The single safest way to ensure chicken is cooked to perfection is to check its internal temperature with an instant-read meat thermometer. Follow the cooking times below:

Type of Chicken Temperature
Boneless chicken breast or chicken wings 165°F
Bone-in chicken breast 170°F
Boneless thighs 170°F
Bone-in thighs or leg quarters 170-175°F
Cut-up mixed bone-in parts 165°F, or until the juices run clear

Once chicken has reached the correct temperature, remove it from the grill.

Step 6: Dig in

Your crispy-on-the-outside, tender-on-the-inside chicken wings are ready to serve. Set them out on a platter and drizzle with more sauce if desired. I always find it refreshing to pair barbecue chicken with crunchy celery and carrots, and maybe a cool, creamy dip.

Test Kitchen Tip: Got extra sauce to spare? Save it for rainy day recipes like Sweet Barbecued Pork Chops or Miniature Meat Loaf.

Tips for Grilling Chicken Wings

How long should you grill chicken wings?

Chicken wings are pretty small when compared to thighs or drumsticks, so they don’t take as long to cook. It should only take about 20 to 25 minutes to cook chicken wings all the way through. Be sure to keep the lid closed during the cooking session to trap the hot air inside the grill and help the chicken cook more quickly.

How do you get crispy chicken wings on the grill?

The key to getting crispy chicken wings on the grill is to cook them over direct heat. That means they’re directly over the flames, which crisps the skin as the chicken cooks. You can move the wings to the indirect side of the grill after browning the skin if you’re worried about burning or charring, but that direct heat in the beginning is important to create a crispy exterior.

Keep in mind that grilled chicken wings will never be as crispy as deep-fried chicken wings because they aren’t cooked in hot oil. That said, they’ll have a smoky flavor and a satisfying texture if cooked properly, so we think it’s worth the trade-off!

How do you grill chicken wings on a charcoal grill?

Start your charcoal grill by using a charcoal chimney or one of these grill starters. When the coals turn white (or glowing red) and no longer emit smoke, spread them evenly throughout the grill. We like to position them in the center of the grill, allowing the edges of the grill grate to become an indirect heat section, if needed.

Add the grill grate and lid. Keep the lid closed until the grill reaches 350°. If your grill lid doesn’t have a thermometer, use the hand test method: Hold your hand 5 inches above the cooking grate. If you can hold it there comfortably for 5 to 7 seconds, the coals are at medium heat.

Add the chicken to clean grill grates and cook for 20 to 25 minutes, turning occasionally so each side becomes golden brown.

How do you grill chicken wings on a gas grill?

To cook chicken wings on a gas grill, set the burners to medium-high and close the lid. When the grill reaches 350°, adjust the burners as needed to maintain the temperature inside the grill. If your gas grill has multiple burners, it’s a good idea to set one of the exterior burners to low in case you need to move the wings to indirect heat.

Add the chicken to clean grill grates and cook for 20 to 25 minutes, turning occasionally so each side becomes golden brown.

How do you know when wings are done on the grill?

The best way to know when chicken is finished cooking is by using an instant-read meat thermometer. Chicken wings should register 165° when they’re cooked through. If you don’t have a thermometer, or you’re having a hard time getting a proper reading with the wing’s a small amount of meat, cut into the chicken wing. The meat should be white and opaque, and the juices should run clear.

If you’re geared up for more grill time, be sure to check out our best barbecue recipes!

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Nicole Doster
Nicole is a writer, editor and lover of Italian food. In her spare time, you’ll find her thumbing through vintage cookbooks or testing out recipes in her tiny kitchen.