Recipe: Grilled BBQ Chicken Wings

updated May 1, 2019
Grilled BBQ Chicken Wings
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(Image credit: Brie Passano)

BBQ chicken wings are ubiquitous at summertime parties, and for good reason — they can be eaten with one hand (cold drink in the other) and are satisfying to devour. Typically, wings are fried or baked and tossed in sauce just before serving. With these wings, we flip the procedure and cook the wings long and slow in their sauce, and then crisp them on the grill just before serving. The results are tender, juicy wings with a caramelized, crispy skin that everyone will love.

(Image credit: Brie Passano)

Prepare the Wings in Advance

These wings can be cooked up to three days in advance and grilled as guests arrive. Cover the wings with a mixture of your favorite BBQ sauce, vinegar, honey, and paprika, and then cook them low and slow for just a few hours in the slow cooker. They’ll cook while you put together dessert or make another dish on the menu. Cool the slow-cooked wings and then store in an airtight container in the fridge until before the party.

Since these wings were cooked through in the slow cooker, there’s no worry of underdone wings; they’ll take just a few minutes to crisp up over medium-high heat straight from the fridge.

The deliciousness of these wings rides heavily on the barbecue used. Look for something without a lot of bells and whistles (no mustard or mesquite), but with a fair amount of sweetness. Caramelization of the barbecue sauce on the grill helps ensure every bite is smoky and crispy.

You can whip up a creamy dip (this quick ranch is a go-to) or pick up your favorite bottled ranch, although it’s unlikely you’ll need either for this super-juicy wings.

A Junior High Fourth of July Party

We’re celebrating the 4th of July with a big dose of junior high nostalgia, fulfilling the longing for the foods that transport us back to a holiday filled with cannonball competitions at the pool, fireworks after sunset, and more hot dogs and ice cream than you can imagine.

Almost everything on this menu, from the slow-cooker queso to the muffin-tin ice cream cakes, can be prepared days in advance, finished off before the party starts, and requires almost no tending once guests arrive.

Grilled BBQ Chicken Wings

Serves 8 to 10

Nutritional Info


  • 3 pounds

    chicken wings

  • 1 cup

    barbecue sauce

  • 2 tablespoons

    apple cider vinegar

  • 2 tablespoons


  • 2 teaspoons

    smoked paprika

  • 1/4 cup


  • Vegetable oil, for brushing the grill


  1. If the wings are whole and not yet separated, use a chef's knife or kitchen shears to cut through the first joint of the wing and remove the wing tip. Discard or freeze for stock. Cut through the second joint to separate the wing into the forearm and upper arm portions. Pat the wings dry with paper towels.

  2. Combine the barbecue sauce, vinegar, honey, and paprika in a medium bowl. Pour half of the sauce into a 3 1/2- or 4-quart slow cooker, and save the remaining sauce for brushing and serving.

  3. Add the wings and the water into the slow cookers and stir to coat. Cover and cook until the wings are cooked through and tender, but not falling apart, on HIGH for 2 1/2 to 3 hours or on LOW for 4 to 5 hours. Using tongs, transfer the cooked wings to a large platter or baking sheet and discard the liquid left in the slow cooker.

  4. Heat an outdoor grill to medium-high heat. Lightly brush the grill with oil. Place the wings on the grill in a single layer. Cook until grill marks form on the bottom, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip the wings and brush with some of the reserved barbecue sauce mixture. Cook until grill marks appear on the other side, 2 to 3 minutes more. Brush with more sauce before serving, or serve with the remaining sauce.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: After the wings have cooked in the slow cooker, remove them from the slow cooker and let them cool. Refrigerate overnight and continue with grilling the following day.

Broiler option: Prepare in the slow cooker as directed. Arrange a rack 4 to 5 inches from the broiler and heat the broiler to high. Line a baking sheet with foil. Transfer the wings to the prepared baking sheet, discarding the cooking liquid. Brush the wings with the reserved barbecue sauce (you will have extra). Broil until well-browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Serve or brush with the remaining barbecue sauce.

Storage: Store leftover wings in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Stylist Credits

  • Food styling by Barrett Washburne
  • Blue Gingham Picnic Blanket and Galvanized Red Star Serving Tray Courtesy of Crate & Barrel