|Smoked chicken wings. Yum.|
For me, the Super Bowl means three things: football, friends, and food…and not in that particular order. This year a friend of mine and I teamed up to put together a spread of food for our families to be proud of.
My contribution? Smoked chicken wings.
Smoked, you ask? Yes. Read on to learn more.
Over the past year I have become ever more interested in the art of smoking meats. My first smoker came in the form of a Father’s Day gift from my wife. It was a very simple electric dome smoker (EDS) from Lowe’s. The perfect gift for newbs like me to get their foot in the door of the smoking universe, this type of smoker is unrivaled in its ease of use. Simply plug it into the outlet and it does its job. However, as I delve deeper into the craft I have discovered that the ‘set it and forget it’ method has some inherent flaws.
For starters, my EDS has no temperature control. It cooks food – rather well, I might say – at a steady 225 degrees. This is fine for the average smoke, but I want the flexibility to adjust the temperature at will. In addition, there is something missing in the flavor of your food when you remove charcoal from the picture. Charcoal brings a sort of “X” factor to the table, and when I taste meat smoked with charcoal I can tell a distinct difference from food cooked with an electric element.
But more importantly than these two issues is the fact that the EDS removes me entirely from the equation. Perhaps this is a good thing, especially while I take the requisite time to learn what I am doing. But for me, smoking meat is becoming more and more an opportunity to exercise an element of creativity, and while smoking with an EDS is easy to do, it prohibits me from leaving my own signature on the final product.
This is where my new purchase comes in.
|The Smoke Hollow 47180t four-in-one by Outdoor Leisure Products.|
Meet the Smoke Hollow 47180t, made by Outdoor Leisure Products and sold at your local Sam’s Club or Gander Mountain. I bought the Smoke Hollow for two reasons: 1. Versatility, and 2. Affordability. It’s versatile because this unit is really more like four in one. It comes with a searing burner, a standard propane grill, a charcoal grill, and a smoke box for indirect heating. While it’s clearly not the most high-quality outdoor appliance on the market, you definitely get a lot for the price.
Before I made this purchase I did my due diligence and read every review of this product that I could find across the Internet. (I found the review on the Nibble Me This blog to be particularly helpful.) While it was clear from the get-go that this smoker – as with any other barrel smoker priced on the cheap end of things – needed a little TLC to reach its maximum potential, I felt up to the challenge. The first two things I did were seal up some of the seams in the lid of the charcoal side, as well as extend the chimney down to the level of the grate. (Details on these processes can be found on Nibble Me This’ follow-up post.) While I still have several other mods to make, these were tremendously helpful in getting me headed in the right direction.
My maiden voyage with the Smoke Hollow was a lot of fun, if not a lot of work. This is definitely not the set it and forget it method I have practiced before now. It’s apparent that I need to truly learn my smoker in order to properly use it. I kept a pretty detailed log of my experience, noting everything from the amount of coal and wood I used to the food-level temperature to the ambient outside temperature, making notes nearly every 10-15 minutes.
|Finishing off 5 lbs. of smoked chicken wings on the propane grill.|
Since I had virtually no time to practice with this thing before the Big Game, I was cooking food on my first try. (The curing process does not count.) In the end I was able to smoke 5 lbs. of chicken wings between 240-275 degrees for about an hour, then I finished them off on the grill for another 20 minutes. This was not my original gameplan, but it worked out just fine. The smoke flavor coupled with the texture from the direct propane heat produced some incredible chicken wings despite my miserable attempt to reach, and maintain, my target temperature and time (300 degrees for 45 minutes).
I look very much forward to making a few more modifications to my new cooking tool and mastering the technique required to use it properly. I will try and share with you my milestones along the way, just in case you might be interested. In the meantime, I will provide my recipe below. Enjoy!
|The finished product. They were truly worth the effort.|
Smoked Chicken Wings
- Purchase a pack of fresh, raw chicken wings from your local butcher or grocery store.
- Remove them from their packaging and rinse them off with cold water.
- Cut the bony tip off the end of the wing, since it has no meat in it. Then find the joint between the flapper and the drum and cut the wing in half. Also, trim off any excess skin that might be hanging off unnecessarily anywhere.
- Let the wings soak overnight in your refrigerator in some lowfat buttermilk.
- In the morning, rinse off the buttermilk and move the wings to a new container where you cover them liberally (but not excessively) with the following rub mixture:
2 Tbls kosher salt
2 Tbls Hungarian paprika
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper
- Let them marinate for several hours in your fridge.
- Smoke the wings for an hour or so between 250-300 degrees with hickory.
- When you are done smoking, move the wings over to the grill on medium-low heat for 10-15 minutes (this all depends on how done they are when you remove them from the smoker) to firm up the skin and add a slight crunch to the texture. A little char is a good thing. Catching them on fire from flare-ups is not. Pay attention.
- Serve and enjoy.