Why This Recipe Works
- Hot Turkish pepper paste forms the spicy base for a hybrid marinade/dipping sauce that pairs perfectly with grilled chicken wings.
- Threading chicken wings on pairs of metal skewers makes it easier to turn and cook them evenly on the grill.
- A special skewer setup for a charcoal grill, using a cooking method similar to that used at Turkish kebab shops, makes it easier and faster to cook the skewers.
When I decided to work on a series of grilled-meat-on-a-stick recipes, I asked my Serious Eats coworkers to list their favorite skewered foods, in hopes of finding some dishes that could be mined for recipe development.Our editor, Sho, always a source of great ideas, replied to my request almost immediately: "Grilled Turkish chicken wings. They're ridiculously good."
I was instantly sold, but, having never been to Turkey, I needed him to fill me in on the details of these chicken wings. Sho proceeded to explain how he had eaten more than his share of these wings when he was last in Turkey, having sought them out after reading Kenji's mouthwatering report of thebest things he ate on his own visit to Istanbula few years ago.
In his account, Kenji describes the wings, calledkanatand found in most Turkish kebab shops, as being "marinated in chiles and spices" before they're "threaded on skewers, [and] grilled over charcoal." After pressing Sho for a from-memory description of the spices and chiles that he thought went into the marinade ("hot pepper paste and cumin"), along with some YouTube and Instagram recipe-sleuthing deep dives, I gathered a spread of usual-suspectTurkish pantry ingredientsand began experimenting.
It would have been foolish to try to faithfully re-create a marinade for a dish that I had never actually eaten myself, so I set out to just make a really tasty version of my own that fits with the spirit of the wings that Sho described to me.
The marinade that I came up with starts withbiber salçasi, a Turkish pepper paste that's sold in both sweet and hot varieties. Seeing as these wings are meant to be spiked with chiles, I opted for the hot version. Biber salçasi is a great base for a marinade; it has a thick and sticky consistency similar to that of tomato paste, and a deep roasted-chile flavor that packs plenty of slow-building, mellow heat, but also some sweet sun-dried-tomato vibes.
A little smokyisotpepper (often labeledurfa biberor Urfa pepper here in the States) and paprika round out the chile notes, and a touch of pomegranate molasses provides sweet-tart balance to the heat, while also giving the marinade some viscosity. Minced garlic and chopped fresh parsley bring freshness to the mix, and it all gets brought together with a healthy glug of extra-virgin olive oil.
After stirring everything together, I set a portion of the marinade aside to use as a dipping sauce for the wings once they finish cooking on the grill. The remaining marinade gets tossed with fresh chicken wings that have been split into flats and drumettes.
I let the wings marinate for at least one hour and up to 24 hours.Marinades are really just surface-level flavor treatments, but that's not a letdown with chicken wings, since there isn't a ton of meat on them to begin with.
After marinating, I thread the wings onto pairs of metal skewers that are set a little over an inch apart. This double-skewering method, used at Turkish kebab shops, makes the wings much easier to move around on the grill, which in turn means you can cook them at an even rate.
If you've ever spent most of your time at a cookout flipping wings one by one with a pair oftongs, then you'll appreciate the efficiency of this dual kebab-spearing method. Because they have different shapes, and cook at slightly different rates, make sure to thread the flats and drumettes on different sets of skewers.
Thread the flats between the two bones on each piece, bunching the pieces tightly together. For the drumettes, alternate the orientation of the pieces on the skewers, so it's like they're sleeping head to toe in a cramped tent.
Once all the wings are skewered, it's time to grill. I highly recommend taking the time to set up theimproved kebab-grilling rigthat I've developed, making sure to adjust the distance between the bricks to accommodate the length of your skewers.
For these wings, you can either cook them directly over the coals, as with myal pastorskewers, or on top of a mesh wire rack set over the bricks.
I arrange the lit coals fortwo-zone direct-fire cooking, then rest the skewers over the bricks, with half of them directly over the coals and the other half on the cooler side of the grill.
Turn the wings over the hot side constantly, until the skin on them has begun to char. Then switch them over to the cooler side of the grill, and move the cool-side skewers above the coals to char them up.
This constant movement helps manage flare-ups, while keeping the cooking time to a minimum. You're looking to get a decent amount of char on these wings, so don't be afraid of occasional flare-ups licking up the sides of the skewers. You just don't want them to be engulfed in flames.
Once the wings are just cooked through, get them off the grill and let them rest for a few minutes, which allows them (and the hot metal skewers) to cool down slightly. Slide the wings off their skewers, and serve them up with the reserved marinade for dipping.
These wings may not be an exact replica of the ones that Sho described to me, but they arepretty, pretty, pretty good.
This recipe has been updated with guidance on how to prepare it using a gas grill.
Grilled Turkish-Style Chicken Wings
Serves4to 6 servings
An improved setup for skewers brings these grilled wings closer to the heat, while a marinade based on Turkish hot pepper paste infuses them with flavor.
1 cup (260g)Turkish hot pepper paste(see note)
1/2 cup (120ml) extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup (35g) chopped fresh parsley leaves
4 medium cloves garlic (20g), minced
1 tablespoon (15ml) pomegranate molasses
1 tablespoon (12g) kosher salt
2 teaspoons (4g)isotpepper(optional; see note)
1 teaspoon (2g) ground cumin
1 teaspoon (2g) paprika
3 pounds (1.4kg) chicken wings, cut at joints, wingtips discarded
In a medium bowl, stir together pepper paste, olive oil, parsley, garlic, and pomegranate molasses with a rubber spatula until well combined. Stir in salt, isot pepper (if using), cumin, and paprika. Transfer 1/2 cup (120ml) pepper paste mixture to a small bowl and set aside. (If you're marinating the chicken wings overnight, cover and refrigerate this pepper paste mixture until you're ready to grill the wings.)(Video) How to Make Turkish Chicken Wings | Turkish Chicken Wings Recipe
Combine chicken wings and remaining pepper paste mixture in a 1-gallon zipper-lock bag. Seal bag, pressing out as much air as possible. Massage bag until wings are evenly coated in marinade. Lay bag flat on a rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate, turning bag occasionally, for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours.
When ready to cook, thread chicken wings onto sets of 2 metal skewers, spacing the skewers 1 to 1 1/2 inches apart. Try to keep the chicken wings in a relatively even and flat layer on the skewers. If you're working with both flats and drumettes, thread them on separate sets of skewers. For flats, thread each flat through the gap between the two bones; for drumettes, alternate their end-to-end alignment on the skewers as if they are sleeping head to toe next to each other. Make sure the wings are bunched tightly together, leaving no parts of the skewers exposed except for a 2-inch handle at the bottom of each pair and the pointy tips at the top.
Set up grill for skewers (see note), making sure to adjust distance between bricks to match the length of your skewers. Light 2/3 chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread the coals over half the channel between the bricks, creating a modified two-zone direct fire.
Place half the skewers directly over the hot coals and the other half on the cooler side of the grill, balancing the skewers on top of the bricks, with the handles overhanging the bricks closest to you and the tips balancing on the farther wall of bricks. Cook, turning frequently, until wings on the hot side of the grill are lightly charred on both sides, 4 to 6 minutes; if flare-ups occur, move the skewers to cooler side of grill as needed to get them away from the flames.
Switch the sets of skewers so that the ones cooked on the cooler side of the grill are now positioned over the hot coals, moving the charred wings to the cooler side. Cook, continuing to turn the skewers frequently, until all the wings are evenly charred, 4 to 6 minutes longer. Continue cooking, moving skewers around over the coals, until chicken is cooked through, 2 to 4 minutes longer. Transfer skewers to a serving platter and let rest for 3 to 5 minutes before removing skewers. Serve immediately with reserved marinade for dipping.
Rimmed baking sheet, skewers, grill, chimney starter
Turkish pepper paste (biber salçasi) is made by roasting, puréeing, and dehydrating (traditionally via sun-drying) sweet or hot Turkish peppers. You can find both sweet and hot pepper pastes at Turkish markets or online. This recipe calls for hot pepper paste.
Isot pepper is often labeled urfa biber or Urfa pepper in the United States and is also available at Turkish markets or online. If it's not available, simply omit.
This recipe was specifically developed and tested using a high-heat skewer-grilling setup. Converting this recipe to a standard charcoal or gas grill is possible, but will change recipe times and instructions in ways it hasn't been tested. If you do want to use a standard grill, set it to direct charcoal grilling/all burners on high heat, and cook until wings are lightly charred and cooked through. Gas grills tend to be less powerful and more uneven than charcoal, so we highly recommend a device like the GrillGrate to improve heat intensity and evenness of heating.
Make-Ahead and Storage
The grilled wings are best enjoyed immediately. The marinade can be made in advance and refrigerated for up to three days. The wings can be marinated for up to 24 hours.
- How to Get Started Grilling
- How to Set Up Your Grill for Better Skewers, Kebabs, and Yakitori
- The GrillGrate: An Upgrade Almost Every Gas Grill Needs
Perfect grilled wings cook up 2 phases with 2 different heat zones. Gentle indirect heat slowly cooks the wings evenly & prevents them from drying out or burning – they stay super juicy. Finishing them over direct hot heat creates delicious char & makes them super crispy.Should I boil wings before grilling? ›
So how do you achieve that moist chicken goodness on the inside, while retaining crispiness on the outside? According to The Spruce Eats, boiling those wings for just a bit before grilling will give you the best at-home chicken wing results.How long does it take to cook chicken wings on the grill? ›
Add the chicken wings to the grill grates and grill for 15-20 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 170-175 degrees F. Flip every 3-5 minutes. Enjoy. Remove the grilled wings and serve with the dipping sauce.Do you put sauce on wings before or after grilling? ›
It is best to toss the grilled wings in sauce AFTER they are cooked, not before. The spice rub I use in this grilled chicken wings recipe uses pantry staple spices: Garlic powder.Should you put oil on wings before grilling? ›
Toss the wings in a few tablespoons of neutral cooking oil (like canola or vegetable oil), then season with salt and pepper before adding them to the grill. The oil will prevent the chicken from sticking to the grill.
Place the wings on the grill away from the heat to cook them indirectly. Close the lid and allow them to cook for about 30 minutes undisturbed. Check on the wings and rotate them as needed, making sure they cook evenly. Continue to cook this way for another 15-20 minutes or so until the wings reach 165°F.Do you grill chicken wings skin side up or down? ›
Grill wings (covered if using gas), thicker skin side up, until browned on bottom, 12 to 15 minutes. Flip chicken and grill until skin is crisp and lightly charred and meat registers 180 F, about 10 minutes.Do you put seasoning on wings before or after cooking? ›
The best way to apply a rub to your chicken wings is the night before cooking. This allows much more time for the spices to blend into the chicken. We also recommend adding the spices by hand, rubbing the rub on all sides of the wings.Do you need to wash chicken wings before grilling? ›
"Washing can spread germs from the chicken to other food or utensils in the kitchen." We didn't mean to get you all hot about not washing your chicken! But it's true: kill germs by cooking chicken thoroughly, not washing it. You shouldn't wash any poultry, meat, or eggs before cooking.How do you prepare chicken wings before grilling? ›
So, for best results, let the chicken wings sit in a brine for a couple of hours before cooking. The brine will protect the delicate meat from drying out during cooking. After brining, make sure to pat the wings dry before seasoning and/or cooking.
When you're searing or just need high levels of heat, it's best to cook with the grill lid open. This also allows you to manage flare-ups and cook one side of your food at a time as you see fit.How long should chicken wings sit out before grilling? ›
2. Allow the wings to sit out of the refrigerator for about 20 minutes before grilling. If they are not marinated, brush them with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper.How do you get sauce to stick to grilled wings? ›
The key to getting the sauce to stick to your wings is the flour, Sidoti says. Before you toss your chicken in sauce, coat them with enough flour or dry mixture (aka a seasonings mixture or dry rub).How do you keep grilled chicken from getting tough? ›
Chicken is naturally a lean meat with very little fat, so letting it soak in a marinade or brine not only adds flavor but also keeps it moist. Using skinless chicken breast. Keeping the skin on chicken can prevent the loss of moisture. If you prefer it skinless, just remove the skin after cooking.Do you put wings directly on the grill? ›
Grilling Time & Temp
Place the chicken wings on the hottest part of the grate, directly above the coals and sear for 1 to 3 minutes, searing the wings on all sides until they're nicely browned, and the skin is crispy.
If you're hosting a party, you know wings will be a winning appetizer—but one of the trickiest aspects of serving them is keeping them warm. If you want to prepare the wings and sauce in advance, preheat your oven to 160°F and keep the wings in the oven until party time, says Wichert.