Tailgating Recipe: Pickle-Juice Chicken Wings on the Grill

by Jim Casey
photos by Jim Casey

Chicken wings should be in everyone’s recipe repertoire. The versatile, hand-held morsels of chickeny goodness can be doused in your favorite spice mix or sauce and grilled, smoked, or fried. The fan-favorite fowl is ideal for tailgates, backyard grilling, or around the campfire.

For today’s recipe, we’re giving our chicken wings a quick brine in pickle juice and hot sauce before coating them with a spicy BBQ rub. The pickle juice will keep the wings moist, while the hot sauce and spice rub will provide a fiery kick.

Let’s get smoking. Of course, if you’re looking for more tailgating recipes from Outsider, check out our Best Damn Brisket, Skillet S’mores, Chicken Quarters, or Pig Shots.

Pickle-Juice Chicken Wings Ingredients

  • 3 lbs. chicken wings
  • 8 oz. pickle juice
  • 4 oz. hot sauce
  • 4 tbsp. spicy BBQ dry rub
Four simple ingredients: chicken wings, pickle juice, hot sauce, BBQ dry rub.

Prep Work

Place the chicken wings in a foil pan or Ziploc bag. Pour the pickle juice over the wings. Pour the hot sauce over the wings. Mix. Let the wings marinate for 1 hour in the fridge or cooler. Don’t marinate much longer, or the wings will begin to actually pickle.

Marinate the wings for 1 hour in the pickle juice/hot sauce mixture.

After 1 hour, remove the wings from the marinade. Place the wings on a wire rack and let them air dry for 10 minutes.

Coat both sides of the wings in spicy BBQ dry rub. Feel free to use your favorite dry rub, including lemon-pepper, sweet BBQ, Cajun, or Montreal.

Air dry the wings on a wire rack for 10 minutes (left) before covering with spicy BBQ dry rub (right).

Smoker Setup

  • Lump charcoal
  • Wood chips (apple or oak)
  • Fireproof gloves
  • Foil pan
  • Water

Today, we’re using a Big Green Egg, but you can use any smoker or indirect grill for this tailgating recipe (in addition, you can directly grill the wings, too). Fill the Green Egg with lump charcoal and ignite. Wait for the Egg to get up to 500-600 degrees (usually takes about 20 minutes). Place a metal/foil pan directly on the charcoal (you’ll need fireproof gloves for this), filled with two cups of water and a couple handfuls of wood chips (I like apple for this recipe). Add a couple more handfuls of wood chips directly on the charcoal. Now you’re smoking!

Place the convEGGtor (indirect convection shield) on the Egg. Add the grate. Place the chicken wings on the grate. Close the lid. Set temperature to 250 degrees. A fluctuation between 240-260 degrees is normal.

Place the chicken wings on the smoker at 250 degrees.

Smoke the wings for about 1 hour. Flip the wings. Smoke for 1 hour, bringing the total cook time to 2 hours. Remove the wings from the smoker when they reach an internal temperature of 175+ degrees.

Serve with pickle chips and your favorite dipping sauce.

Chicken wings after 2 hours on the smoker at 250 degrees.

4 Step Pickle Juice Hot Wings

  1. Marinate 3 lbs. of chicken wings in 8 oz. pickle juice and 4 oz. hot sauce for 1 hour.
  2. Remove wings from marinade and let air dry on wire rack for 10 minutes.
  3. Coat both sides of the wings in spicy BBQ dry rub.
  4. Smoke at 250 degrees for 2 hours.
Enjoy your Pickle Juice Hot Wings.