Red Hot Wings with Pac-Rim Seasonings

My take on the Buffalo wing involves—you guessed it—wood smoke. Crank your smoker up to 375°F. This is hotter than the usual 225°F low and slow, but the heat helps render the fat and crisp the chicken skin. To further pump up the wings, I call for Pac-Rim flavours like sesame oil and sriracha, and use fresh jalapeño peppers to heat up the butter sauce. Napkins and cold beer required.

Yield: 24 wings, enough for 4 to 6 when served with other food

Method: Hot-smoking

Prep time: 15 minutes

Marinating time: 15 to 60 minutes

Smoking time: 30 minutes to 2 hours (depending on smoker temperature)

Fuel: Hardwood of your choice (I like alder or cherry)—enough for 50 minutes (or 2 hours, if smoking at a low temperature) of smoking

Shop: As always, buy organic chicken if you can find it. Sometimes (especially around Super Bowl time), you can buy “drumettes,” the meaty first joint of a chicken wing, with the flat and wing tip removed. They make an easy-to-handle alternative to whole wings. Asian (dark) sesame oil is a fragrant oil pressed from roasted sesame seeds. One good brand is Kadoya from Japan.

What else: Once you master the process—meat plus spice plus smoke plus butter plus hot sauce—you can “buffalo” anything: shrimp, sweetbreads, or even pigs’ ears or tails (the latter a specialty of Animal restaurant in Los Angeles). For Mexican-style hot wings, substitute cumin for the coriander and Cholula hot sauce for the sriracha. The possibilities are endless.


3 pounds chicken wings (about 24 pieces)

1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro

2 tsp coarse salt (sea or kosher)

2 tsp cracked black peppercorns

2 tsp ground coriander (optional)

2 tbsp Asian (dark) sesame oil

Vegetable oil, for oiling the rack

6 tbsp (3/4 stick) butter

4 jalapeño peppers, thinly sliced crosswise (leave the seeds in)

6 tbsp sriracha (or other favorite hot sauce)

1/4 cup chopped dry-roasted peanuts

  1. Place the chicken wings in a large bowl. Sprinkle in ¼ cup of the cilantro, the salt, pepper, and coriander, if using, and stir to mix. Stir in the sesame oil. Cover the bowl and marinate, refrigerated, for 15 to 60 minutes (the longer they marinate, the richer the flavour).
  2. Meanwhile, set up your smoker following the manufacturer’s instructions and preheat to 375°F. (If your smoker’s incapable of reaching that temperature, preheat as hot as the smoker will go.) Add the wood as specified by the manufacturer.
  3. Oil the smoker rack and arrange the drumettes on it. Smoke the wings until sizzling, brown with smoke, and cooked through, 30 to 50 minutes. At lower temperatures (for example, at 250°F), you’ll need 1 1/2 to 2 hours. In some smokers, the pieces closest to the fire will cook faster; if this is the case, rotate the pieces so all cook evenly. To check for doneness, make a tiny cut in the thickest part of a few of the wings. The meat at the bone should be white, with no traces of red. Do not overcook. Arrange the wings on a heatproof platter.
  4. Just before serving, melt the butter in a cast-iron skillet on the stove over high heat. Add the jalapeños and cook until they sizzle and start to brown, 3 minutes. Stir in the sriracha and bring to a boil. Pour over the chicken.
  5. Sprinkle the chicken with the peanuts and the remaining 1/4 cup cilantro and serve at once with plenty of napkins.

Excerpted from Project Smoke by Steven Raichlen (Workman Publishing). Copyright ©2016. Photographs by Matthew Benson.


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About the Author

Steven Raichlen

Steven Raichlen

By: Liz Bruckner Ask Steven Raichlen, world-renowned grilling and smoking authority, the keys to his career longevity, and he shortlists two contributing factors: passion and zeal. A French literature major in college, the bestselling author and host of Steven Raichlen’s Project Smoke; Primal Grill and Le Maitre Du Grill, won a Thomas J Watson Foundation […]

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