Cooking With Confidence
Sticky, spicy, and wonderful.
Appetizers, Chicken, Junk Food Junkies, Spicy

Sticky Wings

by Nick

If you told me that I could only pick one snack food to eat for the rest of my life, it might be chicken wings. Either that or popcorn, but probably wings. I’ve made chicken wings before on Macheesmo, three kinds in fact, but this version is something different.

I think there are three important qualities to a solid chicken wing: 1) Tender and juicy meat. I hate an overcooked wing. 2) Heat! This one is debatable but in general I think a wing needs some heat for it to be memorable. 3) Messy. I better have to lick my fingers.

These sticky wings have all three of those qualities!

I had a hard time deciding what to call these guys because I actually adapted the rub and sauce from a ribs recipe. It’s got some Asian flavors going, but also some Southwestern aspects. The wings have a dry rub on them, but then are tossed in a sauce.

Basically, they are all over the map. But I’m not exaggerating when I say that the recipe is probably in my Top 10 wings I’ve ever had in my life. And trust me… that is a very serious statement.

Yield
Serves 4-6.
Prep Time
Total Time

Just a moment please...

Print Recipe Sticky Wings

Ingredients

  • 3-4 pounds chicken wings, about 3 dozen
  • Dry Rub:
  • 1/4 Cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons ancho chile powder (see my note below on making the rub or you can use regular chile powder)
  • 2 Tablespoons finely ground coffee (espresso beans are called for in the original but I just used a dark roast bean)
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons Kosher salt
  • 1 Tablespoon hot paprika
  • 1 Tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 Tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh ground pepper
  • 1 Teaspoon dried thyme, crumble it up
  • Sticky Sauce:
  • 1/2 Cup rice vinegar
  • 1 large shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/4 Cup sugar
  • 1-3 Tablespoons hot chili sauce (like Sriracha. I used 3 Tablespoons because I like them spicy)
  • 6 Tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
  • 1/4 Cup cilantro, chopped for garnish (optional)

Helpful Equipment

  • Coffee Grinder (for espresso and also grinding ancho peppers if you are making your own chili powder)

Directions

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees, unless you are making the ancho powder, then preheat it to 200 degrees.

2) Grind regular coffee beans for the rub.

3) If you want to make your own with dried peppers, just cut off the stems and scrape out the seeds. Then slice them into quarters and set them in a 200 degree oven for about 30 minutes. Take them out and let them cool and then you should be able to grind them up really easily using a spice/coffee grinder.

4) Trim down chicken wings: using a sharp knife, find the joint between the wing tip and the middle section of the wing and slice through it. If you can slice the joint correctly you won’t have to apply much pressure. You can toss the wing tips or save them for chicken stock.

5) Do a similar cut in the joint between the drumstick and the middle section. Again, it should slice pretty easily if you go through the joint. If you are chopping through the bone every time, you are making your life harder than it needs to be.

6) Once all wings are cut, dunk them in rub and press it on to each side of the wings. Make sure each wing has a good even coat of the rub.

7) Bake these at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes. At the 20 minutes mark, pull them out and flip them with tongs.

Note: These wings are delicious with just the rub. If you want to stop here you’ll end up with a delicious (although not exactly sticky) final product. It will still please the masses though I promise.

8) Whisk together all sticky sauce ingredients in a medium bowl while wings cook.

9) Get out a large sauté pan and put it over high heat. Whisk sauce to make sure it’s all combined well and then pour it into pan.

10) After just a few minutes over high heat, the sauce should be starting to bubble nicely and the sugar from the sauce will start to thicken up a bit. The sauce should still be pretty runny though, you don’t want it to thicken up too much.

11) Then throw all your baked wings into the pan! When the wings hit the sauce, the sauce will stick to the wings and thicken up even more almost instantly.

12) The whole process takes only about 5 minutes per batch. Once they are all sticky, serve them immediately with some chopped cilantro on top.

Adapted from Oct 2009 Bon Appetit Ribs Recipe.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees, unless you are making the ancho powder, then preheat it to 200 degrees.

Making the Rub

So most of the ingredients for the rub are fairly common. I did grind my own coffee beans for the rub (although I just used regular coffee I had on hand, not espresso beans). The one thing that might throw off some people is the ancho powder.

If you happen to have some dried ancho chiles, it is pretty easy to make it, but you could also just use normal chili powder. Or, of course, you could go buy actual packaged ancho chile powder which is fine if you’ll use it in other recipes.

If you want to make your own with dried peppers, just cut off the stems and scrape out the seeds. Then slice them into quarters and set them in a 200 degree oven for about 30 minutes. Take them out and let them cool and then you should be able to grind them up really easily using a spice/coffee grinder.

Some pieces in this elaborate rub.

Some pieces in this elaborate rub.

This is a really solid rub. I think I might start mixing up larger batches of it and keeping it on hand for chicken and popcorn and stuff. It has a really great flavor and is spicy, salty, and sweet. Fantastic stuff.

All mixed together.

All mixed together.

Prepping the wings

One great thing about chicken wings is they are very economical. They still aren’t huge sellers in America compared to breast meat so you can get them for a pretty good price normally. Even the organic chicken wings at Whole Foods were like $3.50/pound. Not bad at all.

Most likely you get the whole wing when you buy them from the store or butcher. It’s pretty easy to trim them down to a noticeable product though. First, using a sharp knife, find the joint between the wing tip and the middle section of the wing and slice through it. If you can slice the joint correctly you won’t have to apply much pressure. You can toss the wing tips (on the left below) or save them for chicken stock.

Then do a similar cut in the joint between the drumstick and the middle section. Again, it should slice pretty easily if you go through the joint. If you are chopping through the bone every time, you are making your life harder than it needs to be.

Two simple cuts for each wing.

Two simple cuts for each wing.

If you are a visual learner, the first 30 seconds of this video does a good job of showing how it’s done.

Rubbing the wings

Once all your wings are cut, dunk them in your rub and press it on to each side of the wings. Make sure each wing has a good even coat of the rub. Don’t worry. They won’t be too spicy. The rub is actually not that spicy. It just gives the wings tons of flavor and a tiny bit of texture from the sugar caramelizing.

No need to go light on this stuff.

No need to go light on this stuff.

Bake these at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes. At the 20 minutes mark, pull them out and flip them with tongs. This will just make sure that your rub doesn’t burn on the bottom of the wings.

Note: These wings are delicious with just the rub. If you want to stop here you’ll end up with a delicious (although not exactly sticky) final product. It will still please the masses though I promise.

Sticky Sauce

Assuming you do want to take it to the next level, whisk together all of your sticky sauce ingredients in a medium bowl while your wings cook. It’s that easy really…

Sticky business...

Sticky business…

After 40 minutes, pull your wings out of the oven. Check out these beauties!

Honestly, they were awesome just like this!

Honestly, they were awesome just like this!

Making the wings sticky

Here’s the trick for making the sauce sticky and getting a good even coating on the wings. Get out a large saute pan and put it over high heat. Whisk your sauce to make sure it’s all combined well and then pour it into your pan (I did mine in two batches actually so I only added half my sauce at a time, but you could try it all at once depending on your pan size and your courage level.)

After just a few minutes over high heat, the sauce should be starting to bubble nicely and the sugar from the sauce will start to thicken up a bit. The sauce should still be pretty runny though, you don’t want it to thicken up too much. Then throw all your wings (or half if you are doing batches) into the pan! When the wings hit the sauce, the sauce will stick to the wings and thicken up even more almost instantly.

The whole process takes only about 5 minutes per batch. Once they are all sticky, serve them immediately with some chopped cilantro on top.

Cilantro is a nice touch.

Cilantro is a nice touch.

These guys have a very complex flavor going on. They have a good amount of vinegar almost like a vinegar based bbq sauce, but also have Asian aspects to them with the ginger and everything. I was worried that they would be too busy actually, but they turned out pretty much perfect.

This might be my new go-to wing recipe when I don’t want the straight up, standard buffalo sauce variety.

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9 comments on “Sticky Wings

  1. Nick, when detailing the important qualities of a wing, you left out my favorite: Crispy! I love the crispy skin. So with that in mind, were these crispy at all? Cause from the pictures, they don't look crispy to me. crispy

  2. They actually do have a bit of crisp to them. If you want them super-crispy bake them at 450-500 degrees.

    But in reality the only way to get the best crispy wing is to hit up the deep fryer my friend. But I'm sure you already know that… If you deep fried these, I don't think the dry rub would be a good idea, but the sticky sauce would still work out nicely.

  3. Wow, these look totally awesome, and I'm from Buffalo so I feel like my wing taste is pretty discerning. If you wanted to fry them for crispness, you could hit them with the rub right after they came out and the residual oil would make it stick, then you could apply the sauce with a brush or something. That's how they do their Cajun wings at this place near where I grew up that has the best wings I've ever tasted. Also, I'm loving the DFH 60 Minute IPA in the background, that sounds like a great Sunday combo.

  4. I love fire roasted chicken wings so this recipe would adapt very nicely to a ceramic cooker like mine. I'm definitely going to try these very soon. The flavors seem perfect together and I like the sticky sauce.

  5. can i use boneless? i hate hate hate meat on the bone but these look really great otherwise!

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