These grilled chicken wings with maple bourbon sauce are grilled over direct heat, without any sauce, so the skin turns crispy. Then they’re moved to indirect heat to finish cooking when you can safely slather them with a sauce without risk of scorching. The sauce is sweetly savory with just the right amount of heat. Here’s how to make them.
It turns out that grilling wings is actually one of the easiest and best ways to make them. No need to bust out the fryer or anything like that. Just light the grills and stack it with wings. It’s the best thing to do for a grilling weekend or game day.–Jamie Purviance
Grilled Chicken Wings with Maple Bourbon Sauce
For the chicken wings
- About 3 pounds chicken wings and/or drumettes
- Extra-virgin olive oil
For the spice rub
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the maple bourbon sauce
- 3/4 cup ketchup
- 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
- 1/4 cup bourbon
- 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
Prep the chicken wings
- Brush the wings very lightly with oil.
Make the spice rub
- In a small bowl, stir together all the ingredients.
- Coat the wings evenly with the rub and let them sit on a rimmed baking sheet at room temperature while you make the sauce and heat the grill.
Make the maple bourbon sauce
- In a small saucepan over high heat, combine all the ingredients and bring to a boil.
- Reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, 12 to 15 minutes.
Grill the chicken wings
- Prepare the grill for direct cooking and indirect cooking over medium heat (350° to 450°F | 176° to 204°C). Brush the grill grates clean.
- Grill the wings over direct heat, with the lid closed as much as possible, turning once or twice, until the skin turns sorta crisp, 10 to 12 minutes.
☞TESTER TIP: Keep a careful watch while grilling as the fat dripping from the wings may cause flare-ups that could incinerate your wings in seconds.
- Move the wings to indirect heat and lightly brush on all sides with the sauce.
- Continue to cook, with the lid closed as much as possible, until the wings are cooked through, 12 to 15 minutes.
- Serve the wings straight from the grill with ample napkins.
Buffalo sauce variationIf you prefer chicken wings that pack more heat than sweet, swap the maple bourbon sauce for Buffalo sauce. In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup hot sauce, such as Frank’s Red Hot or Crystal, 5 tablespoons melted unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon white vinegar, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne (optional), and salt to taste. Cook as directed above, occasionally brushing the wings with the Buffalo sauce after moving them to indirect heat.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This is a fairly quick recipe that packs some nice flavor. I especially liked the bourbon and maple sauce as did my guests.
I did have an issue with flare-ups as I was cooking over direct heat but I just moved the wings to indirect to let some of the fat render out and let my coals cool down a little. While the skin wasn’t super crisp it certainly wasn’t chewy.
The rub was good but I didn’t feel I had enough to cover my wings so I doubled it. I learned a neat little trick years ago and I would do this next time. Add a couple of teaspoons of baking powder (not baking soda) to the dry rub and coat the wings. Put the wings on a rack and sheet pan in a 250°F oven while you get the coals ready. This renders off some of the fat and the baking powder crisps the skin.
Definitely bookmarking this maple bourbon chicken wings recipe for football season. Maple and wings go together so well and each ingredient in this sauce is easy to find and probably something you already have in your pantry. So good, sticky sweet, and finger-licking good!
These wings were unbelievable! Every bite gives you juicy, tangy, barbecue sauce with a tiny punch of bourbon. I can’t wait to make these again. I was surprised at how much I could still taste the bourbon even after bringing the sauce to a boil. We loved these and will keep this recipe in rotation.
Putting the wings on direct heat for the first 10 minutes gave us crisp, juicy, delicious wings. We didn’t experience any flare-ups.
I thought the sauce was extremely easy to put together. We used double the amount of wings so we doubled the sauce. I would say as written the recipe would be 2 to 4 servings but you will want to make more as these will go fast.
I have always been a reluctant griller, especially when it comes to chicken. It inevitably burns on the outside while still raw on the inside. So I was pleasantly surprised when these wings came out perfect. The meat was cooked through but still moist and the sauce was a nice combination of sweet and spicy.
Using a dry rub over the direct heat and applying the sauce over indirect proved to be a good technique for preventing flare-ups. I experienced none. I don’t think you can have any downtime when grilling. You really have to keep an eye on the grill.
The sauce thickened nicely, similar to a bottled barbecue sauce. I used Old Grand Dad Bourbon.
This recipe served my family of 4 with no leftovers.
These grilled chicken wings are packed with flavor—smoky, sweet, and a little heat from the chipotle chile powder. They would be great for a party or as a casual meal.
For ease of preparation, I placed the wings in a resealable plastic bag and added the oil to coat, and then tossed in the rub.
We cooked the chicken for 12 minutes over direct heat and the skin was pretty crisp. There were a few minor flare-ups at first but none when brushing with the sauce.
Originally published June 13, 2019