In my humble opinion, chicken wings are good any time of the day or night. You can have them as appetizers, set them out as party food, or make a complete meal of them for dinner. If there are any leftover (rarely), I will eat them for breakfast! We were having a craving for the lemon-pepper wings we get from a local delivery service, but their wings (although delicious), are extremely salty. Salty as in “my lips are burning and I need a gallon of water” salty. Instead of ordering out, I make up a lemon-pepper seasoning mix that was lower in salt, plus it was fresh and free of preservatives and fillers that you might find in store-bought varieties. Then we grilled up some wings of our own!
Grilling chicken wings is really the best way to prepare them. Grilled wings are less greasy, have a nice outdoor-smoky flavor, and are much easier to clean up! However if you don’t have a grill (or the inclination to go outside because of the weather), you can also cook these in the oven on a baking sheet.
I like to use whole wings, 1) because I am lazy and I hate cutting wings up, and 2) they are much easier to grill since they are less likely to slip through the grate. Brining the wings, before seasoning and grilling, will result in plumper wings that are less likely to dry out, and more flavor throughout the wing. Since the brine adds salt to the meat, you do not need much, if any, salt in the seasoning mix.
We thought these were the best lemon-pepper wings we’ve ever had. We were also very hungry (and then had to endure through photographing them) – so please try them for yourselves and let us know what you think!
- 6 tablespoons kosher salt
- 6 tablespoons sugar
- 6 cups water
- 4 pounds of whole chicken wings (around 16 wings)
- 1/4 cup black peppercorns, ground using medium grind with automatic grinder (I used tellicherry peppercorns and a coffee grinder we only use for spices)
- zest of 2 lemons (2-3 tablespoons)
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 2 teaspoons granulated garlic (NOT garlic salt)
- 3 teaspoons dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
In a large resealable bag, shake up the 6 T kosher salt, 6 T sugar, and the water until salt and sugar have completely dissolved. Add the chicken wings and allow to brine for around 1 hour in the refrigerator. After brining, rinse the wings off and dry thoroughly on paper towels. If you’re not ready to grill yet, put the wings back in the refrigerator on a paper-towel lined baking sheet, uncovered. (Allowing them to dry uncovered in the refrigerator will help with the crisping when they are cooked.)
Prepare a grill for cooking using indirect heat at around 400F. (With the Big Green Egg, use the inverted plate setter. Place an aluminum pan on the plate setter underneath the grate to catch drippings, for easier cleanup.)
In a medium sized bowl, mix the freshly ground black pepper with the lemon zest. Press the zest into the pepper while mixing, to release more of the lemon’s oils. Add the additional ingredients and mix well.
Place the wings in a large bowl and toss with a little olive oil to lightly coat the wings. Sprinkle in several tablespoons of the lemon-pepper seasoning, and toss the wings with your hands, making sure all surfaces of the wings get seasoned. Add more seasoning and toss some more. Repeat until you are satisfied with how much seasoning is on the wings. (Note: You probably won’t need all of the seasoning mix. Just put the leftovers in a sealed jar and keep in refrigerator until next time you need it.)
Put the wings on the grill and let them cook around 15 minutes. Flip them over and cook about 15 more minutes. Keep flipping them until the skin is crispy and they are done – around 45-60 minutes total. (When they start getting loose at the joints, they are usually done.)
Ready to eat – don’t burn your fingers!
Sitting around waiting for these lemon-pepper wings requires a good soundtrack or you’ll go insane! Fortunately I had The Bright Mississippi from Allen Toussaint. Produced by Joe Henry, this is New Orleans jazz done by one of the most remarkable piano players alive. This reminds us of our trip to d.b.a. club on Frenchmen Street a few years ago. To sit, listen and remember those wonderful nights, well, that why I cherish music so much…as long as I have “she cooks” listening with me!