Chicken wings -- - usually deep-fried or oven-baked in a spicy "Buffalo" sauce" -- are a staple at sports parties and informal gatherings. Wings cooked on a smoker offer a change of pace and taste. Smoked wings require additional preparation and attention, but the result is a stand-out hors d'ouevre. The slow-smoking process allows the aroma of smoldering wood chips to permeate the meat, creating subtle overtones of hickory, mesquite or fruit woods.
Thaw frozen chicken wings in a refrigerator. Wings must be thawed completely to avoid uneven cooking. Allow a minimum of 24 hours for thawing.
Combine dry-rub ingredients in a mixing bowl. The herbs and spices in a dry rub vary by taste, but common ingredients are salt, pepper, cumin, paprika and brown sugar. Coat wings with dry rub, place them in a self-sealing plastic bag and store for up to 12 hours in a refrigerator.
Pour wood chips in a half-filled bucket of water and allow to soak overnight. The chips should smoke when placed atop white-hot charcoal briquettes, but should not burst into flame. Hickory and mesquite are frequent choices, but their pungent smoke is overwhelming for chicken wings. Fruit woods, such as apple, cherry or pear, complement chicken's delicate texture.
Fill and light a chimney filled with charcoal briquettes. Spread briquettes evenly in the smoker's firebox when red-hot and flaking gray ash. The charcoal usually reaches this stage in less than 30 minutes.
Spread a thick layer of wood chips atop the charcoal. Close the smoker's lid, and allow the unit to heat to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
Remove chicken wings from the refrigerator and place on the grill. Close the lid and watch the temperature, making sure the unit does not exceed 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Do not open the lid to check the wings. Cooking time increases by 15 minutes each time the lid is opened.
Smoke the chicken wings for approximately 30 minutes. Insert the probe of a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the wing. Smoked wings are safe to eat when internal temperature reaches 180 degrees Fahrenheit.
Remove wings from the grill. Cool for 15 minutes before serving.