How To Make the Ultimate Honey Bourbon Chicken Wings

'Chopped' judge Chris Santos reveals how to whip up some seriously amazing wings.
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'Chopped' judge Chris Santos reveals how to whip up some seriously amazing wings.
The finished product. (Photo: "Share" by Chris Santos)

The finished product. (Photo: "Share" by Chris Santos)

SMOKY RUBBED CHICKEN WINGS with HONEY, BOURBON, AND MOLASSES SAUCE

The below recipe is excerpted from celebrity chef Chris Santos' new cookbook, Share. Santos is a judge on TV's Chopped and the founder/chef at New York City's Beauty & Essex, Vandal and Stanton Social.

I order chicken wings anytime I see them on a menu, and this recipe will make you realize just how incredible they can be. After a lot of trial and error, when I finally got the rub right I felt like I had unlocked a magic puzzle. There are a lot of ingredients in the rub, but they provide a perfect mix of sugar and spice, and the bourbon-spiked sauce coats the wings in yet another layer of bold flavor.

If you prefer the grill to the oven, grill the wings over medium indirect heat (about 400F) for about 40 minutes, until they are almost done, before adding the sauce.

chicken wings

INGREDIENTS

BARBECUE SAUCE

1 cup store-bought spicy barbecue sauce, such as Rattler BBQ Sauce

1 cup tomato ketchup

¼ cup molasses (not blackstrap)

½ cup bourbon, preferably Maker’s Mark

½ cup honey

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

SMOKY RUB

1∕3 cup packed light brown sugar

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon ground coriander seeds

1 tablespoon sweet smoked paprika

1½ teaspoons ground cumin

1½ teaspoons dried thyme

½ teaspoon ground allspice

½ teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon hot red pepper flakes

¾ teaspoon celery salt

¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

¾ teaspoon cayenne pepper

¼ teaspoon dry mustard

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

_________

5½ pounds chicken wingettes (see Note)

METHOD

1. To make the sauce: Bring all of the ingredients to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, whisking often. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, whisking occasionally to discourage scorching, until lightly thickened and reduced by about one-quarter, about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool. (The sauce can be covered and refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.)

2. To make the rub: Whisk all of the ingredients together in a small bowl.

3. Put the wingettes in a very large bowl and toss with the rub. Divide the wingettes among two 1-gallon self-sealing plastic bags, seal, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

4. Position racks in the top third and center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400F. Line two 18-by-13-inch half-sheet pans with aluminum foil for easy cleanup.

5. Spread the wingettes out on the baking sheets, spacing them well apart. Roast the wingettes, turning the wings over and switching the positions of the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through cooking, until the wings are crisp and cooked through, about 40 minutes. During the last 5 minutes, brush the wings with some of the sauce. Remove the wings from the oven.

6. Position a broiler about 8 inches from the source of heat and preheat the broiler on high. In batches, broil the wings to caramelize the sauce in spots, about 3 minutes. Serve hot, with any left over sauce passed on the side.

Note: Chicken wingettes are chicken wings that have been chopped between the joints, with the wing tips discarded. Many of the large poultry producers sell chicken wingettes. Fresh wingettes are better than the frozen ones, as the latter tend to be dry when baked. Or do it yourself: Chop whole chicken wings between the joints with a cleaver or heavy knife and discard the tips (or save them for another use, such as stock).