Have you ever been so caught up in preparing for a meal that you’ve forgotten to get out the meat from the freezer in advance?
You’d be lying if you said it’s never happened!
Luckily, when it comes to some meats it’s perfectly safe to cook them from frozen. Plus, if you do it right, you wouldn’t even guess they weren’t thawed first.
For us barbecue lovers, this begs the question: can you smoke chicken wings from frozen without needing to thaw them first?
As someone who lives and breathes chicken wings, here’s whether you can smoke frozen chicken wings, how to do it effectively, and what you need to be careful of!
I’ll come right out and say it, smoking chicken wings that have been properly thawed is much easier and better than smoking frozen chicken wings. Every step is just easier!
But, if you’re in a pinch and don’t have the time to fully thaw your chicken wings, you absolutely can smoke frozen chicken wings.
Although your chicken wings will take longer to cook as they have to come up from a much lower temperature, the end product is still amazing.
Because of the size, shape, and thickness of chicken wings, they still cook relatively consistently and absorb that delicious smoky flavor we all love.
In contrast, it would be much less successful if you tried to smoke a full frozen chicken, as by the time the exterior was cooked the inside would still be frozen!
Just be sure you always check the internal temperature of your chicken wings before consuming them, being sure they reach the food safe temperature of at least 165°F in the middle of them (not touching the bone).
How Frozen Is Too Frozen?
Let’s be real for second though. If your chicken wings have been in the deep freezer and are literally frozen together in one solid block, then there’s no way you’re going to simply throw them on the smoker.
There’s a certain level of frozen that’s simply too frozen. So, just to be clear, you will be able to smoke frozen chicken wings if you’re able to separate them into individual wings, but not as one block of chicken wings.
If they are slightly stuck together you can try carefully wedging a knife between them and prying them apart.
Once your chicken wings are separated, you can start the preparations for smoking.
How To Smoke Frozen Chicken Wings
There are a few key differences in how frozen chicken wings cook compared to thawed ones.
For one, it’s inevitable that the outside of the chicken wing cooks much faster than the inside, simply because of the way it will “thaw” inside of the smoker.
It’s also much harder to apply a rub to frozen chicken wings too, as it doesn’t have enough moisture to grab and hold onto the seasoning.
Lastly, frozen chickens will often take about an extra hour in the smoker to cook, which risks the outside becoming overcooked, dry, or tough.
Factoring in all the differences that come from being frozen, here’s how to effectively smoke frozen chicken wings – without compromising on deliciousness:
1. Take Your Wings From The Freezer
It goes without saying, but if you’ve got yourself some frozen chicken wings you should take them out of the freezer as soon as you know you’re going to cook them.
The small time they will thaw on the counter while you do your preparations will certainly help and speed up the cooking process.
Particularly if your chicken wings are frozen together, you’ll need them to thaw enough so you can separate them into individual chicken wings.
This is a good time to check to see if you’ve got enough chicken wings to serve each person too!
2. Preheat Your Smoker
There’s no smoke without your smoker. As soon as you’ve taken your chicken wings out of the freezer, get to preparing your smoker.
You can smoke frozen chicken wings on any kind of smoker, from a pellet grill to a charcoal smoker to an electric smoker.
Frozen chicken wings should be smoked at a lower temperature at the start, finishing at a higher temperature at the end. Preheat your smoker to 300°F to get things rolling.
3. Prepare Your Wings
Make sure your chicken wings are separated from one another first. You don’t want to be smoking a “chunk” of chicken wings, it just won’t work.
Once fully separated, you’re going to have the challenge of trying to season them. Because the skin is frozen, it won’t have the ability to hold the seasoning very well.
To combat this, either you can wait until your chicken wings have slightly thawed on the outside, or you can apply a thin coating of oil before adding your rub or seasoning.
Just be aware, that if you apply too much moisture to the skin it will have a hard time drying out in the smoker and may become rubbery.
Of course, adding a rub is optional, and you can always go without for that natural, smoked chicken flavor.
4. Smoke Your Wings
Get your temperature to 300°F, and place your wings directly on the smoker, or on a wire tray first to minimize the time your smoker is open and losing temperature.
Smoke your chicken wings for one hour without disturbing them.
Then, flip all your wings (this just helps with a consistent cook, as where the wings contact the hot steel will generally cook faster).
This is also why using a wire rack can be game-changing, as you can remove the whole rack to flip everything, without losing any temperature in the smoker.
Place your wings back in the smoker for a further one hour. No need to spritz!
Do a quick internal temperature check at this point, and continue smoking until your chicken wings reach an internal temperature of about 160°F, ready for the final blast.
Normally chicken wings take around 80 minutes at 300°F, but frozen wings may take an extra 30-60 minutes!
5. Crank That Heat
For the final 15-20 minutes or so, crank the heat on your smoker up to 450°F. This can be hard to orchestrate on a charcoal smoker, but do what you can to raise the temperature.
Believe me, this step is worth it. It helps dry out the outside of the skin, making it crispy, and can add significant color to your wings.
6. Final Touches
The most important step when cooking FROZEN chicken wings is checking to see if the internal temperature has reached a safe 165°F.
Looks can be deceiving. After all, the outside will cook much quicker than the inside.
Once your chicken wings are ready, step back and observe the glory. Can you really tell they had been frozen first?
Finish your wings off with your favorite sauce or condiments.
Smoking Frozen Wings: What To Be Careful Of
Sounds easy enough smoking frozen wings, right? Well, it’s not as easy as if they had been thawed first.
To ensure you’re maintaining the quality of your frozen smoked chicken wings, there are a few easy adjustments you can make to the process.
Just to be clear, we’re talking about classic bone-in chicken wings here, not boneless chicken wings or chicken nuggets!
Here are the four most important things to be aware of when smoking chicken wings from frozen:
- When you first add your chicken wings to the smoker, because of the very low temperature of the meat, the overall ambient temperature of the smoker is likely to drop too. This is why it’s crucial you’ve got your smoker up to 300°F at a minimum before adding your frozen wings.
- For normal, thawed chicken wings, smoking at a higher temperature of 350°F will help develop crispy skin. Lower, more classic smoking temperatures of 225-275°F will more likely lead to rubbery chicken skin. For frozen wings, however, a temperature of 300°F seems to be the sweet spot. This is because temperatures too high will quickly cook and dry out the exterior of the chicken wing before the inside is even close to ready!
- Because the meat is frozen, it takes more time and persistence to absorb that smoky flavor we all love. To account for this, try using stronger smoking woods like hickory or mesquite, rather than milder smoking woods like apple or pecan.
My favorite smoking woods for chicken wings are oak or hickory.
- Cooking frozen foods always come with inherent risks. Whether it’s grilling frozen burgers, frying frozen sausages, or smoking frozen chicken wings. Because the whole meat is frozen, the outside begins to thaw quicker than the inside. Be aware of this, and ensure that the middle of the chicken is completely cooked to a food-safe temperature of 165°F before consuming it!
Luckily, because chicken wings are a lot thinner, they thaw quite quickly and evenly in the smoker. This is one of the key reasons why you can smoke frozen chicken wings with very little difference to the end product, except having to wait about an extra 30-60 minutes!
So, if time isn’t on your side or you forgot to defrost your chicken wings. Don’t stress.
It’s completely OK to smoke chicken wings from frozen. Be aware, it will add an extra 30 to 60 minutes to your cooking time. But the end result will come out beautifully so long as you make some minor adjustments.
You may be thinking, if it’s going to take an extra 30 minutes to cook, why wouldn’t you just thaw them out first and then start smoking them.
I would say, why not both? While you are getting your smoker preheated and everything else prepared, start to defrost your chicken wings, either in the microwave or in an airtight bag submerged in lukewarm water.
Regardless, the most important thing to check is that the internal temperature has reached a food-safe level of 165°F before you throw them down the hatch.
If you’re up for the challenge, give it your best go and comment below on how it went, or even consider sending a picture to us here at GrillSimply. We’ll judge if we can tell they were frozen first!