Jan asked for chicken wings for Mother’s Day dinner. She is also very fond of Sichuan pepper. To go with the wings, I made Jan’s favorite coleslaw and Japanese potato salad and rice pudding for dessert.
I have had some trouble in the past with grilling chicken wings. I get impatient and set them directly over the heat. They usually come out burnt—even when I turn the gas to the lowest setting. Indirect heat takes at least 50 minutes to cook wings all the way through—relax have a glass of wine, patience is a virtue.
Note: I did manage not to burn these wings, but Jan then complained that she liked them burnt—I can’t win.
Karl’s Sichuan Pepper Chicken Wings
6-8 chicken wings
2 Tbs. dark soy sauce
1 Tbs. xiaoxing rice wine
1 Tbs. ginger, grated on a microplane
1 tsp. sugar
1 Tbs. Sichuan pepper salt
⅔ Tbs. Sichuan pepper
⅓ Tbs. Kosher salt
1. Cut off the wingtips off the wings—leaving only the flat and the drumette.
Tip: Start at least four hours before grilling, but marinating the wings over night is better.
Note: While you can buy wings that are already cut up, buying whole wings is usually cheaper.I save the wingtips for soup stock. I also leave the flat and drumette segments attached until I have finished grilling, because this prevents anything from slipping through the grate and makes for fewer things to flip.
2. Measure the marinade ingredients into a sealable gallon plastic bag and shake to dissolve the sugar.
3. Put the wings in to the bag and press out as much air as you can.
4. Shake the bag to coat the wings with the marinade.
Tip: Refrigerate the bag and flip it every few hours to redistribute the marinade.
5. Half an hour before grilling, remove the chicken pieces from the bag and let them air dry and come to room temperature.
6. Remove the wings from the bag and place them on a lipped baking sheet.
7. Sprinkle both sides of the wings with the spice blend.
Note: If you do not have pre-mixed spice blend, put the Sichuan pepper and salt and process it to a course powder.
8. Let the wings air-dry for half an hour.
Note: You want the wings damp enough that the salt and pepper sticks to them, but you also want then dry enough—when you put them on the grill—that you can get a good sear.
9. Prepare your grill.
Note: If you are using charcoal, build a bi-level fire in the grill—push all of the coals to one side of your grill. If you are using gas, turn on all of your burners and heat the grill for five minutes—turn one side of the grill to its lowest gas setting when you put on the chicken. This helps the pieces that are farthest from the hot side of the grill to cook completely.
10. Oil your grating well and lay the chicken, pretty side down, on the hot side of the grill.
Tip: Close the grill lid.
Note: Chicken wings have a pretty side, the top of the wing, and a less attractive side, the underside of the wing.
11. Sear the chicken for 10 minutes.
12. Transfer the wings to the cool side of the grill.
Tip: As you are moving the chicken, flip the wings pretty side up.
13. Close the grill lid and continue to cook the chicken for another 40-50 minutes.
Tip: The best way to check is with an instant read thermometer. You want an internal temperature of 160º F in the thickest part of the largest drumette.
14. Redistribute the wings after 20 minutes.
Note: The wings that are closest to the heat will cook more quickly. Move the wings farthest from the heat closer and fill their spaces with the wings that were closes.
15. Close the grill and continue cooking the wings for another 20-30 minutes.
16. Transfer the chicken to a platter and tent with aluminum foil to keep them warm.
17. Let the chicken rest for five minutes and then serve warm.
Tip: You may leave the wings whole or separate the flats and drumettes for easier eating.