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Use your grill to make fried chicken without the frying

Fried chicken is a year-round treat, but heating quarts of oil on your stovetop on a hot, late-summer day isn’t the most appealing proposition. For the crunch of fried chicken without the frying, we suggest taking it outside.

We focused on wings for this recipe because their small size makes it easy to get flavor all the way through to the meat, and the high coating-to-meat ratio means more crunch per bite. And we weren’t willing to sacrifice either of those things on the grill. We found a few existing recipes for grill-frying wings and were disappointed by each one. We wanted deeply seasoned flavor and a thin, crispy coating.

The path to perfection started with brining the wings so they would stay moist on the grill, then putting together a heavily seasoned flour coating. We firmly pressed the coating onto the chicken and then put the wings in the fridge to rest before firing up the grill.

We knew that the wing pieces, although small, would take some time on the grill in order to render the excess fat in the skin. So we banked our coals on one side of the grill (or, for a gas grill, left the primary burner on high and turned the others burners off) and used a two-step cooking process: We put the chicken on the cooler side of the grill to cook until the coating was dry and set, about 30 minutes. Then, to get the fried texture we were looking for, we brushed the wings with a mere 3 tablespoons of oil and let them continue to cook until they were golden brown, which took another 30 minutes.

Grill-fried chicken sounds like an oxymoron, but with this recipe, it’s possible to make great fried chicken without deep frying. Try it his holiday weekend.

Grill-Fried Chicken Wings

Recipe by America’s Test Kitchen



Fried chicken is a year-round treat, but heating quarts of oil on your stovetop on a hot, late-summer day isn’t the most appealing proposition. For the crunch of fried chicken without the frying, we suggest taking it outside.


  • Salt and pepper

  • 1/4 cup sugar

  • 3 pounds chicken wings, cut at joints, wingtips discarded

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 tablespoon granulated garlic

  • 2 teaspoons paprika

  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil


  • Dissolve 1/4 cup salt and sugar in 2 quarts cold water in large container. Add chicken and refrigerate, covered, for at least 1 hour or up to 3 hours.
  • Set a wire rack in a rimmed baking sheet. Whisk flour, granulated garlic, paprika, cayenne, 1 tablespoon pepper and 1 teaspoon salt together in large bowl. Remove chicken from the brine. Working in batches of four, dredge chicken pieces in the flour mixture, pressing to adhere. Place chicken on the prepared rack. Refrigerate chicken, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.
  • FOR A CHARCOAL GRILL: Open the bottom vent completely. Light a large chimney starter mounded with charcoal briquettes (7 quarts). When the top coals are partially covered with ash, pour them into a steeply banked pile against one side of the grill. Set the cooking grate in place, cover, and open lid vent completely. Heat grill until hot, about 5 minutes.

    FOR A GAS GRILL: Turn all the burners to high, cover, and heat grill until hot, about 15 minutes. Keep the primary burner on high and turn off the other burner(s). (Adjust the primary burner or, if using three-burner grill, primary burner and second burner, as needed to maintain grill temperature of 425 F.)
  • Clean and oil the cooking grate. Place chicken, fatty side up, on the cooler side of grill, arranging drumettes closest to coals. Cook chicken, covered, until lightly browned and coating is set, about 30 minutes for charcoal or about 45 minutes for gas.
  • Brush chicken with oil until no traces of flour remain (use all oil). Cover and continue to cook until coating is golden brown and chicken registers between 180 F and 200 F, about 30 minutes longer for charcoal or about 45 minutes longer for gas. Transfer chicken to a clean wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes. Serve.


  • We prefer to buy whole chicken wings and butcher them ourselves because they tend to be larger than wings that come presplit. If you can find only presplit wings, opt for larger ones, if possible.
  • Ideally, 12 whole wings should equal 3 pounds, which will yield 24 pieces of chicken (12 drumettes and 12 flats, tips discarded) once broken down.
  • Do not brine the chicken for longer than 3 hours in Step 1, or it will become too salty. Charcoal grills tend to produce more-intense heat than gas grills do, hence the difference in cooking times.
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