chicken wings

These Grilled Chicken Wings Pack a Spicy Punch


When I was growing up, my dad was the cook in our house. We even had a book called Daddy Makes the Best Spaghetti, and I really identified with the kids in the book – their dad made delicious dinners while Mom worked until six, crushing it at the office.

Dad cooked most of our meals, and always added some of his own flair to the recipes he created, whether it was his Sunday morning cinnamon French toast or his twice-baked potatoes.

And I was my dad’s number one kitchen buddy and helper. I loved food, and I loved my dad, so helping him cook was a no-brainer when I was a kid.

He taught me a lot: how to hold a knife, how to taste test a sauce, and how to make a really killer summer strawberry salad by balancing the sweet and tart flavors.

Even though I was my dad’s kitchen pal, the grill was the one area of cooking that my dad loved where I felt out of place. I would always scamper back inside to shuck the corn or put together the potato salad, rather than standing by my dad as he manned the grill.

I think, looking back, I was intimidated. My dad’s grill was large and complex, fueled by gas, which we always seemed to be out of. And grilling, like fishing, was mostly about waiting, as the only way to get those beautiful grill marks is to leave your food alone as it cooks.

But now, my dad and his grill are three states away, and I am a little less intimidated by the fiery inferno that is the grill — mostly because we have this wonderful little charcoal number that reminds me more of a campfire than of industrial machinery.

I still think of my dad when I grill though, and especially with Father’s Day passing recently, I pulled out one of his recipes; I keep these handy for when I’m in the mood to feel like I’m back home, helping my dad in the kitchen.

These are my dad’s famous Diablo Wings, which he made for many of my birthdays, for lots and lots of family barbecues, and for most Father’s Day celebrations. They are spicy, juicy, and there’s a hint of sweetness that helps round out the flavor.

Before grilling your own Diablo Wings, here are a few tips:

  1. Get a good set of tongs. My friends make fun of me for my tong obsession (I have more than six sets of tongs, and I’m always looking for more), but this tool is essential to good grilling, and to good cooking in general. Heavy-duty metal tongs do best on the grill.
  2. Keep the wings whole. Rather than splitting the wings at the joint, separating the drumstick from the flat, keep the full wing intact. This makes the wings easier to work with and helps prevent them from drying out quickly over the high heat of the grill.
  3. Don’t forget to use oil. The high heat of a grill does help things release when they are ready to, but using oil makes it easier to flip and manipulate those wings without them sticking.
  4. A dry brine is the way to go. Rather than marinating the chicken wings in liquid, a dry brine draws out some of the moisture and deepens the flavor. These chicken wings need to be dry brined for at least an hour before they can be cooked, and they’re even better after a full day of brining.
  5. No grill? Use a cast iron skillet at high heat. This is another essential kitchen item for me. Just make sure you’re in a well-ventilated area and that you’re using a sturdy, seasoned skillet. I use my two (yes two) cast iron skillets every day.

Dad’s Grilled Diablo Wings

These wings are extra delicious when served alongside ranch dressing or an herby yogurt dip to help calm down some of the heat.


3 lbs. of whole chicken wings, bone-in and skin-on

1 Tbsp. Kosher salt

1 Tbsp. Smoked paprika

1 ½ tsp. Cayenne

½ tsp. Red pepper flakes

1 Tbsp. Dried parsley

1 tsp. Garlic powder

1 tsp. Onion powder

1 tsp. Brown sugar

Dash of dry mustard

2 Tbsp. Olive oil


  1. Add the salt, smoked paprika, cayenne, red pepper flakes, dried parsley, garlic oil, onion powder, dry mustard and brown sugar into a large bowl. Mix thoroughly.
  2. Pat your chicken wings dry. Add the dry wings and the oil to the herbs and spices mixture, coating the skin.
  3. Once fully coated, remove the chicken wings from the bowl and place them on a drying rack over a cookie sheet to dry out in the fridge. Leave them to dry brine for at least an hour. If you have the foresight, you can dry brine these wings for up to 24 hours before grilling them.
  4. Preheat your outdoor grill to medium heat. Not too hot – these wings are fairly small.
  5. Grill the wings until they are no longer pink inside, for 25-30 minutes, depending on the size of your wings. Let the wings rest for 5 minutes before serving.



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