Grilled Piri Piri Chicken Wings

Thursday, September 24, 2020


This post is sponsored by Weber. The content and opinions are all mine.
It's the start of football season, so bring on the chicken wings! Obviously things are a little different this year, but it's still possible to recreate the fun of tailgating at home. My dad and my son are both avid football fans - Washington Football Team and Patriots, respectively. They're both back home in Virginia, so unfortunately I'm missing out on all that good food I know my dad is making for game day. Trust and believe I'll be enjoying some wings here in Detroit though. My father is a devoted Weber griller, as many of you probably remember from my backyard adventures in Haymarket. I was lucky enough to learn how to use Weber charcoal and gas grills under his watch over the years. Needless to say, I was beyond excited to partner with Weber for this post! I'm going to show you how to make some amazing Piri Piri chicken wings on the Genesis II E-335 gas grill.

First, let's talk about this grill, which is loaded with features that made me feel like I had a full kitchen station in my backyard. I am loving the side burner to simmer sauces while my food grills, and the side table is the perfect space to use for a prep area. The Weber Genesis II E-335 reaches temps over 700°F, which is so much hotter than my oven gets. I'll definitely be taking advantage of that extra heat for future recipes. With three burners and a sear station, it's very easy to manipulate the temperature of the grill for cooking over direct and indirect heat. For me, the biggest advantage to using a gas grill is how quickly it warms up. On days that I just want to make something fast on the grill, it's the perfect option. Chicken wings take about thirty minutes to cook, so with a little char and a great sauce, you can achieve something really flavorful on the gas grill.

Before we jump to the recipe, here's a little background info on the star ingredient. These wings pack some serious heat thanks to piri piri chiles, which are slightly less spicy than habanero peppers with a Scoville ranking of 300,000. Piri piri means “pepper” in Swahili. These hot peppers were originally cultivated in Africa, then brought to Portugal by way of colonization. Piri Piri (or Peri Peri) chicken dishes are as popular in South Africa as they are in Portuguese cuisine. I'm going to show you how I use both dried piri piri peppers for my spice rub, and pickled piri peppers in the sauce. You can easily order either online, as they are not likely to be found in American grocery stores. Feel free to sub in cayenne pepper for the rub, or any other variety of fresh red chili peppers for the sauce. The process will still work, but it'll be a different flavor profile. (Just don't call them piri piri wings unless you use the right pepper!)  Alternatively, you can skip the homemade sauce and purchase a commercially prepared piri piri sauce in stores.

Grilled Piri Piri Chicken Wings

15 dried piri piri peppers (or 1 tbsp cayenne, adjust to taste)
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp onion powder
1 tbsp smoked paprika
4 lbs whole chicken wings 
1/4 cup Kosher salt
4 cups cold water
Cooking oil, as needed (with a high smoke point, such as avocado, canola, or grape seed

For the piri piri sauce:
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup lemon juice + zest
1/4 cup pickled piri piri peppers (or other hot red pepper)
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup unsalted clarified butter, ghee, or olive oil*
Pinch of salt
2 bay leaves (optional)

*Regular melted butter will work, however clarified butter or ghee will not burn as fast.

Active Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 3 hours
Yield: Serves 4
Special Equipment (affiliate links): Weber Genesis II E-335 gas grill, spice grinderinstant-read meat thermometer

To make the dry rub for the chicken, combine the dried piri piri peppers, garlic, coriander, cumin, black pepper, onion powder, and smoked paprika in a spice grinder. Grind thoroughly until you don't see any pieces of peppers left. 

You can leave the wings whole, or separate the drums and flats. I think they're easier to manage on the grill when left whole. In a large bowl, dissolve the 1/4 cup of Kosher salt in 4 cups of cold water and submerge the wings. Transfer the bowl to your fridge and allow the wings to brine for 2 hours. Drain well and pat dry.

Toss the wings with the piri piri spice blend and a good drizzle of cooking oil. (To prep in advance, you can stop here and refrigerate the wings up to a day ahead of time.)

To prepare the sauce, use a food processor or blender to blend the vinegar, lemon juice and zest, piri piri peppers, minced garlic, and butter. Blend thoroughly until the sauce is a uniform color and no peppers remain. Season to taste with a pinch of salt. Set this aside until needed. If you need to prep this the day before, refrigerate the sauce and gently warm it before using. 

Ignite your gas grill and let it preheat until it reaches a temperature around 450°-500°F for fifteen minutes. (On the Genesis II E-335, I usually start with all three main burners turned on high, clean my grill grates, and then lower the two burners on the right until the temperature drops down.) 

Grease the grates lightly with oil or use a grilling spray oil. Arrange the wings on the hot grill, skin side-up, in a single-layer. Leave at least an inch or two in between the wings. Close the grill cover and lower the temperature, to maintain heat at around 350°F. 

Allow the wings to cook for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Use a meat thermometer to confirm that the wings are 165°F and fully cooked. 

Meanwhile, you can simmer your piri piri sauce off to the side! I love to add a couple bay leaves because the oil gets infused with the flavor. Paprika, garlic, bay leaf, and butter is a very common combination in Portuguese recipes. 

Flip the wings over and baste the underside with piri sauce, then flip them back over and baste the skin.

Now, remember how I left the other side of the grill on high? It makes it easy to finish the wings over higher heat for that beautiful char. Use tongs to carefully transfer the wings over to the hotter side of your grill. You can place the wings skin-down to crisp up for a minute or so and then flip back over. Baste with piri piri sauce periodically. I'll usually leave the grill open for this part. Just keep moving the wings around as needed, allowing them to char in spots. Be ready to grab a wing and move it to a cooler area of the grill if you notice any flare-ups from the sauce drips. 

Give the tops of the wings one last round of sauce before transferring to your serving platter. No matter how your team plays, with these wings and a Weber grill you're already winning!

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