Sweet and Sticky Barbecue Chicken Wings

These barbecue chicken wings are the perfect burger or brat accompaniment served with a side of Bush’s Vegetarian Baked Beans for your tailgate, kissed with homemade barbecue sauce and caramelized on the grill.

Tailgating is a true American pastime. Whether it’s before a baseball game in the summertime, football in the fall or even hockey in the wintertime, spectators love to gather in parking lots and have something to eat before the game. Now, just because you’re away from the kitchen there’s no need to compromise food quality or taste. With a little planning, you can easily prepare five-star food in a one-star environment.

When the subject of tailgating comes up, most folks think about big time professional sports or serious college athletics events, but around our house the family favorite tailgating opportunity is a St. Paul Saints baseball game at Midway stadium. We’ve spent the better part of a decade perfecting our tailgating techniques in the parking lot of this very minor league stadium.

These barbecue chicken wings top our list of favorites. Not the rubbery, dripping, crock-pot-born wings that pop up at graduations and uninspired potlucks. I’m talking about crispy, sweet and savory chicken wings worthy of any highbrow sports bar. These wings can be yours with minimal effort in the preceding days or hours leading up to the event.

The secret is in the oil. All real chicken wing joints use fryers to cook the wings to crispy perfection before tossing them in sauce and serving them. Out in tailgate country, fryers (while becoming more popular with the turkey crowd) are still hard to come by, but we can improvise.

Before you leave you need to do two things.  First, throw all your wings in a zipper bag with salt, pepper and olive oil. Whether they are thawed or frozen doesn’t really matter, just make sure you work them around so that they’re all coated well.

Next you’ll want to make up a quick barbecue sauce. Yes, you could buy some, but there is no need. You can make it yourself and feel better about the ingredients, as well as rake in the praise when people find out it’s your own “secret” recipe. Mix (homemade) ketchup, molasses, vinegar and spices in a sauce pan and simmer for ten minutes, and you’re done. Grab a foil pan and a quality pair of tongs and head to the game.

On a hot grill spread out your wings and turn every 4-5 minutes until they are golden brown. The seasoned oil will make the skin all salty and crispy, just like a fryer. At this point, some in the group might want to eat them plain, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but to boost the flavor, put the foil pan on the grill, transfer the wings to it and add a light coating of your BBQ sauce. Stir and turn the wings every minute or so for 5 minutes until they are all well coated and the sauce begins to caramelize.

Pull the pan off the grill and cover it with foil until it’s time to eat. These wings go great alongside burgers, brats or beans and chips. They’re a great fit for the tangy bite that Bush’s Vegetarian Baked Beans deliver. Just make sure you bring enough, as they’ve been known to fly off pretty quickly when you’re not looking.

These pair nicely with a side of classic baked beans from Bush’s and plenty of paper towels from your tailgating kit. Have you entered to win the Bush’s Beans Tailgate package yet? Hurry up and get over there!

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon fresh black pepper
3 pounds chicken wings

Barbecue Sauce:
2 cups ketchup
3/4 cup molasses
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 tablespoon paprika
1/2 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 tablespoon fresh black pepper
1/2 tablespoon onion powder
1/2 tablespoon oregano
1/3 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

Combine oil, salt and pepper in a 1-gallon zipper bag and squeeze the bag to mix. Add the chicken wings and seal and agitate until they are thoroughly coated.

Combine sauce ingredients in a sauce pan over medium heat, reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.

Cook wings on a hot grill for approximately 15 minutes, flipping every 5 minutes until they are golden brown. Transfer them to a foil pan on the grill and lightly coat with sauce. Stir and flip the wings frequently until the sauce has caramelized. Cover the pan with foil, remove from the heat and serve.

Makes 5-6 servings.

Copyright © Food for My Family.

This post is sponsored by Bush’s Beans. They’re pretty fantastic. The recipe and opinions all belong to yours truly, however.


  1. These look and sound fantastic Shaina!! I love to cook everything on our grill, I can’t believe I’ve never done my wings there!!

  2. Shaina, these look absolutely amazing!! I wish I had some for lunch today 🙂

  3. Your barbecue sauce sounds just right for chicken I am going to have to put this on the menu.

  4. Oh my goodness, those look soooo delicious! Wish I had one for dinner!

  5. These sound delicious and perfect for tailgating. Although I wish I had some for dinner tonight, too. 🙂

  6. I recently made my own barbecue sauce for the first time. What the heck took me so long? It was the quickest easiest thing ever! I want those wings in mah belly!

  7. We do love wings at our house and this recipe looks very straight forward so I will be trying it very soon. I trust your judgment flavourwise and cannot wait to bite into one of these succulent little tidbits!

  8. Wait, who eats wings plain?? Such a waste of good saucy real estate.

  9. Mark McClure says:

    I love to do grilled wings like this. I actually like them better than fried sometimes.

    I will do the salt/pepper/oil combination sometimes and then other times I steal an idea from a small bar in pensacola.

    They have both hot and sweet wings. Their sweet ones are amazing and have this spicy tang down on the meat.

    Marinate in a hot buffalo sauce for a few hours – then grill, then do the sweet bbq sauce trick described above. Last time I did a tailgate I did both sets and they were all gone quickly.

  10. This is a brilliant way to cook the wings. They look very worthy of any tailgating party!

  11. Oooooo! I wish I had that recipe this weekend. I’ll try it next weekend. Those look soooo delicious! 🙂

  12. I’d love to have some of those for dinner tonight. I’ll definitely try this one and see if i can make it look as good as yours. I’ll go with the beans and peas for sidedish =)

  13. Can’t lie, my mouth is watering just looking at these delicious wings. Can’t wait to mix up some of that sauce and fire up the grill right away.

  14. Things wings look insanely delicious! Can’t wait to give them a try – we are such a fan of that sweet/sticky combo!

  15. I’m already licking my fingers…

  16. Grilling the wings is a great idea. Perfect for any party I say!

  17. quick easy recipes says:

    I’ve always wondered how to make ’em sticky. Very cool cooking tricks I say. I’ve mostly tasted this kind of baked. Can’t wait to try them on legs and chicken breasts. Looks really good.


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