Cajun Queso Smoked Chicken Wings
One of the trends for 2020 has been Smoked Queso. I’m okay with this. Although I eventually tire of seeing the images in my Instagram feed, I realize and recognize that I love Queso and could eat it multiple times each week and never tire of it.
Seriously though, the possibilities of what to do with it are nearly endless.
A few months back, I had an idea kick around in my head. Cajun and Queso. I love cajun and I love queso. What would happen if I combined the two?
That would require an interesting medium, wouldn’t it? One that isn’t too common - such as an enchilada, burrito, or nachos. I wanted to do something that would not be a “yeah, I’ve seen that,” application, but a “why didn’t I think of that?!” reaction.
Enter Cajun Queso Chicken Wings.
Preparation Determines Results
I’ve made a lot of chicken wings over the past 5 years. Wing Wednesday lives strong in hearts of my little clan. Chicken wings are a meal that I can make quick and easy, customize flavors by preference, and still obtain amazing results.
I love that I can take chicken wings out of the freezer, throw them on the grill, and call it a day.
However, as I have dived deeper into the world of chicken wings, I find my expectations have also evolved. It isn’t just about a tasty wing covered in sauce, anymore. Though I will gladly eat a wing in a great sauce.
The complaint I have hear most often with smoked chicken wings is people miss the crispy skin they associate with good wings.
For me, a good wing requires the right amount of smoke, crispy skin, and enough flavor to pop but not so much to take away the texture, smoke, or taste of the chicken.
Luckily, a good chicken wing is easy to make if you take the right steps to prepare.
Here are the steps that I take:
Fully thaw your wings. If you want crispy skin, this is a must. If your wings are still partially frozen as mine were (see picture below), add twelve additional hours to the process below.
Place your fully thawed wings, uncovered in the refrigerator where air can circulate all around the wing. This is super easy if you have a cooling rack and a cookie sheet. Simply place the cooling rack on the cookie sheet and spread your wings out evenly on top of the rack. This allows air to circulate all around the wing and will dry the skin out so you get that crispy bite.
If you would like, you can sprinkle a little kosher salt on each side of the wings, effectively dry-brining the wing and drying out the skin at the same time. I let the wings sit uncovered in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours. See my guide for dry-brining chicken HERE.
1 Tablespoon Smoked Paprika
1 Tablespoon Fine Kosher Salt
1 Tablespoon Garlic Powder
1teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon white ground pepper
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon ground cayenne (I used chipotle this time)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Combine all ingredients for the Cajun Seasoning and mix well in a bowl.
1 pack Velveeta cheese
2 cans Hormel "no beans" chili
2 cans Rotel Tomatoes and Chiles
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons salt
Cook on stovetop, in a smoker, or slow cooker for two hours, stirring often enough to not burn the cheese.
Prepare your smoker to cook indirect at 300 degrees Fahrenheit. My favorite wings are cooked on the Pit Barrel. Check out my review HERE.
Around the time I start the smoker, I throw everything for the queso dip in a slow cooker to have it ready when the wings are done.
I cook the wings naked until internal temp is 180-200. Yes, I overcook my wings - don’t worry, they can take it. I like crispy skin and a well-done wing. You can try any finishing temp > 170 but I have found my happy place between 180-200 - how do I know when to pull them? Always check the temperature. If you don’t have a good instant-read thermometer, order one of THESE. Since I cook them naked, it’s all about color. We’re going for a nice golden brown with bits of delicious char. When finished, remove wings from smoker and place them in a large bowl that we can shake the seasoning and queso in.
Melt 1 stick of butter per 10lbs of wings. Pour the butter over the wings, giving a light coat to each wing. If you’re cooking one to two serving sizes of wings, 2 Tablespoons will be plenty.
Add in Cajun Seasoning mix. I gradually add and season. There is always leftover rub, I want just enough to coat my wings but not too much seasoning.
Finally, grab a couple scoops of that delicious queso, and pour it over the top of the wings. There should be a light coat on each wing.
And there you have it! Delicious Cajun Queso Wings!
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