Backyard BBQ: How Barque’s David Neinstein makes his crispy, crunchy dry-rubbed chicken wings

Backyard BBQ: How Barque’s David Neinstein makes his crispy, crunchy dry-rubbed chicken wings

Now that it’s officially barbecue season, we’re asking Toronto chefs to show us what summer dishes they’re grilling in their own backyards, on their balconies or in their kitchens

Like many of us, Barque Smokehouse and Bar*Q chef and owner David Neinstein is at home more than usual these days. We asked the social-distancing chef what summer dishes he’s grilling. His recipe: crispy crunchy chicken wings.

More Backyard BBQ

David Neinstein loves to wing it with this recipe that mimics the texture and taste of fried chicken. “These chicken wings are always a crowd-pleaser because they pack the flavour punch and crunch without the fatty tones of their deep-fried relatives,” he says. Neinstein has loved dry-rub wings as long as he can remember, so to replicate his favourite bar snack he began to tinker around until landing on this (healthier) creation. The secret? Baking powder. “Adding it to your dry rub mix will create all these micro-bubbles on the surface of the food, mimicking the effects of deep frying. Whatever you’re making will come out crispier.”

As for the rub itself? “This is the perfect opportunity to use up all the dated spices lingering at the back of your cupboards—as long as you have the base three ingredients: white sugar, brown or raw sugar and kosher salt,” says Neinstein. “It’s a multi-purpose workhorse that’s great on everything from baby back ribs to grilled shrimp and even potato chips. Transfer any leftovers to a mason jar, seal it and date it—it’s good in the cupboard for up to a year.”

And while beer and wings might be the classic combo, Neinstein has another idea for a drink pairing. “I would actually recommend a dry rosé like Les Oliviers, which we happen to sell at the restaurant. It’s the best wine to drink with all types of barbecue. It holds up to the spice and smoke, and it has enough tannins to cut through fatty meats.”

Note: Neinstein starts his wings in a smoker and finishes them on the grill. But if all you have to work with is an oven, it’s not a problem. Just scroll right to the bottom of this post for your instructions.

Here’s what you’ll need

2 pounds roaster chicken wings
Spice rub (see below)
One bunch fresh chives, for garnish (optional but recommended)

Spice rub
3 tbsp granulated sugar
3 tbsp raw sugar like turbinado (you can use brown sugar too, just smooth out any clumps first)
3 tbsp kosher salt
2 tbsp granulated garlic
2 tbsp granulated onion
2 tbsp coarse black pepper
2 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp ancho chili
1 tbsp baking powder

The recipe

Mix all your spices in a medium bowl. Reserve two tablespoons for when you finish the wings later.

A little of this, a little of that


The rub will end up looking something like this.

Time to put it to use


Grease a grill tray if you have one—it makes for less individual flipping and it’s easier to transport. Otherwise, a baking sheet will do.

Go, grease lightning


Now evenly distribute the rub over the wings. Flip and repeat. Don’t be shy with the rub! The spice mix yields about 1¼ cups and you’ll use about half a cup for each side.

Neinstein gives his rub distribution a thumbs up


Preheat the smoker to 300°F and cook for about 45 minutes until the internal temperature reads at least 165°F. Remove them from the smoker, grease the grill and preheat it to medium-high, on the high side. “I used a very high—over 100k BTU—gas grill for this recipe. For those using smaller grills or electric models, you’ll want to crank the heat to near max. In dial speak, turn it to about 85 per cent of the way to fully open,” says Neinstein.

Smoking adds a depth of flavour and the slow cook time allows for just the right amount of rendering to keep the wings moist inside, but still crispy on the outside


Transfer the wings to the grill and sear, flipping constantly (every 10 to 15 seconds) to prevent burning.

Almost done


When the wings are sizzling all over, transfer them to a large bowl and sprinkle on the two tablespoons of reserved rub.



Now toss them good.

Try not to lose any wings in the process


Place the wings on a plate and cover with a thin layer of fresh snipped chives.

Consider this your serving of vegetables


Serve immediately.



Oven method

To make this recipe in the oven, simply use a raised wire rack that fits on a cookie sheet.

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Now, Spray the rack with oil, like you would on a grill, and place the food directly onto it. Apply two to three tablespoons of the rub to each side.

Place rack in the oven and carefully pour enough water (beer works, too) into the cookie sheet to fill a thin layer of liquid everywhere. This will help introduce moisture to the oven. This will also prevent the food from burning onto the sheet, making for easier clean up.

Cook the wings for about 45 minutes or until a thermometer reads the internal temperature as 165°F.

Instead of grilling the wings at the end, carefully remove the wings from the oven and increase heat to 450°F. When the oven is at temp, return wings to the oven and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes until they’re sizzling.

Transfer the wings to a large bowl and toss with two tablespoons of rub. Sprinkle with snipped chives, and serve immediately.