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Sweet Tea-Brined Wings

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Add a delicious twist to your cookout menu with these flavorful, sweet tea-brined chicken wings. This Southern-inspired brine infuses the wings with a deep, complex flavor and yields juicy, tender morsels. Serve these smoky wings as an appetizer or main course!

sweet-tea-brined

Try this easy brine method with more than just wings. Try it with bone-in chicken thighs, drumsticks or double or tripe the recipe for whole chickens and Thanksgiving turkey!

Why use sweet tea as a brine?

  • Incredible flavor: Sweet tea is more than just a refreshing Southern-style drink. When it is used as a brine, the tea, sugar, and salt work together to infuse the wings with sweet and salty flavor.
  • Tea tenderizes: Tea tannins act as natural tenderizers, breaking down proteins in the chicken and ensuring delicate and flavorful bites.
  • Plumping action: Sweet tea helps the chicken retain moisture during cooking. The sugar and salt in the brine draw water into the meat, keeping the wings juicy during cooking. This action is crucial for achieving a wing that is crisp on the outside and tender on the inside.

Recipe Ingredients

  • 3- 3 1/2 lbs chicken wings, flats (or drumettes, or both)
  • Water
  • 8 black tea bags, or 2 family sized
  • Morton kosher salt
  • Dark brown sugar
  • Whole peppercorns
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Ice
  • Poultry rub or your favorite bottled rub for chicken (our poultry rub includes garlic powder, paprika, black pepper, herbs, onion powder, and more!)
  • Optional 2 teaspoons lemon juice

How to Brine Chicken Wings in Sweet Tea

  • Preparation: Start by preparing a batch of sweet tea. You can use store-bought prepared sweet tea or brew your own. If you plan to make your own, we suggest using basic black tea or English breakfast tea. You can purchase regular-sized bags or family-sized bags (one family-sized bag equals 4 regular-sized tea bags). See the recipe card below for full instructions.
preparing sweet tea brine
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  • Brine Solution: Once the tea has steeped, mix it with salt, sugar, and other ingredients to create a brine.
brining wings
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  • Brining the wings: Place the chicken wings in a large resealable bag or a non-metal (non-reactive) bowl, and pour the sweet tea brine over them. Ensure that they are well submerged. Seal the bag or cover the bowl and refrigerate for 3 hours. This is the perfect time frame needed for the brine to penetrate the meat.
seasoning chicken wings
  • Post brine and seasoning: After brining, remove the wings from the sweet tea solution and pat them dry with paper towels. This step is crucial for achieving a crispy skin. Arrange them on a wire rack set on top of a rimmed baking sheet. Place the wings back in the fridge to air-dry for 20-30 minutes. Remove them from the fridge and season wings on both sides with a poultry rub.

Setting up your grill

We used our Big Green Egg XL for this recipe, but you can use a gas grill or pellet grill for the job. We’ve found the BGE XL is the perfect tool for grilling sweet tea-brined wings. Its ceramic construction provides amazing heat retention and even cooking that produces nice, crispy skin and juicy meat.

two-zone-set-up-n-charcoal-grill
  • Two-zone set-up: Preheat your Big Green Egg to 350 degrees indirect cooking by banking the lump charcoal to one side. You can use their accessories, but we are traditionalists who prefer to stick to tried and true methods.
  • Smoking: Add a handful of cherry, apple, or maple wood chips or chunks to the hot charcoal for an extra layer of flavor.
  • Grilling: Arrange the wings on the grill grate over the indirect side. Close the lid and let them cook for 60 minutes. Turn the wings halfway through cooking time.
  • Crispy wings: Cook the wings until they reach an internal temperature between 165-170 degrees F. Move them over to the direct cooking space, skin side down. Cook for an additional 10-15 minutes or until they are crispy and have a deep, golden brown color. Brush them with BBQ sauce, wing glaze, or buffalo hot sauce a few minutes before serving.

Storing leftovers

sweet-tea-brined-wings-on-plate

Store these sweet tea-brined wings in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Freeze for up to 4 weeks. Reheat in an air-fryer or 350-degree oven.

sweet-tea-brined

Sweet Tea-Brined Wings

Add a delicious twist to your cookout menu with these flavorful, sweet tea-brined chicken wings. This Southern-inspired brine infuses the wings with a deep, complex flavor and yields juicy, tender morsels.
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Course: Appetizer, Main Course
Cuisine: American BBQ
Keyword: sweet tea brine, sweet tea wings
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours
Servings: 6
Calories: 323kcal

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2-4 pounds of chicken wings
  • 4 cups water
  • 8 black tea bags or 2 family sized
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar packed
  • 1/4 cup Morton kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon whole peppercorns
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups ice
  • 2-2 1/2 tablespoons poultry rub or your favorite bottled rub for chicken

Instructions

  • Prepare the sweet tea brine:
  • Bring water to a rolling boil in a medium saucepan. Remove pan from heat, add teabags, cover pot with lid, and steep for 10 minutes.
  • Stir in brown sugar, salt, peppercorn, and red pepper flakes. Let stand for one minute until sugar and salt have dissolved.
  • Nest, add 2 cups of ice, and let the brine cool completely. This process can take up to 30 minutes or more. Place the brine in the refrigerator to speed up the process.
  • Next, place the wings in a large bowl. Pour sweet tea brine over the top, making sure that the wings are completely submerged.
  • Cover bowl, and brine chicken wings in the refrigerator for 3 hours.
  • Drain the brine away, and remove the chicken wings from the bowl.
  • Place wings on a wire rack on top of a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  • Next, place the wings back into the refrigerator to “air-dry.” for 30 minutes.
  • Prepare your grill for a 350-degree indirect cook.
  • Remove wings from the refrigerator and season evenly on both side sides with poultry rub.
  • Place wings on the indirect cooking side of the grill, close the lid, and cook for 60 minutes, flipping them halfway through.
  • Once they reach an internal temperature between 165-170 degrees F, move the wings and skin side down, on the direct cooking side, to sear. Cook for an additional 10-12 minutes or until they have a nice brown color and crisped up.
  • Remove wings from the grill, plate, and serve with your favorite dipping sauces.
  • Optional step: Toss in your favorite BBQ of buffalo sauce right before serving.
  • Store leftover sweet tea-brined wings in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Freeze for up to 4 weeks. Reheat in an air-fryer or 350-degree oven.

Nutrition

Calories: 323kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 26g | Fat: 23g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 5g | Monounsaturated Fat: 9g | Trans Fat: 0.3g | Cholesterol: 110mg | Sodium: 4.834mg | Potassium: 239mg | Fiber: 0.3g | Sugar: 0.1g | Vitamin A: 280IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 45mg | Iron: 2mg

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