Memorial Day may be the official start of summer, but I've always thought of Father's Day as the kickoff of serious grilling season.
But this year, maybe give Dad a break. Ladies, if you don't already grill, this is your opportunity to take the tongs and give it a try with a recipe that every man loves -- hot wings!
Wings rarely are made at home because they are associated with deep frying, something most home cooks don't want to bother with. But truth is, they are so much better grilled. When you grill them, the meat is tender and juicy and the burnished skin is crisp, not flabby.
I have long grilled wings and have a recipe that was dubbed the "world's best" by my many students who enjoyed them and started making them at home. The best part is that the recipe is so simple, you hardly need a "recipe."
Over the years I've played with different barbecue sauces, but recently was won over by a molasses-based barbecue sauce from Weber. As a Southern girl, I love molasses and think it's a smart change from corn syrup-based sauces.
In traditional deep-fry chicken wing recipes, the meat is cooked, then tossed with sauce. My recipe keeps that basic approach, but substitutes the grill for the fryer. I also use the hot sauce to marinate the chicken before it is cooked.
I use indirect heat to grill the wings slowly. This cooks the dark meat nice and slowly, and renders the fat in the skin, leaving a nice crisp wing. When they are almost done, I take them off the grill and toss them with a mixture of honey and barbecue sauce and put them back on the grill to set the glaze and caramelize.
The end result is a crispy yet slightly sticky wing with an addictively sweet heat that can't be beat.
Sweet and Sticky Honey Hot Wings
No grill handy? These wings also can be cooked on a rimmed baking sheet fitted with a metal rack. Roast them for 30 minutes at 400 F, then toss them with the barbecue-honey sauce and roast for another 20 to 25 minutes.
Start to finish: 1 hour 15 minutes (15 minutes active), plus marinating
1 cup molasses-based barbecue sauce
1 cup honey
12-ounce bottle Frank's Red Hot Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce
2 gallon-size heavy-duty zip-close plastic bags
4 pounds chicken wings and/or drummettes
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Fine-grain sea salt
In a medium bowl mix together the barbecue sauce and honey. Refrigerate until needed.
Divide the bottle of Frank's hot sauce evenly between the 2 plastic bags. Add half of the chicken to each bag, then seal the bag and turn to coat evenly. Refrigerate to marinate for at least 2 hours, or up to overnight.
When ready to cook, heat one side of the grill to medium, the other to low. Remove the barbecue-honey sauce from the refrigerator to warm to room temperature.
Open each bag just at the corner and tip it over the sink to drain the marinade. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a pinch of salt to each bag, then reseal the bags and shake gently to coat. Using tongs, transfer the chicken to the cooler side of the grill.
Cover the grill and cook for 40 minutes, or until starting to brown. Remove the chicken from the grill and place in a large bowl. Pour the barbecue-honey sauce over the wings, then use tongs to toss them to coat well.
Place wings back on the grill for another 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the grill and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 1,010 calories; 510 calories from fat (50 percent of total calories); 57 g fat (14 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 225 mg cholesterol; 68 g carbohydrate; 56 g protein; 1 g fiber; 2,750 mg sodium
EDITOR'S NOTE: Elizabeth Karmel is a grilling and Southern foods expert and executive chef at Hill Country Barbecue Market restaurants in New York and Washington, as well as Hill Country Chicken in New York. She is the author of three cookbooks, including "Soaked, Slathered and Seasoned."