Cookout Classics for Labor Day Part 1: Foil-Packed Grilled Sweet-and-Spicy Chicken Wings

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Labor Day is upon us, and for many, that marks the unofficial end of summer. Combined with back-to-school activities, and the promise of cooler weather ahead (although where I am it’s been sweltering), people seem to have written off the lazy, hazy days.

But it is still summer! And there is no reason to put away the grill…yet.  The recipe below is the first in a series of Labor Day recipes that you can prepare and whip up in no time. Whether it’s just the two of you, the family, or the neighborhood, try this Part 1 of Cooking Classics: Foil-Packed Grilled Sweet-and-Spicy Chicken Wings, courtesy of the fine folks at FoodNetwork.

You may think a chicken wing is a chicken wing, so what’s the big deal? What will send your wings over the top is if you start with the best base: the wings themselves. The air-chilled chicken will give you premium flavor and better texture, so look for it, or ask your market butcher about it. No worries if you can’t find it – just use regular wings.

Once you have your air-chilled wings you will need to prepare the dry rub, the key ingredients being chipotle chili powder and light brown sugar. This rub is a real yin-yang combo, a little spice and a little sweet, and the finished product will come together with a squeeze of lime and a smattering of chopped cilantro.

Then you will put the wings on beds made of silver (well, foil, really) and let them cook over high heat for about half an hour. Before you start anything, however, be sure to have on hand two mixing bowls – one large, one medium – and some heavy-duty non-stick aluminum foil.

And, of course, your trusty grill.


  • 1/4 cup chili powder
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 pounds of air-chilled chicken wings (about 24) split at the joint, wingtips removed and discarded
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges


  1. To make the dry spice rub: In a medium bowl whisk together the chili powder, sugar, chipotle powder, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
  2. In a large bowl place the wings and toss with the oil, then sprinkle with the dry spice rub. Toss the wings to evenly coat, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 2 hours.
  3. Prepare a grill for high heat.
  4. Tear off four 18-by-18-inch sheets of heavy-duty non-stick aluminum foil.
  5. Remove the wings from the bowl, making sure to leave any excess liquid behind. Divide the wings among the foil pieces, centering them on each piece in a single layer.
  6. Sprinkle the wings with a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Bring two opposite ends of the foil together and fold twice to seal, then fold in the other sides to create leak-proof packets.
  7. Grill over high heat, turning once until the wings are cooked through, about 25 minutes.
  8. Carefully open the packets (hot steam will escape).
  9. Scatter the cilantro over the tops and serve with the lime wedges.

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