Weber Vortex Wings: Recipe and How-to Guide

By Dylan Clay
Last Updated 
October 8, 2022

The Vortex insert is one of the best accessories for making wings on the Weber Kettle. It creates even, indirect heat around the perimeter of the kettle as apposed to a traditional "hot" and "cold" zone.

Meaning, the wings all finish at roughly the same time as apposed varying degrees of doneness.

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What to Look for in Chicken Wings

When buying wings, my first suggestion is to always buy them whole. The reason for this is because cutting them is super simple and you can save quite a bit of money.

Whole, untrimmed wings include the wingette, drumette, and wingtip. In a grocery store the trimmed versions are usually called "party wings."

whole chicken wing anatomy

Party wings typically cost $1/lb more due to the cost of labor to separate the wings.

Personally, I can cut up an entire 30 pack of whole wings in 5 minutes; This process is outlined as follows.

How to Separate Chicken Wings

I have a way more in-depth article on this topic - below is a condensed version.

To start, you will need:

  • Plastic cutting board or disposable work surface (like butcher paper).
  • Whole wings
  • Sharp knife

1. Start with the whole wing facing skin side down.

wing skin side down

2. Use your fingers to find the ridge where the elbow joint connects the wingette and the drumette.

Place your knife to the right side of this ridge so that it's parallel to the drum; Then press your knife through.

ridge on drumette

If you have a hard time cutting at first, simply slice into the skin until you expose the elbow joint.

drumette elbow joint slice

3. You then repeat this process at the carpal joint.

Find the ridge that connects the wingette to the wingtip. Place your knife to the right of the ridge and press your knife through.

wingette separated

Note: When making your cuts, the knife will go through fairly easily. If you find that you have to use significant force, you're likely cutting into bone. Simply remove the knife and attempt to find the ridge/joint again.

That's all there is to cutting wings. Again, this quite literally takes me 5 minutes for an entire pack of whole wings.

Look for Markdown Stickers

Something that I tell a lot of people to do when making wings is to look for markdown stickers.

People will mistakenly believe these wings are of inferior quality, when they're not. The sticker means that the wings are near expiry and the Grocery store needs to sell the wings.

Rather than taking a loss the grocery store would rather minimize profits by incentivizing your purchase.

Since 1972 the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) has required poultry products to feature a date of packaging. The FSIS has also allowed a "sell by" or "use by" date.

These dates describe the last date that the meat is suitable for consumption at peak quality.

In my opinion, mark down stickers are an added bonus.

Wing Rub

I just use cornstarch - that's it.

what is cornstarch

Something that my family really loves with wings is a crunch.

In order to achieve this crunch, I've tested a number of ingredients like flour, baking powder, panko, etc.

Note: I've also experimented with internal temperatures for improving the crunch. Below I go over why you should far past the usual recommended finishing temperature of 165F.

In my opinion, the one that works best for grilling is cornstarch - it's also the cheapest option.

If you're interested, you can see a direct comparison of corn starch and baking powder in this article.

With that said, I also don't bother with dry rub/spices on wings, especially when using cornstarch. In my opinion, you won't even taste the spices.

Rather, I prefer to use sauce for additional flavor (more on that below).

Setting Up the Vortex for Wings

Using the vortex is really straightforward. With wings you want your grill at 400F+ ambient temperature.

To achieve this, you want to use roughly 3/4 of a charcoal chimney with lit charcoal.

charcoal chimney 3/4 the way full

Once lit, dump the charcoal in the middle of the kettle. I find it easier to get the charcoal situated in a mound first, rather than trying to dump it into the vortex.

dumping charcoal into kettle

Then place the vortex over the mound:

vortex setup in weber kettle

Then place your grill grate back in the kettle with your intake and exhaust vents completely open.

Then cover the lid and allow the temperature to build inside the kettle for around 15 minutes.

Placing the Wings on the Grates

Before placing the wings on the grates, I like to use my grill brush to remove old food particles and debris.

You can then place your wings around the perimeter of the vortex so that they receive indirect, convective heat.

vortex wings on kettle

Then cover the lid and wait.

After 20 minutes, the wings looked like this:

wings after 20 minutes

The cornstarch is still setting up on the wing and can go a bit longer.

Here's the wings 15 minutes later:

vortex wings ready

I can visually tell that the cornstarch is setup and there is visible meat pullback from the bone.

If you're someone who is big on using internal temperature, you can use a meat thermometer to probe between the bones or the meat to the left or right of a drumette.

When to Pull the Chicken Wings

As per the USDA, chicken wings are considered safe to eat at 165F internal.

However, most people will complain that their wings are "chewy." More often than not, it's because they cooked the wings to 165F internal.

By pushing the wings to around 190-200F internal, you crisp the skin and render the fat and collagen.

probing flat

Meaning, you get a crunch from the cornstarch/crispy skin and meat that is moist and tender.

I don't tend to temperature probe wings much simply because I've made thousands of them. Usually I'll use visual queues like:

  • The skin will be golden brown and crisp to the touch. Usually the fat will also bubble under the skin as it renders.
  • The meat will start to retract and pull away from the bones.

However, there's absolutely no shame in probing each wing. Just ensure you're probing the meat and not the bones/fat/cartilage.

Keep in mind too, drums will finish slower than flats.

The drum above probed 9 degrees Fahrenheit lower than the flat.

probing drum

Somewhere between 190-200F is more than adequate. Most people who like drums enjoy eating them due to the cartilage and "chewy" aspect anyway.

Saucing the Wings

The biggest benefit of wings is that you can create any number of different sauces and have an entirely different experience.

For this recipe I used "Cowboy BBQ Sauce" that I got from Wellwood Orchard in Vermont, pictured below:

cowboy bbq sauce

Two of the most popular sauces are buffalo and barbecue. When I'm catering to family I'll tend to offer these two flavors as well as a third experimental option.

Typically the brands of sauce I use are:

  • Frank's Red Hot Original (not the buffalo wing sauce)
  • Sticky Finger's Carolina sweet barbecue sauce

A great homemade sauce that my Friends and Family seem to love is my Honey Gold sauce - check out the recipe here.

When the wings are nearly done - typically 15 minutes or so before pulling them - I'll get my sauce ready.

Adding Butter to the Wing Sauce

cabot unsalted butter
Use half a stick of butter

Rather than simply tossing the wings in the sauce out of the bottle, I like to add butter to create a velvety texture.

To do this you will need:

  • Wing sauce
  • A saucepan
  • Unsalted butter

The biggest thing to keep in mind is that you want to slowly incorporate the butter with the sauce, meaning low heat.

butter in sauce

Using too hot of a temperature will cause the milk solids to separate. This will create an oily/thin sauce which is what you don't want. When incorporated correctly, the sauce will have a noticeable sheen.

The amount of sauce you use will depend entirely on how many wings you're making.

Assuming 30 whole wings, that's 30 flats and 30 drums. A good starting point is half the bottle for 30 wings.

If we were to use my preferred barbecue sauce (Sticky Fingers), half the bottle is roughly 9 oz.

I add that to the saucepan and add a half stick of unsalted butter. I then turn my heat to the lowest setting and slowly incorporate the butter.

butter incorporated into sauce
Butter incorporated into sauce

Once the butter is incorporated, and my wings are ready, I'll add the wings to a large bowl and toss the wings in the sauce.

Here's the wings in a mixing bowl:

wings in bowl

Here's the wings tossed in the barbecue sauce:

Crispy, tender, moist and delicious.

Final Thoughts

While I still prefer to make wings in my pellet grill, the Vortex for the Weber Kettle is a great option.

It's super simple to use and allows you to make more wings than a standard two-zone fire.

weber vortex wings recipe

Weber Vortex Wings

Crispy, crunchy, tender wings made with the Vortex for the Weber Kettle
Print Pin Rate
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: American
Keyword: chicken wings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Author: Dylan Clay

Equipment

  • Saucepan
  • Weber Kettle with Vortex
  • Charcoal
  • Sharp knife
  • Plastic cutting board
  • Mixing Bowl

Ingredients

  • Whole chicken wings
  • Cornstarch Enough to completely cover the wings
  • 9 oz Wing sauce
  • 1/2 stick Unsalted butter

Instructions

  • Start by preparing your wings by separating the drum from the flat, and the flat from the wingtip.
    Whole chicken wings
  • Setup your kettle/vortex. Use roughly 3/4 charcoal chimney of lit charcoal. This should achieve 400-500F inside your weber kettle.
  • Cover your wings in cornstarch.
    Cornstarch
  • Place the wings around the perimeter of the vortex on the grill grates.
  • When the wings are near done (at around 165F internal) start getting your wing sauce ready. In a medium saucepan add your wing sauce and a half stick of butter on low heat. You want to slowly incorporate the butter so that the milk solids don't separate.
    9 oz Wing sauce, 1/2 stick Unsalted butter
  • At 190-200F internal, remove the wings from the grill. In a large mixing bowl toss your wings in your sauce.
Dylan Clay
I've grilled and smoked meat for roughly half my life. While i'm not a professional Pitmaster, I've worked with nearly every cut of meat. Not everyone has a hands on guide to teach them BBQ. It's my hope that Barbecue FAQ can be that helping hand.

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