How do you keep wings from sticking to the grill?

Grilling wings can be a delicious way to enjoy this popular appetizer, but it can also be frustrating when the wings stick to the grill grates. Fortunately, there are some simple tips and tricks you can use to help prevent sticking so your wings turn out perfectly cooked with those ideal grill marks. Keep reading to find out how to keep wings from sticking to the grill!

Why Do Wings Stick to the Grill?

Before we dive into solutions, it helps to understand why wings stick in the first place. Here are some of the main reasons chicken wings can stick to the grill:

  • Sugars in the meat caramelize – The natural sugars in the skin and meat will caramelize and essentially glue the wings to the grill grates.
  • Rendered fat – As the fat renders out, it can cause sticking.
  • Insufficient oil – If the wings are not properly oiled before cooking, this increases the chances of sticking.
  • Put on too soon – Placing the wings on the grill before it is fully preheated can lead to sticking.
  • Moved too soon – Trying to flip or move the wings before they naturally release can make them stick.

Understanding why wings stick equips you to troubleshoot and take steps to prevent it.

Tips to Keep Wings From Sticking

Luckily, it’s easy to avoid the sticky wing nightmare with the right techniques. Here are some tips:

Use Non-Stick Cooking Spray or Oil

This may seem obvious, but properly oiling the wings before grilling is one of the most effective ways to prevent sticking. Use a light coating of cooking spray or brush the wings with a thin layer of oil. Grapeseed, avocado, peanut, or other high smoke point oils work well.

You can also toss the wings in oil. Place the wings in a large bowl or sealable plastic bag. Drizzle a few tablespoons of oil over the wings, seal the bag, and shake to evenly coat the wings. The oil helps form a barrier between the wings and the grill grates.

Avoid Sugary Marinades and Sauces

Sweet marinades and sauces containing honey, brown sugar, maple syrup, and other sugars will caramelize and cause sticking. Opt for savory marinades like garlic, herbs, citrus, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, etc. You can brush on any sugary sauces after the wings are cooked.

Grill Over Low, Indirect Heat First

Try cooking the wings over indirect low heat to start. This allows the fat to render slowly before the sugars have a chance to caramelize. Place the wings away from the direct heat source and grill over 300-350°F indirect heat for 15-25 minutes first, flipping halfway through. Then move them over direct heat to sear.

Get the Grill Hot

Make sure your grill is fully preheated before adding the wings. You want the grates piping hot. Heat helps sear the skin immediately so the wings won’t have a chance to stick. Preheat your gas grill on high for 10-15 minutes or let charcoal get hot and ashy before cooking.

Don’t Move Too Soon

It can be tempting to flip the wings prematurely, but patience is key. Allow the wings to cook undisturbed for several minutes before trying to move them. You’ll know they are ready to flip or remove when they naturally release from the grates.

Use Grill Mats

Using a silicone grill mat is an easy way to keep wings from sticking. The mat creates a nonstick barrier between the food and grill grates. They withstand up to 500°F. Place the mat on the cooking grates, add wings, and grill as usual. The mat catches any drippings too.

Clean and Oil the Grates

Dirty grill grates are more likely to cause sticking and tearing. Give your grill grates a good scrubbing with a grill brush before each use. Once cleaned, rub down the grates with an oiled paper towel or cloth. The small amount of oil helps prevent sticking.

Elevate With a Roasting Rack

You can place wings on a wire roasting rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet. The rack elevates the wings from direct contact with the grill grates, allowing air flow and minimizing sticking potential. The pan catches drips too.

Tip Why it Helps
Use cooking spray or oil Creates a barrier between the wings and grill
Avoid sugary sauces Prevents caramelization and sticking
Start with indirect heat Allows fat to render slowly first
Preheat grill properly Sears wings right away before sticking occurs
Don’t move too soon Allows wings to release naturally from the grates
Use grill mats Creates nonstick surface
Clean and oil grates Dirty grates increase sticking
Elevate on racks Reduces direct contact with grill grates

What If Wings Stick?

Even if you take all the proper precautions, wings may still stick now and then, especially if working with a new grill or a new wing recipe. Here are some tips for getting stuck-on wings unstuck:

  • Allow wings to cook a bit longer until the caramelization releases – Be patient and give the sticking wings several more minutes over the heat. The caramelization will eventually release them.
  • Gently loosen with tongs or spatula – You can try loosening edges gently with grilling tools.
  • Move to indirect heat – If wings are stuck but not charred, move them to indirect heat and close the grill lid. The steam may help loosen them after a few minutes.
  • Use two spatulas – Slide one spatula under each side of the stuck wings and flip together.
  • Let soak – Place stuck wings in a bowl of water or vinegar water solution for 10-15 minutes to loosen.

How to Grill Wings Perfectly

Now that you know how to keep wings from sticking, here are some tips for grilling juicy, tender wings with crispy skin:

Choose Your Wings

You can use either whole chicken wings or wing sections. Whole wings contain the meaty drumette connected to the thinner flat mid-section. Cut wings offer just drumettes or flats. Flats lay flatter and cook faster. For even cooking, choose similar sized pieces.

Season Well

Flavorful rubs and marinades are key for great wings. Some popular options include barbecue, lemon pepper, chili, Jamaican jerk, garlic Parmesan, etc. Coat the wings evenly and allow time to marinate if desired. Avoid sugary sauces until after cooking.

Get Your Grill Set Up

Be sure to preheat your grill properly before cooking. Clean the grates well and use a grill brush to scrub any residue. Oil the grates once hot. Set up both direct and indirect heat zones.

Cook Indirect First

Start the wings over indirect low heat around 300-350°F to render the fat slowly. Cook for 15-25 minutes, flipping occasionally. The low and slow start prevents sticking. You’ll know they’re ready for direct heat when most of the fat has rendered out.

Sear Over Direct Heat

Move the wings over direct high heat. Grill for 2-4 minutes per side until crispy and charred. Take care not to burn. Baste with sauce during the last few minutes if desired.

Check for Doneness

Wings are fully cooked when they reach an internal temperature of at least 165°F. The juices should run clear. Cut into a wing to check they are not pink inside.

Toss in Sauce

Toss cooked wings in your favorite sauce, if using. Sweet sauces will caramelize and stick if brushed on before grilling. Tossing after ensures even coating without sticking. Enjoy immediately!

Common Wing Grilling Mistakes

Now that you’re a wing grilling pro, avoid these common pitfalls:

  • Not cleaning grill grates – Dirty grates increase sticking. Always scrub before use.
  • Lack of oil – Properly oiling wings is a must for preventing sticking.
  • Sugary marinade – Sweet sauces should be added after cooking, not before.
  • Insufficient preheating – A hot grill prevents sticking. Always preheat fully.
  • Overcrowding – Crowded wings steam rather than sear. Leave space between pieces.
  • Moving too soon – Let wings release naturally before flipping. Don’t force sticking wings.
  • Charring – Pay attention to prevent burning. Charring leads to sticking.
  • Uneven size – Uniformly sized wings will cook evenly. Avoid mixing small and large pieces.

Grilled Wing Recipes

Ready to put your newfound wing grilling skills to work? Here are some tasty grilled wing recipes to try:

Jamaican Jerk Wings

Spicy, aromatic Jamaican jerk makes fantastic grilled wings. Marinate for up to 24 hours for maximum flavor.

Lemon Garlic Parmesan Wings

Bright lemon and garlic pair beautifully with savory Parmesan for an easy yet delicious grilled wing recipe.

Spicy Thai Chili Wings

Give your wings a spicy Thai twist with flavors like Sriracha, lime juice and cilantro.

Old Bay and Brown Sugar Wings

Sweet brown sugar balanced by the bold Old Bay seasoning is a match made in wing heaven.

Korean Gochujang Wings

Gochujang’s sweet yet spicy Korean flavor makes a finger-licking-good wing recipe straight from the grill.

Smoked Beer Wings

Soak your wings in beer before grilling for incredible smoky flavor.

Balsamic Honey Wings

Grilled wings lacquered with a balsamic honey glaze are a crowd-pleasing option.

Cajun Dry Rub Wings

A Cajun-inspired blend of paprika, cayenne, garlic, and other spices give these wings a big kick of flavor.

Teriyaki Wings

Teriyaki sauce flavors chicken wings perfectly every time.

Garlic Chili Lime Wings

The combination of garlic, lime, and chili powder gives these grilled wings a tangy zing.


Following proper preparation and grilling techniques will help you avoid the frustrating situation of wings sticking to the grill. Be sure to oil wings thoroughly before cooking, grill over an adequately heated and properly cleaned surface, cook over indirect heat first, and allow wings time to finish cooking and release from the grates before moving them. With high-heat searing, basting sauces only after cooking, and the other tips provided here, you’ll be on your way to grilling incredible wings with beautiful char marks every time. Now get outside and fire up that grill for some mouthwatering, stick-free wings.

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