I have a special place in my heart (or maybe it's my stomach..) for stuffed peppers. How well I remember my mother making these for dinner on many occasions and it was always a wonderful thing. The meat inside was so savory and delicious and moist and you could even eat the pepper if you liked them.
I don't think I usually ate the pepper part growing up but I always thought it was cool that I could eat the container if I wanted to.
Now that I'm older and I've discovered that I love bell peppers and all kinds of peppers for that matter, I've decided to try my hand at making them only with a slightly different recipe. My mother always used ground beef mixed with rice, onions, maybe some bread crumbs, etc. and it was really good but my idea was to use leftover smoked meat instead of the usual ground beef.
Many times we'll cook a brisket or pork shoulder and after the meal there are leftovers that just get thrown in the freezer for safe keeping and I am forever trying to honk of new ways to use these leftovers in new and exciting ways.
These stuffed peppers are a result of that quest and I have to say, for my family, it was a clear home run. Everyone loved it.. even my nine year old son loved the stuffing part.
Needless to say.. I am looking very forward to sharing this delicious recipe with you in today's article. Before I get into the main recipe, I will go into all of the details on how to smoke the brisket and the pork shoulder to perfection.
Smoking the Brisket and the Pork Butt
This smoked stuffed pepper recipe requires smoked brisket and smoked pork butt. Ideally you would have this in the freezer leftover from another time but in case you don't, I have included instructions below for smoking the brisket and the pork butt at the same time specifically for this recipe.
For this purpose, I recommend just using my mustard and rub trick to get the seasoning on the meat and into the smoker. Rub regular yellow mustard all over the brisket and the pork shoulder then sprinkle my rub all over the meat until the meat is generously covered. The mustard helps the rub to stick to the meat and amazingly enough, it will not taste like mustard when it's done cooking.
The process is best done by placing the meat down into disposable foil pans. This makes cleanup very fast by catching any rub that falls by the wayside and facilitates carrying the meat out to the smoker as well.
Now wasn't that just too easy!!??
Smoking the Brisket and the Pork Butt
As many of you may know, here in the Midwest it is very dry and a burn ban has been issued. This means that I have to be very careful about using my smokers, especially charcoal. I opted to use my propane smoker for this adventure and for anyone who has never used a gas smoker, let me just tell you that you can definitely get amazing flavor and even a beautiful smoke ring when using this type of smoker.
It's not as fun as using charcoal or wood but when you are busy, or have other restrictions that would cause charcoal or wood to no longer be an option, this gas smoker is the way to go in my opinion.
I happen to have a Great Outdoors Smoky Mountain which I have been using for almost 10 years and other than the fact that the door thermometer no longer works, it smokes as good as the day I bought it.
This smoker has a thick metal box that holds wood chips, chunks or pellets just above the burner and then there is a large water pan directly above that. I recommend using dry wood chips or pellets rather than chunks if you are wanting it to smoke for a while without you having to replace the wood.
Note: A full box of wood chips will smoke for about 2 hours. A full box of pellets will smoke for about 5 hours. Obviously, I prefer pellets;-)
Getting the smoker ready is as simple as filling the water pan then turning on the propane tank and lighting the smoker on the HIGH setting. Notice that I did not put the smoke box in yet. It only takes about 5 minutes before you start seeing lots of smoke so I prefer to be ready to put the food in before placing the smoke box into the smoker.
Once I have made sure that the grates are clean, the water pan is full (about 1 gallon) and I have plenty of propane to last the entire time (a 20-lb tank will last about 30 hours), I place the smoke box full of pellets into the smoker and go get the brisket and the pork butt.
Place the meat directly on the grate for maximum smoke penetration.
Note: I used cherry and maple pellets mixed for the smoke.
You can plan on the meat being in the smoker for about 12-16 hours depending on the temperature that you maintain in the smoker and the size of the meat. I try to maintain about 225-240 throughout for best results.
I like to keep adding smoke for about 6-8 hours for some really good smoke flavor.
Here's the meat at about 8 hours in.. beautiful mahogany color!
I use a digital probe meat thermometer to keep tabs on the internal temperature of the meat but I usually don't insert the thermometer until the meat has been cooking for about 6-8 hours. It is believed that this is safer since it allows any bacteria that could be on the outside of the meat to be killed before pushing the thermometer into the meat. I'm not sure how serious this really is but I figure why risk it when it's so easy to adopt this method.
With it being so hot, I opted to cook overnight where the temperatures would dip down into the 70's and make it a much more pleasant experience. When doing it this way, I try to get the meat into the smoker just right before dark and I can plan on it being done before it gets too hot the next day.
Once the brisket reaches 195 or so and the pork butt reaches 205, it is done and ready to remove from the smoker. These temperature are not set in stone and a much more accurate reading can be taken by sticking a toothpick into the meat to test the resistance of pushing in/pulling out. My problem with this method is that it causes some of the juices to seep out of the meat. For this reason, I use temperature as my main variable for telling me when it's finished cooking. The temperature method is accurate enough for me and always yields a juicy and tender piece of meat.
Suit yourself on which method you use to check for doneness.
Once the meat is done, I recommend letting it rest for a while if possible. wrap it in foil or place it in a foil pan covered with foil and let it rest in an empty ice chest or the smoker set on low for an hour or two.. the longer the better up to about 3-4 hours. Make sure the temperature of the meat does not fall below 140 degrees during this resting period for safety purposes.
After the meat rests, let it cool off for a few minutes on the cabinet then pull/chop the brisket and pull the pork butt
You are now ready to make some of the best smoked stuffed peppers you ever ate!
The first thing I do when I have a recipe like this is to prepare all of the ingredients first. Dice the onions and the jalapenos, cook the rice, saute the jalapenos and the onions with a tablespoon of vegetable oil, and make a batch of my rub if you don't have some already made up.
You will also want to cut the tops off of the peppers making sure to leave the stem attached to use for caps. De-seed the peppers and set aside.
Once everything is ready, add the meat, rice, sauteed onions and jalapenos, beef broth and rub to a large bowl and mix well. (notice I did not add the eggs yet).
Taste the mixture at this point to see if there is enough seasoning for your liking. This really must be to taste and with my rub, when it's seasoned enough, it's also salty enough.
Once the seasoning is right, add the eggs to the mixture and mix very well.
During this time, you will want to blanch the peppers in a large pot for 5 minutes. The smoking process does not have enough time to completely soften the flesh of the peppers and they will end up AL dente without this step.
Add enough water to the pot to cover the peppers and bring it to a boil. Once boiling, add the peppers and leave them in the boiling water for 5 minutes. Pour the water and peppers into a colander and run cool water over them immediately to stop the cooking process.
Set the peppers on a Bradley rack and begin to add the stuffing mixture into the peppers.
Smoking the Peppers
I once again used the Propane smoker due to the burn ban.. see my instructions in the pork butt and brisket recipe above for getting it ready to use.
Once the smoker is maintaining 225-240 degrees, place the racks of peppers and caps on the grate and let them smoke cook for about an hour and 15 minutes or until they are at the right tenderness and the stuffing inside the pepper has obtained 160 degrees in the center.
Note: the temperature recommendation of 160 degrees is to make sure the egg is safely cooked. Do otherwise at your own risk.
If you like a little tomato based topping on your stuffed peppers, you can brush some of my barbecue sauce onto the tops of the peppers about 30 minutes before they are finished.
Prepare meat, onions, jalapenos, bell peppers and rice
Make mixture using recipe above and seasoning with my rub
Smoke, Wood, Fire: The Advanced Guide to Smoking Meat – Unlike the first book, this book does not focus on recipes but rather uses every square inch of every page teaching you how to smoke meat. What my first book touched on, this second book takes it into much greater detail with lots of pictures.
It also includes a complete, step-by-step tutorial for making your own smoked “streaky” bacon using a 100 year old brine recipe.