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Smoked Shotgun Shells

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I first heard about these smoked shotgun shells sometime last year but didn't really get around to trying them until recently.

They are so named because of their uncanny resemblance to the real thing and boy are they tasty!

I took them a step further and inserted a good size chunk of cheese in the middle, just because I can.

Just another amazing appetizer that you have to try very soon and be sure to comment below and let me know what you think!

Helpful Information

  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 2.5 hours
  • Smoker Temp: 225°F (107°C) then 275°F (135°C)
  • Meat Finish Temp: 160°F (71°C)
  • Recommended Wood: Hickory, Maple, Apple

What You'll Need

Step 1: Cut Cheese into Chunks

Using a block of cheddar, cut cheese into chunks or rectangles that will fit down into the manicotti shells. You can make these any length you want as long as the width will allow you to place them inside the shells.

Mine are about ½ inch square by 1 inch long.

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Set the cubes of cheese aside.

Step 2: Stuff Shells

Open the chub of ground breakfast sausage and press the manicotti shells into the sausage to fill about 1/3 of the shell.

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Insert a cube of cheese pressing it in firmly with your finger but not enough to break the shell.

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Now flip the shell over and fill the other side with sausage by pressing it into the sausage.

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Step 3: Bacon Wrap

I recommend using thin sliced bacon and if you can stretch each piece of bacon a little longer than it is, this will be helpful.

I don't like to layer the bacon too much so using a single piece will be best even if it doesn't completely cover the entire shell. It's ok for part of the shell to be seen.

Wrap the bacon around the shell as tightly as you can and lay the finished product onto a pan with a rack.

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Step 4: Sauce and Rub

Brush a little barbecue sauce onto the bacon and then give it a good sprinkle with my original rub (make it yourself | order bottled product).

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Step 5: Smoke Time

Set up your smoker for cooking at 225°F (107°C) using indirect heat. If your smoker uses a water pan, fill it up.

I used the Camp Chef Woodwind pellet smoker for these with Pit Boss competition blend pellets. This is a mix of hickory, maple and apple.

If you are using a different smoker, you can use either of these woods, a mix of these woods or your own favorite.

Once the smoker is ready, place the pan of appetizers onto the grate and close the lid.

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Let them cook for 2 hours at 225°F (107°C).

At the end of 2 hours, increase the heat to 275°F (135°C) to help crisp up the bacon. Let them cook for about 30 minutes at this higher heat or until the bacon is as crisp as you like it.

Brush the smoked shotgun shells with Jeff's barbecue sauce (make it yourself | order bottled product) about 10 minutes before they are finished cooking.

Step 6: Serve the Smoked Shotgun Shells

Serve the smoked shotgun shells to your guests and accept the praise graciously!

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  • While not a huge deal, most of the manicotti shells available in the States are cut diagonally on the end. In my opinion, it would look much more like a smoked shotgun shell if the ends were straight cut like most cannelloni shells. Unfortunately, these are difficult to find.
  • These are very rich with the hot sausage. Another great option would be to make a meatloaf mixture with either all ground beef, or half ground beef and half ground sausage. Mix in onions, peppers, etc. and stuff that into the shells.

Try your own ideas with these smoked shotgun shells and let me know if you come up with something amazing.

Recipe Card

4.7 from 17 votes

Smoked Shotgun Shells

These delicious appetizers resemble a shotgun shell giving them their clever name. Manicotti shells are stuffed with ground sausage, and wrapped in bacon then smoked to perfection.
Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time2 hours 30 minutes
Total Time5 hours


  • 11 manicotti shells
  • 1 lb ground sausage (hot or mild)
  • 8 ounce block of cheddar cheese
  • 1 lb bacon (thin sliced)
  • 1 cup Jeff's barbecue sauce
  • ¼ cup Jeff's original rub


  • Press manicotti shell into ground sausage to fill about 1/3. Add a ½ inch square x 1-inch long piece of cheese into the shell then finish stuffing sausage into the rest of the shell.
  • Tightly wrap a single piece of bacon around the manicotti shell. It is best to stretch the bacon first so it is long enough to wrap and cover the entire shell. Place the wrapped shells onto a pan with a rack.
  • Brush barbecue sauce onto the top and sides of the bacon wrapped shell then apply a coating of Jeff's original rub.
  • Place pan of stuffed, wrapped shells into fridge for 2 hours or even overnight to help the shells to soften a little. (Not absolutely necessary but improves the bite)
  • Set up smoker for cooking at 225°F using indirect heat. If your smoker uses a water pan, fill it up.
  • Place the pan of appetizers onto the smoker grate and let them smoke cook for 2 hours or until the bacon starts to get crisp. It is sometimes helpful to crank up the heat to 275 for an additional 30 minutes to get a better texture on the bacon.
  • Brush sauce onto the wrapped shells and let them caramelize in the heat for about 10 minutes before removing them from the smoker.
  • Serve immediately.


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Recipe Rating


  1. Here’s my new spin on this. I used Itallian sausage mixed with green onions and shredded mozzarella cheese. Brushed with pizza sauce then the rub. Served with more pizza sauce for dipping. BIG game day hit, but now everybody wants me to double the recipe so they can take some home.

  2. 5 stars
    Gleaning some info from the comments, I made these and boy were they good! I cooked them for about 4 minutes before stuffing. I used a meatloaf mix, thought maybe sausage would be too salty?, and pepper jack cheese. They were a huge hit! But the cheese melted out somehow. Will make these again for sure and will do them with sausage. Thanks Jeff!!

  3. 5 stars
    I wanted to make them and had no time to let them sit in the fridge, so I boiled the pasta for 3.5/4 minutes, let cool then stuffed , basted & smoked. Absolutely perfect. Also, because my wife made comment about the size, I also (painstakingly) filled some extra large rigatoni shells. bite size and awesome but triple the effort. Thx Jeff appreciate your effort and sharing with us.

  4. Jeff, I’m using a Materbuilt smoker. My shells go hard. I also saw my meat temp got passed 165. Any idea why hard she’s?

  5. 5 stars
    Made these and they were great. But, I added cream cheese and jalapeno, onion to the meat. I used an extra piece of cubed cheddar cheese.

    1. I think it’s best to stuff them and let them sit in fridge for several hours so the meat an bacon soften the shells a bit.
      You can also brush the shells with bbq sauce before wrapping them in bacon.

    1. Todd, I didn’t rotate mine but you certainly could if you typically do that on your smoker. In true indirect cooking, the heat is getting to everything pretty evenly so it’s not as big of a deal as it is when cooking on a grill or over direct heat.

  6. “can they be made, smoked and finished, then frozen for use later? re-heated in oven or on the grill?”

    I was wondering the same thing.

  7. Has anyone left these in the refrigerator for over a day before cooking? Big weekend coming and was thinking about making ahead of time.

    1. I often leave them overnight or longer.. during this time, the moisture in the meat helps the shells to soften before you smoke them. I don’t see any reason to not leave them for 24-36 hours. Longer may even be okay but I haven’t tried it.

  8. 5 stars
    can they be made, smoked and finished, then frozen for use later? re-heated in oven or on the grill?

  9. 4 stars
    While these tasted great, our shells were still hard at the end of the cook. What could have been the problem?

    1. Make them ahead of time and let them sit in the fridge for 6 hours- so the shells start to soften from the moisture in the meet before you cook.

  10. Hey Jeff,
    I have A Chubby Reverse smoke water bath smoker, can I forgo the pan and just have shotgun shells directly on my rack?

  11. Made them and they were really good.. was a bit salty from bacon and sausage. Maybe next time, I will use low sodium bacon..

  12. 4 stars
    While this recipe is good .I followed the first time I made them as well… well now I make a cream cheese Jalapeño sausage mixture and put this in in-between the sausage on the ends which stop the cheese from dripping out.. cheers

  13. 5 stars
    I thankfully doubled the bacon because spots that are not covered in bacon get hard. I would go shredded cheese next time to fill that void in the middle better. I am also going to try and put Ricotta in the middle, sprinkle with SPG and Italian seasonings and serve with spaghetti sauce to dip them with.

  14. 5 stars
    I made these yesterday for the big game here in Michigan, but changed it up a little. I mixed 5 pepper Italian sausage with chopped green onions and shredded mozzarella cheese. I also added ground turkey. Smoked them on a Traeger for 2 hours and crisped the bacon on my weber gas grill. Used marinara for dipping. HUGE crowd pleaser. Thanks for the inspiration.

      1. I just added a bit of liquid smoke to the sauce and cooked in oven at 225 for two hours, then 275 for 45 minutes. They came out perfect!

    1. Karen, I have not made these in the oven however, I think you could preheat the oven to about 325 or 350 and get these done in around 30 minutes give or take 15 minutes. The bacon would need to be crisp and the manicotti would need to be soft.. also the stuffing inside would need to reach 160°F to be safe. I still recommend making these ahead of time and leaving them in the fridge overnight to allow the moisture in the meat to start softening the shells. If anyone makes these, let us know how it goes, I will do the same if I get a chance to try them in the oven.

    1. I made this several times and mine turned out perfectly soft and ready to eat. The very edges were a little more dry but I didn’t mind that at all. Be sure to give it some fridge time to soften a little more before cooking them.

  15. I followed this recipe exactly and after 2.5 hours the sausage was only 125 degrees with an instant read thermometer. I am using a trager smoker. Have you had this issue. I just raised the temp to 300 and will give another 30 min and check again.

    1. You could grate it and mix it in if you wanted to. I cut the block of cheese into chunks and placed it in the center of the manicotti. 1/3 sausage, then chunk of cheese then more sausage so the cheese ends up in the center. At the end you have a melty bit of cheddar. See steps 1 and 2 of the recipe.

  16. Hey — haven’t tried them yet but will as we are HUGE smokers that love firearms. Go to your local grocery and look for Johnsonville Sausage Strips. Just like bacon in original and maple flavors. We wrapped some hot dogs and they were AWESOME.

  17. Haven’t tried these yet, but does the shell soften up while it’s cooking. It seems like the shell would remain dry if you don’t at least cook the shell a little bit.