These smoked shotgun shells are one of my go-to smoker recipes for football Sunday or when I'm hosting friends and family in the backyard.
We're tweaking the traditional smoked shotgun shells recipe by adding a little kick of pickled jalapeños, and using hot Italian sausage instead of ground beef.
Smoked Shotgun Shells Ingredients
- 1 pound hot Italian sausage. Most recipes call for ground beef, which in my opinion lacks the depth of flavor of sausage.
- 10 manicotti shells. No, you're not going to cook these ahead of time. They will cook on the smoker.
- 1/2 cup shredded smoked gouda. One of my favorite cheeses for smoking.
- 1/2 cup shredded Colby-Jack cheese. Feel free to sub-in cheddar, Monterey jack, or pepper jack as well.
- 20 slices of bacon. I prefer thick cut.
- 1/4 cup pickled jalapeños. For a little extra heat.
- 1/2 cup barbecue sauce. Use your favorite sauce here, or our homemade BBQ sauce.
- 2 tbsp. BBQ rub. Use a good sweet and spicy rub.
Smoked Shotgun Shells Recipe Instructions
1. Make your filling
In a large mixing bowl, thoroughly combine the ground sausage, shredded cheeses, pickled jalapeños, and BBQ rub.
2. Stuff the manicotti shells
Carefully stuff the manicotti shells with the filling. I found that using my finger worked best, by pushing the filling into both sides of the shell, until it was full. Just be careful not the crack the shell!
3. Wrap the shells in bacon
Take two pieces of bacon, and wrap it around the manicotti shells. I prefer thick cut bacon, but if all you have on hand is regular bacon, that's fine too.
4. Add rub to the bacon
Next, sprinkle a little bit of your BBQ rub on top of the bacon, like in the above photo. I recommend using a sweet rub as it really balances out the heat of the jalapeño, and complements the bacon flavor well.
5. Rest in the fridge
Let the shotgun shells "rest" in your refrigerator for at least two hours. The shells soak up some of the moisture of the filling and the bacon, so your shell doesn't get too hard when it's smoking.
6. Smoke the shotgun shells
Heat your smoker to 250F and add your shotgun shells. Smoke the shells for 90 minutes.
I recommend placing the shells on a wired rack, over a baking sheet, to help with clean up. I used cherry pellet for this smoke, but use whatever you have on hand.
7. Increase the temperature
After 90 minutes of smoking, increase the temperature to 350F and continue smoking the shells for another 15 minutes. This is to help crisp up the bacon. There's nothing worse than a smoker recipe that has soggy bacon!
8. Sauce the shells
Grab your favorite BBQ sauce and gently brush the shells while they're still on the smoker, and cook for another 15 minutes. For this cook, I used Meat Mitch's womp sauce.
9. Rest & serve
Remove the shotgun shells from your smoker, and let them cool off for 10 minutes. Then serve as-is, of if you're like me, with Ranch dressing. YUM!
Tips & Tricks
Here are some things to keep in mind if you're making these smoked shotgun shells for the first time.
- Sausage vs. ground beef. As I said, most smoked shotgun shells call for using ground beef, which is fine if that's what you prefer, or have on hand. But I definitely recommend trying these with hot Italian sausage. The flavor profile is just much better.
- Stuff carefully. If you're not careful, you could easily crack the manicotti shells when you're stuffing them with the filling. So go easy. Again, I found the best method was to put on a pair of latex gloves, get the filling in my fingers, and then press gently into each side of the shell.
- Too much bacon. Is there such a thing? I made this recipe with two pieces of bacon each, but honestly, I think once piece per manicotti shell is enough. The problem with bacon is that it's hard to get crispy on the smoker. And when you use two pieces, one of the pieces gets wrapped under the other, which means it's not getting enough smoke to really crisp up.
- Crank up the temp. You can see I increased the temperature to 350F after initially smoking at 250F for 45 minutes. Again, this all comes down to the bacon—and depending on how crispy you like your bacon, you may want to smoke at 350F for longer than 15 minutes.
Best Smoked Shotgun Shells
- 1 lb Italian sausage hot
- 10 manicotti shells uncooked
- 1/2 cup gouda cheese shredded
- 1/2 cup Colby-jack cheese shredded
- 20 slices bacon
- 1/4 cup pickled jalapeños
- 1/2 cup BBQ sauce
- 2 tbsp BBQ rub
- Make your filling by combining the Italian sausage, cheeses, pickled jalapeños, and BBQ rub.
- Stuff the manicotti shells with the filling.
- Wrap the manicotti shells in bacon.
- Add a little extra rub on top of the bacon.
- Allow the shells to rest in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
- Smoke the shotgun shells at 250F for 45 minutes.
- Increase the smoker temperature to 350F and smoke for 15 minutes.
- Add BBQ sauce to the shells, and smoke for 15 minutes.
- Remove the shells from the smoker and allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.