Cooking your main course on the grill or smoker is always a great idea, but don’t forget that you can also grill or smoke your side dishes!
One of the most glorious side items you can make is Bacon Wrapped Jalapeño Poppers! We’ll even use jalapeños from our own garden. And of course, since man does not live on Jalapeño Poppers alone, we’ll also reverse-sear some delicious bratwursts.
Why Bacon Wrapped Jalapeño Poppers?
There are a few reasons we wanted to make jalapeño poppers. First and foremost, they’re ridiculously tasty. Spicy food, cheese, and bacon, all together in one delicious morsel. What’s not to love?
Secondly, up to this point, we had only cooked meat on the grill, so it was time to try a veggie. Granted, we doused the veggie in cheese and wrapped it in bacon, so this is not exactly the pinnacle of healthy eating. But still, it was a side item that needed to be tried.
We’ve quickly become believers that everything tastes better when cooked over wood, so why wouldn’t we try cooking some side items?
Finally, let’s talk about the garden. We have a couple of different gardening boxes on our property. Over the last couple of years, we’ve tried growing strawberries, blueberries, okra, beans, tomatoes, and more. Unfortunately, there is a lot of competition in the backyard from other creatures that also like to eat.
The deer got the beans and the okra. The bugs got the strawberries. And the birds? Well, they got the blueberries.
But one plant proved to be successful: jalapeños! They’re simply too spicy for deer or other animals to be attracted to. Apparently, humans are the only ones crazy enough to eat food that makes them sweat from the heat.
Since we had a bounty of jalapeños growing, clearly it was time to bring them to glory by making bacon-wrapped jalapeño poppers!
Fortunately, even if you aren’t growing jalapeños in your yard, you can still make these poppers. They’re always available at the supermarket, and frankly, they’re pretty cheap.
To cook bacon-wrapped jalapeño poppers, you only need a few key ingredients:
- 12 ripe jalapeño peppers, cut in half with insides cleaned out
- 8 ounces cream cheese (softened)
- 8 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
- As much bacon as you desire (cut slices in half)
To make it a full meal, we also cooked a few bratwursts. These are great because they’re delicious, cook quickly, and do a great job absorbing the smoky goodness of quality cooking wood. More on the bratwursts later.
As far as cooking gear and fuel go, we recommend the following:
- Cherry smoking chunks from Cutting Edge Firewood
- Primo Grill (or other ceramic grills like Big Green Egg or Kamado Joe)
- If you’re using the Primo, place the ceramic heat deflector plate on one side so you can easily cook over indirect heat and then switch to direct heat
- Lump charcoal
- Cooking Spray
- Plastic gloves for cutting the jalapeños
- Grill gloves
- Aluminum Foil
We chose cherry wood smoking chunks because we thought a little sweetness might help offset the spicy flavor of the jalapeños. Not only did it work great with the poppers, but those bratwursts were also bursting with flavor too!
Step-by-Step Guide to Smoking Bratwursts
The bratwursts needed to cook for a longer amount of time than the poppers, so they went on first. Like a lot of smaller pieces of meat, we chose to reverse sear these brats.
To do that, we brought the primo temperature to 235 degrees. We cooked the bratwursts over indirect heat for about an hour, bringing their internal temperature to 160 degrees. Cooking them low and slow like this allows the meat to absorb the delicious smoke flavor from the firewood for cooking.
Next, we took the bratwursts off the grill and wrapped them in foil. At this point, they were fully cooked and safe to eat. However, we wanted to finish by cooking them over high direct heat to give them a crispier exterior with some nice grill marks.
Setting them to the side also allowed us to cook the bacon-wrapped jalapeño poppers, which required a higher temperature. Since we were going to finish cooking the poppers by placing them over direct heat, the plan was to add the bratwursts back at the same time so that everything could come off the grill together.
Step-by-Step Guide to Cooking Bacon Wrapped Jalapeño Poppers
Since there are only 4 ingredients, preparing the jalapeño poppers is a pretty easy process. Depending on how many you make, however, it can take a bit of time since each one needs to be assembled individually.
You need to cook them on the grill at around 400 degrees over indirect heat, so get that grill preheating!
1. The first step with the jalapeños is to cut the stems off, cut the pepper in half, and then remove the seeds and ribs from the jalapeños. It’s important to use caution here because jalapeños contain capsaicin, which is what makes them spicy, especially the seeds and ribs.
It's a good idea to use plastic gloves so the oils don’t get on your fingers. If you go barehanded, make sure to wash your hands extremely well after handling these peppers. Rubbing your eyes with capsaicin on your fingers is a memorable and miserable experience.
2. It’s also important to be careful with cleaning the seeds. They tend to go all over – you don’t want one to fly into your eye. We found quite a few on my floor as well, which was a problem because we had a baby crawling around the house. Fortunately, we cleaned everything up before the baby decided to taste test a jalapeño seed!
3. Once the jalapeños are cut in half, you can spread the inside with the cream cheese and shredded cheese mixture. Softening the cream cheese will make it much easier to mix. We found that 8 ounces of cream cheese and 8 ounces of shredded cheese filled about 10 jalapeños (or 20 halves).
4. Next, take a piece of bacon and wrap it around the jalapeño. We cut the bacon slices in half, but if you love bacon (really love bacon) you can always go full length and wrap the popper twice!
5. Use a toothpick through the pepper to hold the bacon in place around the jalapeño. They should survive the grill and make eating the poppers easier when done!
6. Place the poppers over indirect heat at 400 degrees, and cook for about 20 minutes.
7. Move the poppers from indirect heat and place them over direct heat, cooking them for a couple more minutes to crisp up that bacon. Take this opportunity to add the bratwursts over the direct heat, if you’re cooking those too!
8. Remove everything from the grill and do your best to give them a chance to cool down. Eat and enjoy the explosion of flavor goodness!
We want to share a few lessons I learned today:
- You really need grill gloves! When you start cooking things over direct heat, it gets super hot! Protect your hands with some high-quality grill gloves.
- Use some oil on the grill grates: This is something we forget over and over again, but we wished we had put some cooking oil on the grill grates to make cooking and cleaning up much easier. Remember not to spray anything at an open flame, so keep in mind to oil your grates away from the heat!
- Jalapeños make your fingers hot: Even after furiously washing our hands multiple times, our fingers still stung a bit from the jalapeños we’d cleaned out. Gloves would have helped, and, seriously, wash those hands well!
- Bratwursts can be cooked with anything! Bratwursts are easy to cook on the smoker, and you can throw them on with anything. Cooking a pork butt for tomorrow? Add a few bratwursts in for today! Smoking some ribs for today? Add some bratwursts for tomorrow! The smoky flavor sticks around, so these guys are good all week.
It was pretty satisfying cooking something that grew in our backyard. Jalapeños are definitely going back into the garden next year and we’re excited to make these poppers for years to come.
We had friends over for dinner and they loved the bacon-wrapped jalapeño poppers as well, so that’s always good! Even the ones who don’t love spicy food thought they were delicious!
If you’re looking to add some spice to your meal and some incredible flavor, then look no further than bacon-wrapped jalapeño poppers! And of course, if you want the best flavor you’ll want to cook over some wood chunks for smoking or cooking wood splits from Cutting Edge Firewood!