It’s time for the 4th episode of Becoming a Backyard BBQ Master! Cooking your main course on the grill or smoker is obviously a great idea, but don’t forget that you can also cook your sides!
In this episode, Evan goes for one of the most glorious side items you can make: Bacon Wrapped Jalapeño Poppers! He even uses jalapeños from his own garden. And of course, since man does not live on Jalapeño Poppers alone, he also reverse seared some bratwursts.
Watch the video, get the recipe, and learn more below.
Why Bacon Wrapped Jalapeño Poppers?
There are a few reasons I wanted to make jalapeño poppers. First and foremost, I think they are ridiculously tasty. I love spicy food, cheese, and bacon. This brings them all together in one delicious morsel.
Secondly, up to this point I had really only cooked meat on the grill. It was time to try a veggie. Granted, I doused the veggie in cheese and wrapped it in bacon, so this is not the pinnacle of healthy eating. But still, it was a side item that needed to be tried. I’ve quickly become a believer that everything tastes better when cooked over wood, so why wouldn’t I try cooking some side items?
And finally, let’s talk about my garden. We have a couple different gardening boxes on our property. Over the last couple years, I’ve tried my hand at growing strawberries, blueberries, okra, beans, tomatoes, and more. Unfortunately, there is a lot of competition in my 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? 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 I had a bounty of jalapeños growing, I knew 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.
In order to cook bacon wrapped jalapeño poppers, you only need a few kew ingredients:
- 12 jalapeños, 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)
Since I wanted a full meal, I 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.
- Cherry smoking chunks from Cutting Edge Firewood
- Primo Grill (or other ceramic grill 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 indirect heat and then switch to direct heat
- Hard lump charcoal
- Cooking Spray
- Plastic gloves for cutting the jalapeños
- Grill gloves
- Aluminum Foil
I chose cherry smoking wood chunks because I thought a little sweetness might help offset the spicy flavor of the jalapeños. Not only did it work great with the poppers, those bratwursts were 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, I chose to reverse sear these brats.
In order to do that, I brought the primo temperature to 235 degrees. I 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 cooking wood.
I took the bratwursts off the grill and wrapped them in foil. At this point, they were fully cooked and could have safely been eaten. However, I 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 me to cook the bacon wrapped jalapeño poppers, which required a higher temperature. Since I was going to finish cooking the poppers by placing them over direct heat, my plan was to add the bratwursts back at the same time so that everything could come off the grill at the same time.
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 obviously take a bit of time since each one needs to be put together individually.
You need to cook them in the grill around 400 degrees over indirect heat. Get that grill preheating!
1. The first step is to cut the stems off and cut the jalapeños in half. You will need to remove the seeds and insides from the jalapeños. It’s important to remember to use caution here. Jalapeños are spicy, especially the seeds. You might want to choose to use plastic gloves so the spiciness doesn’t get stuck on your fingers. If you go barehanded, then make sure to wash them extremely well. Rubbing your eye with jalapeño on your fingers is a 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. I found quite a few on my floor as well, which was a problem because we had a baby crawling around the house. Fortunately I cleaned everything up before baby decided to taste test a jalapeño seed!
3. Once the jalapeños are cut in half, you can fill them with the cream cheese and shredded cheese mixture. Softening the cream cheese will make it much easier to mix them together. I found that 8 ounces of cream cheese and 8 ounces of shredded cheese filled about 10 jalapeños (or 20 halves).
4. Next, you take pieces of bacon and wrap them around the jalapeño. I cut the bacon slices in half, but if you love bacon (and I mean really love bacon) I suppose you can always go full length and wrap the popper twice!
5. You will want to use toothpicks to hold the bacon together around the jalapeño. They should survive the grill and also make eating the poppers easier when done!
6. Place the poppers over indirect heat at 400 degrees. Cook them for about 20 minutes.
7. Move the poppers from indirect heat and place them over direct heat. You can cook them for a couple more minutes to crisp up that bacon. You should also take this opportunity to add the bratwursts if you’re cooking those too!
8. Remove them from the grill and do your best to give them a chance to cool down. Eat and enjoy the flavor explosion of goodness!
Each episode, I want to share a few lessons I learned. Here’s what I realized today:
- I really need grill gloves! When you start cooking things over direct heat, it gets really hot! Protect your hands with some good quality grill gloves.
- Use some oil on the grill grates: I know this is something I will forget over and over again, but I wish I had put some cooking oil on the grill grates. This would make cooking and clean up go much easier. Probably best not to spray anything at an open flame, so keep that in mind!
- Jalapeños make your fingers hot: Even after furiously washing my hands multiple times, my fingers still stung a bit from the jalapeños I cleaned out. Gloves could have helped, or maybe I just need to be more careful when cleaning them. So seriously, wash those hands well!
- Bratwursts can be cooked with anything! Bratwursts are really easy on the smoker, and it made me realize 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 I grew in my own backyard. Jalapeños are definitely going back into the garden next year and I’m excited to make these guys 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 my wife, who doesn’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 premium smoking chunks or cooking wood splits from Cutting Edge Firewood!