Smoked Shotgun Shells are the perfect appetizer that you can toss on your grill before a big BBQ.
Not only are they easy to make, but they will also keep hungry eyes from opening the lid of your grill while you make the main dish!
Ready to get started? Let’s dig in!
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What Are Smoked Shotgun Shells?
Smoked shotgun shells are an appetizer that can be made on your grill and served any time of the year. They are basically pasta stuffed with beef and cheese and wrapped in bacon.
We have found that smoking them works best, and then we also like to brush them with a bit of BBQ sauce for a finishing touch. They are best eaten with your hands (but keep napkins nearby!)
How to Make Smoked Shotgun Shells
Our favorite part about making smoked shotgun shells is that you can prepare them in advance and simply toss them in the smoker when company is on the way. We even suggest making them in advance to help the pasta part cook completely. Here’s our complete method for smoked shotgun shells.
- Ground Beef
- Monterey Jack Cheese
- Your Favorite BBQ Sauce
- Sliced Bacon
- Manicotti Pasta
- Worcestershire Sauce
- Jalapenos (Optional)
Step 1: Make Your Stuffing
Start by mixing your ground beef and cheese in a bowl. Add a tablespoon or two of Worcestershire as well as some salt and pepper. Add a chopped jalapeno if you want yours to have a little kick. Use your hands to mix until it is well combined.
Related >> Does Worcestershire Sauce Go Bad?
Editor’s Note: Stuffing manicotti shells can be difficult. If your ground beef is ground finely enough, we recommend loading the mixture in a plastic bag, cutting off the corner, and squeezing the mixture into the tube to speed up the stuffing process.
Step 2: Stuff the Shells
Take the stuffing and put it into the uncooked pasta shells. You want to stuff them to the brim because the pasta is relying on the juices of the meat to cook fully.
Step 3: Wrap the Shells
Wrap your stuffed manicotti shells in bacon, ensuring the pasta is completely covered. You will need 1-2 pieces of bacon for each shell.
Step 4: Put in the Fridge
Let your stuffed and wrapped shells sit in the fridge for at least 6 hours but no longer than 3 days.
Step 5: Smoke Your Shells
Preheat your smoker to 275°F and load with fruity wood. We recommend cherry or apple wood. Let them smoke for 90 minutes.
Step 6: Crisp the Bacon
Turn your smoker up a bit higher, to 375°F or so, for ten minutes to crisp the bacon.
Step 7: Brush with BBQ Sauce
Take your smoked shotgun shells off the grill and brush them with BBQ sauce before you replace them for a final 10 minutes. Then remove them from the grill and serve!
Smoked Shotgun Shells Expert Tips and Variations
- You don’t have to stuff them with hamburger meat. Instead, you could use sausage, ground chicken, or even something exotic like ground venison.
- You can also switch up the cheese. We recommend any cheese that melts well, like cheddar, jack, or swiss.
- You can replace the bacon with turkey bacon for those who don’t consume pork.
How to Serve Smoked Shotgun Shells
Smoked shotgun shells are intended to be an appetizer for your guests to enjoy while you make the main dish. But, we see no reason they can’t also be the main dish at dinner.
When serving as a meal, you should serve them with a vegetable side, as well as some sort of potatoes.
How to Store Smoked Shotgun Shells
Unfortunately, smoked shotgun shells don’t save well. We recommend consuming them all once they are cooked. If they are uncooked, then they can stay in the fridge for up to 3 days from the time you made them.
How to Cook Smoked Shotgun Shells Fully
The main complaint when it comes to cooking smoked shotgun shells is that the pasta doesn’t cook all the way. When you follow our method and allow them to sit in the fridge for at least 6 hours before cooking, this shouldn’t be a problem.
But if you don’t have the time to do this, we recommend partially cooking the pasta tubes before you stuff them. While this might make the pasta a slight bit mushy, it will guarantee that you don’t serve your guests undercooked pasta.
Smoked Shotgun Shells FAQ
What Temperature Do You Smoke Shotgun Shells At?
It is recommended to start your smoker at a low temperature, between 250°F and 300°F, to begin, turning it up for the last 20 minutes to crisp the bacon.
What are Smoked Shotgun Shells Made Of?
Named for their shape, which is that of a shotgun shell, smoked shotgun shells are made of meat, cheese, manicotti pasta, and bacon.
Can You Make Smoked Shotgun Shells in the Oven?
It is possible to make smoked shotgun shells both in the oven and in an air fryer if you have one. Just know that they will be missing that smoky flavor, however, unless you add liquid smoke to the stuffing mixture.
Final Thoughts on Smoked Shotgun Shells
Overall, smoked shotgun shells are easy to make and customize how you see fit. Whether you stuff the shells with sausage, ground beef, or another type of ground meat, the result will be amazing. Just remember to prepare these in advance so they will be ready to pop on the grill once your company is on the way!
Easy Smoked Shotgun Shells
- 1 lb 80/20 or Higher Ground Beef
- 1 Cup Monterey Jack Cheese, shredded
- 1/2 Cup Your Favorite BBQ Sauce
- 20 Slices Thin Sliced Bacon
- 10 Shells Manicotti Pasta
- 1-2 TBS Worcestershire Sauce, to taste
- 1 Jalapenos, chopped (Optional)
- Salt and Pepper, to taste
Make the Filling
- Start by mixing the ground beef and shredded cheese in a bowl.
- Add a tablespoon or two of Worcestershire sauce, the salt and pepper, and a chopped jalapeno if you want a little kick.
- Mix with your hands until well-incorporated.
Assemble the Shells
- Take the stuffing mixture and fill the uncooked pasta shells. Stuff the shells to the brim because the pasta is relying on the juices of the meat to cook fully.
- Note: Stuffing manicotti shells can be difficult. If your ground beef is ground finely enough, we recommend loading the mixture in a plastic bag, cutting off the corner, and squeezing the mixture into the tube to speed up the stuffing process.
- Wrap the stuffed manicotti shells in strips of bacon, ensuring the pasta is completely covered. You will need 1-2 pieces of bacon for each shell.
- Let your stuffed and wrapped shells sit in the fridge for at least 6 hours but no longer than 3 days.
Smoke The Shells
- Preheat your smoker to 275°F and load with fruity wood. We recommend cherry or apple wood.
- Transfer the shotgun shells to a wire rack and place them on the smoker.
- Let them smoke for 1½ hours
- Turn your smoker up a bit higher, to 375°F or so, for ten minutes to crisp the bacon.
- Take your smoked shotgun shells off the grill and brush them with BBQ sauce.
- Place them back in the smoker to cook for another 10 minutes. Then remove and serve!