What to Cook in a Smoker
If you’re lucky enough to have tasted a hickory-smoked Kansas City brisket or a rack of dry-rubbed ribs from Memphis, you probably agree — smoked meats reign supreme in the world of food. Indeed, there is absolutely nothing quite as satisfying as a perfectly tender piece of meat, slow-cooked over real wood to infuse that rich, earthy flavor that only smoke can produce. Brisket, ribs, pork shoulder, chicken wings. They’re all prime — pun very much intended — candidates for your kamado grill or pellet smoker.
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But there’s more to the story when it comes to smoking, and meat isn’t the only food that gets your guests’ mouths watering and coming back for more. In fact, many of the foods you’d typically grill or roast lend themselves well to smoking. In this guide, we’ll go over a few of the most popular things to cook in a smoker to help you earn your place as pitmaster, even if your guests are vegetarians.
Pick Your Fuel
One thing to note before diving in. The type of smoker you use — and the fuel that feeds the flame — will influence which foods work best, so make sure you consider this in your recipe selection. For example, the best pellet smoker recipes typically include ingredients that complement the flavor of woody smoke. On the other hand, the best dishes for your charcoal smoker are the ones that vibe with a char-grilled flavor. Read more about the different options in our guide to pellet smokers vs. charcoal smokers.
Foods to Try in the Smoker
Without further ado, here’s a list of some of the best things to set and forget the next time you fire up the smoker.
1. Brisket, Ribs and Beyond: Meat — Meat is by far the most popular thing to toss in the smoker, and for good reason. This kind of cooker has the unique ability to turn tough meats tender and to infuse the most flavorless cuts with a richness and depth you just can’t get from the oven. Some classic proteins to experiment with include brisket, prime rib, pork shoulder, ribs, lamb shoulder and chicken legs, thighs and wings. Oh and don’t forget the seafood. Salmon, mackerel, clams, oysters and any fatty fish will smoke beautifully. You can even check with your local butcher or fishmonger — they’ll have tons of stuff to try!
2. Side Dish Wins: Veggies and Starches — You can quite literally take your entire dinner outside, side dishes and all, when you’re cooking on the smoker.
- Veggies — Some of the best veggies to smoke include corn on the cob, carrots, artichokes, onions, squash and peppers.
- Garlic — Smoked garlic has a soft, spreadable and delicious consistency perfect for pairing with bread, meat and more. Cut whole heads in half lengthwise, dress in a bit of oil and smoke for about 45 minutes.
- Potatoes — Starch-wise, you can’t go wrong with potatoes. From simple, seasoned redskins to smoke-roasted Hasselback potatoes, the humble spud performs beautifully amidst the smoke.
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3. Say What? Sour Cream and Sauces — Once you get the hang of it, you’ll see that you can introduce smoky flavor into just about any food in your fridge, including some dairy items. Create a smoky, creamy sauce by spreading a bit of sour cream onto a sheet pan and smoking for 20 to 30 minutes. When mixed with a little cilantro and lime, this makes a great addition to taco night, especially if you’ve already got smoked brisket or carnitas on the menu.
4. Getting Creative: Fruit and More — Sweet and smoky, what could be better? Use the smoker for a whole new take on apples, grapes, peaches and more. If you’re looking for something really out-of-the-box, try Will Horowitz’s smoked watermelon ham. It sounds weird, but the unconventional dish caught fire when it first debuted at Horowitz’s New York City restaurant back in 2018. It remains a legendary dish to try in your smoker, plus, your vegan friends will love it.
5. The Margarita’s Bestie: Smoked Salt — There’s nothing like a smoky, salty rim on a spicy margarita, and this cocktail accoutrement is surprisingly easy to make at home in the smoker. It’s best to use a larger granule salt — like coarse sea salt or Morton’s kosher salt — and smoke on a low temperature for up to 24 hours.
Whether you’re just getting started with your brand-new ceramic grill or are looking to expand your cooking repertoire with a smoker-grill combo, Grilla Grills is here to ensure that you never run out of ideas to keep the smoke rolling.