I’m always looking for new, creative barbecue snacks that I can throw on the smoker for parties and get-togethers and when I saw these Smoked Shotgun Shells floating around social media, I knew I had to try them.
The name came from the slight resemblance to a shotgun shell.
You stuff manicotti pasta with ground beef and cheese, then wrap the entire thing in bacon (because everything is better with bacon), then smoke them. For the finishing touch barbecue sauce is brushed over the top and you are left with a simple, but tasty, barbecue snack!
How to Make Smoked Shotgun Shells
These are honestly pretty simple to make. I think the hardest part of the entire recipe is stuffing the ground beef into the manicotti pasta without breaking them.
I have noticed that some recipes opt to use either breakfast sausage or ground sausage, but I decided to use ground beef and season it myself so I could control the flavor profile.
1. The filling
All you need to do is to take a bowl and combine ground beef, Monterey jack cheese, and a little bit of your favorite barbecue rub.
Feel free to experiment with different fillings though! Here are a few ideas:
- Add diced jalapeño to the meat mixture
- Use sausage meat instead of ground beef
- Use pepper jack or string cheese
- Use beef or turkey bacon to wrap
2. Stuff and wrap
Once your beef and cheese mixture is well-incorporated, stuff it into dry, uncooked manicotti shells.
I found that putting little pieces in at a time was the easiest way to stuff them.
Once they are all stuffed, you’re just going to wrap each one in 2 slices of bacon. I used thick-cut bacon, but I honestly don’t think it will make much of a difference – so just use whatever bacon you have on hand.
When they’re all wrapped, sprinkle a little bit more of that barbecue rub over the top of each one.
3. Let them sit
I was concerned about the manicotti cooking all the way through on the smoker, so I decided to let them sit in the fridge for about 6 hours before smoking them.
This gives the moisture in the meat and in the bacon time to penetrate the pasta so you won’t be left with crunchy pasta in the center of your shotgun shell.
You can prep these ahead of time if you are cooking for a crowd and they can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days prior to cooking.
4. Fire Up the Smoker
When you’re ready to smoke your shotgun shells, just fire up your smoker to 250°F.
Once your grill is preheated, just lay the shotgun shells out on a jerky tray or wire rack and place them on the grill. If you prefer to just put them directly on the grates, that is fine too.
You’re going to let them smoke for about 90 minutes, then kick up the temperature in your smoker to 350°F to crisp up that bacon. Let them cook at 350°F for another 10 minutes, then grab some barbecue sauce and a basting brush.
For this recipe, I used the PS Seasoning Bourbon Barrel whiskey BBQ sauce. It’s a tangy sauce that is infused with barrel-aged bourbon and molasses. If you prefer to make your own barbecue sauce at home, here are 13 BBQ Sauces You Can Make at Home.
Once they are well-coated in that sauce, you’re going to place them back on the grill for another 10 minutes to let the sauce really set and firm up. By this time your bacon should be perfectly crispy and these shotgun shells are ready to enjoy!
Can you make these without a smoker?
Yes! While this is a recipe for “smoked” shotgun shells there is no reason you can’t cook these in the oven and just follow the time and temperature guidelines in the recipe below.
You’ll miss out on some smokey flavor, but since you are using barbecue sauce and rub, these will still have a lovely bbq taste.
You could also cook these in an air fryer, although I haven’t done it myself so you’ll have to experiment with cooking times.
The key to making sure the noodles are fully cooked
I’ve noticed on other recipes a lot of complaints about the pasta still being hard at the end of the cook.
My technique to get perfectly cooked pasta is to leave the stuffed shells to sit in the fridge for about 6 hours before smoking them. The moisture from the meat softens the pasta which helps it cook while on the smoker.
If you are short on time, you could try cooking the shells a little before stuffing them.
Looking for more great sides with bacon?
- Smoked Armadillo Eggs wrapped in bacon
- Smoked Pig Shots
- Bacon wrapped Jalapeno poppers
- Smoked baked beans with bacon
Smoked Shotgun Shells
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 cup Monterrey Jack cheese shredded
- 2 tbsp barbecue brisket rub
- 10 Manicotti shells uncooked
- 20 slices bacon
- ½ cup barbecue sauce
- In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the ground beef, cheese, and 1½ tablespoons of the barbecue rub. Mix with your hands until well-incorporated.
- Lay out your uncooked manicotti shells and stuff each one full of the ground beef mixture
- Once they are stuffed, wrap each manicotti shell in 2 slices of bacon and sprinkle the tops with the remaining barbecue rub.
- Store in the fridge for 4 to 6 hours.
- Preheat your smoker to 250°F.
- Transfer the shotgun shells to a jerky tray or wire rack and place them on the smoker.
- Let them smoke for 1½ hours, then increase the temperature on the smoker to 350°F.
- Let them cook for another 10 minutes, then brush each one with barbecue sauce, and let them cook for another 10 minutes.
- Serve immediately and enjoy!