Smoked Potatoes 101: Everything You Need To Know
There is nothing quite like apple-smoked russets or cedar-smoked baby red potatoes. Are you tired of everyday boring mashed potatoes? The crisp, juicy, cheesy potatoes you make in your grill will be amazing with the following guide.
How Does a Smoker Work? (Optional for Readers Who Have Smoked Before)
A smoker works by putting wood shavings from a scented wood (such as apple, cedar, etc.) on top of open coals in a coal-burning grill or in a smoker box on top of the direct heat in a gas-powered grill.
You will need to buy woods chips and a roasting pan. Soak the wood chips in water for 30 minutes (to make them smoke better and also to prevent them from bursting into flame). Get the roasting pan and fill it with water.
Place this under the meat and potatoes. This will distribute moisture throughout the smoker, keeping the meat from drying out with all of the heat passing over it. It will also catch dripping from the meat.
Occasionally turn your meat over while the smoker is running and be sure to check your heat source from time to time until the meat is fully cooked.
Setting Your Smoker for Indirect Heat and Specifically-flavored Wood Chips
Indirect Heat. When you're preparing your smoker for your potatoes, be sure and put them in the center of the smoke flow. If your smoker is off to the side, open the vent on the other end of the barbecue to allow the smoke to flow from one end of the barbecue, over the potatoes, and out the vent.
If you are heating your barbecue from below, make sure the vent is situated directly above the potatoes so that the smoke still has to go over and around them to get outside. In either scenario, your potatoes need to block the flow of smoke from the wood chips to the outside vent, thus ensuring they soak up some of the smoke.
Different Flavored Wood Chips. Wood chips come in every flavor imaginable, the most common being Oak, Hickory, Maple, Mesquite, Pecan, Apple, and Cherry. The apple and cherry wood chips impart their own flavors, as well as the pecan. Maple is subtle, but Mesquite, Hickory, and Oak are really powerful.
If you're new to smoking, then pick up a variety pack from your local grocery store and try them all. Try smoking the same pieces of meat the same way using wood chips, refrigerate the meat, and then do a taste test of the whole supply. Make sure everything is labeled while you are doing this so that you know for sure which flavors you like and which you don't like.
Preparing Your Potatoes and Some Extra Flavoring Elements (Jalapenos, Oil, Paprika, Cilantro, and Pepper Flakes)
Preparing Your Potatoes. Potatoes can be smoked whole and then cut up and prepared for a meal afterward. They can be cut up and roasted for a smaller amount of time and served ready to eat. You can even put cheese on top of them in the last five minutes of cooking and the cheese will have a lovely smoked flavor, too, although not as much as the potatoes.
Get some aluminum foil out. Form a quadruple-layered platter for whole potatoes, a nice flat, wide bowl for potato slices, and a nearly closed packet for adding cheese later.
In all of these scenarios, once you have the potatoes on their aluminum foil tray or in their packet, go ahead and use a very sharp, skinny knife to poke holes in the aluminum foil all the way through, including through the bottom of the foil packet.
This will allow smoke to actually enter in from below. If you happen to have oil on your potatoes, then make sure that there is nothing flammable below where the oil will be dripping from the bottom of the packet.
Adding Extra Flavoring Elements. In the same packet as your potatoes, you can put jalapenos, pieces of bacon, cilantro, and pepper flakes as you desire them. Remember that bacon will probably need the least amount of cooking so add them later.
Jalapenos will vary depending on how hot it gets in there and how well ventilated it is. Start out by putting them in there for the full amount of time and put them in later on if they are blackened by this.
You can toss your potato slices in cilantro, paprika, and oil before you put them in their packet. Remember to drain any extra oil out so that it doesn't burn unnecessarily in the packet.
Time to Cook
The total cook time will take anywhere from 45 to 60 minutes to finish your smoked potatoes. Potato slices will not take as long as full potatoes, probably 20 to 30 minutes. Always test them with a fork before you feel that they are finished roasting and smoking. They should be soft all the way to the very center of the piece.
With or Without Meat
You can smoke potatoes with or without meat. Some interesting options are available in both scenarios. If you have other vegetables you'd like to add, such as onions or a carrot or two, then these options will go nicely with them, as well.
With Meat. By smoking your potatoes with meat, the starchy potatoes will easily soak up both the smoke and the meat juices, making them extra tantalizing. Also, extra salt rub on the meat will melt off with the rendered fat, thus salting the potatoes more. This means that you should not salt your potatoes if you are adding them to meat when smoking and roasting.
Without Meat. By smoking potatoes on their own, you can add a nice, light smoked flavor to your overall entree without making smoked barbecue the theme of the meal. It's a great way to add interest and popping variety with your other dishes.
Try adding little onions and some cherry tomatoes to the packet and watch how these flavor elements drive added flavor, in addition to the smoke, into your potatoes.
Smoked potatoes are a delicious, gourmet meal in and of themselves. Experiment with your spuds and try out different flavorings of wood chips, olive oil mixtures, and added meat and vegetables to your potato dish. It is well worth the experimentation.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Kind of Potatoes Should You Use for Baked Potatoes?
You should always use starchy potatoes for baked potatoes. These potatoes are often called Russet or Idaho potatoes. You could also use Kennebec potatoes, since they have a high enough starch content. You should never use red-skinned potatoes, blue or purple potatoes, or Yukon Gold potatoes for baked potatoes because they’re too waxy and won’t break down to become fluffy and light.
How Long Should You Cook Potatoes for Baked Potatoes?
Potatoes need to be fully cooked so the insides turn light and fluffy. Undercooked potatoes are too hard to eat, and they don’t taste very good, either. Depending on the heat of your smoker, your potatoes will need to cook for about an hour. At lower temperatures like 200 degrees F, they could take as long as two hours. The best way to check for doneness is to insert a fork. If it easily pierces the flesh, your potato is cooked through.
What Kind of Wood Should You Use to Smoke Potatoes?
You can use any wood to smoke potatoes, but the harsher woods (like mesquite) may infuse too much smoke flavor into the thin-skinned potatoes, making them taste acrid. All of the fruit woods are good choices, but we especially like apple wood.
What Kind of Vegetables Can You Cook on the Smoker?
You can cook any vegetable in the smoker that you would cook on the grill. Vegetables that are specifically good for smoking are onions, garlic, tomatoes, potatoes, cabbage, broccoli, and bell peppers.
Can You Smoke Potatoes At The Same Time That You Smoke Meat?
Yes, it’s actually a great idea to smoke potatoes while you’re smoking meat. The thin-skins on potatoes allow them to soak up other flavors. This means your potato will not only taste smoky, but it will absorb the meat’s savory aroma, too.