Smoking Peppers: Delicious Every Time
What makes peppers taste even better than in their raw or grilled state? Smoking peppers is the real key to bringing out amazing flavors. You can smoke almost any kind of pepper you can imagine.
Smoking peppers also sets you up for the opportunity to do more with them, such as turning them into ground spices. On the other hand, you can just enjoy the sensation of smoked pepper smell going down your throat and making the entire house smell delicious.
For people who grow their own peppers, this solution seems like an easy one. After all, you could end up with more peppers than you know what to do with, should you grow them yourself. Why not preserve them in a way that allows them to be used for later? Here is a closer look at smoking peppers and why the craft is an important skill for you to learn.
Why Smoke Peppers?
Smoked peppers have so many applications. True, smoking them helps you to preserve them for later use, but what are those later uses? Well, for starters, you can use them as tenderizing flavors for meats.
All meats taste better when an element of smoke comes into the mix, so you might want to reserve some smoked peppers for this occasion. Also, make sure to read our blog on the most delicious smoke flavors to add even more knowledge and surprise your family and friends with your cooking abilities!
As mentioned previously, the most likely method of application for smoked peppers is to ground them up into spices. These spices can then be used in your kitchen in a variety of ways. They make a great addition to any stew or soup you might cook throughout the fall and winter. Adding smoked peppers to these dishes invites a sense of warmth and brings back a touch of heat from the summer that you might miss in the winter months.
What You Will Need for this Tutorial
There are several items you will need to smoke your own peppers. First and foremost, of course, you need the peppers. There are plenty of pepper options to pick from, and you do not have to solely go with the ones you grew yourself.
Gather some from neighbors or go to a farmers market and buy some for alternatives to growing them. You can pick from any variety of peppers. Hot peppers like chilies and habaneros end up making great spice options. Here are some other items you will need to help with the process.
- Grill or smoker – some people like to smoke their peppers right on the grill, but not all grills offer this option. Alternatively, you could start out in the oven, but this step does not allow you the chance to actually add smoked wood flavors.
- Smoked wood of your choice – many, different types of wood can be used for smoking meats and vegetables. One of the more popular options is hickory. Smoke from hickory will impart a fresh, simple flavor with density to it. Another popular option is Applewood for the sweetness it brings to smoking food. Read our “5 things you must know to use wood chips for smoking” article to really know your stuff.
- Dehydration station – simply known as a dehydrator, you will need this piece of kitchen equipment to really make those smoked peppers dry enough to grind into finer spices.
- Spice grinder – while this item on the list is optional, you might want to give it some consideration. After all, it would be much easier to grind down smoked peppers in one of these than it would be to do it by hand.
Step by Step Instructions
Here is a closer look at the individual steps it will take you to smoke some peppers. Some of the times mentioned below might vary, depending on the type of pepper you chose to smoke and how many peppers you smoke at one time.
1. Clean Your Peppers
The first step in the process seems like a common sense moment. Yes, you need to take the time to clean your peppers properly. This statement is especially true if you are not sure what type of fertilizers and pest repellants were used on them during the growth process. Not to mention the fact that you do not want dirt in your smoked peppers.
2. Trim the Peppers Down
You can try to smoke peppers whole if you wish. In some cases, this method adds more heat to certain kinds of peppers. If you do not want to deal with the seeds later on, though, you can take the time to cut down your peppers and remove pieces you do not want to smoke. This process takes some time and requires a little bit of knife skill, though.
At the same time, cutting down and prepping the peppers in this way will lead to faster smoking times. Hence, this step might be ideal for situations where you have a lot of peppers to deal with at one time. It also makes the peppers easier to grind in the end due to their smaller size.
3. Warm Up the Smoker
Now, you need to take the time to assemble and start up your smoker. If you are not familiar with the device, be sure to follow your manufacturer’s directions. You will want to have your wood on standby as well. Slightly before when the smoker reaches the desired temperature, you will want to add in the wood.
Ultimately, the flavor you decide to go with is your choice. When picking it, you just need to have a clear vision of how you will want the peppers to taste. For more smoke in your flavor, go with mesquite. The traditional, Mexican wood of choice for smoking peppers is pecan, though. You can also watch this video to find out even more about wood for smoking, especially for meat:
4. Add on the Peppers
Once your smoker is going strong, and you can smell the wood smoke as well, you need to add on your peppers to the smoker. If you decide to use a grill for this session, then you need to make sure a live fire is not present. Signs of a live fire can lead to grilling the peppers instead of smoking them.
The goal here is to go low and slow. You will want to take the time and allow the smoke to really work into the peppers. This process can take a few hours, and the longer you let the peppers smoke, the better. At the same time, the darker the skins become, the longer the smoke flavors and smells will last in the future.
5. Turn the Peppers Routinely
In case hot zones happen in the base of your grill or smoker, you will want to turn your peppers or rotate them routinely. You do not have to do this put once, maybe twice, an hour. Therefore, your peppers will smoke evenly across the board instead of some of them being smoked better than others.
6. Tend to the Smoker
Disaster will strike if you let your smoker completely go out. Therefore, you need to make sure it keeps the low and slow pace alive. Be sure to monitor it in the other direction, as well. In other words, do not let it become too hot. You do not want to burn your peppers before they completely smoke through.
7. Visit the Dehydration Station
Just because you have taken a few hours to smoke your peppers does not mean they are dry on the inside. Moisture can spell many problems. First of all, it can lead to the peppers not grinding finely. At the same time, it can bring on the growth of bacteria. Hence, you will want to place these peppers in a place to dehydrate. They only need to sit in this arena for about an hour or so.
8. Storage Options
Once the peppers have been dehydrated, you need to consider some way of storing them. Taking this smoking step one more step further can lead to you canning them for future use. Alternatively, you can turn it into ground spices. However, you might have too much to grind. Therefore, take the peppers and lay them out in a freezer bag.
They can stay in your fridge for up to a month, or you can freeze them for up to three months. Of course, you could also place them in recipes for later use right away. This step is beneficial for people who like to make massive quantities of one dish and can it or freeze it for later use. Honestly, you could do the same thing out of salsa, if you have a lot of smoked peppers that need a final-end use.
Smoking peppers is a lot of fun. It does afford the chance to make some of your own spices and prepare foods you might not otherwise end up making. Ultimately, it also means making the most of your peppers from the garden, should you have far too many with which to deal.
These smoked peppers can be used in any number of dishes, and that is what makes this application so important. Also, the art of smoking herbs and vegetables into spices has become lost in many ways. The spices found in grocery stores are also often muted in flavor. Therefore, you need to take advantage of smoking your own peppers to have control over your flavor options while keeping a lost art alive.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Can You Do with Smoked Peppers
Since smoked peppers are dried and preserved, they can either be rehydrated or ground into powder. To rehydrate them, soak them in hot water. You can then use the peppers themselves or blend them with their soaking water to create a flavorful base for soup or braising meats. When ground dry into powder, they can be used as a seasoning on vegetables or meats, and are very popular in soups or stews.
What Kind of Peppers Can You Smoke?
Any pepper can be smoked and preserved. Bell peppers are easy to smoke and they are especially good for egg dishes like omelettes. Spicy peppers, like habaneros or jalapenos, are usually smoked whole so they can be ground and used sparingly as powder.
What Kind of Wood Should You Use to Smoke Peppers?
Pecan is the traditional wood used for smoking peppers, but any kind of wood will work. Hickory will give the peppers a simple yet fresh flavor. Applewood will bring a sweetness to the peppers that give it a nuanced flavor. Mesquite wood provides a bold, fully smoked flavor. Play around with different woods to find your favorite for each pepper.
Can You Smoke the Peppers Whole?
Yes, the peppers can be smoked whole or cut into pieces. Leaving the peppers whole will leave the seeds intact, which could create a spicier pepper. Cutting the peppers will reduce the cooking time and the peppers will be finished more quickly.
How Long Does it Take to Smoke Peppers?
Peppers should be smoked low and slow. It can take about 2 to 4 hours for the peppers to smoke. The longer the peppers take to cook, the more smoke flavor they will take on. Once the peppers are fully dried on the outside, they should be place in a dehydrator for 6 more hours so they can dry on the inside, too.