Before The Main Dish – Ideas For Smoked Appetizers
Grilling know-how is one thing, but having the ability to smoke adds a whole new layer to your skill set. The taste of smoked meats and veggies will bring rave reviews for you and your outdoor culinary capabilities. What you know is starting the meal with smoked appetizers is a sure way to open up those taste buds of those ready for their palate to be delightfully teased while waiting for the main course. Interested in some quick and easy starters? Here are some "tease 'em and please 'em" smoked recipes that are sure to make you a smokin' winner at your next gathering.
Smokin' Lemon Chicken Wings
Before we start, know the big challenge is getting the chicken skin crispy while smoking the wings. The wings need a little prep help before they land in the smoker. Place the wings on a cookie sheet or baking pan so they are not touching. Pat each one dry, trying to remove as much moisture as possible. Place them in the fridge for about three hours before they are to smoke on the grill. This will help to dehydrate the skin.
When ready to smoke, brush the wing with melted salted butter flavored with fresh lemon juice and pepper. Cook on 225F low heat, allowing them plenty of time to get that rich, smoky flavor, then jack the heat up to 350F for the last 15 minutes to crisp the skin. Brush another thin layer of lemon butter mixture as you remove them from the smoker. Total cooking time is about two hours. The internal temperature should be 185F when ready.
Smoked Devil Eggs
Use a mild, sweet wood chip for this recipe because eggs can easily absorb flavors. You will want to smoke at least a dozen white free range chicken eggs as these are so tasty while being very popular with a crowd. Preheat your smoker to 225F. Lay the eggs about an inch apart on the grate, no touching. Cover and let smoke for about two hours. The shells will be golden brown when ready.
Remove the eggs from the smoker and let them rest in a bowl of ice water. This allows the eggs to stop cooking as well as making them easier to peel. When cool, peel and cut in half longways. Gently spoon out the yolks and place in a small mixing bowl. Add mayo, salt, pepper, crumbled bacon, and sweet pickle relish. Mash together and mix into a paste. Spoon the yolk mixture back into the egg whites. Top with a sprinkle of paprika. They can be served right away or made ahead, put into the fridge, and served chilled.
Smoked Cheesy Pepper Poppers
The true success of using bacon with the peppers is to smoke the bacon ahead of time. Just wrapping the strips around the pepper tends to result in soggy bacon that detracts from the eating experience. The last thing anyone wants to do is deal with chewy bacon when eating. It is just as tasty to include the bacon as a part of the filling.
In a bowl, add whipped cream cheese, shredded sharp cheddar cheese (or smoked cheddar if you can get it), and smoked bacon bits. The whipped cream cheese gives the mixture a lighter density. On a baking sheet, slice one side of the jalapeno peppers longways, spread open, and remove seeds. Fill peppers with cheese and bacon mixture. Place on the grate in the smoker and let 'um smoke on 225F for about 30-40 minutes. Prepare several batches ahead and replace one batch when done with another to keep a steady supply ready.
Smoked Meatball Starters
Both pork and beef are represented when making these smoked meatball pleasers. For a richer flavor, try adding some ground bison to the mixture. The bison should be added sparingly as it is low in fat content and could make the meatballs dry. The secret to this recipe is the bacon paste. Using smoked bacon (cooked ahead of time), place chopped bacon into a food processor and pulse until the bacon becomes a paste.
In a large bowl, add ground pork sausage, lean ground beef. eggs, minced garlic, bacon paste, bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, chopped fresh parsley, a touch of olive oil, sea salt, and freshly ground pepper. Mix together using your hands. Form into two-inch size balls and place on a baking sheet or large plate. Smoke at 250F until the meatballs have reached an internal temperature of 185F.
The over-the-top smoked marinara dipping sauce makes this dish the talk of the town. When smoking your bacon. throw some beefsteak tomatoes on the smoker as well. Cut them in half with the flat side up, Touch them up with salt, pepper, a small bit of olive oil, and a bay leaf. Cook at 250F for a couple of hours.
To make the dipping sauce, peel the smoked tomatoes and place into a mixing bowl. You will need to have ready olive oil, finely chopped red onion, red chili flakes (optional) a sprinkle of sugar, a pinch of cocoa, a small bit of sugar, a bit of red wine, chopped fresh basil leaves, as well as salt and pepper to taste.
In a large skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil and onions. Saute until the onions have softened and become transparent. Mix in the minced garlic, chili flakes, sugar, cocoa, salt, and pepper, stirring for about a minute. Add the red wine and continue to cook for a couple of minutes until the liquid has reduced. Add the peeled smoked tomatoes to the skillet, cover, and let simmer for around 20 minutes. When ready, remove from heat and, using a potato masher, break down the tomato chunks to a dipping consistency. For an extra kick of flavor, add some fresh basil leaves while the sauce is resting. Remove the leaves just before serving. Spoon into a bowl good for dipping.
Place toothpicks and napkins by the meatballs with the dipping sauce within reach. These go fast but will hold your guest's appetites until the main course is ready.
Smoked Salmon Tidbits
Smoked salmon is a tradition that goes back over 1500 years and there is a good reason why. The taste is out of this world. Smoked salmon makes a great appetizer before the main course all year around. Smoking salmon is quick, easy and you can vary the flavor by the type of wood chips you use. My recommendation is to use fruit wood chips such as apple or cherry.
Fish smokes quickly, only taking about an hour to reach an internal temperature of 150F. When taking the fish off the smoker, allow it to rest about 5-7 minutes before cutting. In the meantime, whip up some Greek yogurt mixed with lemon zest and dill. Slice a cucumber into 1/2 inch pieces. Place a small piece of the smoked salmon on the cucumber slice, top with the yogurt mixture, and finish with a caper for a delicious summertime smoked salmon starter.
All Said And Done
Summer is a great time to pull out your smoker and put it to good use. Most people think of meats being smoked, but we know there is more far-reaching uses. Providing smoked starters is a good way to start off an event while giving you time to get the main course ready without your guests going hungry.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are some ideas for smoked appetizers?
In addition to the ideas we include in this article (smoked chicken wings, deviled eggs, cheesy pepper poppers, smoked meatballs, and smoked salmon), there are a ton of smoked appetizer ideas. You can bring these appetizers with you when you’re tailgating, use them when hosting a backyard barbecue, or take them to a potluck. You can even make smoked pretzels and beer cheese, or smoke mushroom caps. Smoked little smokies sausages are also a great idea, too.
How do you smoke eggs for deviled eggs?
Deviled eggs are one of the most popular appetizer foods for parties and potlucks, so why not add some smoky flavor to the mix? The easiest way to smoke an egg for deviled eggs is to place the eggs directly on the grill grates of a preheated 225 degree F smoker. Then, cook them for about two hours. Peel the eggs, cut them in half, and make deviled eggs following your favorite recipe.
What’s the best cheese for smoking?
If you want to put out a smoked cheese appetizer plate, you can smoke your own cheese! Good choices for smoked cheese include cheddar, mozzarella, brie, or Monterey jack because these cheeses all melt at higher temperatures.
What temperature do you smoke appetizers?
The temperature you choose for your smoker really depends on the type of appetizer you’re making. If you’re smoking cheese, you’ll want to use cold smoke temperatures below 90 degrees F. For smoked salmon, we recommend temperatures around 150 degrees F and higher temperatures for smoked meatballs (250 degrees F). Make sure to check the recipe before you get started to see if you can smoke multiple appetizers at once.
Can you smoke an appetizer while making pulled pork or brisket?
So long as the temperatures are compatible and you have enough room on your grill or smoker, you should be able to smoke multiple dishes on the smoker at once. This is a great way to take advantage of the extra room on your grill when smoking items that take a long time, like an overnight beef brisket.