Smoked Appetizers are a Guilty Pleasure
There are a lot of different things you can make on a pellet smoker. I love a good brisket, or pulled pork, but some of my favorite smoked treats are appetizers. I’m talking anything dipped or fried – I’m thinking french fries or onion rings here – or covered with cheese. Let’s cover those fries or onion rings with a gooey melted cheese sauce… If I’m cooking these apps on my Traeger, they probably won’t make it off the patio before I eat them all. Seriously, I might have a problem… I don’t know when to stop! That’s why when my wife asked if I could smoke some bacon for cheese balls and some mini pigs in a blanket, I was all in.
My sister in law’s baby shower – or baby sprinkle as we called it – was the special occasion. The event wasn’t taking place until midafternoon, so we didn’t need a main course, but we did need a few good appetizers, and of course a delicious cake.
Smoked Bacon Cheese Balls
The first appetizer we made was smoked bacon cheese balls. While my mother in law combined all the ingredients together for the cheese balls, I smoked the bacon. I didn’t do anything fancy on the cook, just set the temp to 250, and let the bacon cook for 2 hours.
Making Smoked Bacon
Some people like their bacon extra crispy and others don’t mind if the bacon is just a little bit soft in some spots. I’m definitely the latter. Cooking strips of bacon low and slow like this create the best bacon. After a few hours on the smoker, some of the pieces were nice and crispy, while others were crispy, with portions of each strip of bacon ready to melt in your mouth.
When the bacon was completely cooked I pulled it off the smoker and let it cool for about 15 minutes. Once the bacon was completely cooled, it was finely chopped. The goal here was smoked bacon crumbles. We added the bacon crumbles to a third cup of chopped chives, and a third cup of chopped pecans.
Cheese Ball Construction
The cheese balls were simple to make. The recipe we followed recommended combining one 12 ounce package of cream cheese, one cup of shredded cheddar, a tsp of garlic powder, a tsp of paprika, and a little bit of salt and pepper in a bowl. To add just a little bit of kick we included a teaspoon of sriracha. We could have added more sriracha.. but oh well.
Once all the cheese ball ingredients were combined, my mother in law formed the cheese balls, and then we put them in the fridge to chill while the bacon finished cooking.
By the time the bacon was done, the cheese balls were perfectly chilled. We rolled each cheese ball in the smoked bacon/chive/pecan mixture, and then put one pretzel stick in the top.
We ended up making close to 30 cheese balls with these ingredients, we made the balls smaller than the recipe we followed recommended, and I’m sure I ate at least 4 of the balls while we were constructing them. You know, just in case.
Mini Pigs in a Blanket
The mini pigs in a blanket didn’t take quite as long to make as the cheese balls, but they were equally delicious. If you have little ones at home, you’ll want to remember how to make these.
Open up two packages of croissant rolls and unroll them side by side on a sheet of parchment paper. Get your finger wet with some water, and then rub the perforated seams on the dough until they are gone.
After smoothing out all the seams, I used a rolling pin to get the dough just a little thinner before slicing my strips. I had a package of 40 little smokies, and the two packages of croissant rolls were the perfect amount to make 40 strips of dough. I used a pizza slicer to cut the equally sliced strips.
Time to Make Babies
Before I wrapped each little smokey, I generously sprinkled Traeger pork and poultry rub over all of the dough.
Wrap each little smokey, starting from the base, and then working to about three-quarters of the way up. I wanted these to look like babies in a blanket for the baby shower. If you really want to go next level you could use a small amount of dough and make a hat for each baby too…
Brush each lil smoky with some butter, and then they are ready to cook!
I smoked these mini pigs in a blanket on sheet pans lined with foil at 350 degrees on the Traeger. To avoid burning the croissants you’ll want to flip the rolls every fifteen minutes. The babies in a blanket are done when the croissant bread is golden brown.
I love making food on my pellet smoker. Cooking these appetizers was really fun, and a great reminder of how versatile my Traeger is. I’ll definitely be making these smoked bacon cheese balls and mini pigs in a blanket again soon!