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ABCs of ABTs
What is an ABT?
Basically, an ABT is a stuffed pepper, usually a jalapeno. Some folks use cherry peppers or sweet peppers, while some have used habaneros.
It is also one of the most addictive items in a BBQer’s cookbook. After your first ABT, you will crave another. You’ll find yourself cooking them every time you fire up the cooker. Friends and family will ask you when you’ll be making “those pepper things”. You’ll look at leftover, or foods in the store, and start wondering, “How would that work in an ABT?” Consider yourself warned.
How do you make them?
First, you really need to wear gloves. The oils and capsaicin (the stuff that makes peppers hot) can burn sensitive skin. Not to mention they can linger even after washing your hands several times, making restroom trips an interesting experience. Buy a box of rubber gloves from the drug store to protect your hands, and you definitely want to be careful of what and where you touch while you’re wearing the gloves.
Basically, you remove the seeds from a pepper, stuff with whatever fillings you like, wrap with bacon, and grill or smoke them until done. Some folks cut the peppers in half and cook them “on the half shell”. Others halve them, stuff the halves, then put them back together, using toothpicks and bacon to hold the halves together. Most folks core the whole pepper and stuff them that way, then wrap bacon over the top. Toothpicks hold the bacon on and also keep the pepper from slipping through the cooker as it cooks.
What do you stuff them with?
What don’t you stuff them with? Fillings can be as simple as cream cheese, or as elaborate as you want them to be. I’ve used fried turkey, lunchmeat, fajita meat, Italian sausage, andouille, chicken, pepperoni with mozzarella and pizza sauce, eggs, Li’l Smokies, and various flavors of cheese. Other folks have used more exotic stuffings than these, including shrimp, squid, and even cornbread mix.
How do you cook them?
Most folks cook them in a smoker using low temps and a little smoke. The longer the peppers cook, the less heat they tend to have. Now, smoking these beauties doesn’t mean you won’t have a few light up your world, but the chances go down considerably. Usually, smoking them means they’re done in about 90 minutes to 2 hours.
Another way to cook ABTs is indirect heat, around 300-350*. The higher heat cooks the peppers faster, 30 minutes or so, so they do tend to be a bit spicier this way. Also, the higher heat can cause some fillings to boil up out of the peppers.
If the fillings are already fully cooked or don’t really need to be cooked, such as leftover chicken or cream cheese, the ABTs are cooked until the bacon is your desired level of doneness. (Just make sure it’s fully cooked.) If you use something like raw sausage, it has to be cooked long enough for the filling to reach a safe temp, usually 165*. The only way to be sure is to check it with a thermometer. If you use a filling like sausage, I like to make a small hole at the bottom of the pepper to drain any rendered fat as it cooks.
Do I need any special equipment to cook ABTs?
Not really. If you do them frequently, it helps to have a special pepper grill, but it isn’t necessary. If you use half-peppers, they can just rest on a cooking sheet. Whole peppers are a little more difficult, but not impossible. They just need to be kept upright so the fillings don’t escape out the top as they cook. You can buy pepper grills (or chile grills) in stores such as Wal-Mart, Cabela’s, Academy Sports, or other places. Or, you can use skewers and support them in a disposable loaf pan from the store. One gentleman I know used bricks as his supports. The idea is to just keep them upright.
I think I’ve got the idea, but do you have any pics of this?
Yep! These were some I made just to help illustrate the process. Remember though, be creative with your fillings. It’s fun to try new tastes in the peppers.
For these peppers, I used Colby-jack cheese and smoked turkey. First, lay out supplies (I used some sandwich meat and cheese sticks from my kids):
Next, I trimmed the cheese and seeded the peppers:
To stuff the peppers, I wrapped the turkey around a cheese piece and stuffed it into the pepper as far as I could. I trimmed the excess, leaving a little extra, which got shoved further into the pepper.
To top the peppers, I cut some bacon pieces and folded over the top. You can also wrap the bacon around the top, but over the top can help hold the fillings in a bit and also uses less bacon. The bacon is held in place with toothpicks. Since these peppers are only about an inch across, the toothpicks are also helping to hold them in the chile grill. If you don’t use toothpicks, as the peppers cook and soften, they can slip through the holes of the grill. Also, make sure the toothpicks are low enough in the pepper that they don’t pull out of the pepper as it cooks. Then you’ll have bacon on the chile grill and peppers underneath.
From here, they go into a smoker for a couple hours or on indirect heat for 30 minutes or so. You can even cook these in the oven, but you’ll lose that great grill taste.
Any links I can follow to get a little more information?
http://www.romineinc.com/BBQ/index.htm - Home page of Bob-BQN. If you look under “Plant” and go to page 5, he has great step-by-step pics of his ABT process. You’ll also see him use the “bricks-n-sticks” method, using bricks and skewers.
http://www.oowss.com/Atomic%20Buffalo%20Turds.pdf - PDF file showing step-by-step again. This one shows splitting a pepper, stuffing it, and then putting it back together again.
http://www.irondesert.com - Commercial site that sells chile grills. It also has a lot of recipes and another how-to section.
Rob - TX Sandman
Plank Owner, TQJ