Smoked Pizza Pocket Recipe:
Pizza Without the Crust
In this blog post you'll get my illustrated step-by-step instructions for making pizza pockets—smoked sausages bursting with tasty flavors you'd expect in a supreme pizza—without the crust. I'm cooking these on my Meadow Creek BX25 Box Smoker.
I love pizza. Do you too?
Carry-out pizza is special, but homemade pizza on a Friday night is simply great. For me, the fondness is partly based on sentiment and tradition, but like I said, I love pizza!
However, my problem with pizza is that I can’t handle the gluten very well. Since I cut gluten out of my diet several years ago, my wife made gluten-free pizza crust for a while, but I never got used to eating it. We eventually switched to sourdough, which was quite delicious, but while sourdough is easier on me than regular wheat recipes, I can't handle very much of that either.
These pizza pockets are not entirely a substitute for pizza, but if you are in a situation like mine where the crust is not compatible with your diet, it’s pretty cool to go with just the meat and toppings for a change. Besides, the leftovers make an awesome snack or breakfast with eggs too!
The pepperoni and cheese give these an unmistakable pizza vibe, and the onion, pepper, and mushroom contribute to the supreme pizza flavor profile. My favorite “voice in the choir” here is the smoky, almost sticky, exterior of the smoked sausage.
Why No Bacon?
While I really like bacon, the hype around bacon is a bit overdone in my opinion. A bacon-weave is quite delicious, but the parts of it that are not directly exposed to the heat usually end up never getting crispy. There are ways to overcome that, but it complicates the recipe. The second reason I didn’t use bacon on this is that I am quite fond of loose sausage smoked low and slow. The exterior of it is quite delightful, and if you’ve never tried it, you’re missing out.
There’s not a lot of work to this recipe. Once your ingredients are all prepared, simply mix the sausage with the onion and pepper in a mixing bowl, then spread out the meat, layer in the filling ingredients, roll it up, and cook it. Keep reading for my illustrated step-by-step cooking instructions below.
If you don’t care for my selection of ingredients, swap them out with the ones you would enjoy. One pound of meat works great for the ratios I am using here. Simply multiply these amounts by the number of pockets you’re making. My recommendation is to make a minimum of two or possibly four to make the work worthwhile.
For this recipe, I’m using my Meadow Creek BX25 Box Smoker fired with charcoal briquettes and two chunks of apple wood. Read more on firing this smoker below.
If you’re looking for a backyard or competition smoker that is compact, fuel efficient, and runs on charcoal/wood, the BX series is an excellent choice.
“I would recommend the Meadow Creek BX25 to anyone. Built to last for many years. Works great even when temperatures dip well below freezing.”
- Jerry, online review -
Smoked Pizza Pocket Recipe
Prep the Ingredients
Chop the onion and bell peppers. We used red and orange for some variation of color, but any color will work. Mix the onion and pepper into the meat.
Press the Meat for Stuffing
Put one pound of meat into a 1-gallon zip lock bag and press it out to a uniform thickness. Slit the edges of the bag and remove the top side to expose the meat.
Add the Stuffing Ingredients
Layer the pepperoni and mushroom slices in a band about 2–3" wide in the center of the sausage square, then spread the cheese on top. Keep the stuffing ingredients about an inch away from the edge.
Form the Pocket
Roll up the sausage, using the bag to fold it over. Tuck in the ends and seal the edges to keep the cheese from running out. Form it into a nice log with your hands, keeping the meat on the plastic bag so you can pick it up for transferring it to your smoker grate.
Smoke it at 225 degrees F for 2-1/2 hours or until the sausage temperature reaches 165 degrees F and develops a beautiful exterior. Remove it from the smoker and slice it with a sharp knife. Let it cool a few minutes before slicing so the cheese can set up a little bit.
Pizza pockets looking great
The BX25 doing what it does best
Ticking along at 225 degrees F
Time to kick back and enjoy a cold drink while we wait
Ready to remove from the smoker
Ready to slice
Oozing cheese and a pretty smoke ring!
Firing the BX25 Box Smoker
Charcoal in the firebox and two tumbleweed firestarters started with a lighter
Two chunks of apple wood on top for smoke
How to Light the BX25 With Wax Firestarters
Step 1: Open the two bottom vents and the stack all the way.
Step 2: Slide the charcoal basket out, put in a couple of wax fire starters and pour in the right amount of charcoal for your cook (see "Notes on Fuel" below for my notes on how much to use). Light the fire starters and slide the basket back into the smoker.
Step 3: Crack the firebox door until the smoker hits about 200 degrees, then latch the firebox door. If you close the firebox right away, it won't get enough air to light the charcoal properly in a reasonable amount of time.
Step 4: Once it gets within 10 degrees of your target temperature, start dialing in the temperature by closing down the bottom vents. (It probably goes without saying, but the principle is, if you spin the vents open, the temperature rises; if you close the vents down, the temperature dips.) For cooking at 225 degrees, start by turning each side vent two revolutions from the closed position. If the heat keeps rising above 225 degrees, turn the vents down another one-half revolution and give it 5-10 minutes to respond. Keep making minor adjustments as needed to dial it in.
Preheating the Smoker: When you fill the smoker with cold meat, the meat will try to pull the temperature in the smoker down, so to simplify things, I'd recommend giving the walls of the smoker 30–60 minutes to heat up and stabilize a bit before adding the meat, so that hopefully it's running steady by the time you add the meat and can recover more easily. If you're only doing a couple of pizza pockets, it's not a big deal; but if you're filling it with briskets, it will help if you give the smoker about an hour to heat up.
Boosting the Temperature: If the temperature doesn't rise within 10 minutes of opening the vents, you might need to give it a boost by opening the firebox door a crack. Be careful not to overheat it though because it may not go back down for hours unless you shovel some of the coals out of the firebox. If you do get it too hot, don't close the vents all the way because you need at least a little draft in the smoker to avoid putting creosote on the meat.
Notes on Fuel in the BX25
I used 7.5 pounds of charcoal briquettes for this cook, which was more than it needed. In fact, the smoker was still up to temperature when I checked it before going to bed, six hours after firing it. I was surprised, but apparently it wasn't taking much fuel because I wasn't cooking much meat and then it was running empty too.
If you only need to hold 225 degrees for 2.5 hours for several pizza pockets, 4 pounds of briquettes should be plenty, but remember that it really depends on how much meat you have in the smoker and how long you're cooking.
The basket holds 12.5 pounds of normal-sized briquettes minus room for wood chunks. A full basket will run out at different times depending on the kind of charcoal you use and how hot the smoker is running, but as a general rule, a load of good quality briquettes will burn for more than five hours at 225 degrees when the smoker is filled with meat.
This smoker holds the heat so well that it can actually run out of fuel before the temperature drops very much, so check the firebox if you think it might be running out and add more fuel while there are still enough coals in the firebox to light the new ones; otherwise, you’ll end up having to relight fresh charcoal which is quite unhandy.
Is your patio begging for an Amish-made cabinet smoker? Check out the BX25 or it's bigger brother, the BX50 for a compact and efficient charcoal smoker!
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