Spicy Smoked Salsa Roja

Spicy Smoked Salsa Roja

Here’s a Southwest salsa recipe with a unique twist – the tomatoes, peppers, garlic and onion are smoked over wood chips for two hours. The result adds an entirely new dimension to a traditional red salsa. If you have access to an electric smoker, you’ll have better results with more control, due to the built-in thermostat — but using a traditional covered grill with offset heat is just fine.

The final product will be reduced by about half, due to the water content rendering out during the smoking process. Roma tomatoes are preferred because they have, on average, the lowest percentage of water. The garlic and onion will mellow to a wonderful, earthy flavor. You can use any hard or fruit wood – I’ve found that hickory or applewood works best. If using mesquite, use reservation as it can quickly turn bitter.  Enjoy!


3 tbs. XV olive oil
8-10 large Roma tomatoes – cored and halved
2 large garden Hot Hungarian wax peppers – trimmed, seeded and cut in 2″ chunks
2-4 mature red garden jalapeño peppers – trimmed and halved, with seeds and membrane left intact
1-2 small garden habañero peppers – trimmed (optional)
1/2 red onion – cut in four pieces with the layers separated
4 large cloves garlic (peeled)

1 cup washed cilantro leaves
Juice from 1/8 lemon wedge (optional)
1-2 tsp. salt, to taste



Carefully wash the tomatoes and peppers and prepare with a sharp knife. Add to a large mixing bowl with the onion and garlic. Add the olive oil and toss lightly to coat.

Prepare an outdoor electric smoker by preheating it to 275-degrees F. Place the water pan in the bottom, but leave it empty. You can line it with foil for easy cleanup. Seal the door. When preheated, place the mixed tomatoes, peppers, onion and garlic in a perforated grill pan directly on a center rack above the water pan. Seal the door and add one cup of wood chips to the chip loader. Smoke for two hours, replenishing the chip loader ONCE after 45 minutes. Do not over smoke.

When finished, turn off the unit and remove the contents from the perforated grill pan and place in a food processor. You’ll need to work in batches. Pulse until the desired consistency is achieved. Add the cilantro and pulse again. Transfer to serving bowl and salt to your preference. Add the lemon juice. Mix well, let stand for 20 minutes and serve with blue corn tortilla chips.

Makes about 2.5 cups
Preparation time: 1/2 hour
Smoke time: 2 hours
Rest time: 20 minutes
Cerveza time: Whenever the hell you feel like it

Fresh-picked garden tomatoes, Hungarian wax peppers and jalapenos.

Fresh-picked garden tomatoes, Hungarian wax peppers and jalapenos.

The smoked salsa ingredients after hour one.

The smoked salsa ingredients after hour one.

Spicy Smoked Salsa Rojo

The ingredients shown after the second hour. For this recipe, I used Jack Daniels’ Whiskey Barrel smoker chips.

Blackberry-Bourbon Smoked Pork Loin

Blackberry-Bourbon Smoked Pork Loin over Apple Wood

Apple-smoked blackberry-bourbon pork loin — sliced and super-juicy.

This is a recipe loosely based on a New York Times article given to me by a friend.  I have heavily modified it to complement ingredients readily available in most kitchens.

You can also smoke this on a standard charcoal grill – ensure that you control the heat so it maintains an even smoke — any higher than 225°F and you risk overcooking the loin. The glaze is stunning — a combination of sweetness, slight heat and acidity brought out by the blackberries, bourbon, chipotle, lemon juice and balsamic vinegar.


1 pork loin roast – about 2.5 – 3 pounds with fat cap
Juice of 1/2 lemon
3 tbs. honey
6 level tbs. brown sugar
1 tsp. ground hot Chipotle powder
2 tsp. roasted garlic granules
1 tbs. smoked paprika
1 tbs. fresh-ground black pepper
2 tsp. coarse Kosher salt
5 tbs. premium Bourbon (a splash more than 1/4 cup)
12 oz. frozen packaged blackberries (fresh market preferred)
1/3 cup chile sauce
2 tbs. balsamic vinegar

2 cups Apple wood chips for smoking


Place the pork loin in an oblong shallow baking tray and set aside in the fridge.  Place the glaze ingredients in a blender and pulse until smooth. Remove and place in a heavy, non-reactive sauce pan over medium heat. Stir and simmer until sugars are dissolved and the liquid reduced – about 45 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
Pour the glaze over the pork loin and cover with plastic wrap. Place back in the fridge for at least three hours.

Preheat a smoker at 225° F. Line the drip pan with foil and oil the smoker grate with a bit of non-stick cooking spray. The loin will take roughly 1 hour per pound at the temperature shown. Place the loin on the smoking grate with the fat side up. Close and lock the door and add one cup of apple wood chips the first and second hour.
Place the probe in the thickest part of the loin after hour 1. When the internal temperature reads 140°F, remove the loin and let sit in a covered roaster pan for 1/2 hour.

Slice and serve.
Serves 4-6

Blackberry-Bourbon Smoked Pork Loin over Apple Wood

The pork loin after 2 hours. Internal temperature is 140°F. Remove and let stand for 1/2 hour, covered, before slicing.

Blackberry-Bourbon Smoked Pork Loin over Apple Wood

Of humble beginnings. The glaze ingredients in a blender.

Blackberry-Bourbon Smoked Pork Loin over Apple Wood

The loin glazed with a blackberry-bourbon brown sugar sauce.

BBQ Pulled Pork – using an electric smoker

You’ll need a lot of patience when preparing this recipe – smoking a pork butt is an all-day event. Before I got a dedicated outdoor electric smoker, I thought my “BBQ” was fairly good, when made in the oven or slow-cooker. This takes it to an entirely new level. It’s how true BBQ should be and you’ll immediately be impressed by the difference.

I’m quite pleased with the reliability of my smoker. It’s a Masterbuilt 30″ Sportsman Elite, purchased at Cabelas. It has an electric temperature control and internal meat probe which can be measured by simply pushing a button on a control panel at the top of the unit. If purchasing an electric smoker, ensure that you cross-check both the internal temperature and the probe reading for accuracy. Use an accurate thermometer for each so you won’t have any surprises. Both the internal thermostat and probe are within one degree on my unit.

So, with that out of the way, let’s get down to preparing this amazing recipe. I’ll also provide a few valuable tips I’ve learned so you can achieve success, the very first time.


1 bone-in pork shoulder (butt); about 1/4 – 1/2 pound per person – with leftovers.
Your choice of BBQ rub (you can try my version by clicking here.)


Determine a target time for when you want the pork to be finished. The night before, generously apply your choice of BBQ rub over the butt, ensuring that all sides are well coated. It’s easiest to do this in a wide, shallow glass baking dish.  Some people coat the pork butt with a thin layer of plain yellow French’s mustard prior to applying the rub. The theory is that it helps the rub to adhere to the meat better. The meat I got from my butcher was plenty moist on the outside so I felt it wasn’t necessary.

Once the rub is applied, wrap the butt and the glass baking tray with plastic wrap and let chill in your fridge overnight. This step is CRITICAL as it allows the salt and some of the spice to penetrate the meat.

The next morning, depending on the size of the pork butt, set up your smoker and preheat it to 225-degrees F.  Place the drip pan on the rack without water. You can line it with foil for easy clean-up.

Pork Shoulder Cooking Time (estimated):
• 2 hours per pound @ 225-degrees F.
• 1 hour rest
• 1/2 hour, pulling and serving prep

Let’s use this demonstration as an example:
Photos shown indicate a 4.25 pound bone-in pork butt with very little fat.
Using the numbers indicated above, the smoked pork should be ready to pull out of the smoker in roughly 8 to 8.5 hours if cooked at 225-degrees F. My target time was 6pm – so I knew I had to get the pork in the smoker by 8am – allowing eight solid hours to smoke; and an hour’s rest – plus some wiggle room just to be safe.

Time by temperature, not by time. What? You say you need your meal ready by 6:30pm because you have six inlaws ready to sit down then?  Your hard-won creation may not be ready at that time.  BBQ is all about patience — and lots of cold beer as a backup to pacify hungry guests.

With the smoker preheated, and your target serving time established, pull the pork butt out of the fridge and let stand at room temperature for an hour.

Place the pork in the smoker on an oiled rack about 5 inches above the drip pan. Ensure the coal tray is empty and that the floor overflow pan is properly aligned with the spout at the back of the unit. Close the smoker door and lock it.

The Smoke:
Add one cup of wood chips to the chip loader every hour for the first 5 hours. After that, the pork will not take on any more smoke so it’s not necessary. I suggest Hickory or Apple, or a combination of the two.

Safety First:
Ensure you don’t get food poisoning by following these directions.
• Do not insert the temperature probe into raw meat until the exterior is partially cooked. Probe the meat AFTER hour 4. You risk pushing bacteria from the exterior to the inside of the meat where it will be undercooked for several hours – thereby spreading contamination.
• Remember the 40-140-degrees in 4 hours rule. Meat left to sit in the 40-140-degree F. danger zone for MORE than four hours risks bacterial poisoning.
• Wash your hands and utensils after handling raw meat.

The Probe:
After hour four, carefully insert the temperature probe into the thickest part of the meat, taking care to keep it at least 2 inches away from the blade bone. The bone generates a lot of reflective heat and will throw the probe reading off. Check the probe reading once every half-hour to ensure you’re on track.
At hour four, the probe shown in the photo below read 162-degrees F, well out of the danger zone.  Remove the meat from the smoker when the internal probe temperature reads 190-degrees F.

The Stall, or Plateau:
At around 160-170-degrees, pork, as it’s cooking, will stall in temperature. The temperature will hang in this zone for up to a few hours, depending on the size of the meat. The phenomenon is due in part to the meat breaking down as it cooks, and evaporation of moisture, creating a cooling effect in the smoker box.  This is why the time-per-pound indicated allows you some wiggle room to compensate for this lost time. In the example shown, the pork butt stalled at 164-degrees for about 50 minutes before rising again. At that point it rose one degree every ten minutes. During hour eight, the temperature increased faster as the meat cooked through.

Resist the urge to jack up the heat during this stall. Slow and low is the way to go. Allow more time for larger butts!

Take notes and adjust accordingly.

Piggy in a Blanket:
At the last hour, watch the internal meat temperature VERY carefully as it can climb unexpectedly. As indicated, pull the meat out of the smoker when the internal temperature of the meat hits 190-degrees F. Then wrap the butt in two layers of aluminum foil and then a heavy clean towel or blanket. Place the bundle in a large empty beer cooler and let sit sealed for one hour.

Pull and Serve:
After the pork has rested one hour, remove and place in a serving pan and quickly shred with two forks – discarding the bone and fat. Keep covered and warm. You may choose to add back some of the pan juices that rendered out, but ensure the fat is skimmed off before adding it back.

Serve with buns, Mike’s Carolina Vinegar Sauce or BBQ sauce, coleslaw and thinly-sliced red onion.

Serves 6-10


Pork Butt with BBQ Rub

Applying the BBQ rub the night before.

The pork butt, shown in the smoker at hour 8. Look at that amazing crust, or bark!

The pork butt, shown in the smoker at hour 8. Look at that amazing crust, or bark!

Pulled BBQ Pork

Pulled pork kept warm in a cast-iron pan.

BBQ Pulled Pork served with Coleslaw and Carolina Sauce

BBQ pulled pork served with coleslaw and Carolina sauce.

Apple-Smoked Spoon Roast

Festival Foods is a local supermarket chain here in Wisconsin. They market a cut of beef called a “Spoon Roast” that is basically a prime tri-tip loin cut. For this recipe, be sure to select a cut that is unseasoned – (Festival offers one called a burgundy pepper seasoned spoon roast.)  We will add our own marinade, let it sit overnight and then slow smoke it for several hours over apple wood until the marinade forms a nice crusty glaze and the meat is fall-apart tender and super juicy.

Serve with roasted carrots or asparagus and baby red potatoes on the side.  Good eats!!


1 tri-tip unseasoned Angus certified “spoon” roast – (about 2.25 pounds will feed a family of four)
Apple wood chips for smoking
Apple juice for the smoker drip pan – about 2 cups

For the Marinade:

1/2 cup soy sauce
1 tbs. worchestershire sauce
3 tbs. yellow mustard
3 tbs. lemon juice
2 tbs. honey
2 tbs. olive oil
2 tbs. brown sugar
1 tbs. garlic powder
2 tsp. celery salt
2 tbs. fresh ground black pepper
2 tsp. ground thyme
2 tsp. ground brown mustard seed
2 tbs. ground ancho chili powder



Add the wet ingredients for the marinade in a mixing bowl and then add the dry spices. Whisk thoroughly for about three minutes so the brown sugar completely dissolves.

Place the roast in a covered locking container and cover it completely with the marinade. Seal and rotate occasionally, leaving it to set overnight in your fridge.

The next day – set your smoker at 225° F, and place two cups of apple juice in the drip pan. Remove the roast from the marinade and place in the smoker with a temperature probe in the thickest part of the meat.

Smoke over apple wood for about 1 hour or until the internal temperature reaches no more than 140° F.  Larger cuts of meat may take significantly longer.
When done, remove and let stand in a covered roasting pan for 30 minutes until ready to serve. This will draw the juices back into the meat so it stays moist.  Slice thinly and serve.

Serves 4

Mike’s Smoked BBQ Baby-Back Ribs

Smoked babyback ribs

This is a recipe based on the 3-2-1 smoker preparation method. I cannot take credit for it, and have spent many hours perfecting it based on time-tested techniques posted by others.
A dry rub is applied to choice baby back ribs which are smoked for three hours, then basted and braised for two hours, then basted and heated for an additional hour at a constant temperature.  An electric smoker takes the guesswork and hassle out of the preparation.

The result is amazing. Serve with grilled corn, baked beans and coleslaw on the side.



2 full racks Swift-Premium® Baby Back Ribs
BBQ spice rub (may I suggest my own handcrafted blend)
Apple juice
BBQ sauce
Hickory chips for smoking



Cut each full rack of ribs in half and then remove the membrane from the concave side. Use a paper towel to help grip the membrane – slowly pull it off like a decal.
It is important to do this so the rub will penetrate the meat.

Generously shake your choice of BBQ rub on both sides of the ribs. Gently press so the rub sticks to the meat.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 12-24 hours.

The next day, prepare an electric smoker by adding two cups of apple juice to the drip tray. Seal the door and preheat to 225°F. Wipe a small amount of peanut oil or nonstick cooking spray on the smoker grates so the ribs don’t stick. When the smoker is preheated, place the ribs on the smoker grates and seal the door. Add one tray full of hickory wood chips to the chip loader each hour for the first three hours of smoking. No peeking! You lose heat every time the door is opened. Apple wood chips are also excellent for smoking, or a combination of the two.

Rotate the smoking grates so the ribs closest to the top of the smoker box are placed near the bottom and the bottom grate is placed at the top after the first hour.

Remove the ribs from the rack and baste generously with your choice of BBQ sauce. Two of my personal favorites are Stubb’s and Famous Dave’s. Place in a covered enameled baking pan with two cups of apple juice.
Cover tightly and cook in the smoker (NO SMOKE) for two additional hours. Rotate the ribs in the pan after the fourth hour.

Remove the ribs from the covered baking pan and baste again with BBQ sauce. Bake directly on the smoker grates for one additional hour, until tender, with NO SMOKE.
The meat should easily pull apart when the rib bones are bent at an angle. You’ll also want to ensure the meat has receded slightly (1/2″) from the ends of the rib bones. The bones should have a nice char on the ends. Cover and keep warm until ready in a serving dish.

The smoker should be set at 225°F for the duration of the cooking process. Total cooking time: 6 hours.

Serves 4-6

Mike's babyback rib rub

BBQ hickory wood chips

BBQ hickory smoke

Smoked Mac ‘n’ Cheese

This is a recipe loosely based on John McLemore’s recipe from Dadgum That’s Good!  I thought his version was good, but a tad dry.  I tweaked it by adding buttermilk, two extra spices, Velveeta cheese and BACON. In my humble opinion, every mac ‘n’ cheese recipe should have bacon in it. Indeed — the world is a better place with more cheese and bacon.

For this recipe I use a 30″ Masterbuilt Smoker with an electronic temperature control.  It’s pretty much idiot-proof and the result is amazing.

Don’t be alarmed when half of your neighborhood stops over and asks what that wonderful smell is.  The combination of apple wood smoke, Gouda cheese and bacon is unbeatable.



One 16-oz. package elbow macaroni or fusilli pasta
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups 2% milk
1 cup buttermilk
One 8-oz. block of cream cheese, cut into chunks
One 8-oz. block of Velveeta® cheese, cut into chunks
1 tsp. Lawry’s seasoned salt, to taste
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. ground white pepper
2 cups extra-sharp shredded cheddar cheese (divided)
2 cups shredded Gouda cheese (divided)
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
4 slices bacon, cooked until crispy, then crumbled

1 cup apple wood chips for smoking
Disposable 11 x 9.5″ aluminum baking pan



Preheat your smoker to 225° F, and ensure the wood chip holder is inserted (without wood) so the interior of the smoker box stays hot. Completely shut the top vent.

Cook the pasta until just al dente in water with a pinch of salt. Drain well and set aside.

In a medium, heavy saucepan, melt the butter and whisk the flour into the butter. Be careful not to scorch it, and stir constantly. Cook for two minutes until the sauce is bubbly and thick. Slowly whisk in the milk and buttermilk and bring to a low boil. Cook another five minutes until thickened. Add the Lawry’s salt, white pepper, garlic powder and paprika. Stir in the crumbled bacon, cubed cream cheese and Velveeta, and mix until smooth.

In a separate mixing bowl, combine one cup of the sharp cheddar and Gouda cheese and all of the Parmesan cheese, cooked pasta and the cream sauce. Stir gently, then spoon the mixture into a 11 x 9.5″ disposable aluminum baking tray coated generously with non-stick cooking spray. Sprinkle the top with the remaining cup of shredded cheddar and Gouda cheese.

When the smoker is preheated, load the chip holder with apple wood. Place the baking pan on the center rack, seal the door and cook for one hour. Leave the top smoke vent open only 1/4″ for full flavor.

Remove, let set five minutes and serve.

Serves 6.


Apple-Smoked Stuffed Pork Chops

Stuffed pork loin chops smoked over apple wood at 225° F.

Stuffed pork loin chops smoked over apple wood at 225° F.

Here’s a great way to add a new dimension to an old favorite – stuffed pork chops that are smoked over apple wood chips and then finished off with a rich, decadent gravy.  Incredible!


4 stuffed pork chops
2 cups apple juice
1 cup apple wood chips for smoking
1 peeled, cored and sliced apple
Meat tenderizer

For the Gravy:
1 can Campbell’s Cream of Chicken soup
10.5 oz. beef broth (enough to fill the soup can)
1 strip bacon, minced
1/2 small onion, fine chopped
Dash of Worchestershire sauce
Dash of Kitchen Bouquet seasoning
Dash of paprika; about 1/2 tsp.
Salt and Pepper to taste


Pierce the pork chops on each side (1/4″ spacing) with a pronged tenderizer or sharp knife. Work in the meat tenderizer and let stand in the fridge for two hours.

Prepare an outdoor smoker by placing 2 cups of apple juice in the water pan and preheat to 225° F.
Warm the chops to room temperature before smoking. Rub peanut oil on the grilling grate and place the four chops directly on the grate (uncovered) in the center of the smoker.

Smoke for 1 hour with one cup of apple chips. Keep the top vent almost shut.

While the meat is smoking, prepare your gravy.  Combine 1 can of Campbell’s Cream of Chicken soup and 1 can of beef broth in a saucepan. Whisk to incorporate.
Heat on low and stir occasionally. In a heavy fry pan, add the minced bacon and saute until slightly browned. Add the fine-chopped onion and heat until just lightly carmelized.
Add the sauteed onion and bacon to the saucepan with the drippings from the bacon. Add the worchestershire sauce, Kitchen Bouquet, salt, pepper and paprika to taste. Stir to ensure it doesn’t burn and keep the heat at an absolute minimum. Cover partially to keep warm.

After one hour, remove the chops from the smoker and place in a shallow baking dish (ensuring that the dish fits the maximum width of your smoker box, when closed.)
Pour the heated gravy over the top of the chops and wrap the baking dish tightly in aluminum foil. Braise in smoker for 1.5 hours covered with NO SMOKE. (Smoke will not penetrate the meat at this point, so it’s not needed.)
After 1.5 hours, turn the chops over and add the sliced apple to the top. Cover again with foil and heat for an additional 1.5 hours with no smoke.  Remove and serve. The chops should be fall-off-the-bone tender.
Keep the heat in your smoker at 225 °F for the duration of the cooking process.

Serve with your choice of potatoes or wide buttered egg noodles.

Serves 4
Total Cooking Time: 4 hours + prep

Note: The preparation method shown is for a 30″ Masterbuilt Smoker with internal probe. Every smoker is different, so make sure you experiment to find the method that works best for you. For this recipe I didn’t use the probe due to the long braise time. In my opinion, one hour of smoke is all that’s needed. You’ll quickly overpower your food if you add more.

Smoked pork chops eady for a slow braise with homemade gravy.

Ready for a slow braise with homemade gravy.