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Smoked Shotgun Shells

4.07 from 33 votes

Fun to make, delicious to eat, and sure to impress everyone, Smoked Shotgun Shells are a rite of passage for anyone with a smoker. Tender pasta tubes stuffed with a meaty-cheesy filling, wrapped in bacon, sauced, and smoked – need I say more? Have you made these yet?

smoked shotgun shells in black serving dishes

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Pretty much everything cooked on a smoker is delicious, but smoked Shotgun Shells are extra fabulous. Not only are these going to knock the socks off anyone who tries them, but you’re going to reclaim your spot as smoker king or queen when you present your guests with these amazing smoked appetizers.

I made these on a Traeger pellet smoker, but any smoker will work. I won’t lie – they’re a bit of work but the good news is that they’re totally prep-aheadable. Make them the day before, pop them into the fridge, and get them into the smoker a couple of hours before you’re ready to eat.

What you’ll love about Smoked Shotgun shells


  • They’re freaking delicious!
  • You’re going to impress EVERYONE!
  • Prep them ahead of time to cut down on kitchen time.

What Is A Smoked Shotgun Shell?

Also known as bullet shells, these are called shotgun shells because, well, they look like a shotgun shell (but a bit longer). These tasty eats are cheese and seasoned beef stuffed inside a pasta tube that’s wrapped in bacon and smoked. Then, they’re sauced up, smoked a bit longer, and served piping hot right off the smoker.

They taste amazing – who doesn’t love meat, bacon, and cheese? And, the pasta turns out perfectly cooked so no worries about undercooked and still crunchy pasta.

Served with a side of BBQ sauce or just eaten naked, these Shotgun Shells on the smoker are just about as good as good can get!

a top down shot of smoked shotgun shells on a platter

Ingredients

  • Cannelloni shells – Oven ready, or use manicotti shells/tubes if that’s all you can find.
  • Ground beef – I used medium ground beef (80/20).
  • Cheddar cheese – Shredded. Sharp cheddar is great or use your favorite cheese.
  • Milk – Yes, milk. Milk adds moisture to the beef mixture which the pasta shells need to cook, and the enzymes in milk work as a tenderizer to keep the meat tender and juicy.
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • Salt and pepper
  • Bacon – You’ll need a full pound – perhaps more. Regular bacon works best. Thick-cut won’t stretch enough to wrap around the shells.
  • BBQ sauce – A sweet and spicy sauce works best with Shotgun Shells.

Cannelloni vs Manicotti – What’s The Difference?

While either cannelloni or manicotti shells will work in this recipe, there are a few differences. Cannelloni shells are smooth-sided and the open ends are cut straight. Manicotti shells, on the other hand, have ridges on the sides and they have tapered ends with a point. For the most shotgun shell-like Smoked Shotgun Shells, try to use oven-ready cannelloni shells.

Sauced shotgun shells ready for the last smoke.
Smoked Shotgun Shells on the smoker.

How To Make Smoked Shotgun Shells

For a full list of ingredients and instructions, please scroll down to the recipe card at the bottom of this page.

  1. Preheat your Traeger pellet smoker (or any other smoker) to 225-F.
  2. Combine the ground beef, shredded cheese, milk, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper in a bowl and mix until combined.
  3. Working with one cannelloni shell at a time, stuff each tube with the beef mixture. Get as much into each shell as you can without jamming it or packing it in super-tightly.
  4. Wrap each shell with bacon – starting at one end and winding the bacon around the shell as you work toward the opposite end.
  5. Lay the filled and wrapped shells onto a rack on a baking sheet or sheet pan, put the pan in the smoker, and smoke for about an hour at 225-F.
  6. Brush the outside of each shell with BBQ sauce and smoke for an additional 30-45 minutes or until the internal temperature is 165-F and the pasta is tender.
  7. Grill or griddle the finished shell for a minute or 2 to crisp the bacon up a bit. Alternatively, turn the Traeger up to 400-F to crisp up the shells. I used my Blackstone to reverse-sear the shells. This is an optional step.

Recommended

Chef Jenn’s Tips

  • Oven-ready shells work the best for this and they’ll cook on the smoker – don’t worry about crunchy pasta.
  • 80/20 beef – or medium ground beef – works the best because the meat won’t dry out, and the cheese adds plenty of moisture, too.
  • Regular cut bacon will wind easily around the shells. Cover as much of the shell as you can. The bacon protects the shells from drying out.
  • I love brushing the shells with a sweet and spicy BBQ sauce but use your favorite.

What To Serve With Smoked Shotgun Shells

Wondering how to serve these easy Smoked Shotgun Shells? We’ve eaten them as dinner, but I also love serving them at gatherings and parties. Serve them hot off the smoker along with other tasty eats like Smoked Chicken Tortilla Cups, or serve them as a prelude to meals of smoked eye of round or smoked meatballs.

Storage

Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days.

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of cheese goes into Smoked Shotgun Shells?

I love a good, sharp, and tangy cheddar, but you can use your favorite cheese. Other good options include gouda (or smoked gouda) or add a bit of spice with pepper Jack cheese.

How long does it take to cook Smoked Shotgun Shells on the smoker?

Give yourself about 20 minutes to make the beef filling and to stuff the shells, and then 90 minutes total smoking time.

Are these easy Smoked Shotgun Shells?

They’re a bit tedious to stuff but they’re not hard to make! And, once they’re filled, they cook low and slow on the smoker. You got this!

Step By Step Process

a top down shot of smoked shotgun shells on a platter
Print Pin
4.07 from 33 votes

Smoked Shotgun Shells

This is the most amazing smoked appetizer ever! A seasoned beef and cheese filling stuffed inside of pasta tubes that are then wrapped in bacon and smoked – what's not to love? Make a batch today!
Course Appetizers
Cuisine American
Keyword beef, bullet shells, shotgun shells, smoked shotgun shells, smoker, smoker appetizers
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 50 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Calories 624kcal

Ingredients

  • 14 cannelloni shells oven-ready pasta tubes work best
  • 1 lb 80/20 ground beef medium ground beef
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 14 slices bacon

Instructions

  • Preheat your Traeger pellet smoker (or any other smoker) to 225-F.
  • Combine the ground beef, shredded cheese, milk, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper in a bowl and mix until combined.
  • Working with one cannelloni tube at a time, stuff each tube with the beef mixture. Get as much into each shell as you can without jamming it or packing it in super-tightly.
  • Wrap each shell with bacon – starting at one end and winding the bacon around the shell as you work toward the opposite end.
  • Lay the filled and wrapped shells onto a baking sheet or sheet pan, put the pan in the smoker, and smoke for about an hour at 225-F.
  • Brush the outside of each shell with BBQ sauce and smoke for an additional 30-45 minutes or until the internal temperature is 165-F and the pasta is tender.
  • Grill or griddle the finished shell for a minute or 2 to crisp the bacon up a bit. Alternatively, turn the Traeger up to 400-F to crisp up the shells. I used my Blackstone to reverse-sear the shells. This is an optional step.

Notes

Chef Jenn’s Tips

  • Oven-ready shells work the best for this and they’ll cook on the smoker – don’t worry about crunchy pasta.
  • 80/20 beef – or medium ground beef – works the best because the meat won’t dry out, and the cheese adds plenty of moisture, too.
  • Regular cut bacon will wind easily around the shells. Cover as much of the shell as you can. The bacon protects the shells from drying out.
  • I love brushing the shells with a sweet and spicy BBQ sauce but use your favorite.

Nutrition

Serving: 3tubes | Calories: 624kcal | Carbohydrates: 37g | Protein: 33g | Fat: 37g | Saturated Fat: 16g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 14g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 114mg | Sodium: 855mg | Potassium: 410mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 309IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 249mg | Iron: 4mg

A Note on Nutritional Information

Nutritional information for this recipe is provided as a courtesy and is calculated based on available online ingredient information. It is only an approximate value. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site cannot be guaranteed.

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By Chef Jenn