Baked potatoes are boring, you say? Well, I say you must be doing it wrong.
First of all, let me give credit where credit is due. Steve Raichlen is some sort of genius. Mr. Raichlen is a guru of all things live-fire cooking: grill, barbecue, pit/spit roasting… you name it, and he has a book/show/class about it. He has written several books about live-fire cooking and is a big reason I love cooking over live-fire whenever I get the chance. This recipe is from his book How to Grill, modified to fit my family.
I was never really one to eat baked potatoes as a meal. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good baked potato. It just never seems enough. I need something more when I eat. Not necessarily portion-wise, but more substantial than just a hunk of potato. But when I learned to introduce the sublime flavor and aroma of wood smoke, I saw that the humble potato can be elevated to a whole new level.
First things first: This is a plan-ahead meal. If you’re looking for a 30 minute meal, you have come to the wrong place. But your patience will be rewarded, I promise!
Now, let’s get it! Get yourself some good smoking wood chips. You can find these in the grilling section of any store that has a grilling section (I usually just go to Kroger or Walmart… I’m not to proud to admit it). DON’T go out in your garden and grab mulch. That would be….. unpleasant.
For potatoes, I would suggest apple or hickory. Mesquite is a little strong for my taste when it come to potatoes. I hear that oak is great for veggies, but I haven’t tried it yet. Soak about a cup of the wood chips in water (or apple cider if you are feeling fancy).
Now for the grill. I prefer charcoal, so that’s what my pictures show. You can definitely do this on a gas grill, though. Set up your grill for indirect grilling. On charcoal, that means you have two separate piles of coals, one on either side. On gas, just turn one side of your grill on.
When the grill is hot and the potatoes are pretty much ready (that part is coming next), drain the wood chips and wrap them up into a foil packet, poking holes in the top to allow the smoke to come out.
While the grill is heating and your wood chips are soaking, it’s time to prep the spuds. And since this is the internet, we start with bacon.
Can you do it without bacon? Sure. But why would you? Chop up your bacon and fry it up in a skillet. When it’s all crispy and delicious, evacuate the bacon from the pan and drain on paper towels. Congratulations, you just made your very own homemade bacon bits! Save the drippings; we’ll be using those in a minute.
Now we turn out attention to the potatoes. Baking potatoes (like Russets) are your best bet. Yukon golds are good too, but the starchier the potato you choose, the fluffier the final result will be. Gently scrub the potatoes, then dry them with a paper towel. Pierce each potato all over with a fork. Be careful not to jab yourself in the hand. That may or may not have happened to
me someone I know. Brush each potato with the melted bacon drippings. Generously salt the outside of each potato with kosher salt. Whatever you do, DO NOT wrap them with foil. The smoke flavor won’t get to the potato that way. If you wanted that, you should just bake them in the oven.
When the grill is hot, the smoker packs are on the grill, and the potatoes are all slathered in bacon drippings and salt, place spuds on the grill in the cool zone. Cover the grill. Soon, delicious smoke will begin billowing out of the grill. Cook your potatoes for about an 1 ½ hours (I know, I know… trust me: your patience will be rewarded!).
When the potatoes are done (they should pierce easily with a sharp knife), top with your homemade bacon bits and whatever other toppers you desire. I like butter and sour cream. Our little EOE dude can’t have dairy, so he uses Earth Balance. Finish with a little bit of snipped chives or chopped green onion, and you’ve got a classic side dish that is good enough to be a main meal.
If you try this, let me know how it turns out for you! I love hearing stories of people trying things out and how they make it their own!
- 4-5 Russet potatoes (or however many you need… it’s flexible)
- 16 oz. pkg bacon*
- kosher salt
- any optional toppings you would like (butter, chives, non-dairy butter)
- wood chips (for smoking, not for eating)
- Soak wood chips in water for an hour.
- Chop and cook the bacon. When the bacon is crispy, remove to a paper towel and carefully pour drippings into a separate bowl for later use.
- Preheat grill, setting it up for indirect heat.
- Clean potatoes and pierce all over with a fork. Brush each potato with bacon drippings and salt generously with kosher salt.
- Place potatoes on the cool zone of the grill. Close lid and cook until done (about 1¼ to 1½ hours)
- Cut open each potato and top as desired.
*If you prefer to not use bacon for whatever reason, you can rub each potato with oil instead (vegetable oil, avocado oil, coconut oil… whichever works best for you)