Jalapeno poppers are one of my favorites, whether I’m barbecuing in the backyard or out in the wilderness camping.
One thing that I’ve found in looking around on the internet at what everybody else seems to be doing is that they are trying to improve on them. I really just like the classic bacon, jalapeno, and cream cheese combination.
You don’t need to add shrimp, brisket, pineapple, or whatever. Some things are considered classics for a reason. They don’t need improvement. They are the improvement.
Although, I do think they can be made better than the premade stuff that you would find in the grocery store.
First and foremost, they need a lot of bacon. They should be fully wrapped like mummies.
This makes them taste better and helps to keep the cream cheese from squirting out into the fire when you cook them.
Prepping Your Poppers
To make your jalapeno poppers, the big fat jalapenos are what you’re looking for. Generally, you’ll find the best ones in late spring and summer.
The fat ones are usually milder than the small ones and can hold quite a bit more cream cheese.
You want them to be milder because the peppers won’t be cooked that much and cooking helps tame some of the heat.
If they’re too hot, all your camping guests will be drooling into the fire and crying instead of marveling at your campfire cooking prowess.
I highly recommend using latex gloves to handle the peppers. Without fail, you’ll pay a price later if you don’t. Don’t be a tough guy.
To prep them for wrapping, first cut off the stems, then slice them in half longways.
Now, remove the seeds. You’re also going to want to remove as much of the white veins that are in the inside as you can. The white veins are hot just like the seeds.
Now, cut off about a half-inch slice from your block of cream cheese (cutting across the short side) and stuff it into the jalapeno half with your fingers.
By using your fingers, you’ll be able to mash it into all the nooks and crannies of the pepper.
Add enough additional cream cheese to fully fill the pepper.
How to Wrap a Jalapeno Popper
First, you need good, thinly sliced bacon.
I usually buy Oscar Meyer Center-Cut Bacon (I wasn’t paid to say that). It’s generally very consistent in shape and thin enough that it’ll cook all the way through.
Each jalapeno popper will get two and a half slices of bacon. Yes, you read that right, two and a half slices!
After you’ve cut your jalapenos in half, seeded them, and filled them with cream cheese, you’ll take a half slice of bacon and wrap it over the top where you removed the stem.
This gives a little cap of bacon to help keep the cream cheese from coming out of the top.
Now, starting at the top and using a whole piece of bacon, begin wrapping the pepper. Ensure that each new loop you make around the pepper slightly overlaps the previous loop.
That’ll get you about halfway down the popper. Just continue with another slice of bacon, wrapping the same direction as before and that should cover the whole popper.
Properly Storing Your Poppers for Your Trip
There’s really two ways to store your jalapeno poppers prior to heading out on your camping trip.
First Option: You can prepare them the day before and put them in zip-top bags in the refrigerator.
Just throw them in your ice-chest before heading out on your trip and they should be good to go when you’re ready to cook them.
Just be careful that you don’t end up smashing your poppers in-between your house and the campsite.
Second Option: You can prepare them 1-3 days beforehand and freeze them.
To do this, prepare them as normal, then put them in the freezer on a cookie sheet for a couple of hours (make sure they aren’t touching, or they’ll freeze together.
Once they’re frozen, put them in a zip-top bag, squeeze as much air out as possible and store them until you’re ready to go.
About an hour before cooking them, take them out of your ice-chest to thaw.
It should be noted that if you freeze jalapenos, they will lose their crispy texture. Some people like softer jalapenos in their jalapeno poppers and some don’t.
I prefer them softer.
Time to Cook Your Jalapeno Poppers
To properly cook your jalapeno poppers you need a cooking basket that will hold the poppers in place.
You don’t want them bouncing around and unwrapping while you’re cooking them.
The best one I’ve found for the job is the Rocky Mountain Goods Grill Basket. I’ve cooked hundreds of jalapeno poppers in it over the years, both in my backyard and at the campsite, and it works great.
The grill basket can hold about 8 poppers at a time. Just make sure when you load it up that the poppers aren’t touching or they can stick together and cook poorly or not at all on their sides.
Before you start cooking them, make sure you’ve got a really good bed of coals going. You want to cook them very hot.
A grill grate over the fire is also helpful so you don’t have to hold them up the entire time (I used my beat up old Weber Kettle, but a fire-pit works just the same).
Put them over the fire and let them cook until they’re sizzling and flames are starting to pop up. As the bacon starts rendering, bits of bacon grease will drop into the fire and cause flare-ups. This is okay. It’s all part of the fun.
If you want to keep the hair on your knuckles, I highly recommend a good pair of barbecue gloves.
Once one side of the pepper is sizzling pretty good, flip the basket over and start cooking the other side.
You don’t want to burn the bacon, but you do want to get it nice and crispy, so you’ll need to flip it back and forth like this two or three times until the bacon is done. You’ll be able to tell it’s done by some darkened and crispy bits showing in several spots.
The peppers in the picture below could have been cooked even more if I wanted the bacon crispier.
Finally, sometimes they can stick to the basket. It’s helpful to have a spatula nearby to help take them off. If you just open the basket up without paying attention, you could pull them apart.
Now, all you have to do is let them cool a little bit so you don’t have molten cream cheese squirting down your chin when you eat.
Campfire Jalapeno Poppers
- 8 large Jalapenos – (more if they are small)
- 2 8 oz. Cream cheese – (the bricks)
- 3 12 oz. Sliced bacon – (preferably Oscar Meyer Center Cut)
Before You Leave Home
- Wash and dry jalapenos.
- Cut off jalapeno stems and cut in half longways. Remove seeds and veins.
- Cut a chunk of cream cheese off block (short ways) and stuff into each jalapeno half by hand. Be sure to press it into the nooks and crannies. Add more as necessary to fill jalapeno.
- Wrap one-half a slice of bacon over the top of the jalapeno, then begin wrapping with a full slice of bacon from the top, slightly overlapping each round. The first whole strip should cover about half the jalapeno. Wrap with another slice, beginning where the last one ended, until the whole jalapeno is covered.
- Refrigerate or freeze based on the instructions above.
At the Campsite
- Build a good, hot bed of coals in your fire pit or grill.
- Place jalapenos in grill basket in such a way that they do not touch.
- Place basket directly over the hottest part of the coals until the bacon sizzles and the rendering fat causes the fie to flare up.
- Flip to the opposite side before the bacon burns.
- Flip back and forth in this manner until the bacon is fully cooked.
- Remove carefully and let cool before eating.
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