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Gourdzilla: The Pumpkin that Smokes Itself

In Holiday & Seasonal, Recipes by Mark MaskerLeave a Comment

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Happy Halloween! This is a project I’ve wanted to try for years: turning a monster pumpkin into a smoker. The reasons why are (a) it’s the excuse I needed to play with one of these ginormous Gourdzillas, and (b) I like the idea of food that smokes itself. The basic idea was simple. Clean out the pumpkin, cut holes in the top and flat side, and place it over a small electric hot plate as the basis for the smoker.
I had no idea whether this was going to work or not. It’s possible I was just about to re-enact Luke Skywalker’s charred relatives in Star Wars. That’s why I chose not to smoke anything else inside the pumpkin (this time). If I were going to, though, I’d start with using the seeds to make a snack.
Once I got the pumpkin home, it took me roughly 2 1/2 hours to do the whole big project. It gave me 5 quarts of smoked pumpkin, four of which are now in my freezer waiting for their turn come Thanksgiving. I was extremely happy with the results and I think it would be a great addition to any outdoor Halloween party. If you give it a go with your own version, we’d love to hear about it.

Gut the Monster.
Do not lift one of these giants by yourself unless you are Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, or The Hulk. These pumpkins easily top the 3 digit mark when it comes to weight in pounds. You can get them at your grocery store but local farms carry them for cheaper. I used a cart to move mine around, as well as for a carving table. Total setup takes about an hour. Wash it, then carve it like a normal puny pumpkin. Feel free to save the seeds for roasting. Gutting it took very little time as there wasn’t all that much inside to scoop out.

Flip it over.
See the ugly yellow patch? That’s the pumpkin’s flat bottom, and if you follow its edges when you carve out the space for your hot plate, your gourd will sit almost flush with the ground.

 

 

Bring the Heat.
Lay down a piece of heavy duty aluminum foil that’s long enough to cover the bottom half of the pumpkin. The hot plate holds it in place while you set Supersquash over it.  Once that’s in place, fold the foil against the pumpkin and tape it in place to seal the bottom. Call me a lazy bastard, but I don’t like cleaning up my messes. The foil also catches any stray wood chips, ashes, or pumpkin juice, making cleanup easier.

Let the smoking begin!
Set the plate to medium high heat, plug it into the extension cord, and place the first cup of apple wood chips onto the heating coil. Smoke will start to rise very quickly.
When you gut a pumpkin, it starts to warp. I had to run tape over the lid’s edges to stop smoke from leaking all over the place. There was still some leakage, but only enough to smell really, really good. Every half hour add another cup of chips to keep the smoke going strong.

Enjoy the tasty flesh, you ghoul.
Ninety minutes later, it was all done. As you can see, the inside of the lid turned a really rich brown on the surface. The pumpkin smelled great and tasted really good, just by itself.

The whole inside was perfectly smoked too. After it cooled, I scraped a lot of it into a large pot. The smoke penetrated about a quarter to a half inch into the flesh. That’s the part I scraped out. You could take the sections and throw them onto a backyard smoker afterward if you wanted more than the five quarts I got out of mine.
If you don’t want to go the extreme route, you can always be, well, sensible. I gutted and quartered a medium pumpkin, then smoked the shards skin-side up over charcoal for 90 minutes, too. It doesn’t yield the 5 or more quarts of smoked pumpkin flesh you get from the big brother, but you’ll still have plenty of the stuff for a good smoked pumpkin soup or smoked pumpkin pie. You also get more seeds and if you have a pie tin with some holes in it, you can dry them and smoke them for a snack as well.

Smoked Pumpkin Soup
4 cups smoked pumpkin flesh
10 strips of bacon
6 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
5 whole black peppercorns
7-10 very small pumpkins (guts removed)
After you smoke the pumpkin, scrape it out of the skin into a bowl until you have four cups. Pan fry the bacon and set it on a paper towel to soak up the excess grease. Next, heat the stock, salt, pumpkin, onion, garlic, and peppercorns to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer it all for 30 minutes uncovered. Chop up the bacon while you wait. After the 30 minutes, puree the soup a cup at a time a food processor or blender. Return the soup to the pan, add the bacon, and bring it to a boil again. Next, reduce heat to low and simmer for another 30 minutes, uncovered. Stir in the heavy cream, then pour the stuff into soup bowls and garnish with fresh parsley. Bonus: scoop out 7-10 very small pumpkins and use those as serving bowls instead.
Yield: 7-10 servings
Heat Scale: None

Smoked Pumpkin Seeds
I haven’t had the chance to try this yet, but it sounds good and has gotten great reviews. I found the recipe here.
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon finely ground kosher or sea salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons chile powder
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
Seeds from a medium pumpkin
Mix all of the dry ingredients and grind them in a coffee mill or small food processor. Grinding them further, as fine as possible, helps make them adhere better to the seeds.
Set up a container with warm water and salt to put the seeds into as you remove them from the pumpkin. Rinse and strain out all of the unwanted gunk from the seeds, then dry them on paper towels. Don’t let them sit on the paper towels for too long or they’ll stick and you’ll end up with paper on your seeds. If you start with raw shelled pumpkin seeds skip this step.
Next line the smoker racks with aluminum foil and poke tons of tiny holes in it with a corn holder. Spread the seeds evenly in one layer onto the racks. Place seeds into a 65 degree F smoker and cold smoke them for 2 hours with hickory smoke. Remove them from the smoker and dump all of the seeds into a bowl.
Combine the oil and spices, and add to the bowl. Toss the mixture until the seeds are well coated. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Spread the seeds onto a baking sheet and roast them for 10-15 minutes, stirring several times. Continue checking for the desired texture; pumpkin seeds can go from spongy to burnt real fast. Remove from oven, taste, and add additional salt/seasoning if needed.
Yield: varies
Heat scale: Mild to medium would be my guess

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Managing Editor | Mark is a freelance journalist based out of Los Angeles. He’s our Do-It-Yourself specialist, and happily agrees to try pretty much every twisted project we come up with.