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Smokin' Fall Recipes From Celebrity Chef Melissa Cookston

Updated: Sep 29, 2023

Cooler weather is in the air, and celebrity chef and judge on Netflix’s new food show “American Barbecue Showdown” Melissa Cookston’s smokin’ fall recipes are sure to keep your audience warm, cozy and wanting seconds!

Taken from Cookston’s website and cookbook, “Smokin’ Hot in the South,” the below award-winning recipes for smoked chicken salad, smoked top sirloin and smoked mini pumpkins with wild rice, pear and sausage stuffing will help your audience fall right into the season with smoked recipes!

Smoked Chicken Salad

“Chicken salad has long been a mainstay of the 'church social' or 'afternoon tea,' many times in the form of finger sandwiches. If you go door to door, you will get as many different recipes and methods for the chicken salad as doors you knock on. If you look at several of the recipes, you will soon realize that the correct 'chicken salad' is in the eye of the chef making it that day. It’s a remarkably versatile dish and can take any number of different ingredients/methods and still be delicious. When I make chicken salad, I love the subtle flavor that smoked chicken brings to the party, along with the texture of walnuts and the sweet pop of grapes, so I’ve included them in my recipe.”


- 1 pound pulled smoked chicken

- 1 cup mayonnaise

- 1 cup seedless red grapes, halved

- 1/2 cup sweet gherkin pickles, diced, plus 2 tablespoons pickle juice

- 1/3 cup celery, finely diced

- 1/4 cup white onion, finely diced

- 1/4 cup walnuts, chopped

- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

- 3/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

In a large mixing bowl, fold all the ingredients together to incorporate without breaking apart the chicken too much. Serve over butter lettuce with sliced fresh tomatoes and strawberries for a cool salad or on a sliced pumpernickel or wheat bread as a sandwich.


Smoked Top Sirloin

"One of my favorite cuts of steak is known as the top sirloin cap. I think it is one of the most under-appreciated cuts of beef, generally because it is not sold separately. When you break down a top sirloin, it is mainly comprised of the main sirloin and the cap. The cap is also known a culotte steak or a churrasco steak. It is significantly more tender than the top sirloin and more flavorful.”

First, trim off any silver skin. I remove the fat cap, as well, as I want to season the entire steak. However, this is optional.

Next, season it up! I use my Grillin’ Shake, but a simple salt and pepper or your favorite BBQ rub will do nicely as well.

Put in on the smoker! I ran my smoker for this cook at 275 degrees F, but frankly wished I had raised the temp to 300 degrees F in retrospect. For beef, I’m a big fan of using cherry wood, but any hardwood would be good with this.

For this steak, I cooked it to 143 degrees F internal temperature. It took about 45 minutes. However, the sizes of these cuts will be different, so cooking times will vary. Remove it three to five degrees before your desired doneness, loosely cover with foil, and let it rest five to 10 minutes. The internal temp will continue to climb and hit perfection while resting. Identify the “grain” of the meat and slice against it.

Serve it up! Your friends and family will thank you!


Smoked Mini Pumpkins with Wild Rice, Pear and Sausage Stuffing

"Those pretty little mini pumpkins that you picked up for décor? Cook them! These make adorable side items and are so flavorful! The stuffing can be made ahead by a day to make dinner prep easier.”


- 1 cup wild rice blend

- 2 cups chicken stock

- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

- 1/2 onion, diced

- 1 tablespoon celery, diced

- 1 tablespoon minced garlic

- 2 firm pears, roughly chopped

- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

- 1 tablespoon fresh sage

- 1/2 pounds country style sausage

Add the rice and 2 cups chicken stock to a stockpot. Bring to boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook for 30 minutes, or until rice is tender and stock is absorbed. Add more stock or water if necessary, during cooking.

Pour rice onto sheet pan and allow to cool. Cook, crumble and drain sausage. Allow to cool.

Cut the pumpkin about one-third of the way from the top and remove the cap. Scrape out any seeds and strings. Lightly season the inside of the pumpkin, then fill with stuffing. Sprinkle approximately one teaspoon of chopped pecans over the top of stuffing. Place in smoker over indirect heat at 275 degrees F for an hour and a half to two hours, or until pumpkins are tender.

In the last few minutes of cooking, you can sprinkle the stuffing with cheese, bacon or chopped pecans, if desired.

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