Can we talk for a second about home food? We write a lot here about various kinds of foods, various dishes. We often write about what could be called “restaurant food” that you can make at home. Pho comes to mind, as goes General Tso’s Chicken. And while all the barbecue we cover is certainly food from home, for a majority of Americans, BBQ is restaurant food—ribs, brisket, sausages. But there are dishes that we also love to cover that are decidedly home foods. These are classics that are comforting, and often simple. They evoke family and memory. Yes, you may find them while dining out, but they will be in imitation of what you get at home. Meatloaf comes to mind. Meatballs, too. Or how about stuffed peppers?
Stuffed peppers are about as homey as it gets: warm, well-seasoned meaty filling ensconced in sweet-and-savory bell peppers. Served with a side of mashed potatoes, buttered noodles, or even just good bread, they’re good enough to restore you in any weather, after any work. Is there a way to make them better? Yes! cook them properly! Here, we’ll go over the temps you need to make perfect peppers for your family to get you through the winter, or even just the weeknight. Read on to learn more!
Stuffed pepper basics
Stuffed peppers are a blank canvas. The name says it all! You can stuff them with anything you like. You can use seasoned rice, or sausage, or pre-cooked meat. You can go with Mediterranean flavors, Eastern European flavors, or Asian flavors. We have elected to provide a recipe for a raw-meat stuffed pepper (don’t worry, we’ll cook it) that draws heavily on Southern Italian flavors.
We like recipes that stuff the peppers with raw meat because they take longer to cook. That may seem odd, but it’s an important thermal step to take. It’s no fun to get a stuffed pepper with a pepper that is still nearly crunchy, and pre-cooked fillings for peppers can dry out before the pepper itself has time to cook and soften. By filling the peppers with thermally-resistant raw meat, we give the veg time to thoroughly cook, all the while infusing its flavor into—and receiving flavor from—the filling.
Critical temps for stuffed peppers
Oven temperature for baking stuffed peppers
Bake your peppers at 350°F (177°C). This temperature is hot enough to brown the tops of the peppers and the meat without being so hot that it overcooks them. And you don’t need to worry about them burning to the bottom of the pan because we cook them in a sauce. A few cups of plain tomato juice (or, if you have it, tomato passata) in the pan act as a water-bath to ease the cooking. The inch or so of pepper that sits above the juice browns, while the pepper and meat below the waterline cook very gently, taking time to cook evenly.
Doneness temperature for stuffed peppers
As we’re opting to use raw ground meat for the stuffing, it’s important to cook it to the food-safe temperature of all ground meats: 160°F (71°C). While we would never want to cook a steak to this temperature, we need to cook ground meat this hot so that we can eliminate all the food-borne pathogenic bacteria that may have been mixed into the meat during grinding and our own mixing. We used a ChefAlarm® to track our largest pepper’s temperature during the cook and verified that internal temperature with our Thermapen® ONE when the high-temp alarm sounded. Put the probe in your largest pepper because it will take the longest to cook. The smaller peppers going over by a couple of degrees will be much better than having some that are undercooked.
Seasoning and sauce for stuffed peppers
To season the meat for the peppers, this recipe uses a potent and delicious blend of sauteed onions, plenty of garlic, walnuts (for texture and flavor) spices, and golden raisins. This blend harkens back to Southern Italy, and it is fantastic. Though you can season your peppers any way you like, we all thought that these were some of the—if not the—best peppers we’d ever eaten. No matter how you decide to season yours, follow the same thermal principles discussed above for best results.
As we noted above, the peppers are cooked in a bath of tomato juice. The whole cook takes about 90 minutes (60 minutes covered in foil, about 30 minutes uncovered), during which time some of that juice will cook off, but not a lot. We found that the sauce created by this cook came out well-flavored, though a little thin. Some tasters thought this consistency was perfect, others wanted it thicker. If you want your sauce to be thicker, remove the peppers to a serving tray once they are fully cooked and simmer the sauce on the stove for a few minutes to reduce it to your desired consistency.
If you want something warm, comforting, and homey, you need to try this recipe! The slow cooking induced by the raw-meat filling results in supple, well-tenderized peppers and juicy meat. The bold seasoning satisfies the tongue while the hearty meat satisfies the body, and the smell is, well, quite amazing. We hope you give it a try soon! They’re easy enough to pull together on a slow weeknight but delicious enough to serve on a Sunday night. Enjoy, and happy cooking!Print
Amazing Stuffed Peppers Recipe
These are the best stuffed peppers we’ve ever made! Adapted from a recipe at BonAppetit.com.
- 3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 1 serrano pepper, finely chopped
- 1/2 C chopped walnuts
- 9 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 Tbsp fine-chopped parsley
- 1–1/2 tsp tomato paste
- 3/4 tsp ground cumin
- 3/4 tsp ground turmeric
- 3/4 tsp smoked paprika
- 3 oz dry white wine
- 1–1/2 tsp kosher salt, plus more
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 lb ground beef (20% fat)
- 1/2 lb ground pork
- 1–1/2 C cooked rice
- 1/2 C golden raisins
- 3 oz Parmesan, finely grated (about 3/4 cup), divided
- 6 medium bell peppers, any color
- 4 C tomato juice
- Preheat your oven to 350°F (177°C).
- In a heavy oven-proof frying pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion and the serrano pepper together until the onion is translucent and just starting to brown on some of the edges, up to 10–12 minutes.
- Add the finely chopped garlic as well as the parsley, and continue to cook until the smell of the garlic loses some of its hard edge and mellows somewhat—about 2 minutes.
- Add the raisins and chopped walnuts. Cook until the raisins appear plump and just start to pick up some color. Another 2 minutes or so.
- Add the cumin, paprika, and turmeric. Stir in and cook until they become very fragrant. About a minute.
- Add the tomato paste and cook another minute, stirring.
- Lower the heat to medium-low and add the wine. It will boil quickly. Cook until the wine is very reduced. (in our cast-iron pan, this took only a few moments).
- Remove this mixture from heat and give it a taste. Adjust with salt and black pepper. Move to a plate or pan off of heat to allow the mixture to cool somewhat. Set the frying pan aside, you’ll use it later.
- In a medium to large mixing bowl, gently combine the raw beef and pork.
- Add the rice and fold it together, then add 1/2 C of the parmesan and fold it in.
- Add the onion/nut/raisin mixture to the meat and mix it together until fairly homogenous. Try not to overmix.
- Prepare the peppers. If they don’t want to stand up straight, cut thin slices from the nubs on the bottoms of the peppers until they can stand without tipping over—but don’t cut so far into the pepper that you cut into the inside.
- Cut the tops off of the peppers and core out the seeds and membranes.
- Pack the peppers with the meat filling using a spoon. Go ahead and really fill it in, mounding it on top somewhat.
- Stand the peppers in the frying pan and pour the tomato juice into the pan as well.
- Top the peppers with the rest of the parm, not worrying if some falls into the tomato bath below. Season them with black pepper, as well.
- Cover the pan with aluminum foil and insert a ChefAlarm probe through the foil into your fattest pepper. Set the high-temp alarm for 160°F (71°C).
- Put the pan in the oven and bake for 1 hour (use the timer on your ChefAlarm to track the time.) After the hour is up, remove the foil and re-insert the probe into the largest pepper.
- Cook until the high-temp alarm sounds (about 30 minutes more). Verify the temperature with a Thermapen ONE.
- Serve immediately, or, for thicker sauce, remove the peppers from the pan and boil the sauce in the pan until it has reduced by about half.
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timing and temperature were waaay off. Very bland and took forever to cook. Not worth all of the effort
Stuffed peppers take a while…the 60 minutes covered and 30 minutes uncovered ended up being just the right internal temp for us. If they’re not worth that time for you, I’m sorry to hear that. Perhaps something wasn’t communicated clearly in the recipe that made it seem bland, but we found them to be very flavorful. I hope your recipe suits you better.
Time can vary based on oven, pepper size, meat starting temp, etc. Regardless of whether you like this recipe, just remember that 160°F for the meat is the critical temperature you need to know for safe peppers.
This recipe turned out well and the bell pepper was properly cooked. I used tomato passata and homemade beef broth. There was a ton of liquid in the bell pepper that I poured off prior to plating. I thickened the sauce with corn starch also. Incidentally, I only made 4 bell peppers and had leftover mixture. I added 1 egg, and basically made a meatloaf that I served with the passata/broth sauce. Friends really enjoyed it . Flavor wise, this recipe had a little Indian curry vibe for me. All in all, I would definitely make this again.
Fantastic! We also had some extras that we fried up as little patties, but they didn’t make it to the sauce before we ate them. Glad you liked them!
Willa Robertson says
I liked this a lot but . . . I accidentally added 1-1/2 tablespoons of salt instead of the 1-1/2 teaspoons called for in the recipe. This did NOT make it too salty. Indeed, I think I’ll use 2 tablespoons next time. Without the extra salt, even with the other spices, it would have been quite bland, I’m sure. I am a keto diet person, so I used cooked spaghetti squash instead of rice and dried cranberries instead of raisins to cut back on the total carb count. I noticed that I didn’t get the flavoring mixture evenly mixed in the meat mixture and I could taste the variation in the flavoring as I dined on my creation. The heavily flavored bits were divine. Next time, I think I’ll double the spices along with the added salt. Also, my peppers were large and the flesh was thick. I think that’s why they were still a little crunchy. So next time I’ll evaluate my peppers and maybe use a little lower oven temperature for a little longer. Overall, this is a nice dish and I thank you for sharing.