How to Smoke A Whole Gator on Your Pellet Smoker!
After living in Florida since 2007, I feel like I can officially call myself a Floridian. While I was not born in Florida, I know that Florida is my spirit animal state and I could not imagine living anywhere else. In fact, I’ve checked off a lot of quintessential Florida experiences, including going through a few hurricanes, living on Flamingo Drive with Sour Oranges in my backyard in my first house when I moved here, meeting Jimmy Buffet at our old sailing club, getting married by a Boat Captain, making Iguana tacos (read about that here!) the list goes on. In fact, my husband went gator hunting a few years ago so I learned a lot about the experience as I accompanied him when he was “scouting” for gator on the Kissimmee River.
So, I figured, if anyone should perfect the art of smoking a gator it should be me! As such, I actually got to know a lot about the history of alligators in Florida because my husband also wrote an in-depth article about Gator hunting a few years ago for a magazine called Pursuit.
While Gator is EVERYWHERE, and I do mean EVERYWHERE here in Florida, including swimming in the river behind my house, they at one time were almost hunted to extinction. And now they are federally protected. If you want to eat a gator you cannot go find one in a canal, you have to purchase one or get a hunting tag to harvest one which are actually pretty hard to come by.
Where Do You Purchase Gator for Cooking?
In Florida, we have a nuisance gator hotline. You can call this number is you have a gator in your midst that is no longer afraid of humans. When you call the nuisance gator hotline, a gator catcher will come and try to lure the gator out and he will take them to a gator farm. That gator will live on the farm until he one day meets his fate to be eaten.
This is how the gator I cooked for this recipe came to be. When I first moved into my rental house on the Caloosahatchee River, I called the nuisance gator hotline and met Tracy Hansen of Hansen Alligators. Tracey works with Florida Fish and Wildlife to remove nuisance gators and take them to the gator farm, he also sells gators at Hansen Alligators.
The gator I smoked for this recipe was a nuisance gator that was living in a drainage ditch under someone’s driveway. The gator would come out of the drainage ditch every time the mailman went to deliver the mail and that is how he ended up on my smoker! Ha!
The cost of a gator will vary by the size. A whole 5ft gator will cost about $100, and a 4ft gator will run between $50-$75. If you are interested in getting a Florida gator, check out Hansen Alligators, run by a 3rd generation Gator trapper, Tracey Hansen.
What does Alligator Meat Taste Like?
The best way to describe gator meat is like a hybrid between chicken and fish. It is actually a delicate white meat. Most people have only had gator fried but the way to really enjoy gator is by smoking it. Don’t cook gator past 152 internal degrees (you are shooting for an internal temp of 155 which it will hit after you take it off the smoker) because you DO NOT want to overcook it. If you don’t have a thermometer built into your smoker like I have in my Green Mountain Grill, I recommend using a Thermapen. Getting the internal temp correct is not something you want to guess because if you overcook a gator it will be tough!
Gator is extremely lean so the key to keeping it moist is by first brining it and adding fat and moisture. In this recipe, I first brine the gator overnight, stuff the cavity with citrus, and then used butter to moisten the meat while also helping the Sunshine State of Mind Rub adhere. The gator is then misted with an orange juice/apple juice mixture, an Orange Bourbon Glaze is applied, and bacon is added for additional fat. This is how you keep gator meat moist and the end result is delicious!
I used my recently launched Sunshine State of Mind Craft BBQ Rub and Cocktail Rimmer on the Gator because this rub tastes like a visit to Florida and I can’t think of a more perfect flavor profile to put on a Florida Gator (use code GATOR for 10% off). The rub has notes of Kaffir lime, orange zest, Himalayan salt, granulated honey and coriander for an extremely addictive taste profile. My contributing writer Captain Ron calls it the “crack of BBQ rubs” and I’d have to agree. The beauty is that it is also excellent as a Margarita rimmer and you will definitely want a margarita with these gator tacos!
The beauty of the Green Mountain Grill Pellet Smoker is that is makes maintaining smoker temperature a breeze, while also making it easy to monitor your cook because it is Wifi Enabled with an internal read thermometer. If you are so inclined to monitor every aspect of the cook from the app on your phone, you can! If you are in the market for a Pellet Smoker, I HIGHLY recommend the Green Mountain Grill. They make an excellent smoker and they are a great company to work with. Green Mountain Grills are only sold at a dealer, not a big box store, offering great quality and a great relationship with the dealer you purchase your GMG from. You can find your local GMG dealer here to see where you can get yours.
Finally, the gator meat is perfect for making tacos. A 4ft gator will make enough meat to have tacos for about 6-8 people. I’m a big fan of making a taco bar because people can customize their tacos how they like. For these tacos, I added queso fresco, cilantro, avocados, Mexican crema, and fresh jalapenos all finished with a finish of fresh lime juice. The only thing that is missing is margaritas! Did I happen to mention that my Craft BBQ Rub is an excellent Cocktail Rimmer?
If you happen to give this recipe a try don’t forget to share with me what you think and please don’t forget to subscribe to my youtube channel!
Note: This recipe was made in partnership with Green Mountain Grills. I only work with companies I use and recommend. Thank you!Print
If you’ve never had whole smoked gator, this recipe will walk you through all the steps to make a whole smoked gator on your pellet smoker or grill. https://grillgirl.com/2012/11/smoked-bbq-rub-smoked-sea-salt-pepper-paprika-and-brown-sugar/
1 4 ft alligator- fully processed with skin removed
For the Brine:
- large cooler
- 1 gallon water
- 1 1/2 cups sea salt
- 1 cup of sugar
- 4 tbsp black peppercorns
- 4 bay leaves
- rind of two oranges
For Smoking the GATOR:
- 2 oranges- sliced, for stuffing the cavity
- toothpicks or baking twine
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 stick of butter, melted
- 1 bottle OR 1/2 cup Sunshine State of Mind BBQ Rub (Use code GATOR for 10% off) OR all purpose rub, here is my go-to all purpose rub recipe
- 1 lb bacon slices
- 1/2 cup orange juice
- 1/2 cup apple juice
FOR THE GLAZE
- 3/4 cup orange juice
- 1/2 cup honey
- 2 tbsp bourbon
- 1 tbsp ground ginger
Combine the brine ingredients in a pot on the stove until all ingredients have dissolved and then remove the brine from heat.
Next, brine the gator overnight in a large cooler. Keep ice stored in separate containers so it doesn’t dilute the brine.
Remove the gator from the brine and stuff the cavity with the oranges and add the honey. Seal up the gator cavity with toothpicks or sew shut with twine.
Next, cover the gator with BBQ rub, getting in all the nooks and crazy.
Get your smoker to 250 degrees. Add the gator to the smoker and mist every thirty minutes with the juice.
Combine the orange juice, honey, bourbon and ginger to make a glaze.
After the gator has been on the smoker for about 3 hours, add the glaze.
Next, layer the gator with bacon covering all parts with bacon except for the head. Smoke the gator until the internal temperature reaches 152 degrees. Let the gator rest under foil for 10 minutes before pulling.
You can pull the meat off the gator much like you would chicken or pork. I love to make Alligator tacos with gator meat or you can eat it on its own. When cooked this way, it is a delicate white meat!
Note: This recipe was made in partnership with Green Mountain Grills. I only work with companies I use and recommend. Thank you!
- Category: Alligator
- Method: Smoke
- Cuisine: American, Floribbean
- Serving Size: 8-10 servings
Keywords: Smoked Alligator, Alligator Recipe, how to cook alligator, alligator on the smoker, alligator on the grill