If you’re looking for the best meat to smoke, you’ve come to the right place! Whether you’re new to smoking meat or a seasoned pitmaster looking to up your game, this list of the best meat to smoke in your BBQ smoker will serve you well.
The Best Meats To Smoke
If you’ve ever tried smoking meat, you’ll know that achieving the perfect smoky flavor for certain types of meat and thicknesses is no easy task, especially if you’re a beginner. The truth is, certain meats are just better for smoking!
Smoked meat is a relatively new take on traditional BBQing that adds fresh and delicious flavors to any dish. Typically, smoking meats require the same initial preparations; however, it is best done with a “low and slow method”.
A low and slow cooking process involves cooking the meat at a low temperature for a long time. This cooking method helps the meat retain moisture and allows it to take on a rich smoky flavor.
Before you plan your next BBQ party or outdoor cooking session with friends and family, you must know the best meats to smoke! So, dig into this article to learn about the best meats to smoke for beginners and grill masters alike.
Fastest Meats to Smoke
If you’re in a rush and need to get dinner on the table, here’s a quick summary of the best and fastest meats to smoke!
- Smoked Hamburgers or Smoked Hot Dogs
- Smoked Pork Chops
- Smoked Chicken Breast, Chicken Thighs or Chicken Wings
- Smoked Salmon
Resources for Beginners
If you’re just getting started with the idea of smoking meat and haven’t yet purchased a smoker, look at our guides on all the best smokers on the market right now! Smokers range from $200 to $2,000 or more, made for every budget!
We also have a few guides and advice columns to get you started on the right foot; take a look!
Smoking Meat For Beginners
Smoking meat refers to the slow cooking process using low and controlled temperatures and a substantial amount of smoke to cook meat. This slow smoking procedure uses smoke as the main heat source to prepare a meal.
Since every type of meat has a varying size and overall toughness, the smoking process may differ from meat to meat. For instance, lean cuts of meat have a lower fat content, so they don’t take as long to smoke. Moreover, thick cuts of meat will typically take longer, as the smoke must penetrate further into the cut.
Meats with tough cuts, good fat content, and high connective tissue are considered the best meats for smoking. This is because the suitable amount of fat keeps the meat moist throughout the long, low, and slow smoking process.
Similarly, meats with tough connective tissues contain a high amount of collagen. So, when you slowly smoke this meat, the collagen breaks and converts into sugars, thus contributing to the rich flavor.
To attain the right flavor for your dish, it’s recommended to have one of the best pellet smokers and sufficient wood for fuel. Try experimenting with flavored wood pellets or wood chips for new and exciting flavors. For instance, cherry wood is one of the most popular types of wood that most experts go for.
Now that most of the vital information is out of the way, let’s explore some of the best meats you can smoke and present on your dinner table tonight.
Best Beef To Smoke
If you’ve never smoked meat before, testing your skills with a classic burger patty is probably the best place to start. By smoking hamburger patties, you’ll get loads of flavor and incredible results, thanks to the meat’s high fat and moisture content.
If you want to prepare smoked hamburgers for a BBQ event at your place, we suggest you opt for the best ground beef available. Smoked hamburgers take about 1 hour to prepare, and the beef patties are cooked at a temperature of 225ºF.
Smoked Chuck Roast
When it comes to the best meats to smoke, the chuck roast is the first meat that comes to mind. The chuck roast comes from the shoulder area of the cow and is known for its rich, beefy flavor.
Smoking Chuck Roast doesn’t take much effort to taste fantastic. You can smoke a chuck roast for 10 to 12 hours at a temperature of 205F and use Hickory wood for the most mouthwatering flavor.
A tri-tip is a triangle-shaped meat cut that, when smoked correctly, produces a juicy texture and rich flavor. Moreover, since this is primarily lean meat, smoked tri-tip takes only about 2 hours to smoke in the smoker. For the best smoked tri tip steak, try using oak wood chips!
Smoking beef brisket is an all-time favorite amongst BBQ lovers. Juicy, tender, and packed with flavor, what more could you ask for? While mastering a perfect beef brisket may require patience and practice, we believe that anyone can master this main course by following the proper smoked brisket recipe.
A perfectly juicy smoked beef brisket takes around 11 hours in the smoker, but it is worth the wait. Unlike beef ribs, beef briskets are tough and thick cuts of meat, which is why they take a little longer.
Plus, when you get brisket smoking right, the brisket burnt end up tasting a little like candy, much like pork belly burnt ends! Add a bit of BBQ sauce, and you’ll be well on your way to impressing your guests.
While steak is traditionally cooked on the BBQ, a nice smoked New York steak will take your beef experience to the next level. Smoking steak brings out new flavors you never knew existed. In fact, it’s probably the most addictive smoked meat on this list!
Plus it’s relatively easy to do. Simply rub it with salt and pepper or our BBQ Hero Beef Rub and then place it in your smoker for anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour, depending on your preferred doneness.
For a strong smoked flavor, use a combination of oak, hickory, and mesquite wood. For milder flavors, use cherry.
Smoked Beef Ribs
Smoking those big dinosaur beef ribs can be intimidating, but I promise you, it’s not as hard is you might think. Smoking beef ribs is a very similar process to smoking a beef brisket. Low and slow is the game’s name with smoked beef ribs, so take your time, and you’ll have Instagram-worthy dinosaur bone ribs!
Best Pork to Smoke
Smoked Pork Chops
Smoking Pork Chops only take about an hour to smoke, making them quick and easy to prepare in a pinch. Pork chops may not be as well-loved as pork ribs or a traditional pork roast, but after trying our recipe for the best smoked pork chops, you might find this to be a new favorite!
Smoked Pork Butt
Smoked Pork Putt or Pork Shoulder, and sometimes referred to as “Boston Butt” is one of the best meats you can serve at a BBQ party. It goes well with tacos and nachos and is great for making pulled pork sandwiches. Pork butt or pork shoulder takes about 8 hours to smoke properly, and we’ve come up with the best recipe for you to follow.
Smoked Pork Ribs
Pork Ribs (Baby Back Ribs or St. Louis Ribs), when smoked perfectly, will be the star of the show at any BBQ party. They’re delicious, easy to make, and a great way to experiment with new BBQ sauce.
There are different types of pork ribs to choose from, for example, Baby Back Ribs are those found around the loin, the lean muscle running along the back. Spare Ribs, on the other hand, are taken from the belly area and are sometimes referred to as St. Louis Style Ribs when trimmed a certain way.
The cooking time for smoked pork ribs is about 5 hours, but the tender meat you get at the end is definitely worth the wait. Whether you’re a first-time BBQ’er or a seasoned Pitmaster, you can never go wrong with a few racks of delicious pork ribs.
Smoked Pork Tenderloin
Unlike pork loin, smoked pork tenderloin is a long, narrow cut of meat that comes from the muscle along the backbone. Sometimes known as a pork filet, this cut of meat has a relatively low fat content, which makes it easy and quick to smoke.
Try rubbing it with this Sweet Brown Sugar Rub and following our tried and tested recipe for the best smoked tenderloin.
Smoked Pork Shoulder (Smoked Pork Butt)
Smoked Pork Shoulder (also known as smoked pork putt or Boston butt) is how you make smoked pulled pork. If I’m being honest, smoked pulled pork is one of my favorite meals because it’s easy to do and serves many people.
To make smoked pulled pork, you only need a good-sized pork shoulder (aka Pork Butt or Boston Butt), some simple seasoning and time. Smoked pork shoulder takes about 6-12 hours to cook properly, but it’s worth every minute.
Smoked Pork Belly
If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, give smoked pork belly a try! Smoking pork belly is relatively easy to do and is absolutely delicious!
Pork belly is the same cut of meat that bacon comes from. So throwing a massive pork belly onto your smoker is the same thing as smoking a 5-pound piece of bacon! Who wouldn’t love that!?
Best Poultry to Smoke
Smoked Chicken Breast
Not many grillers know that they can smoke chicken and have it turn out amazing. Smoked Chicken Breast is a favorite for most grill masters because of the juicy and flavorful breast meat paired with the perfectly crispy skin.
Marinate and slow-cook the whole chicken breast for the best results over low heat. Be sure to check the internal temperature of your smoked chicken regularly, aiming for a finished temperature of 170ºF. Typically, if cooked low and slow, a smoked chicken breast will take about an hour to be done to perfection.
Smoked Turkey Breast
Smoked Turkey Breast is less popular than chicken breasts, and usually, when you opt for turkey it’s because you’re making the whole turkey, not just the breasts. However, smoked turkey breasts are still a crowd favorite because of they’re a juicy, succulent, and flavorful meat to smoke!
Smoking turkey breast takes about 1 hour and 25 minutes to prepare, The maximum cooking temperature is 250ºF, and you can use maple wood to add phenomenal flavor.
Smoked Chicken Wings
Smoked chicken wings are the perfect finger food for your next party! Crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, smoked chicken wings are packed with flavor and sure to please any crowd. And, best of all, they are easy to make!
Simply place the chicken wings in the smoker at a temperature of around 325ºF and smoke until they reach an internal temperature of 165ºF. When they’re done, you can toss them in a variety of sauces to wow your guests with different flavors!
Chicken thighs are a lot more tender than chicken breasts, making them a crowd favorite. Moreover, chicken thighs are typically less expensive than other types of meat!
Smoking chicken thighs gives them a mouthwatering flavor while maintaining the juicy and tender aspect of the meat.
Best Fish to Smoke
Smoked Salmon is a delicious and healthy fish option for any occasion, a true delicacy. Smoked Salmon takes about 2-4 hours to cook on a low and slow method. Our recipe for the best-smoked salmon involves slowly increasing the temperature throughout the cook until the internal temperature of the salmon has reached a temperature of 145°F.
You can serve it with capers, dill, and cream cheese or maple syrup or honey flavor dish.
Tips For Smoking Meat
Here are a few tips that will help you smoke meat just the way you like.
Low and Slow
Low and slow smoking is the key to achieving a wonderful meat dish. Smoking may test your patience, but remember that slow cooking time can help you attain juicy and tender meat. So, make sure that you set yourself up with enough time to smoke your meat to completion before your guests arrive.
Keep the Temperature Stable
Avoid lifting the lid frequently while preparing any smoked meat. As a beginner, you may have the urge to keep checking the condition of the dish to avoid any mistakes, but this step may drop the smoker’s internal temperature, which won’t benefit you.
It is imperative to keep the internal temperature of your grill stable so your meat cooks within the allocated time. Furthermore, it’s advised to use a meat thermometer to check and maintain the temperature of your meat, as mentioned in every recipe.
If you want to go a step further, the MEATER Plus is a 100% wireless meat thermometer that connects to your smartphone so you can check the temperature from anywhere in the house!
Remember, perfection comes with many years of experience and practice, so don’t get discouraged if your dish doesn’t turn out exactly as expected.
You likely won’t create the perfect lamb shoulder or prime rib on your first try. Just be sure it’s cooked all the way through and doesn’t burn, and you’ll be well on your way to being a grill master in no time.
Smoke enhances the flavor and taste of all smoked meats. Hence, it is vital to create a balance between fresh air and the amount of smoke.
For instance, if you experience too much black smoke while smoking beef ribs or any other meat, lift the lid so that your wood gets some oxygen. Moreover, use your vents to allow for a steady smouldering smoke.
To generate great smoke, you need to take ventilation quite seriously. For instance, keep the vents open and clean them regularly to remove any ash or residue. Make sure that the path between the source of the smoke and the meat is all clear.
We hope our thoughts on the best meat to smoke have helped you choose the best meat to smoke for your family and friends. There are many options available, so even if you want to prepare smoked ham or cook an entire bird, you need confidence and a perfect grip on the recipe to produce delicious results.
Smoked Meat FAQs
Are Pellet Smokers Easy To Use?
Yes, once you know what you’re doing, pellet smokers are relatively easy to use. First, fill the pellet hopper with the required amount of wood pellets. Then let the unit pre-heat before you can place your food in. That’s it. You don’t have to monitor the temperatures or airflow yourself as the built-in fans and computers do that job for you.
Is A Big Green Egg Worth It?
If you have the budget for one, then yes, a Big Green Egg is worth the investment. Built out of long-lasting material and providing a luxury grilling experience, the Big Green Egg is a luxury smoker that will last a lifetime.
Why Should I Stay Away From Cheap Meat Smokers?
It’s recommended to stay clear of cheap grills or smokers. Usually, cheap means cheap construction material. If your smoker is not made of solid material like heavy gauge steel, you risk losing heat due to leaks. If you have leaks in your smoker, maintaining steady temperatures will be next to impossible.
Can I Add Wood Chunks Or Wood Chips To My Charcoal Tray?
Yes, it’s recommended for a delicious wood smoke flavour. Once your coals reach an even, hot temperature, add a thin layer of wood pellets or a few wood chunks. The ignited charcoal will light the wood and start creating a fantastic smoke.
Can You Turn A Regular Charcoal Grill Into A Smoker?
Yes, you can, though it will not operate as smoothly as a real charcoal smoker. To create a smoker using your charcoal grill, build a heat source on one side of the grill and put the meat on the other side. Using this two-zone fire method, you’ll be able to cook your meat at a low and indirect temperature using mostly smoke!