So, you’ve got the smoker you’ve been eyeing for days, weeks, or months. You go through your refrigerator or freezer looking for the type of meat you want to smoke with your brand new smoker. Before you set your eyes on the meat you want, you might want to go through this article first.
Getting the perfect smoked meat is a three-part process. First, you need to get the smoker that fits your needs. Second, you need to know how to smoke meat. And third, and perhaps the most crucial part, you need to learn which types of meat are perfect for smoking. This last part is what we’re going to talk about.
It’s true with most smokers, and with the right temperature and cooking process, you can smoke just about any piece of meat. But there will always the best cuts of meat to smoke. In the next section, we’ll recommend you a good meats for smoking from poultry to pork and beef.
10 Recommended Meats to Smoke for Beginner to Expert
Before you decide on the perfect cuts of beef that you want to smoke, we’ve got a golden rule you need to follow. The best cuts of meat to smoke are the less than perfect pieces. Whether its poultry or pork or beef, find the tougher cuts. Do that, and you’re on your way to having that smoky flavor on your dinner table.
So without further ado here is the top 10 meats you should consider to smoke:
1. Whole Chicken
Our first recommendation is to smoke an entire chicken. It’s one of our most recommended meats to smoke for beginners for several reasons.
For one, it takes little time to smoke compared to pork and beef. For another, it requires no prep work beyond a bit of pepper and salt and whatever seasoning you may want.
Furthermore, a whole hen allows you to have smoked chicken breasts, which aren’t usually compatible with smoking.
If you combine this meat with an electric smoker, then you’re looking at a set it and forget it setup. And that’s why it’s perfect for beginners and people who may not have the time to keep monitoring their smoker. Regardless of your level of expertise, a whole chicken is always a good place to start.
2. Chicken Leg Quarters
Whereas chicken breasts aren’t meant for the smoker, chicken leg quarters are a different story.
As it is especially close to the bone, chicken quarters are perfect candidates for getting the perfect balance of smoky flavors and the natural chicken taste.
Of course, this recommendation isn’t without its disadvantages. While a whole chicken has enough moisture to keep itself from getting dry, smoked chicken leg quarters aren’t meant to have with its skin.
We recommend that you fill your water pan and add apple or maple wood chips to improve the taste of the chicken leg quarters further.
Also, you might want to go for the low and slow cooking process. This method will help in making sure that your meat is at least a little bit moist, and the flavor has the time to sink into it.
3. Whole Turkey
A whole turkey is our last recommendation for poultry smoking. The entire bird represents joyful holidays, like Thanksgiving and Christmas.
While it isn’t the easiest option for beginner smokers, making smoked turkey will give you a satisfying meal.
Compared to chicken meat, turkey is leaner and healthier. It’s also larger. So if you want to feed a large crowd with your equally large smoker, a whole turkey is the perfect candidate for smoking.
Like our recommendation for chicken leg quarters, you might want to cook a whole turkey low and slow. You have no other choice because the larger size of this meat means that it’s going to take time to cook it all the way through. You might also need a meat probe to measure the temperature inside the meat.
4. Pork Shoulder
Our fourth recommendation is a pork shoulder. This cut of meat is another one that’s good meat to smoke for beginners. There’s very little you can do to smoke it wrongly, and you’re good to go with just about any type of smoker.
One thing that makes pork shoulders perfect for smoking is the amount of fat and connective tissue it features.
With high-heat cooking, the fat melts and covers the entirety of the pork shoulder cuts. It helps in keeping your meat moist during smoking. As a result, you end up with endlessly juicy smoked pork meat that will have you craving for more.
You can also make sausages with pork shoulders. It’s versatile, easy to smoke, and addicting.
5. Pork Boston Butt
Pork Boston butt refers to the lower part of the pig’s shoulder — in contrast to our previous recommendation’s upper shoulder location.
Aside from being good meat to smoke, our main reason for recommending pork butts is that it is one of the cheapest cuts you can find.
Like pork shoulders, it also features a lot of fat and a lot of connective tissue. This composition makes pork butts some of the juiciest you can serve on your dinner table. Pulled pork and pork chops are only some of the things you can do with the hog’s Boston butt.
A final point we’d like to point out on pork butts is that it’s incredibly tender.
6. Pork Ribs
If you want to smoke a more traditional type of meat, then your best option is pork ribs. Even on this list, pork ribs stand at the top of the most popular and great for smoking.
When you think of BBQ, pork ribs may be the first thing that comes to your mind, and with good reason.
Ribs are pork cuts that feature exceptional juiciness and a ton of fat. By itself, pork ribs are already incredibly tender. As such, you may need a bit more experience before you start dealing with this type of meat. Smoked prime rib is one of the dishes you can make with pork ribs.
7. Beef Briskets
Moving on to the beef cuts, our first recommendation is beef briskets.
Like whole turkeys and pork ribs, smoking beef briskets requires some experience. These meat cuts are often tough and undesirable, which makes it a prime candidate for meat smoking thanks to the high heat that such a cooking process can achieve.
Smoked beef briskets boast tenderness once it comes out of your smoker. It also features a beautiful smoke ring that you cannot resist.
To help you get started on your goals to cook smoked beef briskets, we have a tip for you: the average smoking times for this type of meat takes somewhere around 12 hours.
It also requires 205 degrees Fahrenheit to 250 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the smoker and fuel source you’re using.
8. Beef Ribs
Compared to beef briskets, beef ribs are a bit harder to find but easier to cook.
Because it’s compatible with high and fast cooking at under six hours and a consistent 205 degrees Fahrenheit, the only thing you have to remember when smoking beef ribs is that it requires constant monitoring.
Raw beef ribs comprise of tough connective tissues and a ton of fat. And that’s why it’s great for smoking.
When done right, what you get is a juicy and tender dish that you won’t with any other cooking method other than smoking.
For its taste, you’ll only have to apply a bit of pepper and salt. The natural beef taste will do the rest.
9. Beef Tri Tips
Our last pick for the best beef cuts to smoke is beef tri-tips.
It functions as a part of the coveted sirloin. Compared to the meats on this list, this cut is already tender from the start. As a result, smoking gives you an intensely flavored beef steak.
Another benefit of this cut is that it requires fast cooking at under two hours. If you’re looking for something quick and easy to smoke for a crowd, then this is the most ideal for smoking.
Searing beef tri-tips on a pan improves its taste and gives it a bit of texture that your dinner party will enjoy to their bones.
If you manage to find these beef cuts, we recommend investing in it.
10. Lamb Leg
Though we said that we’d only be talking about poultry, pork, and beef cuts, we thought that lamb legs should have a spot on this list.
It features the benefit of enjoying fatty and juicy tenderness on something that isn’t served more often. Finding the perfect lamb leg cut is more challenging than lamb shoulders, but when you do get one, then you’re on your way to a dish that needs to be enjoyed more often.
A lamb’s legs require low and slow smoking.
It also needs constant rotating as the cuts are often uneven. Lamb legs rarely sit flush on cooking grates, so you’re going to have to be patient.
Other than that drawback, lamb legs are cuts that you should try.
From poultry to lamb meat cuts, you now see that you have a ton of options beyond the traditional sausages or steak. So, before you settle on whatever is in your fridge, we hope that you took the time to consider our most recommended.
Some meat types aren’t going to be easy to smoke. But if you do make a leap of faith, then we hope that you’re as excited as we are for you!
I spent most of my life fascinated by food, and the outdoors. I can’t think of a more fitting combo that leads to mastering the art of BBQ one day. I ended up decent enough to grill the perfect burger and choose the best equipment after years of improvement. I create this website for outdoor cooking enthusiasts, who are fueled by interest but lacking in help, feel educated when they leave because I see my past clueless self in them.