The Best Meats to Smoke: From Beginner to Expert

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The rising popularity of BBQ has caused formerly inexpensive cuts of meat to skyrocket in price, but there are plenty of reasonable and excellent alternatives available if you know what to look for.

Indeed, you can now purchase a particular cut from a range of online meat delivery services without ever leaving your home.

The finest meats to smoke are usually the less expensive, fatty, and less desirable portions of meat. These are often inexpensive and provide excellent alternatives to more costly products without sacrificing taste.

With our printable hours and temperatures chart, you can learn the optimal temperatures to smoke each of these meats.

19 of our favorite cuts of meat to smoke (in no particular order)

The Best Meats to Smoke: From Beginner to Expert

Check out our top list of the greatest meats to smoke at home, whether you’re new to smoking or a seasoned veteran searching for new challenges.

If you’re looking for recipes, check out our page on the top smoker recipes.

1. Beef Brisket

Brisket is a beef cut from the animal’s lower chest. It’s an excellent option for your smoker since it’s a huge cut that demands gradual cooking.

Brisket, unlike many other beef cuts, keeps its form when cooked and can be readily sliced, making it an excellent option for dishing up large slabs with great slaw or as thinly sliced cold meat for sandwiches.

Although very popular, delicious smoked brisket may be infamously difficult for novices to master. Check out our guide to the finest wood for smoking brisket and our smoking periods and temperatures chart to ensure you get the most out of your meat.

  • Hot and Fast BBQ Brisket
  • BBQ Brisket Burnt Ends
  • Texas Style Beef Brisket

2. Pork Butt

Butt is a flavorful cut of pork that is ideal for smoking in your smoker.

Pork butt comes from the pig’s upper shoulder, which is densely packed with hard-working muscles and tight connective tissue. This meat is ideal for smoking because the thick tissues progressively degrade over time, resulting in exquisitely delicate, melt-in-your-mouth flesh!

Keep in mind that smoking pig butt takes around 1.5 hours per pound, so this is really a weekend feast.

Pork butt recipes:

  • Easy BBQ Pulled Pork
  • Smoking Your First Pork Butt: Easy Pulled Pork

3. Pork Shoulder

Pork shoulder is derived, as one would imagine, from the lower shoulder section of the pig, directly below the butt.

While hog butt and pork shoulder are distinct, the two are sometimes referred to as the shoulder, which may lead to misunderstanding, so be careful to clarify with your butcher before buying. Because the shoulder is often considerably smaller than the butt, you will need to cut down on your smoking time.

hog shoulder includes the same amount of muscle and connective tissue as hog butt, making it ideal for smoking and making wonderful pulled pork.

Pork shoulder recipes:

  • Smoked Pork Shoulder
  • Smoking a Pork Shoulder the Right Way

4. Baby Back Ribs

Baby back ribs are one of the most popular rib cuts and originate from the area near to the pig’s backbone. They’re smaller and meatier than spare ribs, but they’re just as good for smoking.

Just keep in mind that since they are leaner, they cook quicker. If you use them in a spare rib dish, lower the cooking time and keep a closer check on them to avoid harsh and chewy outcomes.

Baby back rib recipes:

  • BBQ Ribbs the Johnny Trigg Way
  • Smoked Pork Baby Back Ribs

5. Spare Ribs

Spare ribs are sourced from the pig’s belly. The difference between spare ribs and baby back ribs is that spare ribs are bigger and more flavorful, but not as meaty as baby back ribs.

If you get a complete slab, you’ll receive a lot of cartilage, which makes them great for slow cooking techniques like smoking.

You may also cut and remove the cartilage to produce St Louis style ribs, which are simpler to handle if you’re new to smoking.

Spare rib recipes:

  • How to Make Smoked Pork Ribs the 3-2-1 Way
  • Best Smoked Pork Ribs

6. Beef Ribs

Beef ribs, sometimes known as brisket on a stick, might be difficult to get, but they are definitely worth making a special trip to your butcher.

It’s preferable to buy huge chuck or plate ribs with a good inch or two of meat on them from the bottom end.

For particularly soft, melt-in-your-mouth meat, beef ribs need a long, slow smoke, generally between five and six hours.

Beef rib recipes:

  • Smoked Beef Short Ribs
  • Korean BBQ Beef Short Ribs

7. Lamb Shoulder

Although beef and pig are the most often smoked meats, lamb is also a wonderful alternative.

The smokey undertones enhance the rich flavor of the lamb, giving in an added layer of flavor that roasting cannot accomplish.

Lamb shoulder, like chuck roast or pig butt, is thick and filled with connective tissue since it originates from the hard-working muscles in the shoulder region.

This makes it great for slow smoking since the connective tissue progressively breaks down, resulting in particularly soft, luscious results.

Lamb shoulder recipes:

  • Smoked Lamb Shoulder
  • Smoked Lamb Barbacoa Tacos Recipe

8. Lamb Leg

The leg is another piece of lamb that smokes wonderfully.

Lamb legs are usually sold in two cuts: a smaller shank end and a fattier upper sirloin end. The fatty sirloin end is preferred for smoking because it allows the fat to gently melt away as it smokes, resulting in extremely soft meat.

Expect a smoking duration of three to four hours when smoking lamb leg.

Lamb leg recipes:

  • Smoked Leg of Lamb With All The Trimmings
  • Turkish-Marinated Smoked Lamb Leg

9. Spatchcock Whole Turkey

bird is a wonderful option of lean meat, and the complete spatchcock bird, with its flattened cooking surface, is a good candidate for your smoker.

Spatchcocking allows for shorter cook times and increased absorption of smokey flavor. Check out our best ideas for smoking a whole turkey in only a few hours for a fast and simple family supper.

Turkey recipes:

  • Spatchcocked Smoked Turkey with Pan Stuffing
  • Juicy Smoked Turkey

10. Spatchcock Chicken

Spatchcocked whole chicken, like spatchcocked turkey, produces excellent results when cooked on your smoker.

Ignore any recommendation to smoke chicken at lower temperatures since this results in rubbery skin.

Anything over 300F will suffice. Because the higher cooking temperature, paired with the spatchcock technique, results in a shorter cook time (11.5 hours), this is an excellent recipe for breaking in a new smoker.

Chicken recipes:

  • Smoked Spatchcock Chicken with Smokey BBQ Sauce
  • Easy Smoked Spatchcock Chicken

11. Beef Cheek

Beef cheek is derived from the cow’s cheek muscles. Because they are grazing animals, these muscles put in a lot of effort throughout their lives. This implies that beef cheek is a low-cost, tough cut that is perfect for slow cooking.

Beef cheek is a superb lean meat that comes out incredibly soft when smoked and is perfect for pulled beef tacos. Make it your top priority for this weekend if you haven’t already!

For the greatest effects, allow five hours of smoking time.

Beef check recipes:

  • Smoked Beef Cheeks (Barbacoa) Tacos
  • Smoked Beef Cheeks
  • Pulled Smoked Beef Cheeks

12. Chuck Roast

Chuck roast is a beef cut from the shoulder region. It has a lot of taste, but since it’s a popular muscle, it may also be rather rough.

Chuck roast, like other shoulder cuts we’ve examined so far, has a high degree of connective tissue, making it a good cut for smoking. This long and low cooking procedure slowly breaks down the connective fibers, tenderizing this sometimes tough, inexpensive cut.

Allow five to six hours smoking time.

Chuck roast recipes:

  • Step-by-Step Smoked Chuck Roast
  • Poor Mans Burnt Ends

13. Chicken Breast

Chicken breasts dry out readily when cooked, but with a little additional attention, they may be properly smoked. The taste is certainly worth the additional work if you get it correctly.

Brining your breast meat can assist to keep it juicy and tender. You may also add a smoked chicken rub for extra taste, but keep an eye on the temperature during the smoking process.

Chicken breast recipes:

  • Easy Smoked Chicken Breast
  • Smoked Chicken Breast

14. Chicken Thigh

When it comes to smoking, chicken thighs are typically disregarded since they are fatter and more flavorful than breast meat. They do, however, taste absolutely exquisite when smoked, so the next time you want to fire up your smoker, throw a couple on and find out for yourself!

For added moisture retention, we suggest smoking with your skin on.

Chicken thigh recipes:

  • Smoked and Fried Buttermilk Chicken Thighs
  • Nashville hot chicken sandwich

15. Turkey Breast

Smoked turkey breast is wonderful. In fact, smoking is an excellent technique to add flavor to otherwise bland meat.

Because turkey breast tends to dry out, it’s preferable to use a flavored brine or injection procedure before cooking. This guarantees that the meat keeps enough moisture to provide soft, delicate, flavorful outcomes.

Count three to four hours smoking time.

Turkey beast recipes:

  • Cranberry and Port Glazed Smoked Turkey Breast
  • Smoked Turkey Breast with Apple Cider

16. Beef Prime Rib

Uncertain about the distinction between prime rib and ribeye? The prime rib is a more costly cut that comes from the animal’s forequarter.

This cut includes meat from the sixth to twelfth ribs, which is about the region between the chuck and the loin. Smoking is a fantastic technique to add more flavor and assure a gently delectable roast in roughly six hours when pan-seared and roasted.

Prime rib recipes:

  • Perfect Smoked Prime Rib

17. Sausage

Smoking store-bought sausages is a fast and easy method to add a unique smokey flavor to your everyday meals. Depending on your recipe and personal tastes, you may use a variety of sausages, such as bratwurst, Italian sausages, or chorizo.

You’ll need to keep an eye on your smoking sausages and allow them plenty of time to cool down afterwards. Check our Smoking Sausages Recipe and tutorial, which is linked below, for a complete step-by-step tutorial.

Smoked sausage recipes:

  • How To Make Smoked Hotdogs
  • Smoked Irish Bangers with Mash
  • Smoking Store-Bought Sausages

18. Pork Belly

Pork belly, as you would assume, originates from the animal’s lower abdomen.

When cooked properly, pork belly is incredibly soft. It has a lot of fat and marbling, making it an excellent smoking cut.

One of the most common methods of smoking pork belly is to cut it into tiny cubes (burnt ends) and smoke it for around three hours.

If you’re not sure where to get the greatest pork belly, read our guide.

Pork belly recipes:

  • Pork Belly Burnt Ends Recipe
  • Rotisserie Porchetta Style Pork Belly

19. Tri-Tip

Tri-tip is a popular smoking cut that is quickly gaining popularity.

It is derived from the bottom section of the sirloin, or the animal’s back, and is readily identified by its triangular form. When trimmed, the normal tri-tip will weigh roughly two or three pounds, but untrimmed versions will weigh significantly more owing to their enormous fat caps.

Tri-tips, being a very lean cut, don’t take long to smoke, making them an excellent alternative to the conventional day-long brisket smoking marathon. Simply ensure that yours has lots of marbling running through it for tender results.

With a smoking duration of around two hours, smoked tri-tip makes a terrific summer evening dinner, even on a work night.

Tri-tip recipes:

  • Tri-Tip: Slow Smoked and Reverse Seared
  • Easy Smoked Tri Tip Recipe

Don’t waste these cuts on the smoker

The Best Meats to Smoke: From Beginner to Expert

To get the most out of your smoker and your meat, avoid using pricey, lean cuts. Because these slices lack the requisite connective tissue and fat, they soon become dry and overdone when smoked, leaving everyone disappointed.

Here are some examples of foods that should never be smoked:

  • Lean roasts
  • Individual thinly cut steaks

Wrapping it up

Smoking is an excellent technique to tenderize and flavor your meat. This lengthy, slow cooking procedure converts inexpensive, rough steaks into delicate, delectable dinners.

We hope our extensive selection of the greatest smoked meats has inspired you to go on your culinary adventure. If you have any questions or recipe recommendations, please post them in the comments section below and we will get back to you as soon as possible.


What is the best meat to smoke for beginners?

What are the finest meats to smoke as a beginner?
Butt (pulled pork) from Boston If you’re new to meat smoking, we suggest beginning with this.
Chicken, whole.
Brisket of beef.
Ribs de porc.
Shank of lamb.
Cheeks of beef.
Steak Tomahawk.
We’re all about going slow and low.

What is the tastiest meat to smoke?

Fatty portions of meat, such as beef brisket, pig shoulder, and ribs, are ideal for smoking. Although smoking may cause certain meats to dry out, the substantial fat content of brisket and pork shoulder helps keep them moist, tender, and flavorful.

What is the best meat to smoke for a group?

Brisket that has been smoked

One 6- to 8-pound beef brisket serves 24 people and is the ultimate crowd pleaser.

What is the best thing to start smoking?

Pork Shoulder. Rib Roast on a Stand.
Pork ButtBest Meats to Smoke for Beginners
Chicken, whole. A whole chicken is one of the easiest meats to smoke for beginners.
Chicken Thighs. Finish smoked chicken thighs on a grill.
Chicken Wings. Smoked chicken wings.
Smoked Turkey.
Baby Back Ribs.
Spare Ribs.
Prime Rib

What are the top 3 meats to smoke?

The American barbecue trio of ribs, hog shoulder, and brisket is the sweet spot for meat options. These meats are the ideal place to start, however entire chickens may also be beneficial for novices. Continue reading to learn about the finest cuts of meat, cooking techniques, and advice for getting the most of your smoker.

What is the best meat to smoke in 6 hours?

Roast Pork

This is another excellent option for slow smoking because to its excellent marbling. It has the benefit of smoking in significantly less time than a bigger brisket since it is smaller. Instead of taking over 10 hours to cook, a nice chuck roast may be smoked in 5 – 6 hours.

What is the hardest food to smoke?

What is the most difficult meat to smoke? Brisket is the smoking’s holy grail. From competitive chefs to committed pit masters and barbecue fans, everyone agrees that beef brisket is the most difficult meat to perfect.

What is the quickest meat to smoke?

The best meats to smoke for a novice are simple, fast, and easy-to-cook meals like beef ribs, pork chops, turkey, duck, and salmon. This will provide you with a firm basis for smoking meals before progressing to more rich and savory meats such as brisket, lamb, hog butt, and tri-tip.

Is smoking meat bad for you?

Smoked, processed, and red meats have been linked to an increased risk of a number of health issues, including stroke. Cardiovascular illness. Diabetes type II.

What is the best meat to smoke on a pellet grill?

Smoking pork tenderloin, entire chicken, hog butt, baby back ribs, beef brisket, prime rib, pork chops, and even dips & cheese is easy with a wood pellet barbecue! A smoker is an excellent method to cook for a large group at a special event or backyard BBQ.

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