Pull out your smoker and your wood chips or pellets. It’s time to learn about the best meats to smoke.
I know this sport can get a little bit competitive, but for now, we’re taking it back to basics.
Let’s go through all of the best smoking options and what makes them so yummy.
From poultry and pork to beef and beyond, you can smoke practically anything.
You can even smoke fish and veggies, but that’s a whole different article.
Grab your spice rubs and favorite sauces because these are the best meats to smoke.
Best Meats for Smoking
1. Whole Chicken
Chicken is a lean meat with lots of versatility.
One of the easiest ways to smoke a whole chicken is to spatchcock it.
This is a method of butchering the bird to ensure that it cooks nicely and evenly.
Remove the spine and get the chicken to lay as flat as possible.
When smoking at low temperatures, the whole chicken will become juicy and tender.
Don’t forget to add lots of spices and seasonings. Think of chicken as a sort of blank canvas.
You can rub it with a flavor-packed spice combo or slather it in sauce.
Smoke a chicken between 300ºF and 450ºF.
2. Chicken Wings
Chicken wings are a great party food to smoke.
You can get the meat beautifully tender and the skin perfectly crisp.
Similar to a whole chicken, you can cover wings in a ton of spices and seasonings.
It’s up to you if you add sauce. I personally love saucy wings. The messier, the better!
When smoking chicken wings, it might be helpful to get a smoking rack or basket.
They’re small and can easily slip and fall through the smoker.
Whether you’re making spicy, sweet, or just flavor-packed wings, they’ll be a hit!
Smoke them at a low temp around 250ºF. Bump it way up to 450ºF at the end to crisp up the skin.
3. Turkey Legs
Craving this state-fair delicacy?
Make your own smoked turkey legs at home and you’ll be shocked at how good they are.
Turkey legs are a popular smoked meat despite turkey’s dry reputation.
If you do it right, you can get them super juicy, moist, and tender.
Brining the turkey legs prior to smoking is key. It will get them nice and salty and help them stay super moist.
Keep your smoker between 300ºF and 325ºF for the best results.
Make turkey legs instead of a whole turkey on Thanksgiving.
Add them to your summer barbeque menu, and they’ll be a crowd favorite.
4. Pork Butt
Pork butt, Boston butt, or pork shoulder is an excellent option for your smoking adventures.
This thick cut of pork comes from the shoulder area of the pig.
Despite its silly name, this is one seriously good piece of meat.
Pork butt has a fantastic ratio of lean meat to fat. It cooks up super moist and juicy. It makes incredible pulled pork.
Smoke this meat at a medium temperature, and it will fall off the bone. Shred it and add sauce if you desire.
Pulled pork is perfect for sandwiches, tacos, mac and cheese, and more!
5. Pork Ribs
Pork ribs are probably one of the most commonly smoked meats.
They’re easy to make and with a little bit of patience, will be irresistible.
Use a rub to infuse tons of flavor into the ribs. The more seasoning, the better.
Since ribs are cooked super low and slow, all of those flavors will basically melt into the meat.
You can also make a brown sugar butter to slather onto the ribs.
The natural saltiness of the pork will balance the sugar and the flavor will be unreal.
You’ll need about 4 to 5 hours to smoke ribs and the temp should be around 225ºF. Trust me, it’s worth the wait.
6. Beef Brisket
Beef brisket is a popular cut of meat that comes from the lower chest area of the cow.
It’s one of the most delicious barbeque items.
Brisket is one of the best meats to smoke because it always turns out so well.
It gets a beautiful smoke ring and the middle is incredibly tender. Plus, it is super flavorful.
Beef brisket is also easy to slice thanks to the shape of the meat.
It’s ideal for a big steak dinner or a mouth-watering steak sandwich.
Smoke brisket at a low temperature for a long time. You’ll end up with perfectly smoky, flavorful, and delicious beef.
7. Whole Turkey
Whole turkey is always the staple meal during the holidays.
Make it in the smoker this time and you’re sure to impress the whole family.
Be warned, once you start smoking turkeys, you’ll never go back to roasting.
You can smoke whole turkeys quickly in just a few hours, or low and slow. It depends on how much time you really have.
Either way, it’s going to be the best turkey you’ve ever had. For even cooking, try spatchcocking the bird just like a chicken.
Try using brines, rubs, and sauces to enhance the flavor even more.
Say goodbye to boring, dry turkey and hello perfect poultry.
8. Beef Ribs
Although they aren’t as common as pork, beef ribs are an excellent smoking choice.
Beef ribs can get pretty large in size and have a ton of meat on them.
They’re perfect for your next backyard barbeque and everybody will love them.
Smoke beef ribs at a pretty low temperature. Let them cook for about six hours.
They may take a long time, but the fall-off-the-bone tenderness is worth it.
By the time they’re done, your beef ribs will have the most delectable outer smoke ring.
Plus, they’re easy to eat and you won’t mind getting messy for them.
9. Lamb Shoulder
While beef and pork are the most common meats for smoking, don’t forget about lamb.
Lamb has so much potential and can make a fantastic meal.
During the early spring, especially on St. Patrick’s day and Easter, the popularity of lamb rises.
Smoke up some tender lamb for your next spring celebration.
Lamb has a wonderfully rich flavor that is best achieved when it’s smoked.
Cook it at a low temperature so that the fats have enough time to really break down.
Pack on tons of spices to bring out all of the natural flavors.
Serve it sliced with your favorite side dishes and you’re in for one tasty meal.
10. Pork Shoulder
Pork shoulder is a spectacular barbeque option.
It’s tender, has tons of flesh, and has a higher fat content.
Fat equals flavor when it comes to smoking so don’t hesitate. This is one high-quality meat!
When it’s seasoned well, pork should really have tons of barbeque flavor. It is easy to love and never bland.
As with most cuts of meat, smoke it low and slow. A great temperature for pork shoulder is around 225ºF.
11. Chuck Roast
Chuck roast comes from the shoulder area of the cow.
If you cook it properly, it can be a budget-friendly meal with lots of rewards.
Chuck roast is a tough cut of meat by nature.
This means you should give it lots of time for all of the connective tissues to break down. Keep it at a steady medium-low temp for about six hours.
You can serve chuck roast in many ways but one of my favorites is shredded beef.
Tri-tip is another super popular cut of meat. It’s great for smoking and doesn’t take as long to cook as other cuts.
Tri-tip gets its name from the shape of the cut. It’s a triangular cut of meat that comes from the back of the cow.
It’s also a pretty large cut of meat, so it’s great for feeding a crowd.
Tri-tip generally takes about 2 hours to cook and is an ideal cut for smoker newbies.
Looking to get an impressive meal onto a barbeque lovers plate? Tri-tip should be your go-to.
13. Chicken Thighs
Chicken thighs are a fantastic budget-friendly option for barbeque crowds.
You can’t go wrong with chicken and this dark meat option is sure to please.
Use skin-on or skinless and season them any way you like.
From sweet to spicy, the options are endless. You can even cover them in tangy lemon pepper.
Throw these tender chicken thighs on your smoker at 225ºF. The result is juicy chicken that everybody will crave.
Beginner Tips for Smoking
- Experiment with different wood chips or pellets. They come in different woods that will produce a different smoke flavor.
- Low and slow will usually create the most tender meat. Take your time.
- Don’t add too much wood. Too much smoke will create a bitter flavor.
- White smoke is good but black smoke means poor ventilation or something’s burning.
- To keep your food from drying out, mist the meat with apple cider vinegar and water.
- All in all, try not to peek! You want to smoke the meat so let it smoke and don’t open the lid too much!
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