The art of smoking meat can be traced as far back as the age of Neanderthals. That means this is something that humanity has had more than a hundred thousand years to perfect. So if cavemen could do it, so can you!
Like pretty much everything else, starting is the hardest part of smoking meat. Thankfully, I am here to bring you the 15 best meats to smoke for beginners such as yourself.
Some of the meat on this list might seem intimidating at first, but with a little bit of effort and a big can-do attitude, you’ll produce absolutely amazing results in no time.
Every product is independently reviewed and selected by our editors. If you buy something through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you.
15 Best Meat To Smoke For Beginners With Tips & Guide
Poultry, Beef, or even Sausage, whatever you want to dip your toes in, it is here. All you need to do is follow our simple tricks to get perfection every single time.
Don’t worry though, as, throughout the journey of smoking this 15 meat, you will gain valuable experience handling the grill that can be translated into creativity and a sense of adventure to venture into the unknown!
Starting off with the most widely available meat around the world. A whole chicken is one of the easiest meat to get right on a smoker.
Sure, there are other ways to cook a whole chicken to get the best crisp on the skin, but if you ever had a smoked whole chicken, you know that it is a different beast entirely.
You can use any grill/smoker with a bit of finesse and all you basically need is a good dry rub for the chicken. Choose whichever you want or you can even make your own.
For a 4 to 6 lbs whole chicken, you will need around 3 hours of smoking time.
Throughout the smoking process, you can put a pan filled with water/apple cider vinegar underneath the chicken to preserve its juiciness.
Just keep the smoker temperature around 225 degrees F and cook until your meat is at an internal temperature of 160 to 165 degrees F. For chicken the best type of wood to use will always be oak, apple, or cherry.
Is the dryness of the whole chicken breasts not doing it for you? Just cook the thighs then. These smaller pieces of only dark meat will be much easier to handle and the smoking will be done much quicker.
Much like whole chicken, you can either choose dry or wet brine and for around 2 lbs of thighs you will need 1.5 hours to a max of 2 hours of smoke time. Keep the smoker temp around 225 degrees F and cook until the internal temp is at 165 degrees F.
After they are done smoking, you can follow the optional step of quickly grilling the pieces on a super-hot skillet or grill so that the skin crispens up a bit.
Gameday wings anyone? Yes, making delicious and saucy wings on the smoker can be a great alternative to frying/baking them. For this preparation, you need to pick a really good dry rub as wet brining wings is not really the best way to go.
Use flats and drumettes both and the cooking time and temperature will be the exact same as the chicken thighs. However, unlike thighs where the grilling step was optional, it is pretty much a must here.
When you are done, coat them with a delicious wing sauce like buffalo, BBQ, or Korean, and watch the crowd go wild!
Chicken breast is usually a lot less juicy than the other darker parts of the bird. However, it is unanimously accepted as the healthier option. It is also done a lot quicker.
The trick here is cooking the breasts properly so that you get the maximum amount of juice. No one likes a dry piece of meat and wet brining is the easiest way to avoid dryness.
Prepare a brine with 4 cups of water and a 3 to 1 ratio of salt to sugar and brine the boneless breast pieces in the liquid overnight.
Alternatively, you can just use a dry rub and smoke it with a pan of apple cider vinegar right beneath the meat.
Whichever way you go, remember that it is always better to cook breasts not at a specific time but by reading the internal temperature of the thickest part of the meat.
Keep the smoker temp at 225 and use cherry, oak, or apple wood to smoke the breasts until they reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees F. You can rest the pieces covered then and serve with your choice of sauce or sides!
We mostly associate turkey with only Thanksgiving but a whole turkey can be an amazing center dish for when the family is over. You can even cook your holiday turkey in the smoker if you know what you are doing!
Now, obviously, a whole turkey will be quite a bit more difficult than cooking chicken but the basics are mostly the same. However, aside from your regular kitchen tools, you should add a meat injector to your arsenal.
Create a mixture of herbs, chicken stock, and butter and inject it into the thickest parts of the turkey using the injector. Then you can use your choice of dry rub. You can also add a little bit of baking powder to the rub so that the skin of the bird becomes a lot more crispy.
Do not overstuff the inside of your smoker as you will need quite a bit of empty space for the smoke to properly circulate.
Coming to the actual smoking process, you will want your smoker to be at least 2550 degrees F for a whole turkey. Hickory or Mesquite will be the best wood for this job and you need to smoke a medium to small-sized turkey for around 10 to 12 hours, or until the thickest parts of the meat reach an internal temp of 165 degrees F.
Enough with the birds. About time we put some delicious beef into the smoker. And if brisket seems like too big a step, why not start with the humble chuck roast? The size is a lot more manageable, and with some fine-tuning the taste can be pretty close too.
I recommend the low and slow method and for that, you will first need to weigh out your chuck. For every lb of your meat, it will need to spend around 2 hours inside your 225 degrees F smoker.
Note that a pellet smoker or offset smoker will be best suited for this task and the fuel should either be pecan, hickory, mesquite, oak, or peach.
Again, go for prime or select, and always start off by trimming the excess fat of. It is not that necessary for chuck but you should always consider it if your piece has a lot of fat.
For the most exquisite flavor, you will need to dry brine your chuck overnight. Use salt for this process and give it a good pat with a kitchen towel before using a dry rub of your choice.
When all that is said and done, you will need to prepare your smoker and smoke the whole chuck until the internal temperature is at 195 degrees F. This temp will give you brisket-like slices but if you want shredded meat, 205 degrees is what you are looking for.
Regardless of the temp, you must rest your meat in a cooler after smoking for at least 1-2 hours depending on the size so that the juices are sealed in. I know all of this is a lot of effort, but trust me, the end result is well worth it.
The rump roast is not the first thing you would think to put in a smoker. But once you do it, there is no going back. You will need a rump roast that is around 3 lbs in size with the fat cap intact. Do not go too big as it can become a bit tougher to cook.
First, you need to score the fat cap of your roast using a sharp knife. Create a crosshatch pattern so that the fat renders nicely. Use yellow mustard or simple olive oil as a binder and coat all sides of the roast using the dry rub of your choice.
Hickory will be the best wood for this cut and you need to heat the smoker at 225 degrees F. A 3lbs piece will need around 4 hours to cook with an additional hour for resting.
The internal temperature is essential here. If you like a medium rare doneness, 130-135 degrees is where you should stop. But if you want a more well-done piece, you can go all the way up to 160 degrees F.
I admit, brisket is the most difficult thing for a beginner to perfect as it usually requires years and years of patience and practice to get a perfect brisket off the smoker.
However, after you have tried all 14 of the above, I think you are ready to give the brisket a go.
Every family swears by their own brisket recipe so we are not going to delve much into exactly what ingredients to use. Instead, I will tell you how you get to cook it to perfection.
Always trim the brisket fat so that they are no more than ¼ inches thick and marinate/inject/season the meat 24 hours before cooking.
Set the smoker to 250 to 270 degrees F and use oak pellets for the best flavor. An average brisket will take around 10 hours to cook and you will want to cook around 4 of those hours with the brisket wrapped in foil.
Once the brisket reaches 200 degrees F internally, take the wrapper out and put glaze and smoke on for the rest of the cooking time. Let the meat rest once it is done and you will have a perfect juicy piece of brisket ready.
Smoking a steak is pretty much like sous vide-ing. But it will not be as easy as you can definitely over cook a steak in the smoker. However, as long as you try these following tips, you are sure to get good results.
Start with a 3-4 inch thick cut of steak, use a bit of beef concentrate or a neutral flavored oil as your binder and coat all the sides of the steak with your choice of seasoning/dry rub.
Again, oak or hickory will be your best bet for a beef steak. Set your smoker at 225 degrees F and let the steak cook until the internal temperature reaches 120 degrees F. It should not take more than 2 hours.
Once that is done, you will need to take it out and immediately give the edges a hot sear using a grill or a pan.
Cook the crust to your liking and then let the steak rest for a good 20-30 minutes. And you will have a medium rare steak that can match even the best restaurants!
Aside from briskets, ribs are probably the defacto thing you think of when it comes to smoking. Start off with big ribs as the smaller ones will not smoke as well. You will want prime ribs or standing rib roasts for this job.
Trim the bones and the fat caps properly or get your butcher to do it for you. The fat caps should not be thicker than ¼ inches on any surface of the meat. Use oil as a binder and cover the whole thing with your choice of dry rub.
Like all other beef recipes, use hickory as your fuel and set the smoker temp all the way at 225 degrees F. The ribs will require around 3 to 5 hours or until the internal temperature is up to 110 degrees F.
110 might seem a bit low but we are going to give the meat a nice sear on a 450 degrees F oven. This will create a perfect crust and the crust will keep all the juices inside given that you give the meat around 30 minutes to rest.
Spare ribs also come from pigs but they are a much fatty piece of meat than the baby back. They are also called St. Louis-style ribs can be very difficult to find in big super shops. But if you have a meat dealer and they carry it, give it a try.
Cooking them is a bit simpler as you can turn on your applewood run smoker and set it to 250 degrees and cook your seasoned ribs for anywhere between 4 to 6 hours.
Give them a 15-minute rest once the time is over and they will be ready to serve.
If you have never tried proper venison, this is your chance, light that smoker up and ask your butcher to deliver you some fresh venison. We will be using the tenderloin for this recipe.
The marinade is really important here. Venison has a gamey flavor with a lot of richness so you need a marinade that can cut through all that richness and bring you some nice fresh flavors.
Create the marinade using olive oil, lemon, lime, salt, pepper, garlic, and thyme. Put them all over your meat and marinate at least for 6 hours.
Once your meat is ready, fire up your smoker using walnut, oak, or hickory and cook the meat for 1.5 hours at 225 degrees until the internal temp reaches 135 degrees for the perfect medium rare venison tenderloin.
We have done chicken, beef, turkey, pork, and even venison. So why leave Lamb out? Lamb shoulder is another one of those cuts that are absolutely delicious and super easy to make.
Lambs usually have a thick fat cap and that is why you need to use a rub that is herb-forward. The more the merrier. Use the binding agent of your choice and coat all the surface with the rub properly.
Set your smoker up to 300 degrees F using apple wood and cook the lamb for around 4 hours until the internal temp reaches 200 degrees F. Take it out and rest for 30 minutes to get the perfect smoke rings and make thin slices to serve.
Time for some good old cured meat. Any kind of sausage can work well here but my favorites are bratwurst, chorizo, and italian. You do not need any additional seasoning just fire up the grill at 225 degrees F and smoke the sausages until the internal temp reaches 165 degrees F.
It should be done in 2 hours and you can serve them up between buns or just plain.
Whatever kind of meat you want to start your smoking journey with, you can never go wrong with these 15. Try a few or more of them to really get the hand of this art form called smoking and with practice you will be able to stand among the best pitmasters