Best Meat to Smoke

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Knowing the best meat to smoke is a backyard tradition that many families go through seasonally, primarily if you have recently invested in a smoker instead of a regular barbecue.

With the emergence of the grilling season, you’re going to try something a little different and more flavorful, such as smoking your favorite meats.

Whether you are an experienced cook or just someone who recently invested in a smoker, this guide will help you choose the best meats for smoking.

Is Smoked Meat Bad for You?

When you try smoked meat for the first time, you might be questioning whether something that tastes that good can also be healthy.

There is one main concern to have with smoking meat, especially if you like to use massive amounts of smoke to create a more intense flavor than what you would achieve with grilling.

Carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are the most massive problem with smoked meat, as it can cause heart disease and cancer.

A study published in the Bibliotheca Nutritio et Dieta noted that frequent intake of smoked foods in the Slovenian population was attributed to higher intestinal cancer rates.

With that said, these individuals likely consumed smoked meats daily, whether from home-smoked products, items from handicraft shops, or industrially smoked meats.

As long as you allow your smoked meat to be a once-in-a-while treat, you are highly unlikely to experience any adverse health effects.

Best Meat to Smoke for Beginners

Although there are plenty of different types of meat that you can put in your smoker, there are three that are the best to choose from.

1. Beef

Beef is a phenomenal option for beginners and experienced backyard chefs who want to bring a savory dish to the table that is relatively easy to manage and sure to impress guests.

By far, it’s the most popular type of meat to smoke because it has a high concentration of fat, which helps the meat to maintain its moisture even when smoked for hours.

Another advantage of beef is that you have full control over the type of cook that you want to achieve.

This is because it is one of the more forgiving ingredients in terms of whether you prefer it well-done or rare.

You’ll love how willingly beef will absorb the flavor of the wood chips you have chosen, as well, and this can help to complement the meaty flavors that are naturally present in the ingredients.

Also, you’ll love to work with several different cuts of beef, which we will talk about further below.

2. Pork

When it comes to ribs and other cuts of pork, you’ll find that, similarly to beef, the meat pairs perfectly with an assortment of wood types, allowing you to create a more customized meal.

Pork also has a reasonable amount of fat, which helps to retain moisture and makes it relatively impossible to ruin, even if you leave it in the smoker for longer than you had intended.

If you’re on a budget, pork can be a better alternative, especially since some cuts, such as ordinary pork ribs, are far more affordable than some of the more expensive cuts of beef.

3. Poultry

Chicken, hens, and turkey are three types of poultry that can be interesting to pair with your smoker.

They are a phenomenal option for beginners, as well, allowing you to get a better grip on how your smoker works.

Our recommendation is to opt for a whole bird instead of individual cuts, as it will make it much easier to retain the moisture without allowing the meat to dry out.

Preparation for these meats is also incredibly efficient; all you need to do is remove the neck and gizzards while applying your desired seasoning.

When it comes to poultry, the meat has a relatively mild flavor, which can allow you to experiment with different types of wood to learn the flavors they each provide.

You will also find that dark meat will lock in flavors better than white meat.

4. Lamb

If cost isn’t an issue, working with lamb in your smoker can be an exciting venture, mostly if you prefer meats with a more gamey texture.

Like pork and beef, lamb is known for its high-fat content and incredibly soft texture that quickly melts in your mouth if it is appropriately smoked.

However, due to its costly nature, it’s not the best option for beginners.

You will also need to have a firm grasp on cooking meats at low temperatures for long periods to get the best result.

Also, you’ll find that it’s a little more challenging to cook thoroughly, as you might find one end could be overcooked while the other is undercooked.

best meat to smoke

Best Cuts of Beef to Smoke

Considering beef is the most popular option for smoking, let’s get into the three top-tier cuts that you can find from your local grocer to work with.

1. Brisket

There’s nothing like smoked brisket, especially if you want to take advantage of traditional smoked meat that is sure to appease everyone’s appetites.

Not only is beef brisket affordable, but it’s also easy to work with as a beginner and simple to perfect as an experienced chef.

The main thing that makes brisket so much fun to smoke is its high-fat content, which helps the meat stay moist and essentially self-baste throughout the process.

You’ll find that after smoking your first brisket, it retains the wood’s flavor perfectly without being too overpowering, as long as you don’t add too much wood to the smoker.

Also, smoked brisket achieves the perfect texture that can be enjoyed on its own or in sandwiches.

Not to mention, you’ll have access to a beautiful smoke ring while working with it.

2. Ribs

You’ll find that ribs are also an incredibly popular option when searching for a cut of meat that is beginner-friendly, affordable, and delicious.

Beef ribs aren’t as famous as pork, but they can work to your favor similarly to brisket, especially as they have a relatively high-fat content and stay moist while being smoked for hours.

As long as you remove the membrane from the meat and choose an exceptional blend of herbs and spices for your rub, you can create a go-to meal for any time you want to cook in your backyard.

Another advantage of using ribs for smoking is you can opt for more affordable or expensive cuts, depending on your budget.

They are a meal that feels luxurious and delicious when eaten but can also be quite affordable compared to other cuts of beef, such as a prime rib.

3. Prime Rib

The creme de la creme of smoking can be achieved with prime rib, although the cost of this cut alone makes it a better choice for experienced smokers.

It features a luxurious flavor and lavish texture that you aren’t likely to achieve with brisket or ribs, but its price can make it hard to choose.

Also, you’ll find that prime rib can lose its juiciness far too quickly if it is smoked at an incorrect temperature.

Hence, you’ll want to make sure you are comfortable with your smoker before considering it as your top choice.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the best meat to smoke?

By far, beef is the best meat for smoking because it is beginner-friendly, easily accessible, and specific cuts are incredibly affordable compared to other types of meats.

For example, opting for brisket is a cost-effective and delectable choice that everyone in your family will love to get their hands on.

2. What are the best cuts of meat to smoke?

Brisket is the most popular and arguably the clearest cut of meat to smoke.

However, there are plenty of other options that are fantastic for a variety of occasions.

Chicken quarters are an excellent poultry option as they are made of dark meat, and the high-fat content will keep them moist and juicy.

If you are searching for a good cut of pork apart from ribs, we recommend pork shoulder or Boston butt, as both are highly forgiving and will self-baste over time.

3. What meat can you smoke in four hours?

Unless you have an entire day dedicated to smoking, you’ll likely want to find meat that can be cooked perfectly in a limited amount of time, such as four hours or less.

With this chart’s help, you can get a good idea of how much meat you can cook in under four hours so that you won’t have to spend as much time tending to your smoker.

Type of MeatSmoking Temperature (°F)Time
Brisket (Sliced and Pulled)2251.5 hours/pound
Pork Butt (Sliced and Pulled)2251.5 hours/pound
Whole Chicken2254 hours
Chicken Quarters2503 hours
Turkey Leg2504 hours
Chicken Thighs2501.5 hours

Final Thoughts

There are several types of meat that are phenomenal to smoke, each with great flavors and textures to help you make the most of your new smoker.

The next time you browse your local grocer, consider trying a different cut of meat to experiment with when using your smoker.

Doing so could help you to find a new recipe that you might fall in love with.

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