Best Meats to Smoke Guide

Best Meats to Smoke – A Short Guide

Many BBQ enthusiasts ask about the best meats to smoke. 

Ultimately the best meats for smoking will depend on how many people you are cooking for, your own knowledge and experience,  as well as how much cooking and prep time you are willing to commit to the smoke.

Not to mention the most painful consideration – the best meats to smoke for your wallet! Buying a lot of meat to smoke can be expensive.

In this guide we have broken down the best meats to smoke into a number of different contexts and budgets to help you find what will work for you.

Selecting the Best Meats to Smoke

We always recommend getting meat from a local butcher because you have more control over the quality of the meat.

The Best Meats to Smoke Are Found at Local Butchers

Butchers tend to get their meat from local farms where the animals have led happy lives, and haven’t been plugged full of antibiotics – or worse still steroids.

You can talk to your butcher about where the meat has been sourced from, how fresh it is, what kind of life the animal had, in order to discover whether your meat is high quality or not.

It is much more difficult to be sure about the quality of the meat you buy from a supermarket.

Supermarkets tend to source cheaper cuts of meat to maximise profit. This meat may come from a different country, and have been frozen during the journey to reach your local supermarket. 

Another great reason to buy from your butcher is that you can get your butcher to trim off excess fat and tailor the meat cut specifically to your needs.

For example, you could ask for your rack of lamb to be French trimmed for you, or ask your butcher to remove the membrane from a rack of ribs.

Your butcher can really help you save on time!

You can also have meat ground in front of you to ensure it is fresh. If you want fresh ground beef for burgers you can serve it medium rare, whereas it would not be safe to treat ground beef from a packet in this way. You don’t know how long ago it was ground/minced.

Another reason why your butcher will provide you with the best meats for smoking is that there is just much more variety in the cuts available. 

Butchers use the whole animal, whereas supermarket meat is cut and packaged for speed, ease and maximum profit. 

If you want a more specialised or seasonal cut of meat, say Tomahawk Steak, venison, wild boar your butcher can advise you on availability. You should be able to order some more unique meats to smoke in especially. Now that’s good service!

Although you will obviously get cheaper cuts of meat at the supermarket overall, your butcher can also advise you on how to save money on specific cuts of meat, ideas about saving money on meat generally, and often give you useful tips for preparing those meats.

You might be surprised at how affordable your local butcher is, especially if you are buying a lot of meat to smoke at once.

It’s also just great to support local farmers, small businesses and not just keep filling the pockets of corporate giants.

These are just some of the reasons why we recommend your local butcher when selecting the best meats to smoke!

The Best Meats to Smoke For Beginners

If you are new to smoking it’s a good idea to get used to how your smoker works. A great way to do this is to start off with shorter smokes with smaller cuts of meat such as chicken wings, thighs or breast.

Small pieces of beef or chicken meat on skewers (shish kebab style) are also a short, fun smoke for beginners. 

https://bbqsmokergrill.org/grilled-chicken-kabobs/

White fish such as cod or seabass only takes around an hour to smoke at 225°F, so also worth considering. A big fish like salmon takes a lot longer of course.

If you are super keen to smoke larger cuts of meat as a beginner, we would definitely recommend pork butt (pork shoulder) for pulled pork.

Not only will your guests love you for it, but it’s pretty hard to make a mess of pork butt while smoking. It tends to be pretty forgiving and straightforward. 

Bear in mind that it is a long smoke – an 8 pound pork butt can take around 16 hours at 225°F, 2 hours of cooking time per pound of pork.

You’ll also need to wrap your pork shoulder in foil or butcher’s paper around halfway through to avoid the stall – a long period of time where the internal temperature of the meat plateaus and stops increasing. 

For more information try our pulled pork internal temp guide.

Or our pulled pork in the smoker recipe for full instructions. 

It’s also cheap and pretty straightforward to smoke a whole chicken. The whole process will take around 4 hours at 225°F.

The Best 2 Hour Smoking Recipes

Although you always need to aim for the correct internal temperature when smoking meat not overall timings, people understandably like to know how long roughly it will take to smoke their meat.

If you want short smokes of 2 hours or less try smoking chicken wings, smoked chicken thighs, individual steaks like ribeye, pork chops, smoked turkey breast, or pork loin.

All of these meats can be smoked in 2 hours or less. 

The Best Inexpensive Meats to Smoke

A lot of people think of buying large, fatty, tough and cheap cuts of meat to smoke as being the best and least expensive approach to barbecue. 

This is why beef brisket, pork shoulder and ribs are often the top choices for smoking.

Individual steaks such as ribeye are more expensive, take less time and are best for grilling. 

It takes a long time to render down the fat and connective tissue in a cut like brisket or pork shoulder, but these large and relatively inexpensive cuts end up moister and juicier because there are so fatty and tough. 

Not everyone can be bothered with the hassle of smoking meats for that long, so these cuts are some of the best and cheapest meats for smoking.

That being said, a whole chicken is one of cheapest meats to smoke – you get a small to medium bird in the UK for as little as £3.00 (2.22 per kg).

In the US whole chickens are cheaper than the UK with the average price per pound being $1.70 according to a recent USDA report.

https://www.ams.usda.gov/mnreports/pywretailchicken.pdf

Overall it’s actually less expensive to buy a whole chicken than individual cuts such as breast or thighs. 

Spare ribs are also a cheap option – they are larger and fattier than the more expensive, leaner and popular Baby Back Ribs for smoking or cooking.

Best Meats to Smoke for Keto

If you are doing the Keto diet smoking meat will definitely add to the flavour of your food. It can be a real challenge to move past bland meat and vegetables.

It’s a diet we fully endorse and appreciate for weight loss and longterm health, but smoking your meat to infuse the wonderful flavours of wood (e.g. hickory or cherry & apple wood) and charcoal will simply cause explosions in the taste of your meat, taking it to another level. 

Vegetables such as garlic, onions and peppers are amazing to smoke – they result in a gooey, smoky, flavourful taste you will want to repeat time and time again. 

Adding smoked garlic to mayo is a keto friendly game changer as well. The same is true of smoky, melted onions in the smoker which you can add to dips, sauces and mayo.

Consider adding various different vegetables to your smoker for fantastic, tasty Keto recipes. It’s well worth smoking aubergine/eggplant, courgette/zucchini, tomatoes and many more vegetables to add that lovely smoked flavour.

Some dry rubs for smoked meats contain sugar (especially brown sugar) which is best avoided on a keto diet. Substitute these sugars with Xylitol, Stevia, Monk Fruit Sweetener or Yacon syrup.  

Best Beef for Smoking

If you ask most BBQers what the best cut of beef for smoking is, the answer will most likely be BBQ beef brisket. Brisket is perfect for cooking low and slow because it is a tough and fatty cut.

The fat cap slowly breaks down and acts like an inbuilt guarantee of juicy meat. The crispy bark on the outside of the brisket seals in flavour and moisture but also adds to the flavour and texture.

That being said, it isn’t the only beef cut you should consider smoking. Beef short ribs are well worth smoking to that lovely, melty fall off the bone texture.

Beef cheeks are also a fantastic option for smoking slow and low at 225°F. They’re also very cheap to buy.

Best Sausage Meat to Smoke

What could be better than smoked Bratwurst sausage served in a crusty roll with mustard, ketchup and fried onions?

Bratwurst sausages are perfect for smoking – they don’t take long and they happen to be very easy on the wallet.

They’re also very straightforward to make from scratch using a sausage making machine and hog casing.

Most Impressive Meat to Smoke – Tomahawk Steak

If you really want to show off and add a spectacle to your smoke you could try smoking Tomahawk steak. Named after the Tomahawk axe because of its shape and size, this is a large ribeye cut with the bone still attached.

Although it’s an expensive cut, there’s no denying that it’s an impressive meat to smoke and serve to your guests.

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