Smoking meat in its different forms dates back to the dawn of time and was originally used to dry meats for preservation.
This is most likely linked to our DNA, which is why the scent of smoked foods awakens primal inbuilt urges.
Smoked meat can be extremely wonderful, but it can also be the worst meal of your life if you use the incorrect meat and use terrible techniques.
This beginner’s guide on the best meats to smoke will point you in the correct direction so that your first time smoking meat is a success.
In this blog post, we’ll provide our top 18 recommendations for the best meats to smoke for beginners, as well as some details about each one!
So whether you want to smoke beef, pork, poultry, or something else, we’ve got you covered. So, without further ado, let us begin!
The Best Meats To Smoke For Beginners (With Chef Tips)
We’ve produced a list of the 18 great types of meat to smoke at home or on your smoker for beginners. We’ll discuss the type of meat and my thoughts on its flavor, as well as what to expect when it’s smoking in your meal prep.
1. Beef Cheeks (best cut of meat to smoke for beginners)
Beef cheeks are a great, inexpensive cut of meat that’s perfect for low and slow smoking. They’re large and meaty, too you don’t have to worry about them overcooking or drying out.
The best part? Beef cheeks come in different textures some are more tender than others. If you want to ensure your beef cheeks are tender and melt-in-your-mouth delicious, try smoking them at lower temperatures for extended periods.
To do this, use a Z Grill for at least 30 minutes (the smoker’s temperature should be up to 148oC (300oF). You’ll need 2-3 hours to complete this process, so plan accordingly!
2. Beef brisket (smoke meat for beginners)
Beef brisket is a cut of meat that’s generally very lean and tender, so it’s perfect for slow smoking. It has a great flavor that’s hard to replicate with other cuts of meat, and it pairs well with most sauces and seasonings.
A lot of work goes into it and not just the cooking part. You’ve got to trim the extra skin around the cavity, wet brine it, dry rub it, and then cook it for 10 to 12 hours at 225°F before considering pulling the meat off the bone. You can trim brisket with knives available on the market. That’s a sample of what happens when you take on one of these beasts.
3. Pork shoulder (easy meat to smoke for beginners)
Pork shoulder is another good choice for beginners. It comes from the shoulder area of the pig and can be smoked like beef brisket. There are also many pork spare ribs and smoker recipes for beginners, which is where you’ll find this cut.
Start by seasoning your pork with dry rub (we like Sweet Baby Ray’s) and injecting some flavor into the meat. Then place the meat on a disposable pan in your gravity or portable smoker at 225°F for 8 hours or until it reaches an internal temperature of 195°F.
With this recipe, you’ll get tender smoked pork with a tender texture and sweet flavor that will surely please even more experienced smokers!
4. Lamb Shank (easiest meat to smoke for the first time)
Lamb shanks are the most expensive cut of meat, but they’re worth it. The meat is so tender that it practically melts in your mouth. You’ll have to trim the fat before cooking, but the flavor will be worth it. You can use a good quality bone-in or boneless lamb shank to smoke, though you may want to trim off some of the fat with a knife before cooking.
To make your shank, start by cutting the meat into 2-inch cubes. The easiest way to do this is by using a sharp knife or cleaver and slicing across the meat’s grain. You’ll want to make sure you cut through both sides to have even pieces. It would be best if you cooked it at 190oC (374oF), and the time will be required around 3-4 hours for proper preparation.
5. Pork ribs (easiest meat to smoke for a beginner)
Pork ribs are one of the best meats to start smoking with. They’re easy to cook and relatively forgiving, and you can get a lot of flavors out without worrying about burning or over-cooking them.
For the best-smoked pork ribs, use the 3-2-1 method:
3 hours unwrapped on top of the smoker
2 hours wrapped airtight (with three layers of foil)
1 hour unwrapped
This method will ensure that your ribs are cooked to perfection!
6. Tri-Tip (best meat to smoke for first-timers)
Tri-tip is a triangular-shaped cut of meat often overlooked because people don’t know how flavorful, juicy, and tender it is. It’s also one of the most overlooked cuts of meat to smoke.
Tri-tip has a rich flavor and juicy texture that can’t be beaten when it comes to smoked meats, but it doesn’t take long to prepare – only about two hours. The best part? It’s about a temperature of 135°F.
You can use this meat as a substitute for beef steak or pork chops when you don’t have time to cook them from scratch!
7. Boston Butt (best meat to smoke in 4 hours)
If you’re a beginner in barbecuing, you might be wondering what kind of meat will give you the best results. Well, we’ve got news for you: Boston Butt is the way to go!
Not only is it very well-marbled which means that it will give you a rich, flavorful smoke but it’s also the most forgiving cut of meat to smoke. It’s a great “gateway” meat for beginners because it’s cheaper than experimenting on brisket. Smoking it for 4-5 hours at 121oC (250oF) produces the best texture and flavor.
8. Brisket Stall (best meats to smoke for beginners)
The brisket stall is the most popular cut of meat to smoke, and it’s easy to see why. It’s a tough cut of meat that comes from the breast area of the animal, which means you don’t have to worry about over-cooking it.
As with any meat, you’ll want to keep an eye on its internal temperature when cooking it in this case, it will be at 65-75oC for many hours.
9. Salmon (easiest meat to smoke)
Salmon is an excellent meat to begin smoking. It’s simple to prepare and cook, so you may start on your own as soon as you’ve mastered the fundamentals of smoking.
Salmon comes in two varieties: cold-smoked Scottish salmon and hot-smoked salmon.
Cold-smoked salmon is made by first drying the fish and then smoking it over peat fires. When compared to hot smoked salmon, this gives it a different flavor and texture.
Hot smoked salmon can be served on its own or with salads, used to make sandwiches, or used to top any meal that needs a little extra zing!
10. Tomahawk Steak (meat smoking for beginners)
We recommend getting some of these meats if you’re just starting out and want to learn how to smoke your meats. They are good for beginners because they are simple to prepare and do not take much time.
Tomahawk steak is ideal for smoking because it is a lean, flavorful cut. It can be cooked on the grill or smoked in the oven, depending on your tastes.
A smoker is an excellent way to prepare this steak. If you use this method, you must smoke the steak for several hours at 135oC (275oF). You can control how well-done the inside of the meat is by cooking it at this temperature.
11. Texas Crutch (good meat to smoke for beginners)
The Texas Crutch Method is a method of brisket preparation that aids in reaching the interior temperature plateau required for ideal cooking.
Briskets must pass through an internal temperature plateau in order to be properly cooked, and the Texas Crutch method includes wrapping the brisket in butcher’s paper or foil to assist it in doing so.
12. Smoked Hamburgers (easy-smoking meats)
If you’re still looking, what’s the best meat to smoke for beginners? Hamburgers are the finest meats to smoke as a beginner since they are mild, simple to prepare and cook, and versatile. They’ve been around for centuries and have a lengthy history of use as food. Hamburgers are produced with ground beef or veal that has been combined with various spices before being molded into patties and cooked. However, smoked hamburgers have seen a return in appeal in recent years.
Cooked at 225°F on a smoker, electric or otherwise. These burgers are ideal for individuals who prefer something milder than typical beef burgers. If you want something a little milder, try mesquite wood chips. If you prefer something softer, use applewood chips instead.
13. Chuck Roast
The chuck roast is ideal for beginners because it is simple to prepare and can be smoked in a matter of hours. The chuck roast is made from a steer’s shoulder and can weigh up to 20 pounds. It’s best cooked for 4 to 6 hours over indirect heat at 225°F, although it can be done in 4 hours if you set your smoker temperature lower than 225°F.
If you’ve never smoked before, this cut of steak will wow you! It’s so soft and tasty that it’s almost like eating brisket without having to do all of the labor yourself.
14. Whole chicken
A whole chicken is an excellent place to start. They’re reasonably priced, adaptable, and simple to cook.
Chicken can be smoked on its own or used as a rub for other meats like pork loin or beef steak. Chicken is also great for grilling because it’s mess-free and doesn’t need much prep work.
You can smoke them at 162oC (324oF) for 2-3 hours and their 73oC (164oF) internal temperature. This ensures that the chicken is cooked through and juicy.
Sausages are a delicious and easy way to get started smoking meat. They’re also one of the most popular meats to smoke as a beginner, and for a good reason!
Sausages can be made from various ingredients, including pork or beef. Still, they all have one thing in common: they’re all delicious! And because sausages come in so many different shapes and sizes, you’ll find that there’s something for everyone in your family.
Sausages can be made in as little as 2-3 hours and smoked for up to 12 hours at 225°F. They will be cooked at 165°F, so make sure you don’t overcook them.
16. Beef short ribs (boneless)
Beef short ribs (boneless) are an excellent choice for a smoker, especially if you’re new to smoking meat. They’re a bit more expensive than other cuts of beef, but their flavor and tenderness make them well worth it. These ribs are best cooked for 8 hours in a 225°F smoker and should be done at 195°F, which is right near the bone.
You’ll need to trim the fat and silver skin from the meat side of the rack before cooking, as well as dry rub it with salt and pepper. Then cook them in your smoker until they’re tender—as close to 195°F as possible which will take about 8 hours.
17. Chicken Thighs
Chicken thighs are an excellent option for beginners because they’re easy to prepare, and you can make them with or without the skin. The thinner the chicken thighs are, they’ll likely be dry when cooked. Chicken thighs cooked without the skin are best when smoked at around 225 degrees Fahrenheit for about two hours. The longer they’re cooked, the more tender they’ll become—which means more time before they’re done!
If you want to smoke with the skin on, it’s still pretty easy to do. Ensure you don’t cook any part of it for too long, or it will get tough and dry. You can also wrap each thigh in foil after putting them on a smoker, which will help keep them moist while smoking.
18. Spare Ribs
Spare ribs are one of the most popular meats to smoke as a beginner. They’re cut from the rib section of beef, so they’re very lean, which makes them easier to cook and keeps them from drying out too much during the process.
They can be smoked with either natural or liquid smoke. Still, we recommend using liquid smoke for its ability to add more flavor than just plain old salt and pepper. Make sure to use your favorite rub on these ribs when preparing them for the best results this will help accentuate their flavor even further!
To cook, first, peel the silverskin off the ribs. Then, dry rub them with your favorite rub. Smear it on thick and let it sit overnight. Then set your smoker to 225°F and smoke them for 6 hours. The internal temperature should be around 195°F, but that doesn’t matter as much as ensuring the meat is tender and flavorful. After 6 hours, take them out of the smoker and let them rest for 5 minutes before serving.
What Should You Know Before Start Smoking Meat As Beginner?
Our Top Chef Tips:
These tips can help you to have better experience smoking meat as an amateur.
Set up your smoker correctly
When you’re starting smoking meat, you’ll want to ensure that your smoker is appropriately set up. The most important thing is that the temperature inside the smoker is consistent throughout the entire cooking process. If it isn’t, your food will taste burnt or undercooked.
Use A Water Tray
If you’re a beginner and want to try smoking meat for the first time, we recommend using a water tray to keep your meat moist as it cooks.
A water tray is a metal pan with holes in it. You may use it for any meal you choose; simply place it in the tray, fill the hole with water, and set your smoker to high heat. This will keep your meat moist as it cooks, eliminating the need to worry about it drying out or burning during smoking.
Pick the Right Cut
The cut will determine how much smoke flavor your meat will have. For example, if you are using brisket or ribs, they will only require one hour per pound at 225°F (107°C). Due to their high moisture content, steaks and chicken breasts need closer monitoring at lower temperatures.
Choose the Right Smoking Method for Your Cut
Before you decide on a smoking method, consider what kind of cut of meat you’ll cook. Some cuts are better suited for low and slow methods, while others tend to be more tender when cooked quickly over direct heat.
Keep it Low and Slow
Once you have chosen your method, keep in mind that low and slow work best with thicker cuts of meat like pork shoulder or beef brisket. The slower the cooking process is allowed to go, the more moisture will evaporate from the meat’s surface which means there will be less chance of drying out during cooking time itself!
Remove Meat from Fridge an Hour before Smoking
Smoked meat can quickly go wrong if sitting in your fridge for too long. You don’t want to pull out that smoked beef brisket after only a few days—you want it fresh! So remove the meat from the fridge an hour before you plan on smoking it so it can sit at room temperature for at least six hours.
Never use lighter fluid to start your fire
For this process to work correctly, you’ll need a fire, so don’t start your fire with lighter fluid! Lighter fluid contains chemicals that can cause flames and smoke damage, so don’t use it!
Keep the lid closed
Keep the lid closed while smoking so that no smoke can escape into other areas of your home (this is especially important if you live in an apartment building).
Monitor Your Temperature
Keep your smoker at a temperature between 200 and 225 degrees Fahrenheit. If it gets too hot, the meat will dry out too quickly, but if it gets too cold, it will be too chewy and tough. You can also use a meat thermometer to do it properly.
Don’t Overcook Your Smoked Meat
Some beginners may try smoking their food for hours on end without knowing when it’s done cooking. This can lead to overcooked meats with dry surfaces and an unpleasant flavor.
Make Sure You Have Enough Wood Chips
Getting started as a new smoker can be overwhelming, but ensuring you have enough wood chips to last through the process is an excellent way to start. If you don’t have enough chips, it may take longer for your meat to get done. This means you’ll need to add more chips or cook them longer before removing them from the smoker.
Know How Long to Smoke Meat (And When to Pull It)
If you leave your meat too long after it’s pulled, it will be overcooked and dry. So keep an eye on how long your meat is in there remember that pulling usually happens early so as not to let smoke flavor creep into other parts of your food!
Let it rest
You’ll want to let your meat rest for about 15 minutes before you put it in the smoker. If you put the meat in right away, you’ll pee at it like a kid with a new toy and that’s not good! The smoke will pour out into the air, and it won’t have time to penetrate the meat. So wait!
Don’t peek – it does let the smoke out
The last tip is essential: don’t peek! Seriously, don’t peek until after two hours of cooking time have passed you’ll regret it if you do!
Whether you’re looking to impress your friends or want to enjoy a delicious meal with friends and family, there’s no need to worry about what meat goes with what. With this list of recommended meats, all you have to do is choose one (or two) and get cooking!
We hope you enjoyed our article about the best meat to smoke for a beginner! With this knowledge, we know that you can make the most of your barbecue time. So what are you waiting for? Stop by your local grocery store or butcher and pick up some of these meats for a delicious meal!