Beef, it’s what’s for dinner. Or chicken. Or pork. Or fish or lamb or deer—let’s face it, meat is what’s for dinner when you’re using your smoker. Smoking meats is a time-honored tradition, and whether you’re a novice or a pro, breaking out the old smoker is always a day of cooking fun. Today, we’re gonna go over which meats you wanna smoke, why you wanna smoke them, and how good they’ll taste in a few hours. Let’s jump in.
What Makes a Cut of Meat Good for Smoking?
One of the best parts about smoking is that you’re going for cheaper cuts of meat in general—which is great considering how much you’ve shelled out for that new smoker. It’s best to get meat that’s tougher and fattier so that we can get that smoky tenderness we all know and love.
Another way to think about it would be picking meats based on parts of the animal. More active muscles such as the shoulders and legs are going to be good places to look when thinking about what to smoke.
What are the best cuts of meat to smoke
We know not all meats are created equal, some are smaller, some are bigger. Some are better for grilling, some are better for roasting. Some are delicious and tender, and some should just be tossed, but what we do know is that these are some of the best meats to smoke.
Best beef for smoking
Brisket – Starting off hot, we’ve got a prime classic of the meat smoking world. Smoked brisket is a big, tough cut of meat, perfect to cook down. Be wary though newbies, brisket may be one of the best, but it’s also one of the toughest—and I’m not just talking about the cut. Brisket takes lots of time and work, so be sure you’re up to the delicious task before you embark.
Chuck – Looking at the parts of the animal like we alluded to earlier, chuck is definitely one of the cuts that’s cheaper and tougher, making it a perfect candidate for smoking. Coming from the shoulder/neck area, chuck is a great cut to use if you’re trying to get some nice pull-apart meat for some BBQ sandwiches.
Best pork for smoking
Pork Butt – Yes, the butt is the shoulder, and often called a Boston butt. The butt is also the butt, but we’re talking about the shoulder here. With the most confusing name on the list, it also happens to be one of the tastiest, and great for all levels of smoking gurus. Getting one with the bone in can help the cause, but isn’t a necessary evil for shouldering that pig butt.
Picnic – Just below the butt (the shoulder), a picnic cut is similar to the butt, but can be just as delicious. Smoking most parts of the pig are well suited for the smoker, as you’re gonna have a tough time overdoing it as a novice. Some have suggested you can smoke these cuts for up to 36 hours without overdoing it, making the picnic the right cut for beginners and pros alike.
Both of these cuts of meat make excellent pulled pork.
Best fish for smoking
Salmon – Bagels and lox anyone? Smoked salmon is always a treat, but is that much better when you’ve smoked it yourself. Salmon checks off all the boxes, it’s fatty, it’s tough, and it’s cheap and readily available, making it the perfect fish for our list.
Best Poultry for Smoking
Turkey – Whether it’s a Thanksgiving classic or a fun project for some delicious bird, turkey is one of the best meats to smoke period. Given, it is a leaner kind of meat and might require less time in the smoker than some of the others, but it is certainly worth the somewhat shorter journey.
Chicken – Now, I know what you’re thinking, chicken is incredibly lean and we just went over that’s not the best smoking meat. Well, I’m the one making the list here, and smoking chicken deserves to be here. While you won’t want to over-smoke it, these shorter cook times are great for a novice to practice, and what’s even better is that you can cook a whole chicken, quartered, or just the wings and legs. Perfect for having the guys over to watch some college or professional football.
Best Lamb for smoking
Lamb leg – Lamb leg is a little tougher to cook because of the bone in the leg, which can make the cooking a little uneven. However, done right lamb in the smoker is nothing short of a delicacy. The uneven cooking can even be a blessing in disguise if you’re serving for some people who like their meat more well done, and some who like it rarer. Either way, they’ll enjoy that smoky flavor they’ll come to know and love.
Lamb shoulder – For something that may be a little easier than the leg, lamb shoulder makes for a great meal as well. Without the bone, it can cook more easily, and can be a refreshing change of pace from the pork shoulder as well.
Best of the rest
Ribs ribs ribs – A list like this could not be complete without ribs, and ribs simply can’t be contained to one animal either. Whether it’s pork, beef, or even lamb, cooking ribs in a smoker is a treat for everyone. Feeling that meat fall off the bone is getting me hungry even as I’m writing this, damn I could go for some ribs right now.
One tip would be to choose cuts of ribs that are further from the belly, as those may be more tender and less suited to be smoked.
Venison – What’s the biggest complaint you hear about deer? Too gamey. Using a smoker, you can take that gamey flavor away and replace it with smoky deliciousness right away. Any part of the deer can be smoked, making it very versatile, and a perfect meat for any hunters out there as well.
Sausage – Sausages are always a good option for the smoker. A classic BBQ treat, sausages are readily available, and you can choose a lot of different options as well. Want lower sodium? Bam. Want some chicken, some beef? Zing. Getting a nice smoky sausage on the table is something everyone can enjoy, and something you can cook different types of animals at the same time. It can also be a good choice if there are any vegetarians in your mix.
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Why smoke meat in the first place
Smoking meat is an ancient process that goes back thousands of years. Initially used as a method of preservation, smoking came about so that people could keep meat much longer in a time before you could simply open up your fridge.
That being said, it’s also a way to make some less desirable meats fall-off-the-bone good. Smoking is a time-honored tradition among BBQ heads. The tinkering, the patience and time taken makes for not only a delicious way to cook and serve meat, but a whole process that makes your dinner taste that much better. Now get out on this beautiful day and get to smoking.