The average American adult consumes around 222 pounds of red meat and poultry in a year.
It’s clear we love recipes with our favorite meat whether it’s on a BBQ or in the oven. But there’s nothing better than smoking meat thanks to its distinctive smell, fantastic taste, and versatility. Perhaps you’re eager to start your smoking culinary adventure but you’re unsure where to start.
Sound familiar? If so, you’ve come to the right place. Here are the 10 best meats to smoke.
What Is Meat Smoking?
Before figuring out how to use a smoker, it’s important to understand what it is. Meat smoking is where you use smoke to tenderize the fibers of your favorite meat under a controlled temperature.
Cooking processes need heat to produce your dinner but when cooking with a smoker, the smoke is the source of heat as it’s transferred through radiation. This then determines how quickly the heat rises, how long it takes, and how great the meat will taste.
If you’re interested in how to smoke meat, browse these barrel smokers for the ultimate set-up.
The Top Meats to Smoke
Meat smoking for beginners starts with getting the right meat. Luckily, smoking meat works for a wide range of recipes so it caters to everyone. For instance:
1. Beef Brisket
This cut of beef comes from the cow’s lower chest, a large section that requires slow cooking. Brisket is unique because it maintains its shape while smoking so you can serve a giant slab with a salad or finely slice the leftovers for lunch the next day. One of the most important meat smoking tips is it’ll take around 12 hours at 205 degrees Fahrenheit to smoke.
2. Pork Shoulder
Pork shoulder is from the pig’s lower shoulder region, just under its ‘butt’, and is a great recipe for beginners.
Clarify this with your butcher because pork butt is also considered the shoulder but it’s far smaller so it requires less smoking. You must smoke the pork shoulder for four hours at around 275 degrees Fahrenheit so you get delicious pulled pork. Pro tip: spritz the meat regularly with water during smoking so it stays juicy.
3. Spatchcock Chicken
There’s no better way to feed the family than with a smoked, full chicken. It’s great for beginners, just crank the smoker up to 300 degrees Fahrenheit and cook for around two hours for the best results. If the temperature is too low then you’ll get rubbery skin, which isn’t ideal.
Every type of sausage works with smoking but the best are bratwurst, Italian sausage, and chorizo. Depending on the amount you’ve bought, smoking should take around three hours at 250 Fahrenheit degrees.
Watch the chicken while it smokes and, once finished, let them cool off at room temperature for 40 minutes to keep the casing tender. You’ll know they’re ready when you get a rich, smoky flavor and a crunchy exterior.
5. Pork Belly
If you’re unfamiliar with pork belly, know it’s uncooked and uncured bacon that comes from the animal’s lower abdominal area. It’s fantastic for beginners, all you need to do is score the skin and generously season the meat with salt and black pepper.
When you smoke it, pork belly becomes extremely tender. You can either slice it into small cubes (known as burnt ends) and smoke for three hours at 220 degrees Fahrenheit.
6. Beef Tri-Tip
Tri-tip is fairly lean and comes from the lower part of the sirloin. It’s a triangular shape and weighs two pounds when it’s trimmed and if it’s untrimmed, far more. This cut of meat is great if you don’t have all day as it only takes two hours at 127 degrees Fahrenheit for a medium-rare roast.
If you want rare then smoke at 120 degrees Fahrenheit for rare, 140 for medium-well, and 150 degrees Fahrenheit for well-done.
Smoking salmon is not only delicious but it’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids so it’s a healthy alternative. A one-pound fillet takes two hours to smoke at 160 degrees Fahrenheit, perfect when you season it with sea salt, pepper, and dill. And to keep it a low-calorie meal, serve with a side of salad.
8. Lamb Shoulder
Tired of beef and pork? Then throw lamb into the smoker and enjoy its deep, smoky flavor. Lamb’s shoulder is great for slow smoking because when it breaks down you get tender, juicy meat.
Or you could try a lamb leg which is fattier. Regularly rotate it so the smoke cooks the cut properly.
9. Whole Turkey
Whole spatchcock turkey is a brilliant lean meat option and because of the large surface area, the meat absorbs the smokey flavor. Make sure you baste the bird every two hours with juices from the pan as it has a tendency to dry out.
Smoke a whole turkey for 10 hours at 250 degrees Fahrenheit whereas turkey breast only needs 4 hours at 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
10. Beef Prime Ribs
Prime ribs come from the cow’s forequarter and are often more expensive than other cuts. They’re usually pan-seared or roasted but slow smoking is a fantastic way to enhance its flavor and tenderize the cut.
You must smoke prime ribs for 10 hours at 203 degrees Fahrenheit and after three hours, remember to spritz your ribs every 40 minutes so they don’t dry out.
Those Are the Best Meats to Smoke
Now you know the 10 best meats to smoke today.
Invest in a high-quality barrel smoker then experiment with your favorite cuts depending on everyone’s mood. Those after a healthy alternative can smoke salmon or turkey and for special occasions, slow-smoked brisket, pork ribs, or lamb shoulder for a delicious meal. Happy smoking!
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