Best Meats to Smoke For Beginners at Home

The Best Meats to Smoke For Beginners at Home

So you want to make your own smoked meat but don’t know where and how to start. Well, the first thing you need to be familiar with is the meat – the type, cut, and thickness. Everything else becomes easy once you understand the meat you are working with. If you are looking for a meat guide for your first smoked meat, then you have come to the right place. Here are the best meats to smoke for beginners. 

Smoking brings the best out of any meat. The special wood and combinations of spices, herbs, sugar, and sometimes even honey, all add to that perfect symphony of unique flavors and smoky aroma that taps into your taste buds and waters your mouth. But how do you choose the right meat to smoke? Here’s a comprehensive guide to getting you started.


What is the Best Meat to Smoke for Beginners?

The best meats to smoke for beginners are those with high amounts of collagen and fat. The slow cooking process of smoking breaks down the connective tissues and fats, which keeps the meat moist and tender while giving it that signature smoky aroma. 

As you may already know, different types of meat and cuts will have different cooking times. The time it takes to cook depends on toughness, size, collagen, and fat present in the cut. Also, some meats taste better with certain types of wood than others. Knowing the right cooking time and flavor to pair your meat with brings out the best flavors. 

Lean meat may take a shorter time to cook, but since it has less fat, it can easily become dry.

A thick cut with lots of fat, on the other hand, will take hours to cook without drying out, as the fat will help keep the juices of the meat. Collagen also adds natural sweetness to the meat as it breaks down. 

best beef meat to smoke for beginners

The best meat to smoke for beginners: Beef


Beef Ribs

Cooking time: 5 – 6 hours

Temperature:  205˚ F

 Everybody loves smoked beef ribs. Fortunately, that divine texture of tender, and juicy meat, and the succulent taste of smoked beef rib is easy to achieve, even on your first try. 

Beef rib is an excellent meat to smoke for beginners. The cut usually comes with lots of fat, which means it won’t dry easily and will keep its flavor. It’s also usually not a tough cut, which means it can be broken down faster.

Beef rib can be paired with almost anything, but it is best paired with cherry flavored wood.


Chuck Roast

Cooking time: 10 – 12 hours

Temperature:  205˚ F


Chuck roast is one of the best meats to smoke. It usually contains high amounts of collagen and internal fat, which means it is packed with flavors. It is best paired with Hickory wood. 


Beef Brisket

Cooking time: 10 – 14 hours

Temperature:  205˚ F

This is probably the most popular beef cut to smoke. However, since this part of the cow is often exercised, the meat is quite tough, which means it requires a large amount of fat to keep the meat tender. Fortunately, most beef brisket cuts come with high amounts of marbling with external fat. It pairs best with oak wood. 


Trip Tip

Cooking time: 2 hours or less

Temperature:  135˚ F


Triangle-shaped beef cuts taste amazing when cooked perfectly. They retain their juiciness and come with tons of flavor. However, since the cut is lean, it cooks fast. They are, however, quite difficult to find. This is paired best with cherry or oak wood. 



Cooking time: 1 hour 

Temperature:  225 ˚ F


If you’re looking to host a BBQ event at your own place, you might want to try smoking the hamburgers instead of grilling. Smoked ground beef patties taste incredible, you can also choose a combination of wood flavors. 


The best meat to smoke for beginners: Pork


Pork Shoulder or Pork Butts

Cooking time: 15 – 20 hours

Temperature:  225˚ F


Smoked pork shoulder or butts are the best meats for barbecue, plus they are cheap and easily found. You can pair it with nachos, sandwiches, or even tacos. While cooking this pork cut, make sure you keep the internal temperature of the meat at 195˚. These cuts work best with pecan wood.


The best meat to smoke for beginners: Poultry


Chicken breast

Cooking time: 1 hour and 10 minutes 

Temperature:  170˚ F


Compared to beef, chicken dries up quite easily. This is because chicken has less fat. Thus, the best way to enjoy a good chicken breast is to smoke it. Marinate a whole chicken breast before putting it in a smoker. Chicken breasts are best paired with apple or maple wood. 


Chicken wings

Cooking time: 1 hour and 25 minutes 

Temperature:  250˚ F


Smoked chicken wings make great appetizers, but they taste even better with a good sauce. You can use applewood or maple wood for smoking. 


best poultry meat to smoke for beginners

Turkey breast


Cooking time: 1 hour and 25 minutes 

Temperature:  250˚ F


Turkey is a great poultry meat for smoking as it’s big enough for everybody, making it great meat for parties. However, you don’t have to wait for Thanksgiving to enjoy turkey, you can smoke turkey breast anytime you want. 

Turkey meat, however, doesn’t have a high-fat content. If you aren’t careful, it can dry out quickly and taste flavorless. Thus, the best way to enjoy smoked turkey is to add fat before, during, and after smoking. You can do this by tossing plenty of butter into the turkey. Butter will simply sink into the meat while smoking, giving your turkey extra flavor while keeping it moist and tender. It is best paired with apple or maple wood for a fruity flavor. 



Cooking time: 2 hours

Temperature:  175˚ F


Unlike chicken and turkey, duck contains just the right amount of fat, which means it’s not as prone to drying out. However, compared to chicken and turkey, duck meat doesn’t have a lot of flavor. The best way to enjoy a smoked duck is to marinate it first for at least 24 hours prior to smoking. A simple recipe blend includes soy sauce, onions, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and paprika. Duck is also best paired with applewood. 


The best meat to smoke for beginners: Fish



Cooking time: 2 hours

Temperature:  160˚ F


Smoked salmon is considered a delicacy in several parts of the world. Plus, with high amounts of fatty oils, smoking takes little effort. Salmon works well with cherry wood which brings out the sweet and delicate taste.

 Smoking takes time and effort, but the end result is an incredibly tasty protein that awakens all of your taste buds. The key is to smoke low and slow. You want to give it time for the smoke to break down the collagen and connective tissues of the meat to make it juicy and tender. 

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  1. […] can use a meat thermometer to check the steak temperature by inserting the device through the steak side. Ensure the meat thermometer goes more than half an […]

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