Best Meat To Smoke For Beginners

You are new to smoking and you are asking yourself, what is the best meat to smoke for beginners. Smoking is a great way to cook food and makes for an incredible hobby as well. But of course you do not want to waste money on something you will ruin in those early smoke runs, nor do you want to serve your guests some dried out meat either. No worries, we have you covered. I will narrow down a few different options on the best meats to smoke for beginners.

Smoking Meat For Beginners

So as we get started, I am going to with the assumption you know how your smoker works. There are too many styles of smokers for me to dive into the specifics of how to smoke the meat and how to do it on your smoker. This article will be a general overview of the best meats to smoke, regardless of smoker style. I will also cover some other meats you do not want to smoke and the reasons why.

I will link to some recipes that may be helpful to get you started as well but I will not be diving into specific recipes on this post. We are just talking meats and what meats to smoke and some of the best things to smoke for beginners, as far as non-meat items.

Smoked Pork

Smoked pork is a great place to start. It is one of the easiest meat to smoke and if you can find pork butts on sale, per pound, it is one of the best cheap meats to smoke. Now with that being said, pork is a broad category. I will also quicky touch on a few cuts of pork you want to smoke and ones to stay away from.

Pork Butt/Pork Shoulder

Smoked pork butt or pork shoulder is a very traditional cut of meat smoke and great for beginners. It is marbled with fat, which makes it very forgiving. It used for pulled pork, which as a beginner, if you run into a problems they can me masked with some BBQ sauce on a pulled pork slider or sandwich.

Smoked Pork is up at the top of the list of Best Meat To Smoke For Beginners

While easier to smoke, it is longer to smoke. You are looking at 10-12 hours depending how big they are. I will usually smoke about 14-15 lbs. at a time, thereby pushing it out to the 12 hour mark. Not only is it easy to smoke but it is also super versatile, you can make sliders, sandwiches, tacos or nachos.

Pork Butt Highlights

  • Longer smoke, 10-12 hours depending on the size
  • Going to smoke to an IT of about 205°
  • Great for sandwiches, sliders, tacos, nachos
  • You will need foil or butcher paper to wrap it

Pork Belly

Pork belly is loaded with fat and a makes for a great appetizer, as smoked pork belly burnt ends. It is a quicker smoke, 5-6 hours as opposed to the longer 10-12 hours of a pork butt.

Your typical pork belly burnt end recipe is also loaded with fat, plus butter, honey and BBQ sauce, so there is little concern about it coming out too dry or not tasting well.

Pork Belly Highlights

  • Intermediate smoke, 5-6 hours
  • Not really smoking to an internal temperature but a time
  • Makes for a great appetizer
  • Cooling racks are very useful for the smoke

What Pork Not To Smoke

Pork loin, pork chops, pork ribs are all a little harder to smoke. Ribs, as good as they are, can still be a bit tricky and maybe not the best to start off but can definitely be a quick follow once you have figured the basics of smoking. Pork loin and pork chops can be smoked but are not very fatty so can get dried out if not done properly. Pork tenderloin has a bit more fat than a loin but might be better off falling into the “quick follow” along with ribs.

Smoked Beef

There are a ton cuts of beef to smoke some will call your name, like a brisket but there are others you should jump on as a beginner smoker. Some of the cuts of beef I suggested staying away from just because they are pretty expensive and would hate to you so burn money on a good cut of beef and you not be able to enjoy it. Do the more expensive cuts once you feel good about putting out a good smoked product.

Chuck Roast

You may be new to smoking and dying to get to that brisket but don’t just do it yet. Trust me, there are better ways to learn to smoke. One of those ways is a chuck roast, sometimes referred to as a poor man’s brisket. It is a fraction of the price, shorter to smoke and chucks are smoked pretty much exactly like a brisket. While not a slam dunk of a smoke for a beginner, it is a better place to start than a brisket.

Smoked Chuck Roast while not the easiest it is a good meat to smoke for beginners

Smoked Chuck Roast Highlights

  • A longer smoke, 10 hours, depending on the size
  • Can be smoked to slice or shred
  • Makes for a great sliders, tacos or for a sliced beef offering
  • You will want tin foil or butcher paper for this smoke

Smoked Ground Beef

Smoked ground beef is another great place to start. It is going to be very forgiving, because in most cases you are not using by itself. You are adding it to chili, making hamburgers or sloppy joe. If smoking some ground beef, stay away from a meat loaf, that could get dried out on you. But in most other applications, go at it with smoked ground beef, it tastes great, does not require a lot of prep and is smoked pretty quickly.

Smoked Ground Beef Highlights

  • Smoke time is probably 2-3 hours but can vary depending on the size and recipe
  • Pretty forgiving because it is rarely served just as ground beef, there are usually sauces or other topping associated
  • Makes for a great drip chili, burgers, sloppy joes and more

What Beef Not To Smoke

As I mentioned above, don’t throw a brisket on as your first smoke, hold off on that for a bit. I would also stay away from beef ribs, and some of the more expensive cuts of meat, like tri-tip, prime ribs and others. Not that they are harder to smoke but if you mess it up you are kissing away a chunk of money. Get used to the smoker, how it works, learn some of the tricks for specific cuts of meat and then tackle the larger more expensive cuts of beef.

Chicken And Other Poultry

Chicken and poultry can be a little tricky because skin vs no skin makes a difference. When smoking with no skin, you can do low and slow and it turns out amazing. If you are smoking with skin and want nice crispy skin, you will want to do it hot and fast and it will still turn out amazing! People new to smoking have a hard time wrapping their head around hot and fast but it works and you get plenty of flavor.

Smoked Chicken Thighs

Smoked chicken thighs are great and easy to smoke for beginners. They were in fact the first thing I smoked. Thighs make the list because they have a bit more fat than chicken breasts thereby they are more forgiving. Whether you are doing skin or no skin, either one works great, just be mindful of the recipe because they will be done differently. Chicken is also one of the quickest meat to smoke.

Smoked Chicken thighs are a great place to start when it comes to Best Meat To Smoke For Beginners

Smoked Chicken Thigh Highlights

  • Smoke time is probably 2-3 hours, definitely one of the best meat to smoke in 4 hours or less
  • Chicken thighs are fattier than breasts making them more forgiving
  • Be mindful of the recipe and if its skin or no skin. No skin, low and slow, with skin will be hot and fast
  • Chicken thighs can handle an IT upwards of 175°, normally chicken breasts are done at 165°

Chicken Wings

These are obviously smaller cuts of meat but they are also cheap, if you mess them up you did not break the bank. There is not a ton of room for error here but again these make the list because they are quick, easy and not expensive. What you need to remember about smoked wings is, hot and fast. They have skin and no one wants rubbery skin on their wings, so stay away from low and slow.

Smoked Chicken Wings Highlights

  • Smoke time is about an hour
  • A great way to do wings us on a Kettle using a Vortex
  • Be mindful of the recipe and if its skin or no skin. No skin, low and slow, skin will be hot and fast

Smoked Whole Chicken

Smoked whole chicken is a great beginner meat to smoke. It is forgiving and relatively quick. As I mentioned above, with the skin its hot a fast. It can be done a few different ways, either left whole or spatchcocked, which has you getting it done even faster. You will want to ensure you have a probe that you can measure both the breast and thighs. I would suggest the ThermoPro TP20, its a great budget friendly product.

Smoked Whole Chicken Highlights

  • Smoke time is about an 2-3 hours but this will vary based on size and if you spatchcock or not
  • You can do chickens on laying flat on the grate or standing up on a stand
  • Be mindful of the recipe and if its skin or no skin. No skin, low and slow, skin will be hot and fast

What Poultry Not To Smoke

When its comes to chicken, at least at the beginning stay away from smoked chicken breast. Later on you can dive into those. Smoked turkey has amazing flavor but don’t be making the Thanksgiving dinner for your first go around and regardless, do a test run first and ensure you have the smoking process down. You do not want to screw up Thanksgiving dinner.

Seafood And Other Things To Smoke Besides Meat

When it comes to seafood and smoking, salmon is great but I would stay away from it as a beginner meat. It is thin and if not done properly can be easily dried out. This would go for just about any other fish. Some are not ideal for smoking but can be done, if done right, shrimp and scallops definitely come to mind.

Some other ideas, you can do, mac and cheese, that is great and will be hard to mess that up. Some other things to smoke for beginners are nuts, cheese (cold smoked), cornbread, asparagus, and a variety of soups.

Final Words For The Best Meat To Smoke For Beginners

We covered a lot here but hopefully it was all valuable. Regardless of the smoker, ranging from a charcoal Kettle to pellet grills, there are plenty of things to smoke and eventually you can let your imagination run wild. For the time being while you are getting the hang of smoking and learning the tricks to your specific smoker, stick to the easy stuff. Enjoy hosting your family and friends, knowing you will be serving amazing food and as you learn the trade you can continually branch out to new and higher quality foods.

If you are looking to review some of our other blog posts, here are some suggestions:

Thanks for being here and checking out this article, Best Meat To Smoke For Beginners. I hope you enjoy it! If you use any of our recipes, we always appreciate comments, 5 star recipe rating and social media shares. As always, keep that smoke rolling!

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