Have you just got a new smoker and can’t wait to get started? Awesome, you are gonna love it, but I guess you’ll need to get some meat!
The whole process of smoking can be a bit daunting at first and you might not be too sure how to get started so it makes sense to choose the easiest meat to smoke for beginners before you move on to the more challenging stuff.
The taste of smoked meat is amazing and is the whole reason why you are looking at smoking your own meat in the first place. Keep reading as we give you the full low down on the best beginner meats to smoke.
So, what is the best meat to smoke for beginners? Let’s find out…
What is smoked meat?
Smoking is a process that exposes food to smoke in order to preserve it, brown it, and add some awesome flavor. It’s one of the oldest cooking techniques and has been around since prehistoric humans first discovered fire.
But, these days, we can thank an awesome range of new electric, gas, and pellet smokers that have made it a much more straightforward and accessible for people to do in their backyard. So there is no need to worry about striking two flints together or foraging for firewood if you use one of these smokers.
To smoke meat you must hang it or place it on racks inside a chamber that traps the smoke. There are two types of smoking
- Cold smoking is done with low-temperature smoke (about 60-120°F) away from the main heat source. Cold smoking is done for purposes of preservation and flavor. Cold smoking does not actually cook the meat, often they will be cured before smoking (like with smoked salmon) or they can be cooked afterward as you would with bacon.
- Hot smoking is more like a barbeque and involves exposing meats to smoke that’s hot enough (about 200–300°F) to actually cook the meat. When you hot smoke you add flavor to the meat in two ways, by cooking really slowly which gives you a really nice tender meat and by adding smoky particles to the surface of the meat.
You can further enhance the flavor of the meat by using different wood chips like maple, apple, or oak.
To the untrained eye, smoking can look a lot like barbequing. After all, you are outside in the sunshine (hopefully) cooking meat. So what is the difference? Well, as explained above smoking uses the smoke to cook the meat ( i guess the clue is in the name!) whereas barbequing will use the heat from the coals or gas to cook the meat, this makes cooking on a bbq much faster.
Smoking is a process that will take several hours whilst barbequing certain meats takes just a minute or two.
So why bother? Well, the reason is that you just can’t beat the flavor that you get from smoking meat so we think that it is worth the little extra effort and time involved in the slow cooking process.
It is worth adding that whilst the time involved may be quite long you don’t have to stand there prodding your meat in the smoker and to a large extent you can put it in and leave it alone until it is ready.
The best meats to smoke as a beginner
Of course, when you are looking to find the meat that is easiest for a beginner to smoke you will want to consider your own taste and what you like to eat. To help you out we have prepared a list of different beginner meats to smoke below. I am sure that you will find something that you enjoy eating, my taste buds are watering just thinking about them!
Smoked Pork Butt (Pulled Pork)
Pork butt could be the best meat for beginner smokers. It is one of those dishes that everyone enjoys so it is likely something that you will want to master and serve up for years to come. Luckily it shouldn’t take too long to master but don’t worry if you don’t get it right the first time since it is one of the cheapest cuts of meat.
This means that you can give it a go for your first time smoking meat and keep experimenting until you have it just right (although, I am pretty confident that you will 100% love it on your first go!)
Smoked pork butt (also known as Boston butt) is actually pork shoulder and if you get a cut with the bone in it should give the meat the best texture and the smoky flavor will infuse better. You can use any type of wood for pork, it doesn’t need to be flavored but works well with pecan.
To cook your pulled pork, put it in your smoker for 4-5 hours (set to 250 degrees Fahrenheit), then take it out, wrap it up, and put it back in for the same amount of time again. You don’t want to leave it too long as the meat will get too stringy. An internal temperature of 200F should show you when it is ready but it should also just easily fall off the bone.
If you want to add a rub to your pork you can do, pretty much anything will taste good. A spicy flavor with chili powder goes down well if you like a bit of kick to your food.
This is a great place to start if you are new to smoking meat, and who doesn’t love a hamburger!
All you have to do is:
- Prepare your smoker by adding wood chips to the tray and water to the bowl. Then you preheat the smoker to 225°F and open up the top vent.
- Get your ground beef into 1/2″ thick patties that are about 5 to 6 ounces each. Place the patties on the racks and season both sides with salt and pepper.
- Put the racks back into the preheated smoker and smoke the burgers for 60 to 90 minutes. They should reach an internal temperature of 150 to 160°F. Check the burgers after an hour and add more wood chips and water if required.
- If you want cheese on your hamburgers (and who wouldn’t?!), place it on top of each patty when you have 10 to 15 minutes of smoking time left.
- Serve the burgers how you like them with toppings like sliced onions, lettuce, tomatoes, and loads of sauce like ketchup, mayonnaise, or mustard.
To get the best smoky flavor we recommend using either hickory or mesquite wood chips.
Smoked Chuck Roast
Smoked chuck roast is another good meat to smoke for beginners. It doesn’t take too much effort but does take a lot longer to cook than a hamburger so you will need to plan ahead of time.
To smoke a chuck roast you should use a low temperature to cook it slowly. It will take about 7-9 hours for a 3-5 pound roast. By smoking slowly the fat will slowly render while the low heat breaks down the connective tissues. If you cook it too quickly on the smoker, it will end up tough and chewy which is not what we are looking for!
Remember low and slow! This is one of the most important things to remember when you are learning how to smoke meat at home. Smoked chuck roast is similar to smoked brisket but is much easier for beginner smokers so we suggest that you try this first. We think that it is probably the best beef to smoke for beginners because it is easy to cook and it is also a fairly cheap cut that tastes great.
One of the easiest meats to smoke if you are a beginner is a whole chicken. If you want to get maximum flavor from your bird we suggest using a simple bbq rub but it will still taste great with just salt and pepper.
To cook it, set your smoker to 250°F and smoke for 2-3 hours. It is ready when the internal temperature of the leg is 165°F (use a thermometer). As with all poultry, a whole chicken works great with a range of woods. Some that I like to use are hickory, oak, apple, pecan, and maple.
If you are a bit nervous about smoking meat for the first time then a chicken is a great option since it is pretty much a set and forget process plus chickens are cheap so you can keep practicing without breaking the bank!
Once you have mastered a chicken, you may like to try cooking a whole smoked Turkey which is similarly straightforward and the turkey meat is great at taking on the smoke flavor. Be sure to use one of the best woods for smoking turkey.
Smoked Chicken Breast
Chicken breasts are one of the best things to smoke for beginners. It is best to use a temperature of 225F and it will take from 1 and a half to 2 hours to cook. The exact time will vary depending on the size and thickness of the breasts (try and use ones that are a similar size).
Whilst we think chicken breasts are one of the best beginner meats to smoke, you do need to be a bit careful not to overcook them as they will dry out. The best way to check that it is done is to test the internal temperature which should be 165F when it is ready.
If you prefer turkey (or a bit of variety) then you can cook smoked turkey breast in much the same way, and they are another good meat to smoke for beginners.
Smoked Pork Ribs
Surely everyone that has bought a smoker is keen to get some ribs going. So it is lucky that pork ribs are an easy meat to smoke for beginners. They don’t need too much in the way of seasoning but you could try a sweet rub if you are looking for something a little different.
I like to smoke ribs in the following way: I start them off un-wrapped for 3-4 hours at 225F. I then take them out and wrap them in tin foil before smoking them for another hour or two. For the final hour of cooking in the smoker, I unwrap them again and cover them in bbq sauce.
The final result is beyond delicious and something that every beginner smoker will feel proud of. Whilst taking them in and out might not be quite as easy as some of the other beginner smoking meats in this post, I think it is a good one for novice smokers to try as they will feel a bit more involved in the process. One of the things you don’t want to be doing with a smoker is opening the lid all the time. But this is always a temptation when people first try smoking meat, so this recipe at least lets you see what is going on during the smoking process!
We have put smoked pork ribs on our list as they are slightly easier to get right than beef ribs which are not the easiest meat to smoke for beginners.
Who doesn’t love a nice smoky sausage? They are a definite crowd-pleaser, especially if you have kids to feed so they are often a staple on our electric smoker. It also helps that smoked sausage is one of the easiest meats to cook in a smoker. There is not much to it, you simply put them in the smoker and come back about 2-3 hours later to taste your lovely smoky sausages.
How long it takes will depend on what sausage you are cooking. And that is another great thing about sausages, there are so many to choose from and they all cook brilliantly on a smoker. You might like to try Italian sausage, Bratwurst, chorizo, beef sausage, or a good old hot dog, all of which are cheap meats to smoke.
I use 225F as my go-to setting for most cooking and it works perfectly with sausages. Use an internal thermometer to check that the sausage is ready (they should be 165F in the middle). Wait a bit before eating them though, that is hot! I know, they smell so good you can hardly wait!
What is the best meat to smoke for beginners?
The best meats to smoke for a beginner are ones that are simple, fast, and easy to get right (or hard to get wrong!). Things like sausages, whole chickens, and pork ribs are great options for your first-time using a smoker.
We think that the list that we have compiled here gives a great range of options for beginner smokers and shows you some of the easiest meats to cook on a smoker. Our biggest piece of advice is simply to get stuck in and give smoking meat a try. All of the easy meats for smokers that we have described above should be possible if you simply take your time and follow the recipe.
So, don’t be shy, get out there and get smoking! And please let us know how you get on in the comments below. What are your favorite beginner meats to smoke and which meat did you find easiest to smoke?