The Best Meats to Smoke: Learn to Find the Perfect Cut of Meat

by Pat
Best Meats to Smoke

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Choosing the best meat to smoke is imperative and one of the first decisions you make when planning a barbecue or cookout. So what should you be looking for? Read on to find out.

If you’re into smoking meat, you know that you need to find the right type of meat for your smoker. It has to be low on moisture and high on fat. But how do you know if you’ve got the perfect cut? Well, there’s a good chance you don’t. Here are 12 types of meat that I’ve smoked—and which ones work best for me.

 Learn how to find the perfect cut of meat to ensure the best smoking experience and how to smoke all of the most popular cuts of meat to make your smoker, or smoker, life easier.

Table of Contents

Beef Brisket

USDA Prime Beef Brisket Full Flat Cut, 3 lbs
as of September 14, 2023 7:29 am

Beef brisket is a great choice for smoking and there is nothing like the smoky flavor of a good brisket. It can be smoked low and slow for hours on end without drying out. This is a good way to smoke a piece of meat with a long shelf life, but it can be tricky to find the perfect cut. If you’re looking for a cut that will take longer to smoke than others, look for pieces that are bigger and fattier. This is the meat you want if you plan on making a lot of sandwiches over the course of several days.

Unlike most other beef cuts, beef brisket keeps its shape when it’s cooked, making it a great choice for cooking large cuts and slicing them up easily. The meat is great for serving up hearty slabs with some tasty coleslaw or sliced cold and served up on open sandwiches.

Brisket Sandich

Smoking brisket can be tricky, but not knowing what to do will just leave you frustrated. We’ve got a step-by-step guide that will help you master the art of smoking brisket, from choosing the best type of wood to finding the perfect time and temperature to cook it.

Learn How to Smoke Beef Brisket

Pork Butt

Boneless Pork Butt Roast 2.5 lbs.
as of September 14, 2023 7:29 am

The cut that you choose will depend on your personal preference and the type of smoker you use. When smoking your own meat, it’s important to pick the right cut. The first step is to remove any bones or fat from the pork butt. It will make for a more even smoke flavor. You’ll want to have a few different kinds of wood for smoking, like cherry or alder. If you’re using a hickory, use chips instead of whole chunks. The larger the chips, the bigger the smoke ring on your pork butt.

Smoked pork butt can be a tasty and inexpensive meal. Just be sure to use a quality smokehouse. As a chef, I have to say that pork butt is my favorite cut of meat. The reason? You can do so much with it and smoke it in such interesting ways! It’s really fun to experiment with, especially when it comes to sauces. The pork butt is also the perfect cut for the grill and is very easy to cook. If you’re not sure where to start, I recommend this recipe for pork butt.

 I have been trying the Amazon Fresh and have pleasantly surprised with the quality and service. If you have not tried it and have Prime, check it out.

Read: The Best Cold Smoke Generators

Difference between Pork Butt and Pork Loin

But what exactly is the difference between pork butt and pork loin? Well, for starters, butts are larger than loins. In fact, a whole pig is usually sold by the shoulders or butt. The term “butt” refers to the entire pork leg (hind leg) from which we get a boneless shoulder. A loin is just the bottom portion of the leg, usually without the shank bone. A butt is typically around 2.5 to 3 inches thick while a loin can be as thin as 1 inch.

Pork Shoulder

Secreto Iberico De Bellota Raw Acorn-Fed Pork Shoulder Muscle
as of September 14, 2023 7:29 am

 Pork shoulder is an ideal cut to smoke. It has a great flavor profile, and most often is used for braising, barbecuing, and smoking. The pork shoulder should be from an adult pig, and the meat should have fat and connective tissue. Pork shoulder meat should be moist but not dripping wet. There should be no pink color to the meat. A USDA label must have a “sell by” date of at least 60 days after slaughter, which should be on or before the actual cooking date.

 For best results when smoking your meats, you want to find the best cuts of meat to smoke. When purchasing pork, you should look for cuts of meat with good marbling. If you see meat with a lot of white fat, it’s probably going to dry out. White fat is not only unsightly, it makes the meat less moist. It’s also high in unhealthy saturated fats.

Pork Ribs – Baby Back Ribs

Pork Loin Back Ribs, (6 Lb. Average)
as of September 14, 2023 7:29 am

Most people who smoke their own meat understand that there are only a handful of cuts of meat that are suited for smoking. In fact, if you read the labels on most commercial smoked meats, you’ll find that they are labeled “Pork Ribs” or “Pork Loin,” rather than pork chops or pork shoulder. This is due to the fact that the cut of meat known as the baby back rib is the only meat that is designed to take well to smoking. That’s because baby backs have enough fat and collagen to keep them moist while still retaining a great flavor during cooking.

 What you want to look for in pork ribs are a bit of a challenge. First, you want to look for baby back ribs, which are thin, and easily cut in strips. But, what do you know about ribs? In this case, you want to look for a meaty, tender cut. The best cuts to smoke are from the baby back rib area, as they are easy to cook and can be eaten with little effort.

Looking to stay out of the cold, see our Best Indoor Smokeless Grills

 Pork is one of the leanest meats you can buy. But, it’s also one of the tastiest. And if you find a good cut of pork, it will keep for a long time in your refrigerator. But, if you’re buying meat at the grocery store, finding out exactly which cut to buy may be tricky. The best way to know what kind of meat you’re buying is to ask the butcher. Most butchers will be able to tell you what cuts they recommend and which ones are most popular with their customers.

Pork Ribs – Spare Ribs

Creekstone Farms Natural Duroc Pork St. Louis Ribs (4 Racks)
as of September 14, 2023 7:29 am

Spareribs are lean, flavorful, and easy to find. You can find them at most grocery stores and meat markets, as well as from some farmers and butchers. Ask your butcher if you’re not sure which cut to get. When buying pork, look for “spareribs”, which come from the back legs and loin of a pig. The rib meat has more marbling than the loin, making it juicier and more tender.

 If you haven’t had spare ribs in a while, you’ll love the flavor of these lean, flavorful cuts. The trick to cooking spare ribs well is getting the right cut. These cuts are often sold with the bone in. You can find this type of meat in the pork belly or country-style ribs sections of your grocery store. The good news is, when you buy these cuts, you don’t need to worry about curing the meat first.

What it the Difference between Baby=Back Ribs and Spare Ribs?

You can use both styles of ribs on the smoker. Spare ribs (aka St. Louis-style) are meatier with more fat and bone. Baby backs, although smaller, have a lower amount of connective tissue as they are from the loin. They are more tender and they will cook faster than spare ribs.

Smoked Meat Pork Ribs

Lamb Shoulder

American Lamb ShoulderBone In
as of September 14, 2023 7:29 am

 When it comes to smoking meat, lamb shoulder is a tough sell. You can smoke all the lamb you want, but you won’t get the tenderness of the leg or the chops. What you need is a good cut of lamb shoulder, and that’s exactly what you’ll find at your butcher. The shoulder has a lot of flavor and is easy to prepare.

If you are able to find a good cut, Lamb shoulder can be a great change of pace from the regular pork and beef smoking options. It is a bit leaner than the other cuts, so you will have to adjust your recipes accordingly. For instance, if you’re making a BBQ sauce, you may need to add some fat to keep the sauce from being too thin. If you don’t want to do that, then you can always make a thick glaze for the meat.

Lamb Leg

Pastacheese USDA Prime Fresh American Leg of Lamb Bone In
as of September 14, 2023 7:29 am

Lamb leg is lean, flavorful and can be roasted to create a variety of flavors. The meat is relatively inexpensive and requires only minimal cooking. It is available year-round and a perfect way to add flavor to grilled meats and chicken dishes.

 I like lamb leg. Why? First of all, you can’t get a better cut of meat than leg. Second, the meat cooks quickly, making it a perfect candidate for smoking. Lamb leg is fairly inexpensive, and it doesn’t take much time or skill to prepare, which is nice, since most of us don’t have enough free time to cook dinner every night. It’s versatile, too, since it can be served raw, grilled, or smoked. In fact, lamb leg is such a great choice for smoking that many barbecue aficionados consider it the best cut of meat to smoke.

Beef Ribs

Beef Tomahawk Ribeye, Bone-In, USDA Choice
as of September 14, 2023 7:29 am

We tend to think about beef in terms of steak. This is a perfectly acceptable choice when you want a great-tasting piece of meat. But if you really want a taste sensation, try your hand at smoking beef ribs. Smoking is a great way to make your meat even tastier than it is in a typical oven-roasted beef dish. For this reason, it’s not unusual to see a well-done, smoked beef dish served as a main course in fine dining restaurants. In a slow cooker, smoking can be easy and a lot less messy.

For one of the best meats to smoke, you want to find a good cut of meat like a prime rib. A prime rib is a steak that is sliced off of a top or bottom loin of beef. The main difference between a top and bottom loin is that a top loin is a more tender steak. So what are the best types of beef to smoke? You need to look at the specific characteristics of the meat and determine which of those would benefit the most from smoking.

Whole Turkey

Kosher Organic Turkey Breast Saddle W/o Wing (6-6.50 Lbs)
as of September 14, 2023 7:29 am

I’m sure you’ve heard of smoked turkey, but how do you really know that your turkey is the best? How can you know whether the smoke has infused the meat and enhanced the flavor? First, you should look for a cut that has been smoked whole—no skin, no bones, just a perfectly tender, juicy piece of meat. A cut with no fat is ideal. Second, you should cook it at a low temperature to retain the moisture. And third, make sure you cook it for a long enough time so that it’s tender all the way through.

Expert Tips on Curing Meats

The whole point of smoking is that the food tastes better. But the quality of the meat and choosing the best meats to smoke matters, too. It can make all the difference. We asked three experts, all pros at curing meat, to give us their recommendations and tips for curing meat.

“This is a great time of year to use a dry-cure method,” says Tony O’Sullivan, co-founder of O’Sullivan’s Meat Curing in New York City. “It allows you to preserve the flavor and keep the moisture.

You’re using salt as a preservative, but you’re also allowing the flavors to develop.” “You can do it with any type of meat,” says John Gertsen, owner of Gertsen’s Meat Curing in Portland, Maine. “If you’ve got a good piece of pork belly, you can do a dry cure on it.” Curing meat doesn’t have to be complicated. The basic process is simple: Take a cut of meat, rinse it off with water, then apply salt and spices.

You can add herbs or other flavorings, if desired. O’Sullivan uses an electric dehydrator to speed up the process. “I put the meat in an oven with low heat,” he says. “It’s done when it has lost 20 percent of its weight.” Once the meat is cured, it can be refrigerated for up to two weeks. “If you’re going to dry-cure, you want to use a really high-quality salt,” O’Sullivan adds. “You don’t want cheap salt, because it won’t penetrate the muscle fibers.” “Use a very fine salt,” Gertsen says. “You’re trying to get a nice texture.” He recommends kosher salt, which is more expensive than table salt but worth it. “You can also use a blend of salt and sugar, or a blend of salt and pepper.” And the spices? “I like to use freshly ground black pepper,” O’Sullivan says. “I use all different kinds of spices.

Pork Belly

Imported Pork Belly "Salo" with eatable rind(skin) 1lb by HolanDeli
as of September 14, 2023 7:29 am

If you’ve ever cooked with pork belly, you know it’s one of the most difficult cuts of meat to deal with. Sure, you can take a large chunk of belly and cut it into cubes or slices and grill it, but that’s not a fun way to cook the meat. Luckily, you can find many ways to enjoy the flavor and texture of this unique cut.

Smoked meats are a great way to cook any cut of meat. A great way to use a pork belly is to make bacon. This is the best way to use a pork belly in terms of flavor and texture. There are many ways to smoke the pork. There are different ways to cut the belly. The choice of wood that you use in the smoking process is important. Some woods such as applewood give a sweeter smoke, while hickory and mesquite are more smoky.

Chicken Thigh

Organic Chicken Thigh ~4lb - HAND Slaughtered
as of September 14, 2023 7:29 am

If you love smoking your own meat, there’s no question that the chicken thigh is the most tender cut of meat on a chicken leg. A whole chicken thigh smoked over applewood chips is almost a meal in itself. It’s the only part of the chicken I eat unless there’s a very good reason. My favorite way to smoke a whole chicken thigh is to spatchcock the bird first. Then I cut down the backbone and remove the wing tips. Once that’s done, the chicken is ready to smoke.

Whole Spatchcock Chicken

Double Certified Organic Whole Chicken Broilers
as of September 14, 2023 7:29 am

A whole chicken can take up to 18 hours to smoke—or if you’re into eating wings on a regular basis, a couple of days. In the past, a slow-smoking method was the only way to get good results. Today, you can find all sorts of smoking recipes online that will teach you how to make smoked meat. One of my favorites is Easy Smoked Spatchcock Chicken

What is the difference between a spatchcock and a chicken?

A spatchcocked chicken is just like butterflying a chicken, but with a name that is way more fun to say. Either way, this simply means to cut out the chicken’s backbone and press the bird flat so that it cooks in a single layer.

Turkey Breast

Foster Farms Raw Turkey Breast
as of September 14, 2023 7:29 am

Smoked turkey breast has been one of my favorite foods since I started cooking. For me, it’s one of the first things I want to cook when I get home from work. When I get home after a long day at work, my house is a mess. But once I start cooking, everything clears up.

 Most people don’t realize that you can smoke turkey breast, but you can! That’s what makes this so awesome. If you want to get your friends and family to eat turkey, this is a great way to get them to try something they may have previously overlooked. And if you love the flavor of smoked turkey, this is the way to get it. The only problem with turkey breast is that it doesn’t take long to cook, so you won’t have time to make a delicious side dish or snack.


Fat Boy Bratwurst Game Seasoning Complete Kit
as of September 14, 2023 7:29 am

The key to smoke-dried sausage is choosing the right cut of meat. You’ll want a meat that’s lean and tender. The problem is, a lot of people think a fatty cut of meat is the only way to go, but this isn’t always true. There’s nothing wrong with a thicker cut of meat, but you must choose carefully. A fatty cut of meat will add juiciness to your sausage, but it can also be too fatty to dry out properly.


Premium Angus Tri-Tip by Nebraska Star Beef - All Natural Hand Cut
as of September 14, 2023 7:29 am

“You want to pick up a tri-tip when it comes out of the smokehouse; if it’s not done right, it will taste like a wet sponge.” That’s how one butcher sums up the process of smoking tri-tip. It’s all about selecting the right cut of meat. The tri-tip is a steak from the bottom sirloin section of the cow. When buying tri-tip, you should look for meat that is moist and flavorful and free of gristle or fat. After that, it’s a matter of cooking it properly.

This cut is often paired with barbecue sauce, although it’s also great when seared, drizzled with olive oil, and served with a simple salad or on a bun with lettuce, tomato, onion, and other condiments.

Chicken Breast

Tyson Individual Quick Frozen Halves Chicken Breast
as of September 14, 2023 7:29 am

While you can use all kinds of meats to smoke, chicken breast is the most popular and versatile, as it works well in every kind of application. The key to cooking the chicken correctly is to smoke it, so the chicken won’t dry out or shrink. The best chicken breasts to smoke are those that have a thin and uniform thickness, and a nice, crispy skin.

Best Meat to Smoke for a Beginner – Recipes and Tips

The meat section is full of great, easy-to-make recipes for delicious smoked meats. If you follow the step-by-step instructions, you’ll be well on your way to making these recipes yourself.

 Smoked Pulled Pork Butt

Learning to smoke pork butt is a great place to start for a beginner smoker.

Pork butt is a large, hulking piece of meat that’s cut from the front shoulder area. It’s very fatty and has a wonderful flavor. If you’ve ever bought a pork butt at the grocery store, it’s likely been pre-smoked. It’s a great way to practice smoking, and you can make your own smoked pork butt at home in just a few hours! This recipe is easy to follow and tastes great, give it a try.

Smoked Hamburgers

Talk about simple and savory, Smoked Hamburgers is super easy and fast. Even though it is easy, does not mean it is not delicious it will have everyone at your next BBQ raving and wanting more.

The key is to stuff them with cheese and then coat them with olive oil. The combination of the two will keep them from drying out. Make sure you use a fatty cheese and seal it inside the meat so it doesn’t leak out. Also, always use 80/20. Anything leaner and you run the risk of drying out.

 Smoked Chicken Breast

Smoked Chicken is a white meat that is great for any occasion and who does not love smoked chicken breast.

Smoked Chicken breast is a tasty meat that is super easy to prepare and it can be cooked in many different ways. Don’t put butter in your chicken, or it will get dry. You want to use a an oil, like olive, that will help keep the chicken juicy. Make sure it’s coated with the oil before you wrap it up.

Texas Style Smoked Beef Brisket

Looking for something great that will have everyone’s mouth watering? You have to try this Texas Style Smoked Beef Brisket recipe. Limited ingredients allows the meat flavor to come through and brisket is one of the best meats for smoking. 

Burnt Ends

Traditionally, burnt ends are made with the points of the brisket, they are delicious but you do have to work for them. You will see a lot of recipes using a chuck roast, which has some similar flavor, but not the texture. They’re a little harder to make than brisket, but that’s what makes them so special.

 What Meats Are Not Good for Smoking

Although you can smoke virtually any cut of meat, there are a few I try to avoid. 

I’ve had a few bad experiences with these cuts, which lack the proper amount of connective tissue and fat, they quickly dry out and get overcooked when smoked, leading to disappointing results.

– Lean Roasts

– Thinly cut steaks that are mostly lean meat

Best Wood to Smoke Meat With

Camerons Products Wood Smoker Chips, 4 Pack
as of September 14, 2023 7:29 am

There are many types of smokers, from charcoal smokers to wood chips to pellet smokers. In this article, we will not get into great of all the different cooking methods detail of woods but as a quick overview:

Hickory is a classic multi-purpose wood and is great for smoked meats. Apple, maple, and cherry wood are milder flavors that go well with poultry. Mesquite is stronger and can be used to smoke dark meats. Oak is best for beef brisket and poultry. For fatty fish, I always use Cedar for best results.

Smoking Temperatures for Meats

ThermoPro Wireless Meat Thermometer for Grilling and Smoking
as of September 14, 2023 7:29 am

After you find the best meat for smoking, you are probably wondering how to smoke it while keeping the meat moist. I will do a full guide of the cooking process to secure tender meat in a separate article but have provided a general reference below:

Most meats should be smoked between 200 and 225 degrees. The internal temperature should reach 145 degrees for red meat and 165 degrees internal temperature for poultry. For ribs and brisket, though they’re technically done when the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees, experts recommend getting them up to 180 degrees or higher to tenderize the meat. While it might seem counterintuitive to cook meat past well-done, for barbecuing, those higher temperatures make the magic happen for smoking.

In conclusion, in order to make the best smoked meat, we’ve had to master the art of selecting the perfect cuts. It starts with picking a good piece of meat in the first place. For the best results, choose meat from a fresh supplier or butcher and use high heat and long cooking times. This will ensure the highest quality protein, moisture retention, and tenderness. Once you have the right cut, it’s time to smoke it. Now that you know how to find the perfect meat and make your own smoked meats at home, get to it.

If you have any questions, please let us know in the comments below.

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