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12 Best meat to smoke for a beginner

Meats containing a lot of collagen and fat, such as pork shoulder, beef briskets, beef cheeks, and rib, are the best to smoke. The meat will remain juicy and tender during cooking because the connective tissues and lipids break down.

Top 12 smoking meat for a beginner

1. Whole Chicken

One of the simplest foods for beginners to smoke is a whole chicken.

As there is very little that can go wrong if you regulate the fire, this is one of the best meats to smoke for novices.

The skin of the chicken won't get as crispy as it does when you grill or roast it, but the meat will still be incredibly tender and have a fantastic smoke flavor.

Another advantage is the reasonably quick cook time, which means you won't need to get up extremely early or stay up all night to ensure the meat is ready in time for lunch.

Even if everything goes well, the breast flesh won't be as juicy as the leg meat.

 

Cook time: 3 hours 

Prep: Trim the extra skin around the cavity, wet brine, dry rub 

Smoker Temperature: 225°F

Internal Temperature: 160°F for the breast meat and 165°F for the dark meat

Difficulty: 1

 

2. Chicken Thighs

The finest meat to smoke for novices is chicken thighs.

Grilling smoked chicken thighs to completion

On the smoker, white meat tends to dry out due to the prolonged cooking period. Smoking just dark meat, which will stay moist, is the best approach to prevent this.

One of the quickest smoking meats that can feed a lot of people and is also the simplest to prepare is chicken thighs.

The only remaining steps before lighting the smoker are to trim the fat and give the meat a spice rub as there is no need to brine or marinade the meat.

 

Cook time: 1.5 to 2 hours 

Prep: Trim the extra skin around the cavity, wet brine, dry rub 

Smoker Temperature: 225°F

Internal Temperature: 165°F closest to the bone

Difficulty: 1

 

3. Chicken Wings

At your Super Bowl party or backyard get-together, serve up some delectable smoked meat with this portable party food.

Being the quickest to prepare and cook, chicken wings are one of the simplest meats for beginners to smoke.

In a smaller packaging, smoked wings contain all the flavor of other meats like ribs or pork butt.

The flavor and smells of this traditional finger meal can take on a completely new level when chicken wings are smoked. You only need to smoke the wings and add your preferred wing sauces.

 

Cook time: 1.5 hours 

Prep: Dry rub only

Smoker Temperature: 225°F

Internal Temperature: 165°F closest to the bone

Difficulty: 1

 

4. Smoked Turkey

Choose turkey legs when smoking a turkey rather than the breast!

This well-liked method of preparing a turkey for Thanksgiving works equally well for a summertime barbecue. Even in state and local fairs, turkey legs may have been served.

Beginners should start with turkey legs since they are easy to smoke and fun to eat because you can take a whole leg and eat like a caveman.

You only need to focus more on getting the temperature of the breast and the dark meat just right if you want to master cooking the whole turkey.

 

Cook time: Turkey Legs – 5 hours, Whole Turkey – 10 to 12 hours

Prep: Trim the extra skin around the cavity, wet brine, dry rub 

Smoker Temperature: 250°F

Internal Temperature: 165°F for the breast and turkey leg

Difficulty: 3

 

5. Salmon

Salmon that has been smoked comes in two varieties. The first is Scottish smoked salmon served on bagels that has been cold-smoked.

Hot smoked salmon is the second. The type you should smoke as a beginner is this second variation.

Although hot smoked salmon tastes delicious on its own, it may also be used in salads, sandwiches, deviled eggs, and creamy pasta dishes.

Cook time: about 3 hours 

Prep: Cut into manageable 3-inch wide filets and trim belly fat, brine (optional)

Smoker Temperature: 175°F

Internal Temperature: 140°F

Difficulty : 3

 

6. Spare Ribs

These ribs are the best in the smoked rib world and are frequently utilized in barbecue competitions.

Spare ribs come from a lower part of the animal, closer to the breastplate, which distinguishes them from baby backs.

These ribs have a higher fat marbling and more taste since the surrounding muscles are used more, despite not being the easiest meat for beginners to smoke.

There are several trim choices available for spare ribs, where the superfluous cartilage and fat are removed to square up the rack.

The most extensively trimmed varieties are Kansas City and St. Louis style competition cuts, which you can request from your butcher.

 

Cook time: 6 hours 

Prep: Peel the silverskin, dry rub

Smoker Temperature: 225°F

Internal Temperature: this is insignificant for ribs but 195° is about right

Difficulty: 4

 

7. Prime Rib / Standing Rib Roast

For a large gathering, prime rib is a fantastic meat to smoke.

There is no reason why you shouldn't slow cook this celebratory piece of beef in the smoker instead of roasting it in the oven.

With a soft smokey outside and a medium-rare interior that you would expect from Prime Rib, it combines the best of both cooking methods.

One of the best meats to smoke for a large gathering, this might be a good alternative on special occasions like Christmas.

You can fit more side dishes in the oven by smoking the meat.

Cook time: 3 to 5 hours depending on the size of the roast and whether it is bone-in.

Prep: Trim any extra fat on the surface that is thicker than a ¼ inch, and season.

Smoker Temperature: 225°F

Internal Temperature: 110°F closest to the bone for medium-rare if you will be searing the exterior at the end. If no sear is wanted, pull the roast at 123°F

Difficulty: 3

 

8. Pork Butt/ Pork Shoulder

One of the best meats to smoke for novices, not only because it is inexpensive to smoke, but also because the leftovers are excellent for making pulled pork sandwiches.

Due to its high fat content and substantial amount of connective tissue, which keeps the meat juicy and tender throughout the lengthy cooking process, pork butt is also excellent for smoking.

Due to the size of this cut of pork, it makes for excellent smoking meat when feeding a large crowd during a backyard barbecue.

Cook time: 8 hours 

Prep: flavor inject, and dry rub 

Smoker Temperature: 225°F

Internal Temperature: 195°F 

Difficulty: 1

 

9. Pork Belly (a.k.a. bacon)

When smoking pork belly, there are two approaches to take. The first is to simply smoke and dry-rub the pork belly.

The second method involves curing the meat first, then smoking it at lower temperatures to produce typical bacon.

For the second variation, the pork must be chilled, thinly sliced, and cooked a second time at safe temperatures.

Served with traditional sides like mac & cheese and some cornbread, smoked pork belly is excellent in sandwiches or can just be drizzled with some barbecue sauce.

 

Cook time: 4 hours for pork belly, 3 hours for bacon

Prep: 

Pork belly – Remove the skin and cut a cross-hatch in the fat, dry rub

Bacon – Dry cure, rinse, smoke, chill, slice, fry

Smoker Temperature: 225°F for pork belly, 175°F for bacon

Internal Temperature: 165°F for pork belly, and 150°F for bacon

Difficulty: 2 for pork belly, and 5 for bacon

 

10. Sausage

There are several kinds of sausage you may smoke, from bratwursts to Texas-style hot links.

Any barbecue would benefit from adding some sausages because they offer a variety of flavors and give the meats you are serving a different texture.

One of the simplest and greatest foods to smoke for beginners is sausages. Due to their brief smoking period, you can add them to the smoker during the final few hours of preparing your other meats.

They can also be offered as appetizers to whet the appetites of those present for the remainder of the dinner.

Cook time: 2 to 3 hours 

Prep: No prep unless you decide to make the sausage.

Smoker Temperature: 225°F

Internal Temperature: 165°F 

Difficulty: 1

 

11. Short ribs

Short ribs have a much better ratio of meat to bone since they are much meatier and have muscle between the ribs and on the outside.

Short ribs are often braised or slow-cooked in stock until soft, but they taste just as good when they are smoked. If you enjoy beef, this might be the ideal meat for a beginner to smoke.

 

Cook time: 8 hours 

Prep: Trim the extra fat and silverskin from the meat side of the rack and dry rub. 

Smoker Temperature: 225°F

Internal Temperature: Cook until tender which is about 195° closest to the bone.

Difficulty: 4

 

12. Lamb Shoulder 

If you enjoy the slightly gamey and powerful flavor of lamb, this is an excellent meat choice for beginners to try smoking.

Due to its similar composition in terms of fat and connective tissue, lamb's shoulder cooks up quite similarly to pork butt. It can therefore be enjoyed in loose slices like brisket or in pulled meat sandwiches.

Lamb shoulder is a delicious way to include smoked meats at a more upmarket gathering, and it goes well with robust wines.

 

Cook time: 5 hours 

Prep: dry rub and go!

Smoker Temperature: 250°F

Internal Temperature: 205°F closest to the bone

Difficulty: 3


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