What Are The Best Meats To Smoke?

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As a BBQ enthusiast, nothing can be more rewarding than smoking your meat to perfection and having your family and friends raving about how tantalizing it is. When I started my journey into the world of barbecue, one question often asked on many barbecue forums was, "What are the best meats to smoke?"

Whether you are looking to enjoy a good backyard BBQ or aspiring to become a Pitmaster who wants to perfect his craft, you are at the right place.

This article discusses the best meats to smoke that are easy to cook and guaranteed to tantalize your taste buds. The meats in this article can be cooked on any type of smoker you have.

If you need guidance on the best smoker for your BBQ needs, check my review on the best smokers of 2021.

So, get ready to light up your smoker, dinner is about to be served!


What Makes a Good Meat Cut for Smoking?

Many meat cuts are considered bad, but in reality, they are ideal for smoking. If you purchase meat full of connective tissues and fat, you’ll likely consider it bad for smoking.

On the contrary, when this meat cut is placed in an electric roaster, the prolonged lower temperatures will breakdown the fats and connective tissues. The fat becomes tenderized and unrecognizable.

The best meat cuts to smoke are those that will be altered after a long cook. With the melting of the fats and the breaking down of the connective tissues, the meat will come out juicy and tender, softly melting in your mouth.

The Best Meats to Smoke - Overview

best meats to smoke in smoker

We will be looking at different meats in this section. Some meats are fattier than others and are therefore better for smoking. Remember that lean meat doesn’t work as well in a smoker.

Tough and fatty meats are the best meat to smoke. For example, beef is an ideal candidate, and some of the best BBQ comes from smoking beef.

Another fantastic option is pork. Pork is generally leaner than beef, but there are few cuts of pork that work amazingly well in a smoker. There are also cuts of pork that don’t work well when smoked.

Specific parts of turkey, chicken, whole birds, or other poultry are also good. These meats require less smoking time as they tend to be relatively lean. This meat does not need babysitting in the smoker and is highly recommended for new grillers.

Venison, cuts of lamb, and some types of seafood are other good choices to smoke.

Additionally, jerky and even sausages work great in the smoker. Jerky is perfect for smoking because of the low temperatures required.

Some of the best things to smoke besides meat are vegetables and cheese. They can produce incredible results.

Best Cuts of Meat to Smoke - A Detailed Reviews

1. Best Cuts of Beef to Smoke

Best Cuts of Beef to Smoke


This is the ultimate meat. Perfecting a brisket BBQ is the dream of every amateur pitmaster. It is also the reason why BBQ is so incredibly tasty. A grilled brisket turns a relatively common cut of meat, known to be notoriously tough, into a mouthwatering, tender and delicious dish.

When cooked right, adorned with a nice smoke ring, and a tantalizing soft fatty layer, it becomes one of the best smoked meats.

Beef Rib

Like beef, a good rack of beef ribs come with a lot of connective tissue, fat and can be tough. This makes it a perfect candidate for smoking. A beef rib has a characteristic beefy taste, and when cooked properly, the fat melts, and softens the meat, unleashing fantastic flavors that will tantalize your taste buds.

Prime Rib

This is another excellent cut of beef, and it is one of the best meats to smoke. It is laced with thin and long fat lines that melt during cooking, which brings about a deep beefy flavor.

Prime ribs are usually expensive, but they are a fantastic treat when cooked right. Before preparing a prime rib, I recommend that you get a bit of BBQ experience, as it can be a bit tricky. Additionally, tone down the smoke slightly when cooking, and allow the beef taste to take over.

These are some cuts of beef that work well in the smoker, just a few you can get started on.

2. Best Cuts of Pork to Smoke

Best Cuts of Pork to Smoke

Pork Shoulder

Pork shoulder is also called pork butt. It is one of the most manageable parts to smoke. If this is your first smoke, I recommend starting with a pork butt. Pork butt is forgiving, so even if your cooking does not go as planned, you will likely still end up with a great tasting meal anyway. This does not apply when smoking your first brisket.

The pork butt has a lot of fat running through it and will become very soft when cooked right.

Pork Ribs

This is another classic cut of meat for BBQ. It’s fantastic for smoking, and it’s excellent as a beginner cut. With minimal effort and a sprinkling of one of your favorite rubs, you can quickly turn pork ribs into a mouthwatering BBQ.

3. Best Poultry for Smoking

Whole Chicken

Best Poultry for Smoking

A whole chicken is an excellent meat to smoke due to its shorter cooking time. It is lean meat, and generally very simple to cook right, making it excellent practice meat.

To get started, grab a fresh chicken from a supermarket, remove all the unwanted parts, like the gizzard, for instance. Then rub it, butter it, use whatever recipe and seasoning you like.

Chicken is versatile, and smoked chicken tastes incredible. Chicken parts such as thighs, wings, and quarters also work great on the smoker. They are readily available and are quite cheap.

Whole Turkey

Like chicken, a whole turkey is an excellent choice of meat for smoking. A smoked turkey is perfect for a Christmas meal or Thanksgiving. Smoking a whole turkey is not easy, and it is an impressive feat when accomplished.

But when it comes to smoking a whole turkey, there are plenty of options. I recommend bringing and trying out different wood to add an extra layer of flavor to your turkey.

4. Best Cuts of Lamb to Smoke

Lamb’s Shoulder

Lamb’s shoulder is a fatty meat, and it is one of the fattiest cuts of the whole animal. When cooked properly, it breaks down to moist and soft barbecue perfection. It is one of the most undervalued cuts of meat, and for me, one of the best meats cut to smoke.

Finding a good lamb shoulder can be difficult, so, be patient when searching, because when you find the ideal shoulder, you will be in for a treat.

Best Cuts of Lamb to Smoke

Lamb’s Leg

Like the lamb shoulder, the leg is a fatty meat cut that benefits greatly from a traditional low and slow smoke. The leg of lamb is trickier than the shoulder, as it always comes with a large bone that makes cooking uneven. But with practice and proper planning, you will be treated to a brilliant although the underrated cut of meat. 

5. Best Cuts of Venison to Smoke

Venison Roast

Any deer part can be smoked, and I recommend experimenting with different cuts yourself. Usually, deer meat is dry and has a gamey flavor to it. But with a simple overnight brine and extra care, you will realize it is one of the best meats to smoke.

The smoking process will remove the strong gamey flavor, and the brine will add the extra moisture.

6. Best Seafood to Smoke


Best Seafood to Smoke

Many kinds of seafood will do fine on a smoker, but salmon is almost certainly the best one to smoke. It is a fatty and oily fish, and smoking it releases incredible deep flavors that tantalize the taste buds.

Salmon is also delicious when planked - this is achieved when grilling the fish on a plank (usually cedar). The woody flavor will be infused into the fish. You can even fortify it with a quick burst of smoke to produce a unique flavor. You can also cold smoke your salmon.

7. Other


You can transform your store-bought sausage by cooking it in a smoker. It is very easy to prepare and can be one of the best smoked meats.


With a little science and a lot of tasting, the above-listed meats are the best to smoke. Obviously, there are many more meat cuts out there, and I recommend trying them out for all, as the best part of outdoor cooking and barbecuing is experimenting for yourself.


If you need more information about smoking, read our article on “SMOKING 101 – Things You Need To Know About Smokers And Smoking” which goes into more detail about the science of smoking.

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