Spring is officially here, or at least in my home state of Colorado it is. That means, for us “Foodies” is BBQ season. Everyone who has their favorite types of meat to throw on the grill or in the smoker, as I do.
Whether you’re new to smoking or a seasoned pro looking for new challenges, check out our top list of the best meats to smoke at home. And if you are looking for recipes, check out my former posts using the search tool, or stay tuned. I am always posting my latest stuff I do on the smoker. These are my fav’s, and I hope you try out one or 2 of them. Email me and tell me what your favorites are as well, Cheers.
1. Beef Brisket
Brisket is a cut of beef from the lower chest of the animal. As it’s a large cut that requires slow cooking, it’s an ideal choice for your smoker.
Unlike many other beef cuts, brisket retains its shape when cooked and can be sliced easily – making it a good choice for serving up hefty slabs with some tasty slaw or as thinly-sliced cold meat for sandwiches.
Although hugely popular, juicy smoked brisket can be notoriously difficult to get right for beginners. Everyone has a favorite method of what to do at the stall. For me, its all about the wrap.
2. Baby Back Ribs
Baby back ribs come from the section next to the pig’s backbone and are one of the most popular rib cuts. They are smaller and meatier than spare ribs, but equally suited to smoking.
Just bear in mind that, as they are a little leaner, they tend to cook faster. So if you are substituting them in a spare rib recipe, you’ll need to reduce cooking times and keep a closer eye on them to prevent tough and chewy results.
I use a “3-2-1” method using a braising type finish using a barrel aged imperial stout in my Bear Chested Baby Back Rib recipe.
3. Beef Ribs
Also known as “brisket on a stick”, beef ribs can be a little tricky to find, but they are well worth making a special trip to your butcher. It’s best to get the large ribs from the lower end – either chuck or plate ribs that have a good inch or two of meat on them.
Beef ribs require a long, slow smoke, usually anywhere between five to six hours, for extra tender, melt-in-the-mouth meat.
4. Leg of Lamb
Another cut of lamb that also smokes well is the leg. While Heidi, my wife, refuses to eat baby lambs because they are so cute, when she is out of town, it is “don’t ask, don’t tell” LOL
Lamb legs are typically available in two cuts, a narrower shank end, and a fattier, upper sirloin end. The fatty sirloin end is preferable for smoking, as it enables the fat to slowly melt away as it smokes for extra tender meat.
When smoking lamb leg, expect a smoking time of around three to four hours. Check out this recipe for some tips on Leg of Lamb.
5. Whole Turkey
Turkey is an excellent choice of lean meat, and with its flattened cooking surface, the whole spatchcock turkey makes a great candidate for your smoker.
Spatchcocking makes for faster cook times and greater absorption of delicious smoky flavor. Check out our top tips for smoking a whole turkey in just a few hours for a tasty family meal that’s quick and easy.
6. Chicken Wings
My game day favorite. I have always been a fan of chicken wings while watching a game. But once I tried smoked wings, I never went back to traditional buffalo wings.
Playing with spices in the rub, and making sauces from scratch, makes an endless variety to serve your friends…if there are any left for them. I used my one of my favorite imperial stouts on this wing recipe.
7. Beef Prime Rib
Unsure about the difference between prime rib and ribeye? The prime rib comes from the animal’s forequarter and is one of the more expensive cuts.
This cut encompasses meat from the sixth through twelfth ribs, basically the area between the chuck and the loin. Typically pan-seared and roasted, smoking is an excellent way to add extra flavor and ensure a tenderly delicious roast in around six hours.
8. Chicken Thighs or Legs
Fattier and more flavorsome than breast meat, chicken thighs are often overlooked when it comes to smoking. However, they taste truly divine when smoked – so next time you fancy firing up your smoker, stick a few on and find out for yourself!
We recommend smoking with the skin on for extra moisture retention.
Fastly gaining in popularity, tri-tip is an excellent cut to smoke.
It comes from the lower part of the sirloin, or rear of the animal, and is easily identifiable by its triangular shape. Your average tri-tip will weigh in at around two or three pounds when trimmed up, although untrimmed versions will weigh much more due to their large fat caps.
As a fairly lean cut, tri-tips don’t take that long to smoke, making them a great alternative to the traditional day-long brisket smoking marathon. Just make sure yours has plenty of marbling running through it for tender results.
At around two hours’ smoking time, smoked tri-tip makes an excellent summer evening meal, even on a work night.
I love to use the reverse sear technique on a tri-tip that will give you an amazing finish. Check it out here.
10. Pork Butt
Pork butt is full of flavor, which makes it a great cut to use in your smoker.
Pork butt is sourced from the upper shoulder of the pig, an area packed full of hard-working muscles and tight connective tissue. This meat is perfect for smoking, as the dense tissues slowly break down over a long cooking duration, resulting in beautifully tender, melt-in-the-mouth meat!
Bear in mind that pork butt typically takes around 1.5 hours per pound to smoke, so this dish is definitely one for the weekend.
The Final Wrap (no pun intended)
Smoking is a great way to tenderize and add extra flavor to your meat. This long, slow, cooking process transforms cheap, tough cuts into mouth-wateringly tender, delicious meals.
I hope my Top 10 list and some of my hints has helped you to get started on your culinary journey. If you have any questions or recipe suggestions, be sure to let me know and I will get back to you as soon as I can.