Is there anything that smells better than meat on a smoker?
Although it seems like smoking can make everything taste better, there are those cuts that take to the process much better than others.
And because smoking can be a pretty time-consuming process, why would you want to waste your time trying to cook bad cuts?
Ready to start smoking, but aren’t sure which cut you should try out first?
Here’s everything you need to know about the best meats to smoke.
Bonus tip: find a great local online butcher and they’ll always look after you
What Makes Meat Smoker Worthy?
Grilling, which people more commonly associate with the backyard barbeque, is nothing like smoking. Where a good grill session can be fast and hot, smoking is a low and slow process.
More often than not, the best cuts of meat for smoking are those that people usually consider “bad.” Low-quality, tougher cuts, with a lot of fat and connective tissue in them, do very well with the low and slow method.
The long cook time that comes with smoking gives the tougher meat time to tenderize.
The collagen breaks down to keep the meat nice and moist while also adding a little sweetness to the overall flavor. Long-term exposure to smoke then infuses the meat with that signature smokiness.
While smoking can take hours, you’re left with tender, flavorful meat that’s so delicious, you’ll forget all about the wait.
All that said, it doesn’t matter what kind of meat you have if you aren’t using the right wood pellets to produce all that delicious smoke.
There are those smoker aficionados that insist hickory are the best wood pellets for smoking. But, mesquite, maple, and fruitwoods like cherry, are also fantastic options, depending on what your cooking and the flavor you want.
The All-Time Best Meats to Smoke
Now that you know what makes meat suitable to throw on your smoker, it’s time to go over a few of the best cuts.
When it comes to smoking, pork and beef are the undeniable kings. While many cuts of these denser, often fattier, meats lend themselves very well to the low and slow process, there are a few that stand above the rest.
Here are the all-time best cuts to smoke.
Also known as pork shoulder, this cut is the end-all, be-all if you’re cooking for a crowd — and the first cut smoking novices should master.
After all, who doesn’t love a good pulled pork sandwich?
Boston butt’s near-perfect, fat the lean meat ratio, means you don’t have to worry about adding any rubs or sauces to get the flavor just right. With enough time, the meat will do that all on its own.
Then, once the meat is ready, all that’s left is to shred it, throw some on a bun and enjoy it however you like.
Another titan of the smoking world is the classic beef brisket.
Many veterans of the craft consider brisket the premiere cut for smoking because it comes with a lot of one of smoking’s secret ingredients: fat.
Beef brisket comes with a thick layer of fat, which is instrumental in keeping the meat moist throughout the cooking process.
When it comes to picking a cut of brisket, you’ll want to choose a piece with a lot of marbling. You’ll also want to pick the most tender cut you can find.
Boston butt can get away with going on the smoker naked, but most smoking masters prefer to dress their beef brisket up with a dry rub beforehand.
On a beef brisket, a dry rub will melt into the meat’s all-important outer layer of fat. This process will allow the flavor to seep into the meat throughout the entire cooking process.
Finally, what’s the cut of meat everyone thinks of when they think of smoking? That’s right, a massive rack of ribs.
Beef and pork ribs are a favorite in the barbeque world not just because of how easy they are to cook, but because of how fun they are to eat! There’s nothing quite like eating meat right off the bone.
Ribs, like brisket, tend to do very well with a dry spice rub, although you can also smoke them without any extra flavoring.
Ribs can be one of the faster cuts to smoke. But, by dropping the temperature a bit and upping your cook time by a few hours, you can get the meat of your ribs so tender it falls off the bone.
Remember, when it comes to smoking, patience is essential. The slower you cook, the more tender and flavorful your meat will be, so never try to rush the process.
While pulled pork and ribs are delicious, you cannot live off three cuts of meat alone.
Variety is the spice of life, and while beef and pork are certainly colossi in the smoking world, they aren’t the only meats you can throw in your smoker.
If you’re looking to shake up your smoking came, here are a few more options you can try.
Smoked chicken is fried chicken’s delightful and delicious cousin.
If you’re planning a cookout and would like to provide a lighter fare for your more health-conscious guests, you can’t go wrong with smoked chicken.
Because chicken legs, thighs, and breasts don’t contain the same fat content as beef or pork, they can dry out if you aren’t careful. And while basting bird bits can seem a bit tedious, the rewards are well worth the effort.
Sure, this one may sound a bit odd, but this fatty fish does exceedingly well in a smoker.
Because salmon cooks pretty fast, usually within an hour or two, it’s a perfect option if you’re looking for a quick meal to impress your dinner guests.
And, if you want to start using your smoker for every meal, smoked salmon makes for excellent breakfast food. Try tossing some on a bagel with cream cheese.
Who says you need to wait for Thanksgiving to enjoy some turkey?
Like chicken, turkey also takes well to the flavors that come with the smoking process. And while you can smoke an entire bird, your smoker also unlocks a tasty treat that’s you can usually only find in fairs and theme parks: smoked turkey legs.
Is your mouth watering yet?
Now that you’re more familiar with the best meats to smoke, it’s time to get smoking!
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