Smoking is not just a cooking method, it is an art of infusing different types of meat and food with unique smoky flavors and making them delicious.
Are you also interested in smoking your meats but have fewer skills and expertise? No worries because there are many great meat options that you can smoke like an expert and develop your smoking skills.
In this article, you will find some of the best meats to smoke for beginners, from easy chicken to challenging beef cuts, and a quick overview of their preparation. Also, make sure to go through the tips we shared for a stress-free and enjoyable smoking experience.
So, let’s dive deep into the smoking world.
Best Meats to Smoke for Beginners – Top List
As a beginner, you can go for a wide variety of excellent meat options that are ideal for smoking. These include chicken breast, turkey breast, ribeye steak, lamb chops, short ribs, salmon, beef ribs, cheeks, etc.
As a beginner, you have access to a wide variety of excellent meat options that are ideal for smoking. These include chicken breast, turkey breast, ribeye steak, lamb chops, short ribs, salmon, beef ribs, and cheeks, among others.
Before we start discussing the meats, we recommend you go through each option on our list, specify your expertise, and then choose one. Let’s begin.
Chicken is a relatively easy and lenient meat to smoke compared to others. That’s why we consider it the best meat to smoke as a newbie.
You just need to be familiar with heat and smoke control, and you will be able to smoke a chicken with delicious flavor and fewer risks of overcooking and drying out your meat.
The outcome will be different than grilling, roasting, or baking. For example, rather than achieving crispiness and crust on the chicken’s surface, you will get unique smoky flavors, tenderness, and natural juices inside.
Another advantage of chicken is that it requires less smoking time than beef brisket and turkey, making it more suitable for beginners.
For example, 3 to 4 pounds is an ideal weight for the chicken. Now, if you smoke it at around 225 °F, you can expect it to take 45 minutes per pound.
Moreover, you can remove whole chicken from the smoker when it reaches the internal temperature of 165 °F. If you are in a hurry, you can increase the temperature slightly, and it will ultimately cook poultry faster.
Lastly, seasoning becomes more straightforward for those new to the smoking world due to its small size.
Suppose the idea of smoking a whole chicken seems time-consuming and a bit confusing to you.
We recommend you begin smoking chicken wings or chicken thighs because they are small in size and a good entry point for beginners entering the smoking field.
Also, wings are the smallest, quickest, and among the best meats to smoke to achieve tenderness and flavors inside.
Their smaller size will make heat regulation easier because the smoker will have enough space, and the temperature won’t fluctuate.
As for seasoning, you can even season them using your palm, which means you don’t need to interact with the other accessories that might make things complex.
Even if you are smoking chicken thighs or wings with maximum size, they can be cooked properly in about an hour if the temperature remains 225 °F.
As wings are also part of the chicken, you can stop smoking them once they reach 165 °F. Finally, add your favorite bbq sauce and spices and serve mouth-watering wings to your guests.
You should select ribeye steak if you are not a complete beginner looking for meat that can provide extraordinary smoking results.
It may require more expertise and smoking experience because you must prepare it through two different cooking methods, smoking and reverse searing.
Also, you should be patient when cooking this meat because it needs to be properly seasoned, rested, etc. But no worries, let’s make things clear and easier for you.
Begin the meat smoking process by applying salt to ribeye steak and let it rest for a few hours inside a refrigerator or cooler. After the resting duration, season it with your favorite herbs and spices and set it inside your smoker.
Following the same 225 °F temperature, let it cook for around 1 hour and 30 minutes. It should reach 110 °F in this period so you can remove it from the smoker.
Now, your steak is ready for the reverse searing. To do that, place your slightly smoked meat on a hot grill to end the cooking procedure through searing.
Keep monitoring the internal temperature, and you can remove it within the range of 130 °F to 150 °F. It is important to note that 130 °F to 145 °F is suitable for different medium doneness levels. For well-seared steak, you can sear it till 150 °F.
So, you just need to look after things carefully, such as the food’s inner temperature, control the heat, and manage the smoke, and you can cook ribeye steak like an experienced griller.
Turkey Breast or Legs
You are missing a lot if you’re not cooking a turkey on Thanksgiving due to the lack of meat-smoking experience. Well, a whole turkey can be challenging, but you can easily try smoked turkey legs or its breast.
If we talk about the taste, a perfectly smoked turkey promises tenderness, smoke flavor, and all-natural juices in every single bite.
Temperature control remains the key to success, even if someone prepares the whole bird or its legs and breast. So, ensure you maintain the smoker’s temperature and look after the internal temperature of your meat carefully.
The procedure initiates with seasoning the bird and resting it for a few minutes to absorb the flavors. Next, place it inside the smoker and close the lid to trap heat and smoke.
Generally, per pound of turkey breasts will require around half an hour to smoke properly. Moreover, you can remove it from the smoker when it reaches an internal temperature of 165 °F to 170 °F.
You need to allow the fresh smoked turkey breast or legs to rest for 20 minutes before carving.
Recommended: If you wish to smoke a turkey, don’t forget to check our guide on how long to smoke a turkey at 300 and enhance your smoking experience.
If you are a newbie to smoking and are fond of rich smoky, and beefy flavors inside your meat, we recommend you try to smoke beef ribs rather than beef brisket.
They are comparatively larger and a forgiving type of meat that you can smoke without the fear of drying them out or making them tough to eat.
The reason is that they require more smoking time than other meats like chicken breast or thighs. But ensure you don’t prolong the cooking duration, which can impact the taste.
The smoking process for beef ribs remains the same, in which you need to season them first with your favorite rubs and spices.
Then, place the seasoned beef ribs inside your pellet or electric smoker and set the temperature between 225 °F to 250 °F, which is suitable for beef parts.
Although the exact smoking time of ribs depends on several factors, you can expect 4-pound ribs to take 6 to 8 hours if the temperature inside the smoker is between 225 °F to 250 °F.
First and foremost, beef cheeks are a perfect meat option for low and slow cook because they are pretty tough and require a longer cooking duration.
As we just finished talking about the more extended smoking period, ultimately, you will be able to achieve tenderness and juiciness inside your meat with fewer chances of drying out.
A little complexity you may face while preparing beef cheeks is that they require two different cooking methods, smoking, and braising.
Firstly, you will need to set them inside a smoker with a low temperature of around 225 °F. On average, cheeks weigh 300 to 400 grams and will require 2 to 3 hours of the smoking period, depending on the smoker you use.
The next step in the smoking process is braising the cheeks, in which they go into a flavorful liquid made of beef broth. Inside this liquid, the cheeks are cooked for 2 to 3 more hours or until they reach the internal temperature of 200 °F to 205 °F.
It can be challenging for beginners, but if you monitor the temperature closely while smoking and braising, you can cook flavorful and tender beef cheeks that will melt in your mouth.
Does slow smoking the beef cheeks seem challenging to you? Then, short ribs are the solution for you because they have a relatively smaller size. They are different from beef back ribs, tastier, tender, and suitable for beginners.
What makes beef ribs good meat for beginners is that you can cook them either through the slow and slow cooking process, braising, or smoking. If cooked perfectly, the outcome is worth it every time.
They have a comparatively minor size, so you must closely monitor their internal temperature to avoid burning and drying out.
Season them first with your desired seasoning and rubs per your requirements, and let them rest for 5 to 10 minutes to soak the rubs nicely.
As the short ribs come from beef and can be tough, set your smoker’s temperature to 225 °F or 250 °F and let it preheat until it creates reasonable smoke and heat inside the cooking chamber.
Place the short ribs on the grates and begin smoking at the same temperature. They will require 4 to 8 hours of cooking time, depending on their different sizes.
Keep checking the inner temperature and pull them out from the smoker when they reach 195 °F.
Resting the ribs for 15 to 20 minutes is necessary to make them tender and juicier. You can let them rest inside a cooler, cambro, or faux cambro, whatever suits you the most.
Short ribs are one of the top choices on our list of best meats to smoke for beginners.
If you like to smoke thin and small meat, lamb chops are the best meats for you to smoke as a beginner.
They come from the rib part of the lamb, and you will mainly see each chop surrounded by the tender meat and small bone section.
The smoking process of these chops becomes easy when you pay close attention to little things, such as the internal temperature of the chops and the smoker you are using.
Due to their smaller size, they cook quickly even if the temp inside the smoker is 250 °F. As a thumb rule, you will need to smoke them for 30 to 40 minutes or more, depending on the size and total pieces of chops you are smoking.
Again, begin the cooking process by seasoning the chops, placing them inside your preheated smoker, and start smoking them.
You need to keep the smoker lid closed because it can shorten the cooking period and inject a unique smoky flavor inside your lamb chops. The smoking session of chops can end when they touch the scale of 145 °F to 165 °F internal temperature.
Give 10 to 15 minutes of rest, so the juices and flavors redistribute nicely inside your smoked lamb chops.
If you are new to the BBQ world and a seafood lover, you will love smoking salmon to kick off your smoking journey.
It is one of the most suitable meats to smoke for beginners, and smoked salmon gives you a mouth-watering taste with unique smoky flavors.
First of all, you need to remove the skin and bones of salmon, which can be a bit more challenging than the smoking process for newbies.
The next step is to marinate the fish, in which you use different spices and ingredients to make it more flavorful and delicious.
A perfectly smoked salmon typically requires 3 to 4 hours of constant smoking to reach the safest internal temperature of 145 °F. Moreover, depending on personal preferences, you can decrease this temperature to 120 °F.
Lastly, if you get familiar with the procedure of removing skin and bone, the only thing left behind for cooking salmon is monitoring its temperature and maintaining the smoker’s heat.
Difficulty Level and Prep Time for Different Meats
The table given below shows how difficult it is to smoke different types of meat and how long it takes to prepare them. It will be helpful for you to understand which meat you should smoke per your expertise and the time you’ve.
Important Note: The stats we are sharing are based on our estimation but it still depends on several factors, such as the smoker you use, the weight of your meat, and your desired doneness level.
|Meat||Difficulty Level||Estimated Prep Time|
|Chicken||Easy||2 to 3 hours|
|Turkey breast||Easy to medium||3 to 4 hours|
|Ribs||Easy to medium||4 to 5 hours|
|Lamb chops||Easy||30 to 60 minutes|
|Ribeye steak||Easy to medium||1.5 to 2 hours|
|Salmon||Easy||3 to 4 hours|
Pro Tips for Beginners When Smoking Meat
By following our expert tips, you can smoke our suggested meats like a professional, and it will also help you smoke thick meats like beef brisket and whole turkey.
- Don’t go for more smoke than required: Beginners usually trap more than the required smoke inside the cooking chamber, which isn’t recommended. It can make the taste bitter rather than speeding up the process of smoking meat or imparting more flavor to your meat.
- Meat thermometer: Use a high-quality food thermometer and avoid opening the smoker’s lid frequently. It helps in imparting unique smoky flavors to the meat you are cooking. Also, it will end the smoking session within the required time.
- Temperature stall: When your meat stalls, there is no need to add more charcoal or pellets or try to provide more heat because it can ruin the taste and flavors. Instead, prolong the smoking session to get the same desired results.
- Water pan: Using a water pan when smoking meat can be helpful in different ways, especially for beginners. If you struggle to control the temperature on a charcoal grill or smoker, a water pan can make temperature regulation easier and provide a more friendly environment for smoking meat.
- Resting your meat: Always allow your smoked meats to rest as it helps juices to redistribute evenly throughout the meat. It will make juicy and tender meat for you.
Smoking meat can be challenging for newbies, but some cuts are comparatively easier to smoke.
After extensive research, we have compiled a list of the best meats to smoke for beginners.
You will find these meats forgiving and easy to smoke, making them perfect for those who have just started their smoking journey.
So, start with the suggested meat cuts, and you will get a delicious taste and smoky flavors every time.
Frequently Asked Questions
What meats can you smoke in 4 hours?
Several meat options are available that you can prepare in 4 hours or less. The most suitable are whole chicken, chicken wings and thighs, and salmon. You can smoke them relatively faster by increasing the smoker’s temperature a bit.
How do you know when your smoked meat is done?
Use the meat thermometer because the temperature inside your meat can easily tell if it is adequately smoked or require more cooking. Therefore, you should always know what meat you smoke and its safest & ideal internal temperature to eat.
How to prevent your meat from drying out while smoking?
While smoking meat, you should not use higher temperatures because smoking requires lower heat, and higher heat can make your food dry. Also, you can repel the problem of meat dryness and make your meat moist by smoking it with a water pan.
Robert Gill, a BBQ enthusiast, and Senior Author at FaveGrills.com bring his extensive knowledge of BBQ equipment and exciting recipes to the team. With his outgoing personality and love for BBQ, Robert plays an essential role in the FaveGrills community, sharing his passion and expertise through informative articles and gear reviews.