The 13 Best Meats to Smoke at Your Next BBQ(Infographic)


Barbecue smoking is the best cooking method in the world. Whether pork shoulder, beef brisket or fish, there is no dish that cannot be refined using the classic technique. Heat up your barbecue smoker or charcoal grill, too—here are 13 of the best meats to smoke.

Smoked breast pastrami in bread


Most of the time when it comes to smoking meat, the fattier the cut of meat, the better. The reason for this is that when cooking, the fat content melts and the connective tissue in the meat starts to break down, giving us a much more tender and juicy taste. Cuts of meat that are perfect for smoking include pork shoulder, ribs, brisket, poultry and more.

These meats are just the tip of the meaty iceberg, however, and in my guide today, I’m going to walk YOU through the best cuts of meat to smoke, how to prepare them, and how long to cook them.

Best meats for smoking infographic

Smoking is a form of cooking that combines very low cooking temperatures with very long cooking times to prepare food. It stands to reason that most of the best smoking recipes are meat-based, as the low-and-slow approach means that the marbling and fat content will slowly melt away and add flavor.

Because smoking focuses so much on the meat, it’s the perfect cooking method for grilling. In fact, in some cases, some meats are even smoked first before being ready on the grill.

If you’re not a smoker, be sure to check out my guide to the best offset smokers.

The smoking times are significantly longer than with other cooking methods. This is because the process primarily involves tenderizing and melting the fat from the meat, basting it and infusing it with smoky flavors. This makes the meat incredibly tender, juicy and rich in flavor.

The general rule of thumb is to low and slow cook meat at 225°F, but there are special circumstances when you can smoke at lower temperatures .

Cooking times for smoking often depend on the amount and size of your cut of meat, so I’ll list smoking times in relation to your weight. For example, most meats take at least 30 minutes per pound or half kilogram.

In fact, when it comes to choosing your cut of meat to smoke, it can seem like a contradiction in terms. For example, more classic cuts of meat are more expensive and grilled over charcoal much better without being smoked.

Conversely, cheaper meats with a higher fat content are excellent for smoking. Not only does the fat content greatly improve the flavor, but the relative cost of the cut means you can buy in bulk and grill in bulk. The mere presence of the meat itself helps it take on its own flavor.

Cheap meat also gives you something many other cuts of meat don’t have: the freedom to experiment. And that’s something smoking superfans get excited about.

With that in mind, here are 13 of the best meats to smoke.

Beef Brisket


grilled brisket

Let’s start our list with a classic old favourite. Brisket is the official choice for Texas-style barbecue, and with good reason.

While it can be chewy and chewy in normal cooking environments, cooking it through a smoker can take it to another level. Its fat melts and spreads over the meat, making it tender and phased. Its taste lies wonderfully somewhere between roast beef and steak.

A beef brisket is particularly nice because it is relatively easy to smoke. It requires little to no preparation and requires little more than a simple rub or salt before putting it in your smoker. So it just needs to be smoked “low and slow” to break down all the tough connective tissue in the meat.

There are some excellent woods for smoking brisket, but I recommend choosing oak, hickory, or mesquite.


Smoke for 90 minutes per pound of meat at 225°F/107°C. Smoking until internal chest temperature reaches 90°C.

Once ready, slice thinly and voila!

Alternatively, after slicing, soak in a pan of barbecue sauce for 5-10 minutes before serving for an authentic Texan style.

Which wood to use: hardwood, oak or mesquite.

Check out my guide to the best cuts of meat to smoke

Whole Turkey

The Thanksgiving special is always popular, but preparing it in a smoker really takes it to a new level.

Turkey is resting before grilling

Smoked turkey makes it wonderfully moist and firm, while its flavors are creamy and sweet. Not only that, but its aroma really sets it apart from its oven-cooked counterpart.

Like chicken, turkey really comes into its own when cooked slowly and low in a good pellet smoker.

One important thing to note is that the meat needs to be picked in brine to keep it from drying out. It will take a little time and preparation, but I promise you, the extra effort is well worth it.

Check out our guide to smoking a whole chicken


Simply soak one hour per pound of bird in brine. Once ready, it should be smoked at 230ºF/110ºC for 30 minutes per pound . Smoking until internal temperature reaches 73°C.

Best Wood: Hickory or Mesquite.

Pork Ribs

Smoked pork ribs are, perhaps second only to beef brisket, one of the respected meats smoked by grill enthusiasts.

Baste grilled pork ribs

No wonder: Ribs contain a lot of fat and collagen and are therefore ideal for grilling. In fact, they become wonderfully tender and juicy when roasted. Even better for us, ribs are fairly cheap and widely available compared to other cuts of meat.

Pork ribs require a bit of prep, but don’t be discouraged: it will give you results that are worth waiting for. You have to remove the heavy-duty membrane from the grid, for that you have to peel it off, and then you have to soak it in brine for 45 minutes per pound.


Like brisket whenever you smoke slowly over low heat at about 230ºF/110ºC for 6 hours. Aim for an internal temperature of 85 °C.

Which wood to use: red oak, hickory, or mesquite.


Fish is often overlooked when grilling, but it doesn’t deserve it. And without fish, that sounds truer than carp.

Carp served on a plate with a side dish

Carp is a fatty, white meat absolutely perfect for grilling and is also readily available all year round.

You can pour straight into the smoker with very little preparation. However, if strong fish flavors bother you, I recommend soaking them in buttermilk for 1-2 hours before smoking. This will help remove some of the oil from the meat while allowing the fish to absorb some of the more subtle and creamy flavors of the buttermilk.


You should be able to get four healthy fish fillets from one carp. Cut fillets before smoking or soaking. Smoke for 1 hour per pound at 250ºF/120ºC or until internal temperature is reached or 180ºF/82ºC.

Which wood to use: apple, hickory or cherry?


Not for everyone, goat is one of the healthiest forms of red meat when it comes to calorie and fat content.

Smoked goat is firm, sweet and…well…smoky. It goes great in Asun, Kid, and even in tacos.

There are some major differences between goat and lamb, and its lean fat content is what really sets it apart as a nice, chewy cut of meat.


Goats must be pickled in brine before frying. However, compared to other meats on this list, it takes a relatively short time. Salt for 60 minutes per pound of goat.

It also requires a lower smoking temperature than other meats. Smoke one hour per pound at 200ºF/90ºC with an internal temperature of 170ºF/76ºC.

What wood to use: Mesquite


Normally a very juicy meat, venison is almost unrecognizable when smoked. It takes on a nice roast beef flavor as it breaks down nicely into a threadlike shape.

smoked deer meat

While all parts of the venison can be used, the loin and shoulder are best for smoking.


To get the best out of venison, soak it in brine overnight. This process mostly the meat very well.

Smoke 90 minutes per pound of meat at 250ºF / 120ºC or until internal temperature reaches 165ºF / 73ºC.

What wood to use: apple, oak, cherry

Wild Boar

It is often wrongly assumed that wild boar meat is made with pork, but nothing could be further from the truth. It’s a whole different meat. It is beautiful and unique, as well as juicy, sweet and tender to eat.

Wild boar meat and ribs served on a platter

While much of it can be smoked, I would recommend choosing ribs, ham, or tenderloin. Although, and this is going to sound bold, if you have a great steakhouse, I’d literally say go all out.

Again, as with many meats on this list, I strongly recommend grilling “low and slow.” And when I say slow, I mean slow. To get the best out of them, you should smoke the wild boar at 200ºF/90ºC for no less than 12-14 hours. While this may seem like a long time, the fat from the meat helps it soak during this time. It tastes as fantastic as it sounds.


To get the best out of them, you should smoke the wild boar at 200ºF/90ºC for a minimum of 12-14 hours. While this may seem like a long time, the fat from the meat helps it soak during this time. It tastes as fantastic as it sounds.

Cook until the internal temperature reaches 73°C.

What wood to use: mesquite, maple, or apple.

Whole Hens


Whole chicken on plate


Prepare by removing the stomachs and throat and placing in brine an hour per pound. Then give it a massage to taste before putting it in the smoker.

Thanks to their simple size, whole chickens typically take much less time to smoke than other meats on this list. Also specify cooking them at 225ºF/110ºC for 45 minutes per pound. Aim for an internal temperature of 75 °C.

What wood to use: mesquite or hickory.

Lamb Shoulder

Rich in fat and perfect for a rotisserie, smoked lamb shoulder has a wild feel once smoked. Slightly different from the other meats on this list, I wanted to end this list with something shocking.

smoked lamb shoulder

The lamb shoulder should be prepared, and then the excess fat removed. You can then squirt and season with apple cider vinegar.


Cook at 110°C for 45 minutes for pounds of meat. Aim for an internal temperature of 75 °C.

What wood to use:  apple or cherry

Chicken Quarters

I don’t think a BBQ list is complete without some good old-fashioned chicken cuts. It would be tempting to go for the wings, but I’ll reserve that sport for the leg quarters.

Chicken leg quarters cooked and resting on a shared kitchen counter

But what makes them so good for grilling? Well, relative to the rest of the chicken quarters and drumsticks, thighs and thighs are relatively high in fat, and if you’ve learned anything from this list, higher-fat meat results in some cuts that are perfect for smoking. .

See my Smoked Chicken Quarters recipe


To smoke them, simply remove the excess fat and apply your chosen spice. Cook at 220°F/105°C for 2 hours. Cook until the internal temperature reaches 75°C.

What wood to use: apple

Boston Butt

This is a true crowd pleaser and one of the truly iconic BBQ recipes for YOU to start with.

Boston Butt cooked on a cutting board

There can be quite a bit of confusion surrounding the Boston Butt as it is sometimes referred to as a pork shoulder or pork belly. In the offer, they all refer to the same cut of meat, namely the pork shoulder. Rest assured that none of them came from the pig’s butt.

The tough connective tissue that makes up pork shoulder is perfect for smoking, as they can only be broken down by low and slow cooking. If we didn’t cook this way, these fibers and tissues would be much harder to break down.

You want to know more? Check out my guide to smoking pork .


Cook per pound of pork at 107 °C for 2 hours. Cook until the internal temperature reaches 95°C.

What wood to use: apple or hickory

Lamb Leg

Lamb isn’t the easiest meat to find at some butcher shops, but if you can get your hands on some it’s definitely worth a try. It can be sold with your choice of two ends: the bottom end with the “bunny” and the top end with the roast beef. Of the two, I recommend the top sirloin as it tends to be a lot of fetlock, which lends itself well to grilling.

Leg of lamb prepared on a platter

If your choice is bone-in or bone-in, by all means go for bone-in. This makes things a lot easier and can help cook the lamb much more evenly.

To keep the lamb from drying out, it’s important to spray the lamb with vinegar and oil every hour.


Cook at 107°C for 30 minutes per pound of meat. regularly this takes about 4-5 hours but it depends on the size of your meat. As with many meats on this list, we want to aim for a core temperature of 62°C.

What wood to use: maple


We’re all familiar with smoked salmon, so its place on this list shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Salmon sit on smoking racks

Fish typically takes much less time in the smoker than other cuts of meat, but requires different preparation steps that are slightly more time-consuming.

It needs to be salted, cured and air dried before you can finally roast it. It can be a bit of a tedious process, but hey, is it worth it?


Smoke at 82°C/180°F for at least 3 hours or until the salmon’s internal temperature reaches 60°C/140°F.

Which wood to use: alder or oak

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