The best meats to smoke are the fattiest that you can find. This is because the fat is easy to tenderize and can hold the flavor of the smoke while you cook it.
They also hold together the connective tissues, which means smoking through these areas of the meat will make it fall off the bone for a silky texture.
Fatty meats are often the cheapest cuts too, as our society often prefers lean meat. When you’re smoking a cut, it doesn’t matter how tough it was originally, as the cooking method will tenderize it. That means throwaway cuts are your best choice for a smoker.
Again tough meats are very cheap, as the texture is harder to make appealing.
For a super reduced answer, the best meat to smoke at home is a fatty and cheap cut. If you want something more specific, we can explain which cuts to look out for, and why they are great in your smoker. And with the right BBQ equipment, you can smoke your meat perfectly!
If this is your first time using the smoking technique, be sure to follow a guide to smoking meat, so you can get the best out of your cut.
The brisket is the lower area of a cow’s chest. The cuts are often very large, and so they take a long time to cook. Putting them in the oven often leads to a burnt outside and underdone inside. That’s why they are best cooked in a smoker or slow cooker.
Briskets should be juicy and easy to cut after you’ve finished smoking it, and you’ll notice the flavors of the smoke nestled into every bite.
Pork Butt or Boston Butt
The pork butt is often discarded because most people don’t like the idea of eating a pig’s bottom. However, you should think of the butt as a larger version of the shoulder.
Shoulders are juicy pieces of meat that have a lot of connective tissue and muscle. This makes it perfect for smoking, as the tissues can absorb the smokey flavor.
You can then easily turn this cheap cut into pulled pork or a delicious sliced display.
The shoulder doesn’t need as long a cooking time as the butt, because the size will be a lot smaller. However, it has the same juicy texture due to the connective tissue we mentioned earlier.
Pork in general is an amazing choice for smoked meats, as the cooking time is shorter and it’s harder to create a tough texture.
Baby Back Ribs
Baby back ribs are very similar to spare ribs, but they are leaner. This means they are more expensive. They are also smaller than spare ribs and the majority of the cut is bone.
All of this might sound rather negative, but if you want quick cooking meat in your smoker, then the baby back rib would be your best option. Make sure to keep an eye on the meat, as it can easily become chewy and tough from overcooking.
If you’re happy with a long cooking time, then choose the spare ribs instead. They aren’t as meaty as their baby counterparts, but they hold more flavor and are often sold in larger quantities.
Because of the bones, you can expect a longer smoking time than the other meats on this list.
Beef ribs can be hard to find, but they are cheaper than pork. They need a long and slow smoking time – normally around 6 hours. This is because beef needs a lot of heat to reach a wonderfully tender texture.
Lamb and beef have very similar textures, so you can expect the same long cook time. However, the rich flavor of this meat creates a delicious pairing with smokey overtones.
The shoulder, like pork, will be dense as the connective tissues will have been worked throughout the animal’s short life. This means it will taste tender after a long smoke.
Legs tend to be narrower and fattier than a shoulder. The shape of the leg often scares cooks into thinking the timing needs to be different at different ends, but due to that extra fat, the meat will cook evenly.
It will also absorb the smoke for a tender and detailed taste.
Fatty meats are the best option to cook for a smoker. They absorb the flavors easily and need a long time to cook evenly – this makes them perfect for the low burn of smoke and the subtle flavors that come with it.