Best meats to smoke for beginners! From novice to a pro.

best meats to smoke for beginners

Table of Contents

Are you just starting out with smoking meat? Look no further! Here, I’ll share my top picks for the best cuts of meats to smoke – the best meats to smoke for beginners. From pork butt and chicken to salmon and brisket, learn how to transform your favorite cuts into succulent pieces of art through the finesse of smoking.

All it takes is a few simple steps, so if you’re ready to take your meal preparation skills up a notch while mastering an old-time classic cooking technique, keep reading on!

In this thorough guide, you will learn about:

  • Which are the best meats to smoke for beginners?
  • What is hot smoking?
  • Handy tips for smoking different meats
  • And much more!

Smoking meat

smoking meat

Transform your meals with hot smoking! This cooking method utilizes a combination of heat and smoke from burning wood, typically at temperatures between 225-275°F.

Not only will this infuse the meat with an irresistible smoky flavor, but it also cooks the food through, granting you juicy and succulent dishes each time. Whether you’re looking to experiment with beef, poultry, pork, fish, or seafood – hot smoking is sure to make any meal extraordinary!

For an array of unique flavor combinations, consider using hickory, mesquite, applewood, cherry, or pecan wood for hot smoking your favorite meats. This method is much faster than cold smoking and can take from a few hours to a day based on the cut of meat and preferred smokiness.

Not only does this give you scrumptious flavors, but it also ensures that the internal temperature of the food reaches a safe point in order to eliminate any potential bacteria or other microorganisms present in the meat.

Best Meats to Smoke for Beginners

For beginner smokers, the best meats to start with are those that have generous portions and ample marbling. Pork butt, chicken, and salmon fit this description perfectly; they require minimal effort to prepare yet yield amazing results!

Pork Butt

smoked pork butt

If you’re just beginning to smoke meats, pork butt, also known as Boston butt or pork shoulder, is the perfect cut of meat for you. It’s large and has a delightful balance between fat and muscle that will ensure your meal is juicy and full of flavor during cooking.

The marbling adds extra fat, which serves to keep the moisture in—you can’t ask for better results! While it is one of the best meats to smoke for beginners, you can make unnecessary mistakes, so make sure to follow through.

Best way to prepare:

In order to prepare the best-smoked pork butt, it is essential to trim away any excess fat and season it with a flavorful dry rub or wet marinade. Combining spices like paprika, garlic powder, and brown sugar make for an ideal dry rub, while apple cider vinegar combined with brown sugar and your favorite spices create an amazing wet marinade.


When preparing pork butt, it’s best to cook it over low heat. The temperature should be between 225-250°F, and the cooking time is usually 8-12 hours depending on the size of your cut. To make sure that it has been cooked safely, use a meat thermometer to measure if the internal temperature is at least 145°F or higher before serving!

Tips for Beginners:

  • If you are just starting out, achieving the desired outcome of a moist and flavorful pork butt requires monitoring the temperature in your smoker throughout its cooking time.
  • Additionally, you must be prepared to add more fuel as needed while observing the meat during its preparation. To ensure juicy and delightful results, wrap it with foil or butcher paper before placing it into the smoker for optimal succulence!

If you’re just starting out smoking meat, pork butt is a perfect choice. It’s large enough to serve a crowd, and its marbling ensures juicy flavor even with novice preparation. Applying proper cooking techniques will guarantee that your pulled pork, slices, or sandwich will be succulent and delicious!


smoked chicken

When it comes to smoking, chicken is the ideal choice due to its versatility. Among all cuts of chicken, thighs and whole chickens stand out as they have a well-balanced combination of fat and meat that makes them perfect for smoking!

Best Way to Prepare:

For an ultimate smoky flavor and moistness, brining your chicken is a must. To do this, you’ll need to mix up water with salt, sugar, and herbs in a large container before carefully submerging the chicken into it. The result? A juicy chunk of meat with extra deliciousness that will leave you licking your fingers!

To ensure your chicken is succulent and flavorful, be sure to submerge it in the brine for a minimum of 8 hours or overnight. When ready to smoke, take out the chicken from its bath and pat it dry with paper towels. Sprinkle on your desired seasonings before smoking according to your recipe. Brining the poultry prior to smoking will guarantee that each bite is delectable!

Tips for Beginners:

  • Keeping a watchful eye on the temperature is essential when smoking chicken, as it must reach an internal temperature of 165°F for safety.
  • For optimal moistness and flavor, wrapping up the meat in foil or butcher paper can ensure that your smoked poultry remains succulent and savory.
  • Additionally, be sure not to over smoke the chicken – too much smoke will render it dry and overly smoky!

Smoking chicken is an appetizing and effortless option for those just starting out. With the right preparation, cooking technique, and tips in hand, you can be sure that your poultry will come out succulent, juicy, and flavorful. You can then serve it however you prefer: as a whole piece, sliced or shredded with sides of your choice to complement its exquisite flavor, or tossed into a delectable sauce!


Smoking salmon is a culinary art, and the ideal pieces to use are fillets or whole fish.

smoked salmon

Best way to prepare:

To smoke Salmon deliciously, start with cleaning and filleting the fish. Then, marinate the salmon in a delicious blend of oil, herbs, and spices for several hours before you begin to smoke it. For an exciting taste sensation, mix soy sauce with brown sugar and honey as a marinade for your salmon.

Alternatively, some people prefer curing their fish first by combining salt, sugar, and dill – not just adding flavor but also partially drying out the salmon, so smoking is simpler!

Tips for beginners:

  • Smoking salmon can be difficult to master, as it’s easy to end up with overcooked and dry fish. To ensure optimal results, smoking should occur at temperatures of 150-180°F for no longer than 2-3 hours.
  • You must also monitor the internal temperature of the salmon regularly; when this reaches 130-140°F, your delicious smoked salmon will be ready!

Salmon is a tasty fish to smoke and an excellent choice for beginners. It will be moist and delicious if you follow the proper cooking techniques and tips. Salmon can be served cold or hot and with different sauces and sides.


If you are looking for one of the best meats to smoke for beginners, a brisket is certainly an excellent option. Brisket is a cut from beef that comes from the chest. This is a tough and large cut of meat with lots of connective tissue. It becomes very tender through the smoking process.

smoked brisket

Best way to prepare:

A wet marinade can be made using some common ingredients such as apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, brown sugar, and spices. The brisket should then be coated in this mixture before being placed in the fridge to rest for several hours or overnight to infuse flavor and tenderness.

Once you remove the meat from its sugary bath, pat it dry to reveal succulent strands of juicy beef just waiting to burst with flavor when seasoned for smoking! This method adds depth of taste and helps break down connective tissues within the cut, making your meal even more enjoyable than expected.

Tips for Beginners:

  • Brisket is known for being among the simplest meats to smoke due to its size, which requires minimal attention. To ensure your brisket remains succulent and full of flavor, maintain a constant temperature in your smoker and check the internal temperature consistently.
  • After several hours at 225-250°F, wrap it up with foil or butcher paper until it reaches around 195°F internally; this will help keep all those delicious juices inside!

Brisket is not only one of the easiest meats to smoke, but when prepared and cooked correctly, it will emerge as succulent and delectable. After cooking, you can serve your brisket slice-by-slice or shredded in pulled pieces.

Additionally, this luscious meat pairs well with a variety of side dishes and sauces; try experimenting with different combinations for an unbeatably flavorful experience!

Read more >> When to Pull Brisket Off Smoker?

Ribs (pork and beef)

smoked ribs

Ribs are succulent cuts of beef or pork that come from the upper part of an animal’s ribcage. Pork and beef ribs can be smoked to perfection in various ways. Ribs are typically divided into smaller cuts, such as baby back ribs and spare ribs.

Best Ways to Prepare:

If you want to make the most amazing smoked ribs, it is essential that you first remove the membrane from their back and properly season them. Here are two incredible ways of doing this: a dry rub made with spices like paprika, garlic powder, and brown sugar or an equally delectable marinade combining apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, plus other special ingredients. In either case, your taste buds will be in for a treat!

Tips for Beginners:

  • Ribs may be the easiest type of meat to smoke, as they don’t require a lot of supervision. To ensure your ribs remain juicy and flavorful when smoking them, keep the temperature within your smoker consistent throughout the cooking process.
  • Additionally, it’s vital that you check their internal temperature often for optimal results; wrapping pork or beef ribs in foil or butcher paper halfway through will aid in keeping them moist too.
  • Ribs are recommended to be cooked at low temperatures between 225-250°F for several hours until their internal temperatures reach 145°F (pork) and 160°F (beef).

Ribs are delicious, easy to smoke, and can come in various types, pork and beef being the most common. If prepped properly with the correct cooking techniques, they will turn out juicy, succulent, and full of flavor.

Whether you choose to serve your ribs as an entire rack or cut them into singles pieces are up for consideration, but pair it with some tasty sides and sauces for an even more indulgent experience.


smoked turkey

Celebrate festive holidays with the smoky goodness of a succulent turkey! Whether you prefer leaner white meat or juicier dark, smoked turkey breast and legs will tantalize your taste buds. Or if you want to go all out, opt for an entire bird – bursting with flavor from its higher fat content that’ll make any holiday meal memorable.

Best Way to Prepare:

Before smoking, inject your turkey with a savory liquid to add moisture and flavor. Consider preparing a marinade or mix of herbs, spices, and butter for maximum impact.

To do this efficiently and effectively, simply use a meat injector–a kitchen tool specially designed to easily infuse the turkey directly with the flavorful liquids! Not only will it satisfy your guests’ taste buds, but it will ensure that your turkey cooks evenly as well.

For an even more intense flavor, you can use a dry rub or marinade on your turkey and inject the mixture into its breast, legs, and thighs. This will ensure that all parts of the bird are evenly infused with delicious tastes and aromas!

Tips for Beginners:

  • Smoking turkey requires precision, as it’s all too easy to overcook and dry out your bird. It is critical that you maintain a low temperature of 225-250°F for several hours while carefully monitoring the internal temperature of your bird with a thermometer until it reaches 165°F for safety.
  • Furthermore, wrapping the turkey in foil or butcher paper halfway through smoking can assist in preserving its moisture and flavor – giving you an incredible smoked turkey meal!

Smoked turkey is the perfect centerpiece for any holiday celebration, family gathering, or special occasion. With a little preparation and careful cooking technique, you’ll be rewarded with an incredibly moist and flavorful dish that can either be served hot or cold.

Serve your smoked masterpiece alongside some delicious sauces and sides to create a culinary experience like none other!

Smoked Pork Tenderloin

smoked tenderloin

This delectable cut of pork comes from the muscle that runs along the spine of the pig. Its small and cylindrical shape makes it effortless to handle while smoking – producing superior flavor in every bite!

Best way to prepare:

To pump up the flavor and retain moisture of your pork tenderloin, a wet rub is an excellent option! This delectable blend combines herbs, spices, and liquids such as oil, lemon juice, or others. Simply coat the meat with it before smoking, then let it marinate in the refrigerator for several hours – even overnight – to achieve maximum taste benefits.

After marinating the pork tenderloin, you can take it out of the wet rub and pat it dry. Finally, season the pork as you wish before smoking it. This can add a layer of flavor to the meat and help break down connective tissue, making it tender and juicy.

Tips for Beginners:

  • Pork tenderloin is easy to smoke, but it’s important to keep an eye on the temperature and ensure that the meat’s internal temperature reaches at least 145°F for safety.
  • Wrapping the meat in foil or butcher paper can help to keep it moist and flavorful. Pork tenderloin should be cooked at a low temperature, around 225-250°F, for several hours, depending on the size of the cut.
  • When smoking it, pay close attention to the temperature and ensure that its internal heat reaches at least 145°F in order to guarantee safety. To make sure your pork tenderloin stays moist and flavorful while cooking slowly over low heat (225-250°F), wrapping it either with foil or butcher paper can help to keep it moist.

The exact cook time depends on its size; generally speaking, smoking can take several hours, depending on how big your cut is!

Smoked Pork Tenderloin is certainly one of the best meats to smoke for beginners. It will be moist and delicious if you follow the proper cooking techniques and tips. You can slice, dice, or shred pork tenderloin and pair it with different sauces and sides.

Beef Short Ribs

smoked short beef ribs

Beef short ribs are a cut from beef taken from the brisket or rib area of a cow. These ribs are large and meaty, making them great for smoking. They can be cut into smaller pieces and cooked in whole or in part.

Best Way to Prepare:

It is important to properly season beef short ribs before smoking them. You can use a dry rub of spices like paprika, garlic powder, and brown sugar, or you can make a marinade with beer, Worcestershire sauce, and other spices.

Tips for Beginners:

  • Although smoking beef short ribs takes longer than other meats (usually 6-8 hours), the end result is well worth it. You need to keep the smoker at a constant temperature and check the internal temperature of your meat frequently.
  • You can keep the meat moistened and flavorful by wrapping it in foil or butcher paper halfway through the smoking process. You should cook beef short ribs at a low temperature (225-250degF) until the internal temperature reaches 190-195degF.

Beef shortribs are one of the most delicious meats to smoke. They are large, juicy, and well-marbled. Using the proper cooking techniques and guidance, your meal will result in a succulent and juicy delight!

Lamb Shoulder

smoked lamb shoulder

Lamb shoulder is a cut of meat that comes from the lamb’s front shoulder. This is a meaty, well-marbled, and large cut that’s perfect for smoking. You can either smoke the shoulder whole or in smaller pieces.

Best Way to Prepare:

It is important to remove excess fat from lamb shoulder before smoking it. You can use a dry rub of spices like paprika, garlic powder, and cumin, or you can make a marinade with olive oil, lemon juice, and herbs.

Tips for Beginners:

  • Although smoking lamb shoulder may take longer than other meats (usually 6-8 hours), the end result is well worth it. You need to keep the smoker at a constant temperature and check the meat’s internal temperature frequently.
  • You can keep the meat moistened and flavorful by wrapping it in foil or butcher paper halfway through the smoking process. The lamb shoulder should be cooked at low temperatures, between 225-250degF, and until it reaches 145degF.

Lamb shoulder is one of the most popular meats to smoke. It is large, tender, well-marbled, and full of flavor. Using the correct cooking techniques and tricks will be tender, juicy, and flavorful. You can serve lamb shoulder sliced or shredded with different sauces and sides.

What are the Benefits of Hot Smoking?

hot smoking
  1. Flavor: If you want to add something special and unique to your meats, there’s nothing quite like hot smoking. The smoke from the wood infuses a flavor that cannot be replicated with any other cooking technique. For even more variety, try using different woods such as hickory, mesquite, applewood, cherrywood, or pecan for an exciting array of flavors!
  2. Tenderness: By applying low-temperature heat to your meat over extended periods of time, you can break down the connective tissues resulting in a tender and juicy meal. Hot smoking is an ideal way to achieve this!
  3. Cooking: With hot smoking, you can ensure that your meat will be cooked through, resulting in juicy, flavorful meat.
  4. Versatility: Hot smoking can be used for different meats, including pork, beef, poultry, fish, and seafood.
  5. Speed: Compared to cold smoking, hot smoking is a significantly quicker method that can take anywhere from several hours to one full day – depending on the type of meat being smoked and how much you want.
  6. Safety: Hot-smoking meat not only adds a delicious smoky flavor but also eliminates any bacteria and microorganisms in the product. This guarantees that your food is safe to consume since its internal temperature has reached an adequate level.

Tips for beginners

  • If you dream of becoming a master of smoked meat, the next step would be experimenting with different cuts and recipes. Try smoking poultry, fish, or wild game using varying woods and charcoals to explore their flavor-enhancing properties.
  • Additionally, take time to research smoker types as well as learn how to maintain them in optimal condition for best results. The best meats to smoke for beginners will work for an experienced pitmaster even better.
  • To make sure you always get delicious, perfectly cooked meats from your smoker, it is essential to keep up with maintenance. Cleaning after each use and covering the smoker when not in use will prolong its life while checking for any leaks or damage should become a regular practice.
  • Additionally, utilizing the appropriate type of charcoal and wood and storing them away from moisture are key components to success with smoking meat. Always remember that the best meats to smoke for beginners are Chicken, Pork butt, Salmon, Brisket, Ribs, and Turkey.


For the best results as a beginner, you should always start with the best meats to smoke for beginners. This is how I started my journey as well. To sum up, smoking meat is an art form that requires dedication and experience to perfect.

If you’re a novice smoker, start with some of the best meats for beginners, like pork butt, chicken, salmon, brisket, turkey, and ribs: these will provide you with the confidence necessary to develop your craft.

With adequate prep work & cooking techniques plus guidance – there’s no limit to what delectable culinary creations await your palate! Always ensure your smoker is in great shape for optimal results, and be sure to maintain it consistently.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Picture of Tom Wilmer

Tom Wilmer

I'm Tom Wilmer, an award-winning pitmaster and BBQ judge. I share my passion for barbecue through my blog, BBQ Soldiers, offering recipes, tips, and smoker reviews. Let's grill together!

Meet Tom
Scroll to Top