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The 12 Best Meats for Smoking at Home

Smoke these popular cuts of meat for a delicious barbecue.

Barbecue is an art that I love engaging in once in a while. It is a nice way of spending time with loved ones while enjoying a quality meal. And well-barbecued grub never disappoints, especially when made by an experienced person.

Cooking Smoked Pork Ribs.

Generally, the best meats for smoking are those grubs that contain high levels of fats and collagen. Some of these meats are beef briskets, pork shoulder, beef cheeks, and pork or beef ribs.

What makes them the best smoking meats is the presence of fats and heavy connecting tissue. The fats and tissue cook perfectly, forming a tender and moist final dish.

Besides, these are the best meats to smoke because they are easy to flavor. Similarly, the thick fat and collagen composition help in the absorption of flavors. So, the final results taste great, especially when the flavors are layered well.

I’ll look at the best cuts of meat for the barbecue in this article. I’ll also include some ideal flavors of these BBQ grubs for great taste. Read on to find out more.

Beef Brisket

Beef brisket refers to meat cut from an animal’s lower chest.

Usually, a large chunk of meat makes an ideal BBQ smoking choice. It is the hallmark of backyard smoking because it produces the best-smoked results.

Besides, unlike other beef parts, it doesn’t look shaped and is easy to slice when serving. As a result, it makes the best heavy-stake slabs and thin sandwich meat slices.

I find it best to slow cook this grub for the best results. This helps ensure all internal parts cook well to soak up the grilled flavor.

Some popular beef brisket smoking styles include the Texas-style beef brisket and juicy smoked brisket.


Whole Turkey

I always go for the whole turkey when I want to enjoy lean grub for my barbecue.

In my opinion, this is one of the easiest BBQ meats to cook, even for beginners.

This is because of its fast-cooking time – it will be ready in a few hours. Besides, it absorbs the grilled flavor faster than most meats.

The best way of smoking whole turkey is by spatchcocking it. This method allows the flesh to cook faster. So, the breast and other external parts won’t dry up as other parts catch up.

I also like to flavor the flesh thoroughly with a turkey rub to give it some flavor. But, again, there is no better way to ensure the rub sits in perfectly other than spatchcocking. Or, you could try the juicy smoked turkey BB style.


Beef Ribs

Another part I find great for smoking is beef ribs, better known as ‘beef breast on a stick.’ 

Beef ribs are hard to find, but they are worth the extra effort because they make great smoked grub.

The best part to get beef ribs is around the lower end due to the large size. In addition, ribs around that area have bigger chunks of meat, which is ideal for BBQ. So, I usually go for plate or chuck ribs for smoking purposes.

It is best to use slow, long smoke when smoking beef ribs. Typically, they take about six hours to get ready.

This time is enough to get a tender off-the-bone meat texture with great flavor and taste.


Whole Chicken

Chicken makes for a slice of ideal lean meat for BBQ like the whole turkey.

I find it best to spatchcock the chicken for even and fast cooking for the best results. It is also important to season and flavor the grub before smoking since chicken is flavorless on its own.

The best temperature to cook chicken is anywhere between 300⁰F to 450⁰F. The grub will cook well at this temperature, softening the skin. Besides, the heat cooks the chicken fast, taking about one and a half hours to become ready.

In my opinion, a whole chicken is one of the best meats to smoke for beginners. It requires little preparation processes and takes less time to cook well.

A great style to try includes easy smoked spatchcock chicken. I also love smoked frogged chicken with smoky BBQ sauce.


Pork Ribs

Another grub cut I love smoking is the pork ribs.

I find it best to get them from the meaty part around the upper to mid backbone region. In my opinion, it makes one of the best meat cuts for BBQ because of the fat and heavy collagen.

When cooked by an expert pitmaster, pork ribs make a delicious meal. However, I prefer using a sweet rub to flavor the grub for the best result.

Then, I wrap the meat using a foil pater before cooking it for 5-6 hours at 225⁰F to infuse the flavors.

I also add some brown sugar and butter after 3 hours of smoking to create a base for the BBQ sauce.


Lamb Shoulder

Most people prefer beef and pork for BBQ.

But lamb is also an excellent option, especially when trying new smoked meat options. The grub has rich natural flavors which mix well with the grilled flavors to create an exceptional taste.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to achieve this taste by roasting the meat.

Another advantage of choosing lamb shoulder is that the grub comes from the thick muscles from the shoulder area. Therefore, I find it best to smoke the meat slowly to ensure that the fats and collagen break down to bring out the rich grilled taste.

I like some popular BBQ styles, including Smoked Lamb Shoulder and Smoked Lamb Shoulder for Barbacoa Tacos.


Boston Butt (Pulled Pork)

When I want to smoke a meat cut with a balanced ration of lean grub and fat, I go with Boston Butt.

The thick cuts make a delicious, flavorful, moist meat that doesn’t require sauces or rubs.

However, I find it best to smoke the Boston Butt cuts over medium heat for the best results. That way, the grub cooks well to a point where it falls off the bone.

In my opinion, Boston butt is great for BBQ beginners. Besides, it is a great option for people who want to experience different recipes.

For example, I normally use Boston butt for making pulled pork sandwiches, tacos, casseroles, and mac and cheese.


Lamb Leg

Another ideal meat cut for BBQ is lamb leg.

This part smokes well and has great natural flavors like the lamb shoulder. However, it is best to go with the fatty up the end of the lamb leg for high-quality results.

This part is thick, meaty, and fatty, and therefore, it smokes greatly.

In my opinion, it is best to barbecue the lamb leg over medium heat. I cook it for 3-4 hours, which is enough time for the flavors to infuse well.

During this period, the flesh cooks slowly, bringing out a tender, tasty texture. A popular recipe I love includes Turkish-Marinated Smoked lamb leg.


Pork Shoulder

Pork shoulder is another ideal meat cut that does great on the barbecue.

The chuck is obtained from a pig’s lower shoulder region. This region has a lot of flesh and fat and makes high-quality smoked grub.

I find it best to smoke the meat slowly to ensure it cooks well for the best results. When flavored well, pork shoulder produces tasty smoked grub.

In my opinion, pork shoulder should be barbecued at 225⁰F. At that temperature, the pork becomes tender and well-infused with flavors. One of my favorite styles for pork shoulder is Texas Pulled Pork.


Beef Cheek

Beef cheek is obtained from the meaty cheek muscles of grass-fed cows.

Since the animals spend a lot of time on the grazing field, the cheek is well built and roughly cut. These attributes make the beef cheek ideal for a slow-cooked barbecue.

I like beef cheek because of its lean nature. However, I find it best to cook the meat for approximately 5 hours for great results. This time is enough for the beef to cook well, producing beautiful, flavored tender meat.

Beef cheek is a great BBQ option for beginners because it does not require much work. It makes great pulled beef tacos and pulled beef sandwiches.


Chuck Roast

Chuck roast refers to beef cuts sourced from a cow’s shoulder region.

This part is heavily built since the animals spend a lot of time out on the field grazing. The activity makes chuck roast tough. It has a lot of collagen and balanced fat composition.

For high-quality results, I find it best to simmer chuck roast over medium heat for all the connective tissue to break down.

It takes approximately six hours for the meat to become tender. This produces gently cooked, well-flavored chewy meat that is easy to eat.

I love popular chuck roast recipes, including smoked pulled beef chuck roast and Texas Style Smoked Chuck Roast.


Tri-Tip

Tri Tips is another great meat for BBQ. It is obtained from the back part of an animal (sirloin) and has a triangular shape. This part is pretty big, averaging at approximately 3 pounds.

In recent times, tri-tips have become popular with most BBQ lovers. They make great smoky meat without taking a long time to cook.

On average, tri-tips take approximately 2 hours to cook evenly. They are ideal for beginners because of the fast cook time. Some excellent tips recipes I love for tri-tips include Easy Smoked Tri-Tip and Reverse Seared Smoked Tri Tips.

Best Smoking Meats

  1. Beef Brisket
  2. Whole Turkey
  3. Beef Ribs
  4. Whole Chicken
  5. Pork Ribs
  6. Lamb Shoulder
  7. Boston Butt (Pulled Pork)
  8. Lamb Leg
  9. Pork Shoulder
  10. Beef Cheek
  11. Chuck Roast
  12. Tri-Tip

Final Thoughts

As an avid BBQ lover, I love smoking meat that tastes great. The ideal meat cuts come from meaty and well-balanced fatty regions of beef, pork, and lamb. Besides, turkey and chicken make ideal lean meat, especially when I want white meat. 

For smoking, some best meat includes Beef Brisket, Whole Turkey, Beef Ribs, and Whole Chicken. Others include Pork Ribs, Lamb Shoulder, Boston Butt, Lamb Leg, Pork Shoulder, Beef Cheek, Chuck Roast, Tri-Tip.

When I use enough flavors, rubs, and cook the meat slowly, the results are always incredible. So, feel free to try this BBQ meat cut out for your next backyard meat smoking session.

If you’re not sure where to find these cuts of meat, check out some reliable meat delivery services you can try.

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Written by Rocco Smith

Rocco is a recent graduate of Florida State University with a Bachelor’s in Editing, Writing, and Media. With seven years’ experience in the restaurant industry as a cook, server, bartender, and more, he is deeply passionate about intertwining his fondness for food with his love of language.