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The 10 Best Meats To Smoke (And How To Cook Them)

When it starts to be grilling season, you might consider throwing a BBQ. But, have you considered getting a smoker so that you can start smoking meat instead? Whether you have a pellet smoker or an electric smoker, meat smoking is an art that goes back centuries. Whether you like your meat moist or crispy or both, a smoker can help you accomplish it. Grab your wood chips — it's time to get smoking! (Meat, that is!)

The 10 Best Meats To Put In Your Smoker

Do you like the taste of smoked meat? We'll tell you the best cuts of meat for putting in your smoker, as well as the best wood and cooking method for each cut of meat. So come on, pitmaster, and grab your cookbooks. This list is good for beginners and experts alike! The smoky cooking process begins...

1. Brisket

Cut a large piece of smoked beef brisket to the ribs with a dark crust. Classic Texas barbecue

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Oh yeah, everyone wants a smoked brisket. That's how you get that classic Texas-style BBQ flavor, and how this tough cut becomes a juicy slice of tender meat. Experts recommend that you wrap the beef brisket in peach butcher paper, and if you want more fat marbling, use a prime cut of beef. Smoking it will turn your brisket as tender as a chuck roast. But don't forget the best part of the brisket: burnt ends.

2. Ribs

steakhouse menu grilled meat chef smoked beef ribs

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Of course, one of the classic types of meat to put into your smoker is a rack of ribs. And you don't have to just use pork ribs — if you really want to get crazy, you can use beef ribs or spare ribs too. The cooking time tends to be shorter than with thicker cuts of meat, and you can use different kinds of wood chips to impart good flavor. You can make St. Louis style baby back ribs right in your own backyard. Do you like them with BBQ sauce or not?

3. Pork Butt

Smoked Pork Shoulder

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Oh yeah, a pork butt (or a pork shoulder) can soak up lots of flavors, maybe more than any other piece of meat. Definitely choose a pork butt or a Boston butt over pork tenderloin, because a butt has a higher fat content and tastes a lot better. For that grilled flavor, you can always sear it first — or immediately shred it for the ultimate BBQ food, pulled pork. You'll forget grilled pork chops even exist.

4. Turkey Legs

Barbecue Smoked Turkey Leg

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If you've ever been to a Renaissance Faire, you know that smoked turkey legs are second-to-none. You can make them at home — and they're one of the easiest and tastiest things to make. Use pecan wood for a unique, smoky flavor. And if it's Thanksgiving, you can even smoke a whole turkey, too!

5. Whole Chicken

Smoked Chicken on the Grill Smoker by Home Chef

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A whole chicken really takes well to slow smoking, which helps the collagen and connective tissue break down and keeps it all nice and juicy. To help the chicken stay moist, bringing it beforehand really helps. Make sure the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees! If you've never had smoked chicken before, you're really missing out.

6. Salmon

A half-torn piece of smoked salmon fillet on a wooden Board on a dark background

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Yes, you can smoke fish. And arguably, the best fish to smoke is salmon, because what's better than some delicious smoked salmon? Make sure that you're aware that there's a difference between hot smoking and cold smoking processes, and choose milder wood pellets like alder or cherry — which you can purchase on Amazon!

7. Lamb Shoulder

Fresh raw lamb leg with rosemary leaves isolated on white

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Now, if you really want an exotic cut of meat, lamb shoulder can handle the slow cooking of a smoker. The flavor of lamb takes well to mesquite wood in the smoker, and you'll love the rich flavor. Smoked lamb will also taste really good in some al pastor tacos!

8. Pork Belly

Smoked pork bacon on a wooden board

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There's a new cut of meat at the BBQ, and it's pork belly. This fatty piece of meat will have you drooling as you smoke it, and when it's done, you can add it to banh mis, stir-fries, or just eat it plain. Make sure you cook it low and slow!

9. Prime Rib

Standing Rib Roast with lots of Marbling

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If you're going to choose a fancy beef cut to smoke, we suggest PRIME RIB over sirloin or tri-tip. The marbling makes the flavor that much better, and you can afford to get it nice and rare, too. Hickory wood tastes particularly nice on a cut of prime rib. Serve smoked prime rib with some potatoes and a wedge salad, and you'll have a dinner to remember.

10. Duck

Peking duck with sauce on a dark table

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Have you ever had Peking duck? It's one of Chinese food's greatest delicacies, and with good reason, too. You can recreate the Peking duck experience at home with a whole duck and a smoker! Make sure you have a recipe you can trust, and serve with all the fixings: thin Mandarin pancakes, plum sauce, and green onions.