Best Meat to Smoke for Beginners - Why Smoke Meat at all?
Thinking about the best meat to smoke for beginners to serve to your friends to impress them? Well, we have some good suggestions for you. But first, why do you think so many people want the taste of smoked fish and meat? How is it different from the meat that is grilled or roasted or barbecued? If you have tasted smoked meat before, you exactly know the difference. And this is why people want to have smokers in their homes because no other methods of cooking can match the flavorful taste of meat that was cooked with the aroma of wood smoke.
Why we smoke meat is because smoking can tenderize any meat much better compared to meats that were cooked in different ways like roasting and barbecuing. Smoking can cook meat in a very slow process as the fire will not be directly cooking the food but the hot smoke while at the same time the evaporated elements from the wood will slowly infuse into the meat. So you must choose the right wood for smoking to enhance the taste of your food.
With smoking you can also choose the flavor of the wood you want. Especially if you want your meat smoked in such a way that it will become savory and unique, there are certain woods that are perfectly suitable for your specific types of meat. For example, if you want to smoke your pork ribs and want them sweet with a bit of bitterness in it, you can smoke it with Applewood. Or if you want your pork cut to have that bacon flavor, you can choose hickory wood.
The Perfect Meat to Smoke for Beginners
So let’s go directly to the topic. The perfect meats to smoke for beginners in our opinion are those that are easy to cook and yet should be liked generally by you and your guests. To make your meat tastier, you can also prepare them with curing or marinating them using your recipe for grilling or barbecuing meat. But then you also have to know the right temperature settings for each type of meat with your smoker because each meat type has certain firmness and textures that require ideal temperatures to cook them to the very core. So here are our best choices:
Sausages and Brats
These sausage types are already ground, spiced and cured. Sausages are made of minced meat either of chicken, beef, veal or pork and spiced up with salt, herbs and other spices. Brats are also sausages but their main components are ground pork and veal and seasoned with coriander, nutmeg, ginger, and other herbs.
Smoking these sausages may take about 3 hours in a pellet grill and its cooking/smoking temperature should be maintained at 225 to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. After 3 hours you can turn up the heat a bit higher for about 5 minutes to sear their skin and then you can enjoy your delicious and crunchy sausages and brats with its smoky flavor.
Sirloin is part of the cow’s meat found at its lower back side. It is low in fat and that makes it the best meat to smoke for beginners when it comes to beef. When cooked at 225 degrees F for two hours and the meat would be succulent, juicy and flavored with your choice of wood.
Chicken can also be your ideal meat to smoke for beginners because it has more tender meat than pork and beef. But if you are to smoke a whole chicken, that’s a different story as it could last about 3 to 5 hours of burning wood chips or wood chunks to cook it completely. You also have to maintain a temperature between 200 to 224 degrees F. You can insert a thermometer probe into the leg to know if the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit and this can indicate that the whole chicken is cooked. There are lots of recipes you could find on the web for seasoning a whole chicken. So if you can season a turkey, why not a chicken?
Salmon is a type of fish that is tender and 1.5 pounds of the salmon fillet can be smoked in just an hour or two by maintaining 225 degrees Fahrenheit. You can season it with lemon, pepper, salt, and dill. If you want a quick smoked dinner, the salmon can save you a lot of time. For whole medium-size fish, smoking can take about 3 hours at 175 to 200 degrees F. And if you’ll be using a thermometer probe and the internal fish temperature reaches 160 degrees F, this tells you that the fish is already cooked.
Are you fond of eating pork chops as well as your friends and family? Well, this meat is the best meat to smoke if you want meat that can be smoked in two hours or less. You can smoke it using charcoal or a gas grill. And if you want your pork chop to taste even better, you can brine or cure it so that smoke can adhere better. You can also add thyme or garlic or chili powder to the seasoning. Just maintain between 210 to 250 degrees F to ensure full cooking. If your cut is thick, however, smoking may last up to 5 hours.
Beef Cut or Steak
These meats are dense so your length of smoking depends on the thickness of the cut. For example, 1-2-inch thick steaks can be fully smoked in less than 2 hours and 1.5 pounds of this meat should be smoked at 230 degrees F. For a better tasting meat , you can do your regular seasoning with it like salt and pepper. You can also brine or cure it overnight.
Turkey breast can be the best meat to smoke if you can brine it with salt and white wine and put some fresh herbs with it and leave it overnight. You can smoke it the next day using a portable smoker. The estimated time for smoking would be 3 to 8 hours depending on the thickness of the meat but your smoker will have to maintain a temperature from 210 to 280 degrees Fahrenheit. Don’t try to smoke fresh turkey meat without curing it because it’s dense meat should absorb some of the seasonings to make it more flavorful especially with the help of the smoke from your wood chips/pellets.
Chicken Thigh or Breast
Chickens have more of the texture of the turkey’s meat so you have to cook it almost the same way. Much smaller than the turkey, if you want it’s thigh or breast to smoke along with the skin, brine these for 3 hours or overnight. Then smoke it for about 2 hours the next day between 210 to 280 degrees F. You can smoke chicken using any of the following smokers: pellet grill, electric, gas, or any portable smoker.
Tips and Tricks to Enjoy the Best Meat to Smoke
Barbecue smoking is one of the most popular hobbies among beginners and professional smokers because a lot of people will always want barbecued meat with the smoke flavor in it. So if you have to choose the wood for smoking for any meat that was mentioned above, you have to know the different types of wood and wood sizes for smoking as well as some tricks to come up with barbecued smoked food that will make your guests crave for more. So here are some tips.
Choose wood that can produce stable smoke aroma so that the smoke will not overpower the taste of your meat. A good example is Applewood and other kinds of fruitwood. These are perfect for smoking any type of meat and ideally for the best meat to smoke if you are a beginner.
You can choose from the array of wood sizes to smoke your food and there are the pellets, chips, sawdust and chunks. But how do they differ in terms of producing smoke?
– Wood chunks are about 2 to 3 inches square and very popular among smokers who smoke large chunks of meat. You can place the wood directly on a barbecue burner or put it in a container with flame guards and they will burn slowly and produce lots of smoke.
– Wood chips are thinner cut of wood but smaller than the wood chunks so they burn a bit faster. If you are to smoke meat using wood chips, the meat that you cook should have a more tender structure like fish or chicken. Wood chips can completely burn in 1 to 3 hours so you also need to refuel more often.
– Wood pellets do burn faster so the best meat to smoke with it if you are using charcoal as fuel are meats that are quick to cook. How ever, if your smoker is an electric offset type with a hopper for keeping the pellets and an auger for distributing the pellet into the burner, you can put a lot of pellets into the hopper and these will last many hours until your meat gets cooked.
– Wood Saw Dust is fast to smoke but it can release a lot of smoke. This is best for fish fillets that can be smoked and cooked fast. This is also ideal for use on camping using a portable smoker.
When it comes to choosing the best meat to smoke for beginners, try to keep the moisture in your meat while smoking it. Especially with wild meat that are leaner, the best way to deal with these meat is to cure or brine it before cooking/smoking it.
When smoking poultry meat, the internal temperature of the smoker should reach 165 degrees F (74 degrees C) or depending on the thickness of the meat and this is the recommendation of the USDA. For most meat, this should be between 200 to 220 degrees F.
If you are a beginner, the ideal smokers that some experts recommend are the electric smokers. These smokers are great for any meat to smoke for beginners. You can smoke any of the meat and fish we mentioned above and these smokers are generally aided by a temperature control system including auto-feeders for the wood.
Types of Smokers for the Best Meat to Smoke for Beginners
Some of you beginner smokers may find it difficult to choose which of the types of smokers you could use so that your first experience with smoking food would not be too traumatic. So here are some suggestions also from some experts who have used a lot of the smoker types and have noted their experiences. Here are some of their suggestions:
The ceramic type egg-shape charcoal smokers could allow any meat for slow cooking. And because it doesn’t have many accessories but simple parts like a container for the charcoal and chips/pellets, as a beginner, you can have quick access to the lid and into your meat. However, because this is a charcoal type, its internal heat is rather hard to control so you better know how to use the dampers or exhaust to heat or cool off its internal temperature.
On the other hand, this charcoal type could be your ideal training smoker as you have to open the lid from time to time to check on your meat and this is where you can begin to estimate the cooking time of whatever meat you are cooking. So if you already have in mind the best meat to smoke and you want to train yourself with manual smoking, this type of smoker should help you with the smoking basics.
The second most suggested type of smokers for beginners are pellet smokers. Most of these smoker types are electric types that have automated heat and airflow systems so you don’t have to check on the internal heat of the smoker. Once you set its temperature setting and timer and loaded it with enough pellets in its hopper, all you need to do is check your meat from time to time. There are vertical and horizontal smokers for these types.
With the best meat to smoke for beginners using a pallet smoker is great to learn on you can cook pork, beef, veal, and fish at the same time because they have multiple racks and some of them even have a remote control system to watch your meat’s temperature while it cooks. Also, you can control the temperature setting from meters away with these gadgets.
For the last option, if you want to start right away with the bigger smokers they are not actually complicated to use, you can go for the offset smokers. These smokers can smoke a variety of food and also with a variety of cooking processes. You can grill with it, bake, sear, barbecue. However, these are fairly expensive although we found one starting at around $99.
There are so many options for the kind of meat that you can smoke and there is also the best meat to smoke for beginners that you can find easy to prepare and cook. As you can see from our choices, there are processed sausages that do not need much preparation and there are the meats that you can smoke using a variety of wood.
We have a dedicated blog for smoker grill combo smokers, electric and charcoal smokers, propane gas smokers and we also have articles for the best wood for smoking different types of meat.
If you are on a tight budget, we also have an article about efficient smokers that are under the $200 price range, $300, $500 and $1000 smokers.
For our next blog, we will be talking about how to cook steak on a pellet grill. This should excite you because not many people know that pellet grills can be used to cook steak as well as other food like burgers, turkeys and bake potatoes as we are used to using only charcoal or propane for grilling.