15 Best Meats For Smoking At A BBQ

Having a BBQ with all your friends and family is always going to be a fun time, and if you want yours to be remembered fondly, one of the best things you can do is have some amazing food to serve.

When hosting a BBQ there is usually an expectation that certain food will be served since there are so many BBQ staple dishes. One commonly expected staple is grilled meats, this makes sense since the centerpiece of most BBQs is a grill.

But if you want to try something different and really want your BBQ to stand out, one of the best things you can do is serve smoked meat instead of grilled.

15 Best Meats For Smoking At A BBQ (22)

Smoked meat has a much more unique flavor and the texture is often much more tender.

Smoked meat is not something everyone has even tried, but learning how to smoke meat will show that you know what you are doing and that you have some pretty good cooking skills.

There is sometimes a misconception with smoked meat, that only certain meats can be smoked, and while there are some meats which are better off not smoked and cooked in other ways, there are just as many meats which will be delicious when smoked, and you should definitely try out. 

Generally speaking, the types of meat which will be best for smoking instead of grilling are meats which have a higher concentration of fats as well as collagen.

If you are unsure about which meats this covers, we will go over some of the best choices in this list, so you can choose which are best for you!

The reason why meats like this are such a good choice for smoking rather than other methods of cooking, is because of the heavy connecting tissue which is inside these meats.

When they are cooked perfectly, they will be perfectly moist and tender and have delicious results. These meats are also much easier to add flavor to because the collagen and fat will be able to absorb flavors easily.

As well as looking at which cuts of meat are best for cooking in a smoker, this article will also look at tips and tricks to ensure that you have the best experience possible when smoking these meats, and you will get the best results possible! 

If you are hosting a BBQ and want to try smoking, but you do not know which types of meat will be best for smoking, read on to find out which will be best for you!

Best Meats For Smoking At A BBQ

This list will be dedicated to all the best meat choice for smoking if you are hosting a BBQ.

15 Best Meats For Smoking At A BBQ (7)

1. Beef Brisket

This is a cut from an animal’s lower chest and if you smoke this meat perfectly, the results will be unmatched in how delicious they are. Some popular methods of cooking beef brisket are Texas style, and juicy smoked.

If you have never smoked beef brisket you are missing out.

15 Best Meats For Smoking At A BBQ (8)

2. Whole Turkey

If you want some delicious lean meat to enjoy smoked, cooking a whole turkey is a great idea and will get some delicious results. One of the easiest ways to smoke a whole turkey is by spatchcooking it.

15 Best Meats For Smoking At A BBQ (9)

3. Chuck Roast

This is a cut of beef which comes from the shoulder area and is absolutely delicious. Due to the concentration of muscle it can often be quite tough, but by smoking it the connective tissue makes it delicious and a perfect choice.

15 Best Meats For Smoking At A BBQ (10)

4. Beef Ribs

While beef ribs are not the easiest kind of ribs to get access to, they are some of the most delicious and will get you amazing results if you learn how to cook them properly using a smoker.

15 Best Meats For Smoking At A BBQ (11)

5. Whole Chicken

Similarly to smoking a whole turkey, smoking a whole chicken will get you absolutely delicious results and the way the meat transforms and the flavor added is delicious, this is also super versatile in your choice of flavoring to pair with it.

15 Best Meats For Smoking At A BBQ (12)

6. Chicken Breast

When it comes to ways to cook chicken breast, people often overlook smoking chicken breast, but it will get you delicious results.

This cut is super easy to add extra flavor to with a seasoning rub, but you need to be careful to keep an eye on the temperature.

15 Best Meats For Smoking At A BBQ (13)

7. Pork Ribs

Pork ribs are more common than beef ribs, but they are just as delicious, and they are often at their best after being smoked. The BBQ flavors of course compliment this cut of meat, and you will get amazing results if you try this.

Adding brown sugar makes them even better.

15 Best Meats For Smoking At A BBQ (14)

8. Lamb Shoulder

People often overlook just how good lamb can be when it is smoked since pork or beef are more often considered. Lamb shoulder is one of the best cuts to consider, and the connective tissue makes it a great choice for smoking. 

15 Best Meats For Smoking At A BBQ (15)

9. Sausage

Sausages are one of the easiest meats to smoke, and you can use whichever variety of sausage you like, the results will be delicious whichever you try, just make sure to avoid overcooking them.

15 Best Meats For Smoking At A BBQ (16)

10. Boston Butt (Pulled Pork)

Pulled pork is delicious and perfect for a BBQ, so if you have never tried smoking it you are missing out.

15 Best Meats For Smoking At A BBQ (17)

11. Lamb Leg

This is a thick and meaty cut of lamb which also has a high enough fat content to be perfect for smoking. If you want to get a super meaty smoked meat for a BBQ this is a great choice.

15 Best Meats For Smoking At A BBQ (18)

12. Pork Belly

Pork belly is a popular cut of meat for a reason, and it absorbs flavor perfectly. Due to its high fat content it is also a great choice for smoking. Try cutting it into cubes before smoking.

15 Best Meats For Smoking At A BBQ (19)

13. Pork Shoulder

This is an easily accessible cut of pork and is super easy to add different flavors to whether you want to do a rub or perhaps try a marinade.

15 Best Meats For Smoking At A BBQ (20)

14. Beef Cheek

This is one of the most flavorful cuts of beef available and will absorb flavor even better. If you have never tried it, smoking for 5 hours will get great results.

15 Best Meats For Smoking At A BBQ (21)

15. Tri Tip

This cut of meat comes from the lower part of a sirloin and is slowly gaining popularity, and is also a great choice for a unique cut to smoke. They also do not take long to smoke either.

Why Should You Smoke Meat?

If you have never smoked meat before, and especially if you have never eaten smoked meat before, you are probably wondering what the reason is to use this method of cooking.

This question is understandable, to get the best results when smoking meat, you have to wait hours until the meat is ready, so why not use a faster method of cooking to get the meat quicker.

When smoking meat you have to factor in so much preparation time, that by the end is it even worth it?

Smoking Meat Gives It A Unique Flavor Which Can Not Be Recreated Using Any Other Method

The main reason why so many people are such a fan of smoking meat instead of cooking it in a different way is because of how delicious the flavor it creates is and how this flavor can not be achieved using any other method.

There is a reason why meat is smoked on such a slow temperature over a long period of time, and it makes it, so the collagen in the meat is able to break down much more slowly than it usually would and by doing so will self-baste itself inside the meat itself.

While the meat is cooking the fat and the collagen inside the meat will move through it and break it down while it melts throughout.

This will be able to work its way into all the different parts of the meat and give it a unique and delicious depth of flavor as well as an incredibly tender texture which is impossible to achieve through grilling.

By smoking meat you will also get a delicious and crunchy outer layer to your meat which is full of flavor and adds more to the unique texture and flavor of smoking your meat.

If you have never tried smoked meat yourself, it is hard to describe just how good the meat is, so make sure you find somewhere which does good smoked meat, so you can try it out for yourself before trying to make it!

Smoking Is An Incredibly Versatile Method Of Cooking

One thing which many people overlook when it comes to smoking as a method of cooking is just how versatile this method is. Many people assume that this method is only appropriate for cooking meat since this is what people reference most often.

But what many people do not know is that you can use smoking to cook many other types of food, for example; fruits, vegetables, as well as various side dishes which you may want to serve at your BBQ (see also ‘25 Delicious Appetizers For Your Next BBQ‘).

Have a look at some side dishes which are great for BBQs which can be smoked as this can make the cooking process for your next BBQ as simple and efficient as possible!

Best Wood For Smoking

If you have access to a smoker, the next best thing you are probably wondering is which types of wood are best for using in your smoker.

There is not a simple answer to this question and different types of wood are better for different situations. This is often compared to matching different types of wine with food, and how they will compliment each other in different ways.

In this section we will go over some of the best pairings, so you can know which wood will be the best choice for you!

Before getting into specific pairings, we want to make clear why we will only be giving hardwood recommendations. One of the main reasons is that hardwood trees will tend to have a more dense wood and this is key to great smoking.

If it is dried properly it will smolder at a much slower rate than softwood which will give the food a better flavor.

On top of burning much faster than hardwood, softwood also contains a lot more sap which will make it burn even faster, but will also end up making a disgusting smoke which will make your food taste much worse and almost ashy as opposed to the smokey flavor you are striving for.

Now we will go over some of the most popular types of wood for smoking and talk about the flavor profile they create when used for smoking:

  • Alder wood has a sweet and musky flavor
  • Apple wood is more mild and sweet
  • Cherry wood has a slightly sweet and fruity smoke
  • Hickory has a strong sweet bacon flavor
  • Maple has a mild sweet flavor
  • Mesquite has a stronger earthier flavor
  • Oak has a more mild and versatile flavored smoke with little aftertaste
  • Peach has a sweet and woodsy flavor
  • Pear has a slightly sweet and woodsy flavor which is similar to apple wood
  • Pecan has a flavor similar to hickory but is not as strong
  • And Walnut has an intense flavor

When it comes to the type of wood, you also want to consider the cut of wood which you are using when you are smoking:

Whole Logs

This cut of wood is more likely to be used for heat, but also for smoke in a more large and offset smoker. These cuts are used for smoking multiple large cuts of meat at the same time.

You can expect a whole log to be able to burn for any amount of time between 45 and 90 minutes if you are using a firebox which is properly insulated and the exact time will depend on both the density and the size of the log used.

Wood Chunks

If you are using wood chunks, these are most commonly used alongside charcoal in a much smaller smoker, or an offset smoker.

There will be a bed of hot coals to create the heat, and then the wood chunks will be put on top of them to ensure that they burn slowly to then end up creating the desired smoke.

Wood Chips

Wood chips will tend to be used alongside charcoal, or on gas grills which use either propane or electric smokers. This type of wood will burn quite fast and will make quite a lot of smoke, quickly.

If you want to use this type of wood you have to remember that they will need to be replaced relatively often since they are not designed with the purpose of making smoke in mind.

Wood Pellets

Wood pellets are composed of a compressed sawdust from hardwood and are designed to be specifically used in either pellet smokers or in a standard frill through the use of a tube smoker.

A wood pellet tends to be made using a variety of wood and then some flavored oils as well, make sure to read the description of the wood type well to ensure you will get the results that you want.

Which Meats Should You Not Smoke?

While some sources may recommend using whatever cuts of meat you want on a smoker, there are some cuts of meat which will end up being wasted in a smoker.

This is either due to getting much better results from a different method of cooking (which could end up saving a lot of effort), or simply being a cut of meat which will not work in a smoker.

Some of the cuts of meat which are most incompatible with a smoker are more lean and expensive cuts of meat. This is because these meats do not have the connective tissues as well as fat content which give smoked meats such good results.

This will make it, so they will end up both dry and overcooked if you try to smoke them.

Especially avoid smoking lean roast cuts, or an individually sliced cut of steak.


Hopefully this guide has given you all the information you need to be able to go ahead and smoke some amazing meats and have a delicious BBQ!

All of the choices of meats which have been included in this list will give you great results so choose something which fits your tastes, and you know that you will love.

If you have any more questions about smoking which have not been covered in the earlier sections of the article, there is a good chance that they will be answered in the FAQ!

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are The Easiest Meats To Smoke?

If you want the meat which is overall easiest to smoke, you can start with sausages. If you want something that can be smoked quickly, cook chicken wings.

What Is The Hardest Meat To Smoke?

One of the most difficult meats to smoke is beef brisket since it is quite difficult to get perfect. So while beef brisket will get you the best results if you get it perfect, it is not a great choice for trying first.

Is Smoking Healthier Than Grilling?

Both of these methods are about equally healthy, but health specialists have said that smoking slightly has the edge for having less chance of health complications. But both are healthy within a balanced diet.

Follow Me
Latest posts by Jenna (see all)