Smoking was once a method of preserving food in the past. While the process can still be used to keep food from spoiling, chemicals and refrigerators are now widely-used these days. But, the big question is what are the best meats to smoke? We’ll help you figure that question out so keep on reading!
These days smoking is not anymore limited to preserving food. This low and show method is also used to tenderize and enhance the flavor of the meat.
You may think that only the best meat cuts produce the best results. Nothing can be further from the truth. While it may take a lot of patience and perseverance, you can transform less appealing and cheap meat cuts into delectable dishes everyone will love.
Even as you may think that all types of meat are good for smoking, several types are ideal for this cooking method. But, before we talk about the best meats you can smoke, let’s discuss the smoking process.
Best Meats to Smoke
Smoking is a cooking process that can last between 30 minutes and 20 hours. The length of time depends on the type and size of the meat. It also tenderizes tough meat cuts and make them good to eat.
The prolonged exposure to heat is best for meat full of collagen and fat. It will enhance the meat and make it tender. Moreover, it will heighten its flavor and make it delectable.
The smoking process will gradually break down the collagen or connective tissues and turn them into sugars. The sugar will enhance the flavor of the meat while ensuring it remains moist during the cooking process. The smoke will also give a distinctive flavor to the meat during the entire process.
Now that you have an idea about what smoking will do to meat, let’s now talk about the best meats you can use for smoking.
The following are the different pork cuts that are great for smoking and pretty much everyone agrees that pork is one of the best meats to smoke.
#1: Pork Butt
You might not know it, but the pork butt is a great meat cut you can smoke. Contrary to what the name implies, this meat cut actually comes from the upper front shoulder of pigs. This area is full of connective tissues and muscles.
The dense tissues break down when they are cooked for a long time. This makes it ideal for smoking and gives you tender, flavorful meat.
#2: Pork Shoulder
Similar to pork butt, the pork shoulder is also ideal for smoking. It has a good fat-to-lean meat ratio. Slow cooking it through smoking gives you a delightfully moist piece of meat.
This meat cut comes from the lower shoulder area of pugs, which is right under the area called the pork butt. Since these two meat cuts are often called the shoulder, you should make sure to clarify it when you’re at the local butcher shop.
#3: Baby Back Ribs
Baby back ribs are among the most popular pork rib cuts. They come from the area close to the backbone of a pig. They are called baby back ribs since they are smaller than spare ribs.
While they may be smaller than spare ribs, they have a lot of meat. They also cook faster so you’ll have to monitor them to prevent them from becoming chewy after cooking.
Baby back ribs are also called loin back ribs.
#4: Spare Ribs
Smoked spare ribs are perfect for a lazy summer afternoon. These meat cuts are easy to smoke and result in tender and tasty ribs after they’re cooked. They are normally found close to the belly area of the pig.
While spare ribs are large and full of flavor, they may not have as much meat as baby back ribs. You can opt to cook a whole slab since it has a good amount of cartilage. This makes it perfect for smoking.
Spare ribs are also referred to as spares or side ribs.
#5: Pork Belly
Pork belly is an exceptionally tender meat cut when you cook them properly. These meat cuts are found in the lower abdominal area of the pig. They are perfect for smoking since they contain a lot of fat and marbling.
Smoking pork belly means putting it with the fat side up. This will allow the meat to render and prevent it from becoming tough after it’s smoked.
Aside from pork, beef is another meat that people like to smoke and in particular, they love to make smoked beef jerky. Check out the different beef cuts you can cook through smoking.
#1: Beef Brisket
Beef brisket is probably the best meat cut you can smoke. Its healthy layer of fat and marbling ensures the meat will maintain its moistness. This cut is sourced from the lower chest of a cow. Since it’s a large meat cut, smoking is the best cooking method for it.
Brisket can retain its shape when it’s cooked. Slicing it is also easy. Smoked brisket is great when it’s served with coleslaw. This make it one of the best meats to smoke.
While it may be popular for smoking, beginners may struggle a bit when they cook. It will take several hours to ensure the meat is smoked perfectly. But, once they get the hang of smoking brisket, it’ll be their first cut of choice when they smoke meat in the backyard.
All you need is a lot of patience and the right temperature to smoke brisket properly. And at the end of it all, they can look forward to a tender, flavorful dish thereafter.
If you’re unsure about the brisket you want to purchase, you can ask your local butcher to give you recommendations. They’ll be more than happy to pick the best one for you.
If you need some tips, be sure to check this out: How to Smoke a Brisket.
#2: Beef Ribs
Beef ribs are also called a brisket on a stick and may not be easy to find. The best beef ribs for smoking are the thick ones. They come in two varieties: chuck ribs and plate ribs.
Chuck ribs come in a four-bone section where the bones are short and may have less meat. On the other hand, plate ribs have three bones and come with more meat on top.
A layer of fat is normally found on the top of the ribs while a papery membrane is on its bone area. It’s advisable to remove the membrane since it may not be quite palatable. You can either have the butcher remove it for you or you can remove it yourself.
Smoking beef ribs can take around five to six hours. While it will take some time to cook, you will be rewarded with extra tender, flavorful meat after the smoking process.
#3: Chuck Roast
The marbling and tight connective tissues on chuck roasts make them suitable for smoking. Smoking the meat low and slow allows the fat to gradually render. The low heat will break down and soften connective tissues to prevent the meat from becoming too chewy.
Sourced from the shoulder area of a cow, chuck roasts offer a lot of flavors. While it’s a heavily used muscle, smoking it will tenderize the meat to perfection. Smoking it would normally take five to six hours in order for you to get an extremely sumptuous dish.
#4: Beef Cheek
Beef cheeks may not be as well-known as other beef cuts, but it is fantastic for smoking. This gem of a beef cut comes from the check muscles of cows.
Since these muscles are used a lot, they are tough. This makes them ideal for slow cooking. The key is to carefully trim beef cheeks.
Trimming allows you to get to the marbled meat within it. The marbled area is hidden under excess fat, membrane, and skin.
When smoked properly, you will get fantastic lean meat that is tender and ideal for making tacos. To get the best results through smoking, you should allow it to cook for at least five hours.
#5: Beef Prime Rib
Being a luxurious meat cut, beef prime rib is among the most expensive meats you can find in the market. While many people may cook a prime rib in the oven for special occasions, smoking is probably the best way to serve it for dinner.
Prime rib comes from the forequarter of a cow. It includes the meat taken from the sixth up to the twelfth rib or from the chuck up to the loin.
You have two options when it comes to prime rib: bone-in and boneless. Between these two options, the bone-in prime rib may be better due to its inherent succulence and flavor. You should also ask for the chuck end of the prime rib rather than the loin end so you get the best cut.
The brisket may be the most popular beef cut for smoking, but the tri-tip is gradually catching up as meat of choice. This triangular beef cut comes from the lower part of the sirloin or the rear area of a cow. Untrimmed, it can weigh up to five pounds.
Being mainly lean, it does not take a long time to smoke. This made tri-tips an excellent option to the brisket, which takes hours on hours to finish cooking.
You can finish cooking tri-tip in around two hours. To ensure it will be juicy and tasty, make sure you have enough fat on the tri-tip and wrap it during the smoking process.
Best Meats to Smoke
Chicken, One of the Best Meats to Smoke
Next up are different chicken cuts for smoking. Check them out below:
#1: Spatchcock Chicken
Smoking is a good way to cook chicken. But, smoking spatchcock chicken brings the dish to another level. Spatchcocking the chicken will give you the best results when you smoke the chicken.
Spatchcocking means to cut the chicken along the spine before spreading it apart. You get better results when you spatchcock the chicken before you smoke since it the meat of the chicken spreads out evenly. This will give you a moist and flavorful dish after the cooking process. This makes it one of the best meats to smoke in many people’s opinions.
The whole smoking process will take a little over two hours.
#2: Chicken Thigh
Chicken thighs contain more flavor and fat than chicken breasts. This means they should be one of the chicken cuts you should consider smoking. Despite being inexpensive, chicken thighs are tender and flavorful when you smoke them.
While fried chicken may taste great, smoked chicken tastes even better. To increase moisture retention for your chicken, you may want to smoke it with the skin on.
#3: Chicken Breast
Similar to chicken thighs, chicken breasts are inexpensive meats that give you perfectly smoked dishes with a lot of flavors. You can even smoke chicken breast straight out of the package. But, you may want to rub some seasoning to enhance its flavor.
To ensure the meat maintains its moistness, you can brine the chicken before smoking it. The brine allows the flavor to permeate into the meat. You can brine it for a few hours before smoking the chicken.
You can also get the best cooking results when you smoke turkey meat.
#1: Spatchcock Turkey
Turkey is an excellent meat for smoking, and when you spatchcock it, it will flatten the cooking surface. Similar to spatchcock chicken, spatchcock turkey ensures the meat is cooked more evenly and you’ll have a lot of crisp skin after cooking.
It also makes it easier to carve after the smoking process.
Moreover, spatchcock turkey ensures the smoky flavor enters more areas of the turkey. Cooking time is also reduced and the meat becomes juicier.
#2: Turkey Breast
Turkey breast is another meat cut that tastes great when you smoke it. It can enhance the flavor of the meat and make it scrumptious. Since turkey meat may dry out during the smoking process, you can brine it before cooking.
When turkey breast is brined, it will retain enough moisture to ensure the meat is soft and tender once it’s cooked. It also adds to the flavor of the turkey and makes it delectable.
Lamb, One of the Best Meats for Smoking
The nice robust flavor of lamb makes it ideal for smoking. Check out the different lamb cuts you can cook at home.
#1: Lamb Shoulder
While beef and pork are popular among the smoking community, you can never discount lamb meat, particularly lamb shoulder. The rich flavor of lamb combines with smoky overtones to give it a different level of taste you can’t get from other cooking methods.
Lamb shoulder comes from an area that is dense and filled with connective tissues. It’s similar to pork butt and chuck roast. Due to this, you can smoke it in a similar manner.
Smoking breaks down the connective tissues that will tenderize it and make the meat juicier.
#2: Lamb Leg
Lamb leg may be fatty, but it is full of flavor. They normally come in two cuts: the shank end and the sirloin end. The shank is narrow while the sirloin is fattier.
Between the two cuts, the sirloin end is best suited for smoking. Its fat will slowly melt during the process and makes the meat tender. It will result in a flavorful cut of meat that everyone will enjoy.
These are the best meat cuts you can consider if you’re planning to use a newly-bought electric smoker you have at home.
Best Meat to Smoke: Have your Say
Do you have any recommendations or tips for the best meats to smoke? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think. We’d love to hear from you about the best meats to smoke.
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