Placeholder Best Meats to Smoke in 2023: Beef Ribs, Lamb Shoulder, and More – Hot Things - Barbecues, Heaters, Outdoor Kitchens

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, by Steven Gray, 14 min reading time

Discover the best meats to smoke in 2023 and learn how to smoke your favourite cuts to perfection. From brisket to ribs, this guide has everything you need to become a smoking master.

Key Takeaways for Best Cuts of Meat for Smoking

Here's the exciting part – choosing meats for smoking. So, which cuts of meat are the best? Our top choices are beef brisket, lamb shoulder, pork shoulder, pork ribs, and turkey breast. You can also try our Pulled Beef Oyster blade in your new smoker.

Beef brisket, lamb shoulder, pork shoulder, and pork ribs are the three cuts of meat that offer sufficient meat fat to keep them juicy and tender when done. You can also be creative with other meats with a higher fat content, like pork belly. If you aim for fattier meats, you can only go right!

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Grilling on a barbecue is a fantastic way to savour the delectable taste of meats, but for those seeking an even more profound infusion of flavour and tenderness, smoking the meat is a compelling alternative. In contrast to the conventional high-heat searing method, smoking involves slow-cooking meat at significantly lower temperatures.

Though it may require a bit more time to cook certain cuts of meat thoroughly, the optimal smoking temperature varies depending on the type of protein. However, the patience invested in this process is richly rewarded with an unparalleled depth of flavour that elevates the culinary experience to new heights.

Before we dive into the best meats to smoke, let's first explore how to prepare and we also provide a guide for smoking meat.

A Beginner's Guide to Smoking Meat:

1. Choose Your Meat

Begin by selecting the type of meat you'd like to smoke. Popular choices include pork ribs, beef brisket, chicken, and fish. The key is to choose cuts that benefit from long, slow cooking to become tender and flavourful.

2. Preparing the Meat to Smoke

Before smoking, prepare your meat. This might involve trimming excess fat, applying a dry rub or marinade to add flavour, and letting it rest in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight. The seasoning and preparation are essential for the ultimate taste.

3. Selecting the Wood

The choice of wood plays a pivotal role in smoking. Different woods impart unique flavours to the meat. Common options include hickory for a robust, smoky taste, fruitwoods like apple or cherry for a sweeter undertone, and mesquite for an intense, smouldering flavour. Soak wood chips or use wood chunks in water for 30 minutes before using them.

4. Set Up the Smoker

Whether you're using a charcoal smoker, electric smoker, or pellet smoker, the basics are similar. Preheat your smoker to the desired temperature, which typically ranges from 225°F to 275°F (107°C to 135°C) based on the type of meat you're smoking.

5. Maintain Consistent Temperature

Maintaining a consistent temperature is key to successful smoking. Use a good-quality meat thermometer to monitor the internal temperature of the meat. An electric or digital smoker often has built-in temperature control. In contrast, with charcoal or wood smokers, you'll need to adjust the airflow and add more coals or wood chips as needed.

6. The Smoking Process 

Place the meat on the smoker grates, ensuring enough space between each piece for the smoke to circulate. Add the soaked wood chips or chunks to the smoker to create the desired smoke. Close the lid, and let the magic happen.

7. Patience Is Key

Smoking is a slow and steady process. Smoking times can vary, so be patient. Smaller meat might take a couple of hours, while larger cuts may require an all-day smoke session. The goal is to allow the meat to absorb the smoky essence while cooking perfectly.

8. The Smoke Ring 

Enthusiasts often speak of the "smoke ring," a prized pinkish layer just beneath the surface of the meat. Achieving the perfect smoke ring is a badge of honour among pitmasters, signalling exceptional flavour and meticulous smoking techniques.

9. Rest and Serve

After the meat reaches its ideal internal temperature (use a thermometer to check), remove it from the smoker and let it rest for a while. This redistributes the juices, resulting in a juicier and more flavourful end product. Slice, serve, and enjoy the tantalising flavours you've created through your smoking adventure.

So, while smoking meat may demand some extra time and effort compared to traditional grilling, the unparalleled depth of flavour and tenderness it imparts to your dishes is a culinary journey well worth undertaking. It's an art form that transforms a simple barbecue into a true culinary masterpiece, elevating your cooking to new heights and leaving your taste buds longing for more.

Now that you're familiar with the process of smoking meats in your smoker, let's delve into the selection of the best meats you can smoke. By the end of this article, you'll understand which meats are ideal for smoking and be ready to savour the joys of the smoking experience.

Here's our guide on how to smoke various meat cuts in a smoker:

  • Beef Brisket
  • Turkey Breast
  • Lamb Shoulder
  • Pork Ribs
  • Pork Butt & Shoulder
  • Pulled Beef Oyster Blade
  • Chuck Roast

Smoked Beef Brisket

Smoked beef brisket is undeniably one of the most delectable meats to smoke. When prepared properly, it possesses a melt-in-your-mouth tenderness that's simply irresistible. Smoking brisket is a slow and rewarding process, taking approximately 10 to 14 hours in the smoker, depending on its size and density. You'll want the meat to reach an internal temperature of about 96°C to ensure it's perfectly cooked.

One of the joys of smoking brisket is that it readily absorbs the flavours of the wood you use for creating smoke. Feel free to experiment with different types of wood chips to impart unique and delightful smoky nuances. Some  favourites wood chip for smoking brisket include:

Once you've placed the brisket in the smoker, it's best to resist the temptation to fuss with it too much. Allow the smoker to work magic as the meat slowly absorbs the rich, smoky flavours, resulting in a culinary masterpiece worth savouring.

Smoked Turkey Breast

If you're short on time or prefer not to roast a whole turkey, smoking just the turkey breasts is a fantastic alternative. Before placing the meat in the smoker, consider applying a butter and seasoning rub under the skin to enhance its flavour profile. You can follow this recipe for smoked turkey breast for a delicious turkey breast. Similar to smoking chicken, it's advisable to keep the skin on during the smoking process. However, it may not achieve a crispy texture.

Smoking a turkey breast typically takes around two hours and should reach an internal temperature of 71°C (160°F). For smoking turkey, milder woods like apple and maple are your best choices, as they impart a subtle and complementary flavour.

Smoked Lamb Shoulder

Another exceptional meat choice for smoking is a lamb shoulder. Smoking a lamb shoulder closely mirrors the process of smoking a pork shoulder, offering a delectable alternative to please any gathering.

Preheating your preferred smoker to 150°C, then carefully place the lamb shoulder inside. Your goal is to reach an internal temperature of approximately 90°C. Once your temperature probe easily slides into the meat with minimal resistance, it's time to remove the lamb shoulder, wrap it in foil, and allow it to rest for at least one hour.

When it's time to serve, gently pull apart the succulent shoulder and present it to your eager guests. Pair it with freshly prepared salads and condiments to craft a delectable lunch or dinner experience.

For a perfect dining experience, consider pairing your smoked lamb shoulder with a suitable wine or beverage. Red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz work well, as their robust flavours complement the rich taste of lamb. Alternatively, you can serve it with a crisp and refreshing craft beer or a non-alcoholic beverage that suits your guests' preferences.

Smoking a lamb shoulder is a delightful culinary experience, offering a tender and flavourful dish that's certain to impress your guests. Experiment with different seasonings, woods, and side dishes to create your masterpiece.

Follow this recipe to savour the mouthwatering delight of a smoked lamb shoulder.

Smoked Pork Ribs

Indulging in the joy of eating with your hands is a culinary adventure best experienced through the exquisite flavour of smoked pork ribs. Among the cuts derived from the pig, the most favoured choices for smoking are the baby's back ribs and spare ribs.

Baby Back Ribs: These are the petite counterparts, hailing from the pig's back. Their name is quite indicative of their origin.

Spare Ribs: On the other hand, spare ribs are significantly larger and situated closer to the pig's belly, along the sides. While these two cuts exhibit distinct sizes and placements, the smoking process remains quite similar, with the main difference being that the spare ribs require a bit more time on the smoker.

Preparing a rack of ribs will typically demand a patient dedication of around four to six hours. For a quicker cooking time, consider trimming baby back ribs into smaller chunks of three or four ribs each and spare ribs into individual rib segments. The challenge often lies in assessing the internal temperature of the meat due to the bones. A helpful alternative is to employ a toothpick test - if it easily slides through the meat, your ribs are perfectly done!

Ribs, in all their meaty glory, harmonise exquisitely with a range of smoking woods. Apple, maple, and cherry woods are popular choices, each imparting its unique and delightful smoky character to the meat. So, whether you're a fan of baby back ribs or spare ribs, the joy of smoking these succulent cuts is bound to be a delightful journey for your taste buds.

Follow this recipe for smoked pork ribs.

Smoked Pork Butt & Shoulder

Pork butt and shoulder, despite their names, aren't derived from the pig's rear end; instead, they originate from the upper shoulder area of the animal's front legs. In particular, the shoulder cut encompasses the lower section of the shoulder, extending towards what you might call the "elbow."

These cuts are typically substantial, often weighing in at several kilograms, making them ideal for serving large gatherings. However, their generous size comes with a trade-off in cooking time, as it can take over 10 hours to achieve that perfectly smoked goodness in a smoker.

If you have a bone-in pork butt, gauging its readiness for consumption is as simple as giving the bone a gentle twist. When the meat is fully cooked, the bone should slide out effortlessly. For those without a bone-in pork butt or when dealing with a pork shoulder, aim for an internal temperature of approximately 96°C to ensure a delectable result. When it comes to wood selection, hickory and pecan are excellent choices for enhancing the flavour of these cuts.

Follow this recipe for Smoked Pork Butt & Shoulder.

Smoked Pulled Beef Oyster Blade

Smoking your beef oyster blade is a culinary adventure that opens the door to a wide array of meal possibilities. Whether you're craving tacos, sandwiches, stir-fries, savoury pies, or just a delectable snack, a smoked beef oyster blade can be the star of the show.

One of the remarkable aspects of smoking a beef oyster blade is its low-maintenance nature. Once you've mastered the essential smoking principles, such as maintaining the right temperature, you're on your way to a mouthwatering meal that will impress your family and friends.

In terms of temperature, aim to preheat your trusty smoker to a steady 138°C. If time allows, consider seasoning the beef oyster blade in advance, ideally up to 24 hours before you fire the smoker.

As your culinary masterpiece takes shape, check the meat after the first 3 hours of smoking, and then periodically every hour afterwards. Keep a close eye on your thermometer until it registers an internal temperature of approximately 96°C, indicating that your beef oyster blade is perfectly cooked. Once achieved, let the meat rest for at least half an hour before you pull it apart and present a delicious, smoky feast to your eager diners.

Follow this recipe for Smoked Pulled Beef Oyster Blade.

Smoked Chuck Roast

For all the brisket enthusiasts out there who crave that smoky flavour but can't bear the thought of a full-day smoking session, look no further than the chuck roast. Packed with abundant fat marbling, this cut is tailor-made for the smoker. As it slowly smokes, the fat and connective tissues work their magic, infusing the meat with an unforgettable flavour and rendering it wonderfully tender and juicy.

Set aside about five to six hours to embark on your chuck roast smoking journey. The goal is to have the meat reach an internal temperature of 96°C, ensuring a delectable outcome. For the finest results, consider employing hickory or pecan wood, which will further enhance the flavour profile of your smoked chuck roast.

Follow this recipe for Smoked Chuck Roast.

Starts With a High-Quality and Affordable Smoker

Now that you've got the know-how to master the art of smoking these delectable meats, the next step is securing a top-of-the-line smoker. Here at Hot Things, we are your ultimate destination for a diverse selection of smokers designed to cater to home cooks and professional chefs' needs.

Wrapping Up

In conclusion, exploring the world of best smoked meats is a culinary journey filled with rich flavours and endless possibilities. There's a cut for every taste and occasion, from beef brisket to lamb shoulder, pork ribs to turkey breast, and even the delightful pulled beef oyster blade and chuck roast. 

With the knowledge of how to smoke various meat cuts and the selection of the best woods for smoking, you're now equipped to embark on your smoking adventures. From savouring the melt-in-your-mouth tenderness of smoked beef brisket to the finger-licking goodness of smoked pork ribs, a world of flavours is waiting to be explored in your smoker. So, fire up the smoker, gather your ingredients, and let the smoking journey begin!

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