Last Updated on February 18, 2023
If you’re new to smoking and looking for suggestions on the best meats to smoke for beginners, you’re in the right place. Here are our top five picks for first-timers.
It’s hard to beat the amazing flavor of food that’s been slowly smoked over charcoal or wood. Smoking adds a rich and distinct flavor to just about anything including beef, pork, chicken, turkey, lamb, seafood, and vegetables.
I’ve been smoking meats for years, and I’ll put just about anything on my smoker. But if you’re just starting out and getting ready to try smoking for the first time, you’ll want to choose your meat carefully.
I wouldn’t recommend starting with something like a giant brisket. Brisket can be difficult to master and it’s easy to mess up. Plus, it’s pretty pricey and you really don’t want to end up with an expensive piece of meat that’s dry and tough.
I’ve even seen some people recommending tomahawk steak as a good meat for a first time smoker. That’s just crazy. A tomahawk steak can run you $75 to $100. Do you really want that to be the first meat you smoke?
Hold off on brisket and tomahawk steak until you’ve got some more experience and confidence in your smoking abilities.
In the meantime, assuming you already have a good smoker for beginners, plenty of fuel, and time to spare, you’re ready to get started.
Below I’ve listed my five suggestions for the best meats to smoke for beginners. These options are all perfect for first timers because they’re simple, fast, and easy to cook.
Smoking sausage is about as easy as it gets. There’s absolutely no prep involved. No rubs, no marinades, nothing. Just fire up your smoker, add your sausage links, and in about two hours you’ll have the best sausage you can imagine.
You can leave the sausage whole and serve on a hoagie roll with some peppers and onions or thinly slice it and serve as an appetizer or mixed in homemade mac and cheese.
Just be sure to always smoke more sausage than you think you’ll need because it will definitely go. Even people who don’t care for sausage start drooling when I make it for parties. There’s never any left.
My go-to option is usually sweet Italian sausage, but you can smoke whatever kind you like best including hot sausage, kielbasa, breakfast sausage, chicken sausage, chorizo, or bratwurst.
Smoked Whole Chicken
The idea of smoking a whole chicken might sound a little intimidating at first, but don’t be frightened.
Chicken is actually one of the best meats to smoke because it’s easy, inexpensive, and versatile. Chicken itself has a very mild flavor so you can use pretty much any kind of rub or marinade you prefer.
And feel free to mix and match different varieties of wood. Apple, pecan, and maple all go very well with chicken.
Another benefit of smoking a whole chicken is the cost.
A four- or five-pound chicken will only cost a few dollars and it’s enough to feed the average family. And if you’re having friends and family over, most smokers will fit several birds so you can easily double or triple the recipe and make enough for the whole crowd.
Plus the presentation looks pretty cool and your friends will think you’re a master smoker.
Smoked Baby Back Ribs
When you say “barbecue” or “smoked meat” to someone, typically the first thing that comes to mind is a tender rack of ribs falling off the bone.
Baby back ribs are also super easy to make if you follow the 3-2-1 method. Here’s how it works:
Prep your ribs by removing the membrane and adding your favorite rub. Toss them on the smoker uncovered and let them smoke for three hours.
After three hours take them off and wrap them up in foil or butcher paper. Put them back on the smoker and cook while wrapped for another two hours.
Then finish it off by removing the foil, brushing on your favorite barbecue sauce and letting the ribs cook for one more hour.
The 3-2-1 method is practically foolproof and it’ll give you the most tender, fall off the bone ribs you can imagine.
Smoked Chicken Wings
No backyard party is complete without some perfectly smoked chicken wings. And they’re so easy to cook.
Chicken wings can be smoked whole, or you can use a sharp knife or kitchen shears to break them down into drums and flats. I like to break them down because it makes them easier to eat.
Rub the chicken with your favorite seasoning and add them to the smoker. Depending on their size, expect them to be done in about 45 minutes to an hour.
Pro tip – for the last 10 minutes or so crank up the heat in your smoker or transfer the wings to a grill. Finishing them with the higher temperature will crisp up the skin and add even more flavor.
Smoked Bone-In Pork Butt
Another BBQ favorite, pork butt is always a big hit and you can feed a lot of people without breaking your budget.
Pork butt is also known as Boston butt or pork shoulder. Look for one with the bone in (more flavor) and around five to seven pounds. A butt that size will take around six to eight hours to cook.
If you go any bigger it will just take forever, and you can always make more than one smaller butt if needed.
Season the butt liberally with your favorite dry rub and let it smoke until in reaches an internal temperature of about 200 F.
When it’s finished cooking you should be able to reach in and pull out the bone in one smooth motion. Then just shred it up with a fork or your fingers and it’s ready to go. I like to serve pulled pork with barbecue sauce on the side so guests can add as much or as little as they want.