Choosing the Cut When it comes to smoking meat, there are a few considerations you need to keep in mind. The fat content, the texture, as well as the flavor all matters when it comes to choosing the best meat to smoke. There are also certain cuts which on their own may not be the best choice, but with a little preparation beforehand, they can be made to smoke just as brilliantly.Tough cuts such as mature chickens, briskets, mature beef, pork, and ribs make for the best choices when it comes to smoking meat as they aren’t suited for anything else.When smoked for a long enough time, the collagen inside these meats start to break down and gets converted to different kinds of sugars in the process. Not only does it make the meat super tender, but also adds a unique sweetness to the flavor of the meat.However, certain other types of meats such as chicken, fish and game animals require a little bit of preparation before throwing them on a smoker. These meats tend to be drier and leaner and hence need precautions on your part to ensure they do not dry out while smoking.Brining the meat before smoking these can ensure they stay tender. Brining involves soaking the meat in a saline solution, which not only drastically improves moisture retention but also adds flavor.Now that we’re done with the basics, we will now move on to the list of the best meats that you can smoke!
1. Pork Ribs
We’re pretty sure this doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Pork ribs are meant to be smoked, and they make for one of the tastiest meats of all when done right!Pork ribs come in two different types, spares and baby backs. The baby backs are smaller when compared to the spares but are meatier as they come from the loin part of the hog. Spares are much larger and also has much more flavor as they come from the belly section of the hog.Spares are preferable as they bring out the best of all the flavors. Cooking them, however, is a prolonged process as they have a lot of cartilage and a big breastbone. The classic St. Louis style ribs are the best way to smoke pork ribs but requires you to trim up the spares to a more manageable cut.It can take anywhere between 4 to 6 hours for the pork to be cooked properly, and you can check if the meat is ready using a toothpick. If the toothpick slides through the meat easily, it’s ready!
2. Beef Brisket
We’re pretty sure this doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Pork ribs are meant to be smoked, and they make for one of the tastiest meats of all when done right!Briskets are one of the most popular choices when it comes to smoking meat, and they also happen to be the most preferred meat for the Texas-style barbecue.Under natural circumstances, briskets are extremely chewy, tough and have nearly no flavor. However, a smoker brings out the best in beef briskets. The constant prolonged heat from the smoker breaks down the collagen and causes it to melt. This coats the entire meat in wonderfully flavored gelatin and makes the meat incredibly tender.The fat contents of the beef also melt inside a smoker and administer a unique flavor to the meat on a cellular level. When done right, briskets melt in your mouth and coats your palate with a beautiful sweet and stingy flavor.The best part about smoking briskets is that it requires almost no preparation in advance. You just need to make sure you brine the meat properly before throwing it into the smoker. They do take quite a while to get cooked and may require anywhere between 1-1.5 hours per pound to get adequately smoked. Smoking at a low temperature is highly recommended.
3. Pork Chops
Coming third on our list of the best meats to smoke are pork chops!The most significant advantage of smoking pork chops is that they take very little time to cook and is probably the easiest of all meats when it comes to smoking. Unlike pork ribs, butts and shoulders, chops are quite lean and have very little connective tissue that needs breaking down. The texture of the meat naturally produces a delightful flavor and can be served in just around an hour!The best trick for smoking pork chops is cutting the meat into thick slices, preferable over an inch thick. Cutting the chops into thin slices brings with it the possibility of overcooking and hence drying the meat out in the process. If you really wish to cook thick slices, it is advisable that you use a hot grill and cook the meat fast.While smoking thick slices, you need to target an internal temperature of around 145ºF as anything less than that will not bring out the real flavor. The average cooking time is usually about 1.5 hours. Apple, Maple and Cherry are the most preferable when it comes to choosing the best smoke wood for smoking pork chops.
4. Whole Turkey
While pork and beef are the most popular choices when it comes to smoking, a list of the best meats to smoke can never be complete without including the good old smoked turkey in it!A properly smoked whole turkey is the perfect choice for Thanksgiving season. Putting aside the above mentioned red meats, nothing beats a whole smoked turkey when cooked right. While you can argue that there exist other ways of cooking a turkey, I think we can all agree that a smoked turkey beats all of them.A well prepared whole turkey has a delightful flavor along with a firm and moist texture. It takes on the character of the wood it is smoked with and has a sweet, almost creamy, taste.
However, smoking turkey requires a lot more attention to detail as compared to other meats.You have to be careful not to overcook it and try to maintain a temperature of around 225ºF for 30 minutes per pound of meat. Wild turkeys are more preferable than domestic ones as they tend to have more flavor.Bringing the turkey before smoking is also a must. Be sure to brine the meat for at least an hour per pound before rinsing it and applying a rub. Allowing the turkey to rest for 30 minutes before carving is highly recommended.
Carp is highly underrated when it comes to smoking! It is by far one of the best non-red meats that have an affinity for the smoker!In our opinion, carp tastes better than any other freshwater fish. It is also readily available in abundance in most places, and also doesn’t require you to wait for a particular season to get a hold of them. There are millions and millions of them all around, which is also possibly one of the reasons why they are so greatly underappreciated.Meat from a carp tastes absolutely delightful when smoked properly. The meat is firm, medium white, mildly fatty and has a unique floral overtone to its taste. Sure, it is way more trouble preparing a carp for smoking as compared to other more convenient choices, but we promise you it’s totally worth it when done right!You must first fillet the carp as you would do with any other fish. Once you are done, proceed to slice out the darker strips of meat which you can find along the lateral line. You are then required to cut the fillet both above and below the Y-Shaped bones on both the sides. Once you’re through with this, it’s almost done.If you do not like the fishy taste, consider soaking the fillets in milk or buttermilk for a few hours before throwing them into the smoker. The absolute best choice of wood for smoking Carp has got to be mesquite wood. They impart an extremely satisfying flavor to the meat which you will not achieve with any other wood.It is recommended that you smoke the carp at 250ºF for 3 hours after which you need to adjust the temperature to around 180ºF and cook for about 45 minutes per pound.If smoking carp isn’t your cup of tea, do check out our list of Best Fish Fryers
. That’ll surely make things a whole lot easier!
So there goes our guide on the best meats that you can smoke. Hopefully, we have been able to help you out in choosing the right meat for the next time you decide to fire up your smoker.If none of these meats appealed to you, and you want to impress your buddies with a smoked deer delicacy instead, do check out this article