Whether you’re new to smoking meat or a seasoned pro, it’s important to know what meat is good meat to smoke. While ham and bacon usually top the list of smoked meat preferences, you might be surprised to learn that the variety of smoke-able meats is far more vast than these old go-to smoking favorites.
Smoked Meat is an Old Fashioned Treat
Smoking meat is a practice that has existed since prehistoric times. Because it is a tried and true method of preparing and storing meat for long periods of time, it stands to reason that any meat you can think of has probably been in a smoker at some point or another. While some meats have been found to not smoke well, there are some unique surprises in the history of smoking successes.
Read on for some of our favorites.
1. Fill Your Gut with Boston Butt
If you ask many pit bosses what they believe to be the best meat for smoker, they’ll likely tell you the Boston Butt. Despite its somewhat misleading name, the Boston Butt is actually a mass of meat found above the shoulder of a hog, not anywhere near the business end.
Because of the fatty marbling in the Boston Butt, it smokes well without becoming too dry. The flipside of this is that the cut of meat is often very thick, making the smoking process a time commitment. The cut can come with or without a bone attached. For smoking, the bone makes for an easy “handle” should you need to flip the meat or check the internal temperature.
Aside from being delicious and easy to smoke, the Boston Butt is typically a less expensive cut of meat. This makes it a favorite for serving large crowds at picnics or other events.
2.Smoke Brings Lamb Leg Up a Peg
Leg of lamb is known as one of the best meats to smoke in electric smoker for having a robust flavor and a tender texture when prepared correctly. Because the flavor of the meat itself is heavy, it stands up well to many of the seasonings and rubs that are often used in preparing smoked meats.
Lemon zest, garlic, and cracked black pepper are popular rub choices when smoking lamb because they enhance the natural flavor of the meat without covering it. This is always key when using your smoker correctly.
The downside of smoking lamb is that it does tend to be difficult to find in some parts of the world, which can make it a very expensive endeavor.
3. Find Carp Mediocre? Try It In Your Smoker.
Most fishermen don’t see much value in carp. In fact, the majority of professional fishermen will often throw carp back, refusing to harvest them at all. If you find that you are also struggling to see the worth of the carp you’re catching at the lake, you might consider lighting a fire.
Carp is considered less valuable than other fish because it is a fattier fish, making it unsuitable for pan frying or baking. What is often overlooked is how delicious a fattier fish can be when cooked on the grill or over the coals of a smoker.
Some simple descaling and brining is all that needs to happen for this “throwaway” catch to become the best meal of the week. Give it a try! You never know- your next fishing trip might feel much more successful once you know how to make a delicious meal from what used to be a disappointing reel-in.
4. There’s Nothing Yuck about Smoked Duck
Another good meat to smoke is duck. Duck is considered a healthier option than a lot of other meat choices, making it a favorite for DIY smokers and the health conscious alike.
Duck has a high rendering of fat, which makes the smoking process much easier by eliminating the amount of basting time required to keep the meat from drying out. Also, smoking duck enhances the natural flavor of the meat, making it an even more delicious additive to many recipes.
Many people who claim to dislike duck will often cite the tough texture of the meat as their reasoning. Proper smoking should leave the duck tender, putting a whole new spin on the meat for even the most hardened duck-dislikers.
5. You’ll Be Craving More When You Try Smoked Boar
Like most people, you might assume that wild boar would be very similar to pork. You’d be surprised to learn, though, that there are some stark differences between the two.
Wild boar is more lean than commercially produced pork. It is also a more red meat than the “other white meat” we have become accustomed to. Also, while farmed pork is often fattened on corn and silage, wild boars get their sustenance from grass, nuts, pine cones, and other forage. This gives wild boar meat a sweeter and richer flavor than what we associate with most pork.
Between the two, boar is actually the best meat to smoke because it is leaner, more flavorful, and can stand up to the seasonings and rubs better than the commercially manufactured alternative.
6. Sticking With Our Rhyming Theme, Smoke Something that Swims Upstream
Salmon is one of the best meats to smoke because it is high in omega 3 fatty acids which allow the meat to smoke evenly and flavorfully. Odds are you’ve heard of smoked salmon being used in many recipes, but you’ve likely heard it referred to as lox.
While most lox is cold-smoked, the safest way to smoke salmon yourself is at an 80 degree temperature, which is high enough to kill listeria and other bacteria. Smoking below that might be the traditional way, but it is also a risk not worth taking if you’re new to the salmon smoking process.
When finished, combine the meat with cream cheese and enjoy it on a bagel. This is a traditional treat of the Yiddish and you’ll soon understand why. It’s delicious!
7. If Nothing Else Here Floats Your Boat, You Might Consider Smoking Goat
Another of our favorite types of meat to smoke is goat. Goat chops, in particular, are good cuts of meat to smoke because of their little bone “handles” and fatty content.
As far as flavor, you might expect that goat would taste similar to lamb. In fact, goat is often more likened to the flavor of beef, making it a great candidate for barbecuing or hot seasoning. Because goat is almost always free-range, you’ll find that the flavor will vary from goat to goat, but almost always will contain the same robust base flavor.
Smoked goat meat is best served with apple butter and a nice side salad.
8. If You’re Feeling Something Bolder, Try Your Hand and Smoked Lamb Shoulder
We have already covered why lamb, itself, is a good meat to smoke, but we are sure you are also aware that the cut of meat matters. Like the leg, the shoulder of the lamb is one of the hardest worked muscles, so it is a more dense and flavorful cut of meat.
This also means, though, that it can be rather tough. This makes smoking an ideal way of preparation because the “low and slow” cooking method of the smoker means the meat becomes more tender the longer it is in the cooker.
Always smoke the lamb shoulder with the bone in to maximize flavor and give yourself a means of testing the tenderness of the meat. When the meat begins to naturally pull away from the bone, it is tender enough. Don’t leave it in too long, though, or you’ll suffer dryness.
9. Grab a Beer and Smoke a Deer
You’d be surprised, due to its lean nature, that venison is actually a great meat to smoke. The tricky part of smoking venison is not letting it dry out.
Many remedy this issue by creating a beer marinade for the meat, letting it soak up the alcohol and mixed in oil to give it enough “lubrication” to properly smoke without overdrying. Of course, this alters the flavor of the meat as well, which is a bonus to some because of its gamey natural taste.
When choosing the right seasoning for venison, you can never go wrong with garlic, paprika, and some cracked black pepper.
10. A Nice, Fat Hen’s Good Smoked Again and Again
When preserving chicken, hens are great for the smoker because they are often a higher fat content than roosters. Smoking is also a good way to use old hens who are otherwise too tough for your usual chicken recipes but have aged out of the ability to lay breakfast.
For older hens, double smoking is a good method to try. This involves smoking the chicken not once, but twice with basting and marinating between. It produces a flavorful, tender product that is great on sandwiches or in soup.
11. Smoked Brisket’s the Best Way Not to Risk It
Beef brisket is a great meat, overall, so of course it’s also a great meat for the smoker. Brisket is one of America’s favorite smoked meats and brisket sundaes have even become a thing in some east coast restaurants. Yes- brisket sundaes. You read that correctly and they are every bit as healthy as they sound.
Because of the outer marbling of brisket, it cooks evenly in a smoker, leaving it tender and delicious through-and-through. A good barbecue rub or steak sauce caramelized at the crust amps up the already perfect flavoring.
As always, smoking at a slow and low temp is the key to getting a delicious brisket every time, but paying close attention to the cut is also important. Too much fat and you risk burnt edges. Too little and you’ll wind up dry. An even coating of a thin layer is perfect.
12. Whether Thanksgiving or for Jerky – Don’t Overlook Smoking Turkey
Turkey breasts and drumsticks make for good cuts of meat to smoke- we know this because of sandwich shops and renaissance festivals- but that doesn’t mean you should disregard the whole turkey.
A whole smoked turkey makes a beautiful centerpiece for the Thanksgiving table. The golden brown, even coating of a properly smoked turkey is inviting- and then there’s the smell!
Be warned, though- it requires a gentle hand to properly smoke a turkey. It can dry out fast and there isn’t much connective tissue at the joints. Slow smoking is the way to go and don’t be afraid of overbasting as you move through the process. When done right, the end product will be beautiful, fragrant, and delicious. You’ll be throwing away that Thanksgiving roaster and turkey fryer in no time!
13. Although Risking Sounding Phoney – We Do Recommend Smoked Bologna
Who would have ever guessed that one of the most flavorful smoked meats would be bologna? Throughout Oklahoma and Texas, you’ll find smoked bologna on many barbecue joint menus, but it’s not as common in other parts of the country. This is probably due to the fact that bologna is seen as only a cheap lunch meat option and not a main staple of a backyard gathering.
Commonly, bologna is smoked in tube form. There are options, though. Some recipes call for glazing slices of bologna in brown sugar rubs before placing them in the smoker, resulting in a candied taste and texture that is surprisingly delicious.
Don’t overlook this affordable option if you are feeding a crowd and want to impress with a unique spin on an old deli staple.
14. All Your Friends Will Call First Dibs When They Hear You’re Smoking Pork Ribs
You probably already know that pork ribs are a good meat to smoke, you just might not fully understand why. The bones in the rib allow the meat to smoke and cook from the inside out due to the bone carrying the heat of the smoker to the inside of the muscle.
This is why you should keep a close eye on the bones when you are smoking pork ribs. As soon as the meat starts to pull away, you know the ribs are ready to eat. Any sooner and the meat will be tough. Any later, and you’ll be wasting your hard work and time on a dried out product.
For maximum flavor, use a dry rub on smoked ribs, allowing the rub to absorb into the meat overnight before you begin the smoking process.
15. Let Your Smoking Creds Set Sail – Try a Little Lobster Tail
Shellfish doesn’t usually come to mind when you’re considering types of meat to smoke, but you might be interested to know that smoked lobster tail is becoming a crowd favorite at coastal restaurants around the country.
Not only is it incredibly easy to smoke a lobster tail, but the result is a “fancy,” flavorful, and beautifully presented product that is perfect for special occasions. As always, it’s best to use fresh lobster. Frozen lobster can be used, too, though as long as you slow thaw it in the refrigerator and begin smoking right away once thawed.
Lemon juice, paprika, and a whole lot of butter help you make this smoked treat a success, along with patience and time. Serve it with pasta and a side salad for extra dazzle!
Feeling Inspired? Get that Smoker Fired!
We hope that at least some of the suggestions on this list have been appealing to you. As always, research, trial, and error are key to finding the best methods of smoking for your personal taste.
There are a large variety of meat options that are great for smoking, so don’t disregard anything- and be especially open to the meats that you have otherwise enjoyed when prepared through more traditional methods.