Best meats to smoke | Full list of the tastiest options

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  June 21, 2021

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Meat smoking is often a complicated process, especially for beginners. It requires skills and patience throughout the whole process in order to achieve good results.

There is quite a lot of types of meat, but you need to know that only some of them are particularly recommended for a smoker.

I have prepared a list of the best types of meat for smoking that allow you to achieve way better results.

For that purpose, thicker slabs of meat are obviously the best, as when smoked at a low temperature over many hours, they become incredibly tender, juicy, and intensively tasting.

Best meats to smoke

Of course, all of that requires not only the right type of meat but first and foremost skills and the right smoker.

My advice for beginners is to start with something like chicken, which is a great and inexpensive type of meat for gaining experience and operating a smoker.

Speaking of the equipment, I also recommend getting an adequate smoker for beginners, which will also make it much easier to gain knowledge and develop one’s skills.

In plenty of situations, it is an inadequate smoker that causes poor smoking results, which is why you should also focus on getting decent and reliable equipment.

The best cuts of meat for smoking – list

Let me start with the types of meat that are definitely less demanding and cheaper, which means something for those wishing to test their smoker or simply to begin their journey with BBQ.

Then I will move on to the types of meat that are perfect for slow smoking and that are described as pretty difficult to prepare.


Whole Chicken – Things in favor of this type of meat are mostly the price, availability and ease of preparation. You can easily get a whole chicken at any store and at any time, plus it doesn’t cost a whole lot which means that if something goes wrong, you don’t need to worry. A whole chicken doesn’t take much time although it does require the right temperature so that the meat doesn’t go dry, other than that it is no nuclear science to prepare it for smoking. You will find a lot of great recipes online for a simple and very tasty chicken.

Whole turkey – Just like a whole chicken, the meat doesn’t take a lot of time but it requires the right temperature or else it will go dry. It is also easy to get a whole turkey at every store, and there are thousands of recipes online for preparing it ( together with videos ). It is not a very demanding type of meat which makes it also good for beginners.

Wings – Incredibly easy to make, especially in large quantities, and very tasty, perfect to start a party. They require very little time and the right temperature, they are very easy to make. I think that nobody is going to have problems with preparing the right wings. They are very cheap, which encourages to experiment, and if something goes wrong for you, you don’t need to worry about few low-value wings.


Pork shoulder – It is characterized by good fat to lean meat ratio. Perfect for long and slow smoking, which results in incredibly juicy, tender and intensively tasting meat. Due to the good fat ratio, this type of meat is pretty pleasant to smoke.

Ribs – It is impossible to forget them, pure classic of BBQ and one of the most popular types of meat. I really like pork ribs, not just for the meat being pretty easy to smoke, but also for the decent price, which isn’t very heavy on my budget. Of course just like with other traditional BBQ-type meats, you are going to find a lot of recipes available online. Slow smoking makes pork ribs more tender and mouth-watering.

Try bacon jerky recipe.


Ribs – Once again, great ribs, this time the beef type which costs more than pork ribs. When buying ribs, you should make sure they have as much meat and as little fat as possible ( get rid of the excess ).

Brisket – A very popular type of meat that gives great results of smoking. First and foremost, a thick enough layer of fat provides great conditions for absorbing the smoke and for creating the classic smoke ring (like this) as well as delicious skin. The meat on the inside is very aromatic and juicy. Another good news is the easy access to this piece of meat.

Check out how to make beef sticks recipe.


Lamb shoulder – A type of meat that many people don’t find appealing, but when it’s prepared the right way, it can taste great. A properly smoked lamb shoulder like this recipe I talk about here is tender and tasty on the inside, it’s easy to dry it. It is not the easiest type of meat to smoke and it’s also hard to come by ( I forgot to mention the high price ).


Salmon – Some smoked fish are really great, salmon being one of them. It’s an interesting change from other standard types of meat, plus it’s much healthier, too. Regular salmon smoking is not difficult, but you have to know that it is also possible to cold smoke it, which isn’t among the easiest tasks.

I tried to list all the most popular types of meat that are good for smoking as well as few less popular ones. Let me remind you that if you’re a beginner then I suggest starting with the cheap and low-demanding chicken.

That way you will easily learn not only the basics of meat smoking but will also get to know your smoker better. By starting with expensive meat without any knowledge, you risk a lot, which is why I suggest to start with baby steps instead.

I also encourage to check out guide where you will learn about the best wood for smoking. Without meat and smoker there is no meat smoking but it’s a good idea to also remember about minor things that in reality have a huge impact on the results of smoking.

Also check out my full review on smoking meat for beginners cookbooks so you’ll get a heads start

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Lakeside Smokers is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with BBQ Smoking (& Japanese food!) at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.