What is the hardest meat to smoke? The holy grail of smoking

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  May 12, 2022

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If you are adventurous when you are smoking your meat, then no doubt you’ll want to savor every type of meat known to man. But what exactly is the hardest meat to smoke, and would you be brave enough to try it?

The hardest meat to smoke is brisket, a tough cut that can take up to three days to cook properly in a smoker. It’s also very lean without much fat to roast. So without a smoker with an offset firebox, you may need to use a different cooking method.

There’s a reason people say: “brisket, don’t risk it.” So in this post, I’ll explain why brisket is such a challenge to do well, and what other meats you might like to try.

What Is The Hardest Meat To Smoke?

But what other meats are there that you can try in your smoker? How about pork shoulder or ribs?

These cuts are great to smoke because they are relatively easy on the palate, but still give you some serious flavor. They are also fairly inexpensive and easy to find at most grocery stores.

What kinds of meat can you smoke?

You can smoke just about anything. In fact, many people say that smoking seafood is easier than smoking meat.

But if you want to know which meats are easiest to smoke, then we recommend you start with beef. 

Beef has a lot of connective tissue, making it difficult to chew.

That being said, beef is probably the easiest meat to smoke because it doesn’t require any special equipment or techniques.

Pork is another popular choice for smokers. Pork is often used for pulled pork sandwiches. Pulled pork is made from slow-cooked pork shoulder.

Since pork shoulder is already tender, you won’t need to marinate it before smoking.

Another popular way to smoke pork is to rub it with salt and pepper and let it sit overnight. Then you can wrap it in foil and grill it.

Pork butt is another favorite among smokers. Butt refers to the back portion of the pig. It’s usually sold whole and contains a large amount of fat.

Because of its size, it takes longer to cook than most other cuts of pork. However, it’s worth the wait because it tastes delicious.

Poultry and wild game are also very popular meats to smoke, but they require a bit more attention and skill.

As long as you have a good recipe to follow and some practice, you can smoke any meat.

By the way, you don’t have to stick to just meat when smoking. You can also smoke vegetables, fruit, almonds, cheese, and even salt!

But all that said, and with all the options available, many pitmasters agree that brisket is one of the hardest cuts of meat to smoke.

Why is brisket the hardest meat to smoke?

Brisket is sometimes called ‘the holy grail of smoking’.

Brisket is the toughest cut of meat to smoke as there are a lot of things you can do wrong when smoking it.

Brisket is actually two muscles: the flat and the point. The flat muscle is located underneath the point muscle.

As the point contains more fat marbling, many say this is the better part when smoking.

Both muscles have tough connective tissues, so they are hard to chew. They also contain a lot of fat, so they take a long time to cook.

It is very important to buy a quality cut when you are going to smoke a brisket.

Don’t make the mistake of bringing home a cut of corned beef (which may look similar).

Why Is Brisket The Hardest Meat To Smoke?

Brisket is also very expensive. Most butchers sell it for $15 per pound. This makes brisket an expensive option for smoking.

How to properly smoke a brisket?

To properly cook a brisket in a smoker, you must first remove the excess fat. This will ensure that the meat cooks evenly.

Next, you should season the brisket with salt and pepper. Salt helps draw out moisture from the meat, and pepper adds flavor.

After seasoning the brisket, you should place it on a rack in a roasting pan. Meanwhile, heat up the smoker to around 195 degrees Fahrenheit and add a water pan.

Next, place the brisket in the smoker and let it cook until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

The key to cooking a brisket is to keep the temperature low. If you raise the temperature too high, the connective tissues will begin to break down.

When this happens, the meat will become dry and chewy. Use a decent BBQ smoker thermometer to keep an eye on the temperature.

Halfway through, it can be a good idea to wrap the brisket. This will create less bark, however, so it is up to your personal preference.

The most important thing is to take your time. A good brisket will take many hours to smoke as it is a big chunk of meat.

Also, no two brisket cuts are alike, they will cook differently.

Brisket must be smoked long enough to be probe tender when a probe is inserted into the thickest section of the flat.

It should feel similar to sticking the probe into soft butter. The brisket will be ready at that point. Never cook to a specific temperature alone!

And when the brisket is done smoking, allow time to let it rest as well. Did you know smoked brisket tastes even better the next day?

Check out this video from the Art of Manliness for more tips on smoking brisket the right way:

Find the full recipe for a perfectly smoked brisket on a pellet smoker here

How can you speed up cooking brisket?

One trick you can use to speed up cooking a brisket is called reverse searing.

Reverse searing means placing the roast directly on the coals instead of using a rack.

By doing this, you’ll be able to sear the surface of the meat without overcooking the interior.

You can also use the sous vide method to cook the meat before smoking.

What should I do with leftover smoked brisket?

Leftover smoked brisket can be stored in the refrigerator for three days. Make sure to store it in an airtight container.

Once it has been refrigerated, you can reheat it by baking it at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes.

If you want to freeze leftover smoked brisket, you can slice it into 1/2-inch thick slices. Wrap each slice individually in plastic wrap and then put them in a freezer bag.

Freeze the sliced brisket for up to four months.

You can thaw frozen brisket overnight in the refrigerator. Reheat it in a microwave oven for 5 to 10 minutes or until it is heated all the way through.


Smoking meat is one of the best ways to preserve food and give it an amazing flavor. However, if you’ve never done it before, it can seem like a daunting task.

Fortunately, there are many tips and tricks you can follow to help you get started.

Will you dare trying to smoke brisket?

Next, read about the 16 Most Common Smoking Mistakes beginners make when starting out

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.