What does a warm summer day remind you of? Outdoors, sunshine, cool drinks, & barbeque parties. Barbeque parties are characteristically American summer. Having fun with family and friends with great food is one of your favorite things on the list. The food is the second or for some of us the first that feature on the list. Think barbeque and you think of soft, tender, flavorful, smoky meat with your favorite sauce to go. To help you make your barbeque a success, a list of top 10 best meat to smoke is further ahead in the article.
You should have the skills & patience if you want the perfect smoky ribs. Rub it with the right spices. Let it marinate. It is important for the meat to soak in all the spices and flavors. Then, you cook it in a smoker until the meat falls apart when tender. Not all cuts of meat will come out great from the smoker. Know which cut will taste good when slow-cooked.
Top 10 Best Meat To Smoke
A good cut of meat is the key to good smoked meat. Make sure that the piece benefits from the slow-cooking process. Buy the cuts that have connective tissue and lots of marbling in the meat. In culinary arts, marbling is the white flecks and streaks of fat that resemble a marble pattern. Marbling adds flavor. You can judge if the meat is good for smoking or not by the amount of marbling it has. The more marbling a slice of meat has the better will it be in taste after smoking.
When you smoke the meat on low heat, it makes the meat more succulent. When you smoke it low and slow, the tough tissue dissolves into the meat. The meats absorb the smoke while it cooks. It gives it a distinct flavor. The top 10 best meat to smoke are
1. Pork Butts
The pork butt is the upper side of the shoulder of a hog. It weighs anything between 5 to 10 pounds. This is one of the cheapest cuts you will find but it makes the tastiest smoked meat. the cooking of this meat needs patience as it takes 10 hours. You can use hickory or pecan wood to smoke the pork butt.
2. Pork Picnic Shoulder
Picnic shoulder comes from the lower side of the shoulder. Therefore, it has elbow joints. You can easily differentiate between the pork butt and the picnic shoulder. The pork picnic shoulder is not square in shape like the butt. It also has the skin on.
This doesn’t have as much connective tissue and fat. Remove the skin and inject it with the spice rub or sauce to give the meat flavor. Smoke it for 10 hours using Hickory or Pecan woods.
3. Pork Ribs
Ribs, who doesn’t love ribs? Delicious, juicy, fall-of-the-bone ribs. It’s one of the finest gastronomical treats you can think of. A rack of ribs would take you around 10-12 hours to smoke. Apple, Cherry, and Maple woods are the best woods to smoke this cut.
There are two types of ribs: the baby backs and spares. The baby backs are cut from the loin whereas the spares are cut from the belly. The spares are larger and are more flavourful.
4. Pork Roast
Pork roasts or pork chops are quick to make. It will take you only 1.5 hours to make. This cut doesn’t have much fat. You will need a good seasoning or sauce to go with this one. Thin chops dry out fast. You should go for chops that are more than an inch thick. The thicker chops will be moist and tender after smoking.
You can use woods of Apple, Cherry, and Maple to smoke pork roasts.
5. Chuck Roast
A chuck roast is the cut of meat that comes from the shoulder of a steer. The amount of marbling and the connective tissue in this cut makes it optimal for slow cooking. You can smoke it over Hickory or Pecan wood for 5-6 hours to bring out the flavor.
Brisket is the meat cut from the breast or lower chest of the beef or veal. The beef brisket is one of the nine primal cuts of the beef. As cattle do not have collar bones, these muscles support about 60% of the bodyweight of standing or moving cattle. Brisket has a significant amount of connective tissue. Cook the meat correctly to tenderize the connective tissue.
Smoke it over Oak, Cherry, Hickory, or Pecan wood for 10-14 hours for a plate of tender, flat, and succulent brisket with burnt ends. Seems like a lot of work, right? But hey, it’s brisket we are talking about.
7. Beef Ribs
Beef ribs are larger and meatier than pork ribs. They are cut from the chuck or plate. These have the name of “Brisket on a Stick’ because of the bone. Cooking it over Oak, Cherry, Hickory, or Pecan will take about 5 to 6 hours.
The tri–tip is a triangular cut of beef from the bottom sirloin sub-primal cut. It is the lean and tender part of the meat. You can cook the meat within an hour and sear it for a burnt taste. You smoke the meat just for flavor. Use Oak, Cherry, Hickory, Pecan wood for smoking.
9. Chicken Quarters
The cut from legs and breasts are known as chicken quarters. Leg quarters include the thigh, drumstick, and a part of the back. Breast quarters include includes half a breast, a wing, and part of the back.
Marinate the chicken for a few hours for flavor. Chicken is easy to cook and will take 1.5 hours to cook. Smoke them until they fall apart at joints. Baste it with oil or grease for succulent skin and flavor. Smoke it over Apple or Maple wood for delicate flavors.
10. Turkey Breasts
Why should you limit turkey to Thanksgiving dinner? Smoke some turkey breast over Apple or Maple wood for 2 hours at the next barbeque. Turkey breasts won’t take long to cook. You can put flavored butter under the skin for flavor.
What is smoking?
Smoking is the process in which you expose the meat or fish to wood smokes for flavoring, browning, cooking, or preserving. It adds flavor and enhances the appearances of meat along with curing it. The process of smoking dates back to the time when there were no refrigerators or chemicals to preserve perishable food like meat. Since Paleolithic age or the stone age, people have been adding flavors to their meat through smoking. I guess smoking meat came soon after the fire was discovered.
When the meat is cured and then cold-smoked (below 90 degrees Fahrenheit) it has an anti-microbial effect on the meat. Hot smokes (above 160 degrees Fahrenheit) mostly used to cook and add flavor to the meat.
There are only certain meats that you can smoke to enhance the flavor. Smoking requires slow cooking on heat. Not all cuts of meat benefit from slow cooking. You will end up overcooking it or burning it. Large cuts of meat with fat and connective tissues slowly cook in smokers to absorb and release flavors.
Cuts of Meat
A primal cut or a cut of meat is the piece of meat which is carved out of the body for convenience in cooking and eating. The primal cuts are either complete or cut further. Prime cut is the meat cuts of premium quality. Here is a list of all the cuts of meat
Cuts of Beef
Beef gets more tender as the distance from horns and hoof increases. A steer’s legs and neck muscles do most of the work, so the muscles there are firmer. They are tougher to cut. The loin and ribs are at the center of the animal and compared to a neck muscle, they don’t do much work so they are considered tender cuts. Porterhouse, rib eye, and Filet Mignon are some of the tender cuts. The primal cuts in beef are
- Chuck – Chuck comes from the cow’s shoulder. It consists of the neck, shoulder blade, and upper arm. Beef chuck produces tough but very flavorful cuts of meat
- Rib – Rib is made of the cow’s backbone and ribs. Only the meat between 6th and 12th ribs are used for rib cut.
- Loin – The loin is cut from the top of the steer. It is located directly behind the rib. Since it is not heavily used in muscle work, the meat is tender. The loin has two parts: Short loin and sirloin. Sirloin is less tender than short loin.
- Round – Round is found at the cow’s rump and short legs. Therefore, it’s a tough cut.
- Flank – The flank is located below the loin. It has no bone. The meat is also tough.
- Short Plate – The plate or short plate is another source of ribs. It is found near the abdomen and is fattier than ribs carved out of the backbone.
- Brisket – A brisket is carved out of the steer’s breast. It is a tough meat and contains a substantial amount of fat.
- Shank – The shank is cut from the animal’s forearm. It is located in front of the brisket.
Cuts of Pork
Pork is a staple in the American diet. You have it almost every other day in the form of bacon and sausages. It is the most versatile protein in the world. The commonly sold pork cuts are
- Pork Butt – Contrary to the name pork butt doesn’t come from the rear butt of the hog but rather from the upper shoulder of the hog. It consists of a neck, shoulder blade, and fore-arm. It is a moderately tough cut and has a lot of connective tissues.
- Pork Shoulder – Pork shoulder or picnic shoulder as the name suggests is cut from the shoulder of a hog. It is located just below the Pork Butt.
- Pork Loin – It is cut from the animal’s back. You can keep the bones in pork loins while buying or you can have it removed. Pork loins with their bones trimmed are known as pork rack. If the pork rack is tied into a circle, it is called a crown roast of pork.
- Ham – Ham is cut from the back leg of the animal. It is located right behind the loin.
- Pork Side – Pork side or pork belly is a boneless cut of fatty meat that is cut from the belly of a pig.
- Spareribs – It is cut from the lower portion of the pig, specifically the belly and breastbone.
- Pork Jowl – A pork jowl is a cut of pork that can be considered the cheek of the hog. It is a tough cut and is mostly used in making sausages.
- Pork Feet – It is also known as pig trotters or pettitoe. These are the feet of the pig. It has a lot of connective tissues and thick skin.
Cuts of Poultry
Poultry is the meat of chicken or any other domestic fowl such as turkey, duck, or geese. These meats are generally termed as white meat. They are supposedly easier to digest. Whether the bird is chicken or any other bird, the cuts of poultry are usually the same. Here are some common cuts.
- Drumsticks – It is the lower portion of the leg quarter. The dark meat of the drumstick is juicy and tasty.
- Thigh – The thigh is the portion of the leg above the knee joint. This cut has dark meat like the drumstick.
- Leg – The leg is the combination of drumstick and thigh. The whole leg differs from the leg quarter and does not contain a portion of the back.
- Breasts and Tenderloin – These are the cuts of poultry where there’s no bone. It is pale in color and therefore termed as white meat. It is cut from the chest of the bird. Tenderloin is a whole-muscle product hand-pulled by separating the inner pectoral muscle from the breast and the sternum.
- Wings – The whole chicken wing consists of three different sections: The drumette, mid-section, and tip. The whole chicken wing is an all-white portion.
Cuts of Meat to Avoid in Smokers
Smoking adds a rustic flavor to the meat. You will have a hard time cooking the large chunks of meat. They are never the option when you’re in a hurry to whip up a meal. If you are one of those who enjoy cooking and a meal with friends and family, make sure you use the cuts of meat mentioned above in the list of top 10 best meat to smoke. These are the cuts you should avoid putting in the smoker. Avoid the prime cuts like steak, tenderloin or a lean roast. You can quickly sear them over a fire. You might overcook the meat if you put it in a smoker. It will lose out on its flavors. You might try different cuts of meat for experimentation but if you are not feeling experimental, there’s our list of top 10 best meat to smoke.
Types of Smokers
The smoker is the main equipment you will need when smoking your meat. All the other pieces of equipment are important but not as important as the smoker. You should invest in a good smoker or grill for the perfect barbecue.
If you’re starting out as a backyard barbeque chef electric or propane smokers are for you. They are easy to control. One of the drawbacks is that it does not impart the smoky flavor you get in a traditional barbeque. If you have some experience in barbeque ventures, you might want to opt for charcoal, wood, or pellet smokers. You can use charcoal smoker since it imparts the most flavor. If you want to go the traditional way of smoking, you can get a wood smoker or a pellet smoker. Pellet smoker uses wood that has been condensed into small pieces or pellets. The temperature in wood smokers is tougher to control. In pellet smokers, you don’t have to babysit the flame. It’s easier to control.
Read More: Best Electric Pressure Cooker
Woods for Smoking
If you have decided to go for wood or pellet smokers, you will need wood to fuel it up. Should you use any wood to start a fire? Will twigs and branches do the trick? Use seasoned woods for your smoker. Greenwoods use most of the fire to dry itself out. This process may give undesirable flavors to the meat. Look for woods that are brown or grayish in color.
Experts in meats smoking know what wood pairs with which meat. Smoking imparts flavor to the meat. A wrong pairing will mess up the flavor. You can use these pairings to enhance your smoked meat.
Mild woods like alder or maple give a delicate flavor to poultry and fish. Alder has a subtle smoke flavor. It has a natural sweetness, that enhances the taste of fish. Maple gives a smoky flavor to poultry.
Medium woods or fruitwoods are good for smoking poultry and pork. Woods such as Apple, Cherry, Peach, and Pear are fruitwoods. Oak is a medium wood too. Use it for large cuts. Oak has a subtle flavor that will and the longer the meat is in the smoker, the more its smoke will be distinct.
Pecan and Hickory are strong woods. Use them for red meats. Hickory has a strong pungent smoke. Don’t over smoke it, it makes the meat bitter. use it for smoking pork ribs. Use Pecan to smoke brisket, pork roast, and pork chops.
The Mesquite and Walnut are the strongest woods for smoking. If you don’t use it correctly, it will overpower the flavors of the meat. Mesquite works well with dark meats and Pecan is good for game meats and red meats.
Other Pieces of Equipment
A good set of barbecue tools will last you years. Make sure the tools you buy are of stainless steel. Apart from the grill, you will need these things
- Grill Fork
- Grill Glove
- Basting Brush
- Aluminum Foil
Q. How long does smoking meat take?
Ans. When smoking meat, take 3 factors into consideration, the type of meat, the thickness of the meat, and the temperature of the smoker. You can cook some meats within 6 to 8 hours. A brisket might take you 22 hours.
Q. What is the 3-2-1 rule in smoking?
Ans. During the first 3 hours, leave the meat to smoke. Wrap the meat in aluminum foil for the next 2 hours so the interior of the meat cooks properly. In the last hour of cooking, remove the foil to make a crisp exterior.
Q. What is the pink ring when smoking meat?
Ans. If you see a pink ring (which is the nitric acid) around the meat just inside the dark outside layer then it means you have cooked the meat correctly. If you don’t like the pink ring, toss it in sauce or glaze to hide the rings.
Q. Do you smoke meat before or after cooking?
Ans. Cooking does not always have to occur with smoking. You should use raw or cured fish and meat for smoking. Cooking prior to smoking doesn’t impart much of the smoky flavor to the meat or fish.
Smoked meat is the tastiest thing you will have. If you want to try smoking meat at home, there are things you should know. The best cuts of meat, the cooking time of each cut of meat, types of smokers, equipment needed for smoking meat, the right kind of woods, etc. Although the list is long, once you know these things, you can easily smoke meat whenever you want.
Now that you know what meats to smoke, what to avoid, and which woods to smoke, enjoy yourself hosting a fun barbeque party. For more such guides on better living follow familyliving.guide.