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Best smoked meat recipes for a BBQ

Best smoked meat recipes for a BBQ

  • Updated
Best smoked meat recipes for a BBQ

Smoking meat means cooking low and slow, so be sure to plan ahead if you want to have tender meat before midnight. At a typical smoking temperature of 225-250 degrees, expect about 60-90 minutes of cook time per pound of meat.

Smoked meat recipes 

In cooking, the best results often come from the simplest techniques. However, simple doesn't always mean fast, which is the case for smoking meat. 

Smoking meat is all about time and temperature control. If you plan ahead, you can have tender, flavorful meat before the sun goes down on your BBQ. American classics like ribs, chicken and brisket are great choices, and a three-ingredient smoked teriyaki mushroom appetizer will keep guests happy until the main event. 

What is smoked meat?

The term “smoked meat” often refers to American-style barbeque, a type of grilling over low indirect heat that slowly infuses meat with the savory flavor of wood smoke (known as “hot smoking”). The quintessential meats to smoke are pork ribs, chicken and beef brisket. However, American barbeque is extremely diverse with countless regional styles. 

Grilling vs. smoking

While burgers and steaks are charred quickly over the fire (sometimes called “direct grilling”), smoked BBQ meats are usually larger cuts that require a longer cook time for muscle fibers and connective tissue to break down and become tender. 

You can smoke meats with many different setups: everything from a dedicated pellet smoker to a charcoal grill with a vented lid can work.

Hot smoking vs. cold smoking

Smoke is also used without heat to flavor foods like salmon, Virginia ham and even mozzarella cheese. This technique is known as “cold smoking”.

Tips for smoking meat

Low and slow

Smoking requires time, and most beginners make the mistake of taking their meat off too soon. Whenever you’re cooking meat low and slow, whether it’s beef stew or BBQ ribs, it helps to know how tougher cuts of meat change over the course of cooking. You have to cook the meat at a low temperature until the connective tissues soften and begin to fall apart. This is what happens when meat “falls off the bone.” If you rush the process and take the meat off before it has reached this state, your meat will be chewy and tough.

Monitor the temperature 

There should be no flames when you’re smoking meat. If there is a flare-up, your fire is way too hot for smoking. The optimal temperature for smoking is only 175 to 275 degrees. Monitor the temperature using a thermometer, and stoke the fire slowly with four to six coals an hour. A Traeger pellet smoker takes the guesswork out of this by depositing fuel as needed to maintain the desired temperature.

Target internal temperature

Armed with basic guidelines, you can start experimenting. The Bear Paw Meat Smoking Guide magnet is a magnetic cheat sheet with the smoking temperature and target internal temperature of popular cuts of meat. It also includes an overview chart of the different types of hardwood used for smoking and whether they go best with beef, pork, poultry or fish. You can even stick onto the lid of your smoker for reference. 

Best BBQ rib recipe for beginners

For these pork ribs, you’ll need St. Louis-style pork spareribs which are larger and meatier than baby back style ribs. They’re more flavorful, too. If you do use baby backs, reduce the initial smoking time by one hour.

Spice rub: Meat Church Holy Gospel BBQ Rub has a cult following for a reason.

Wood: If you have a pellet smoker, Traeger’s flavorful signature hardwood blend has maple, hickory and cherry.

  1. Preheat your smoker to 250 degrees or set up your charcoal grill for smoking. 
  2. Trim the ribs and pat dry with a paper towel. Rub all over (including ends and sides) with a good spice rub. 
  3. Place a large handful of soaked wood chips on your charcoal or in a smoker box on your gas grill.
  4. Place the ribs meat side up on the grilling surface over indirect heat. Smoke for three hours with the lid closed, adding fuel and chips every hour or so to maintain temperature. 
  5. Wrap ribs in heavy-duty foil or uncoated butcher paper. Smoke for two more hours.
  6. Unwrap ribs and place them back on the grill grate. Baste with your favorite BBQ sauce.
  7. Continue cooking for one hour or until the sauce is set and the meat has shrunk at least a quarter-inch away from the bone.

Whole Smoked Chicken

There are many ways to smoke chicken, including upright over an open can of beer and spatchcocked (with the spine removed and flattened for faster and more even cooking). The method below is simple and keeps the chicken whole. If you’re a fan of crisp skin, you can turn your grill or smoker up to high heat briefly at the beginning or end of cooking.

Spice rub: Spiceology’s Cowboy Crust rub with espresso and chile powder is excellent for this recipe.

Wood: Try a mix of fruitwood (apple or cherry) and maple chips or pellets.

  1. Preheat your smoker to 225 degrees or set up a charcoal grill for indirect grilling. On a rimmed baking sheet, pat chicken dry with a paper towel. Coat the chicken with your favorite spice rub. If using a charcoal grill, place a large handful of soaked wood chips over the coals.
  2. Place the chicken breast side up in your smoker or grill over indirect heat. Smoke with the lid closed until a thermometer reads at least 165 degrees when inserted into the deepest part of the thigh (avoid the bone or you won’t get an accurate reading). This should take between three and five hours. Let the meat rest on a board for at least 10 minutes before carving.

Classic beef brisket

Beginners may be overwhelmed by the idea of smoking brisket. Brisket is a large cut of meat that takes many hours to smoke (up to 22!) and can be tricky to get right. If you’re new to brisket, it’s easiest to attempt this BBQ classic with a pellet smoker. If you don’t have one, starting with tri-tip might be a safer bet.

Spice rub: Try Neil Edly’s Savory Texas rub with paprika, cumin, ancho chili and cayenne.

Wood: Nothing pairs with beef quite like mesquite chips.

  1. Preheat your smoker to 225 degrees or set up your charcoal grill for smoking. 
  2. Unwrap a beef brisket (typically around 12-14 pounds) and pat dry with a paper towel. Rub all over with your favorite spice rub.
  3. If using charcoal, place a large handful of soaked wood chips on your coals.
  4. Place the brisket on the grilling surface over indirect heat. Smoke with the lid closed for six hours or until a thermometer inserted into the brisket reaches 160 degrees. If you’re using charcoal, add fuel and chips every hour to maintain temperature.
  5. Wrap the brisket in heavy-duty foil or butcher paper to prevent oversaturation of smoke. Cook until the meat reaches 204 degrees, approximately three to four more hours.
  6. Rest for at least 15 minutes before cutting. Slice against the grain to serve.

Teriyaki portobello mushroom caps

Whatever meat you’re smoking will need some company to round out the menu. Smoked mushrooms make a fantastic appetizer while everyone waits for the meat to finish cooking.

  1. Remove stems from portobello mushroom caps and fill the cavity with a dollop of soft goat cheese. Drizzle a few tablespoons (precision is not important here) of teriyaki marinade into the mushroom cap. 
  2. Place on the grilling surface with the goat cheese facing up. The mushroom cap acts as a bowl to hold the teriyaki marinade, which will absorb as it cooks.
  3. Smoke until the surface is wrinkled, usually about 30-40 minutes. (Cooking time will vary depending on the temperature of your smoker or grill.)

Rachel Boller is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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