The Best Choices of Meats to Smoke with Your Pellet Grill

The Best Choices of Meats to Smoke with Your Pellet Grill

Cooking a fantastic barbecue is a time-honored custom in the US. Barbecuing terrific barbecue dishes with your pellet grill will not simply give you the most scrumptious BBQ. It is also a great way to have an amazing picnic in the comfort of your backyard.

Enjoying the sun aside, there can be no doubt that cooking BBQ calls for a great deal of hard work. All those hours of grilling will be vindicated if you get succulent and delicious BBQ.

Understanding the very best choice of meat to smoke is a crucial starting point for your barbecuing adventure. The better you match your meat choice to your pellet grill, the better your meal will be.

The ideal cut of meat will offer you a barbecue that oozes delicious juices. Each tender morsel melts in your mouth to wash your palate with wonderful tastes.

You will get the stark opposite with the wrong cuts of meat. There is no enjoyment in having a dull and tough leather piece of meat on your plate after hours of toiling away at the grill.

The very best meats to smoke will offer you the taste, moisture, and tenderness that you want in your smoked BBQ. When you add a pellet grill to the equation, a few meat choices will stand out as the best choices.

Our best choice of meat for your pellet grill is a pork shoulder with a medium fat cap. But don’t shy away from our other two favorites, pork ribs, and chicken thighs. This article will cover a large variety of meat choices and discuss the benefits and pitfalls of each.

What Type of Meat Is Best for Smoking?

The very best cuts of meat for smoking are the fattier cuts like pork shoulder, pork ribs, and chicken thighs. What holds true for other cooking methods likewise holds true for pellet grills.

However, you can also get good outcomes with tougher cuts of meat thanks to the convenient nature of pellet smoking.

Since smoking is a slow cooking technique that can take up to several hours, it is ideal for tenderizing hard cuts of meat in addition to the more tender ones.

Click here to read our article The best type of smoker for beginners

How Long to Smoke Your Meat Choice?

Determining how long a cut of meat should be smoked are two aspects, fat content, and size.

Leaner cuts need less time for smoking. However, you must not sabotage yourself by selecting the leanest cuts. This is because the cut of meat requires a particular level of fat to make it through the long smoking process without drying up.

Larger cuts of meat require longer smoking times to cook entirely through and break down muscle fibers and connective tissue. To achieve this process, you need to apply low heat over a long time, in smoking known as “low and slow.”

The benefit of smoking is that you can get excellent outcomes even with tougher cuts of meat. These cuts have a high quantity of connective tissue. Smoking these meats over a long period can break down this connective tissue to give you a tender barbecue, even though you began with a tougher cut.

These cuts should likewise have a reasonable amount of fat within them to moist up when smoking is finished. This layer of fat will not just keep the meat damp. Additionally, it will likewise impart lots of flavors to the smoked meat.

Click here to read our article A Guide to Smoking Meat Temperatures

Here are the very best meats to smoke on the pellet grill.


A lot of BBQ lovers concur that there is no other meat that tastes as good as pork. The reason for this is the high-fat content that is inherent in pork. This high level of fat leads to the fantastic flavor and juiciness of pork.

When smoked correctly, cuts of pork will give your barbecue a tender texture and a scrumptious taste. As a result, pork is the best option for numerous meat enthusiasts as far as smoking is concerned. You can prepare pork in many various styles. Nothing can offer the full range of subtle tastes, as does the smoking approach.

Another terrific advantage of pork is that it goes well with all kinds of rubs, sauces, and condiments. These can complement the fantastic taste of pork and offer you the great taste you desire from your barbecue. Thus, pork is an excellent meat for marinating; however, we do not recommend brining because of the high level of salt in most pork products.

The good news is that pork is also simple for newbies. So you can’t go wrong with pork if you are a budding grill chef and have just started learning the great art of smoking.

Not just is it simple to deal with; however, it likewise provides you outstanding taste. Pork cuts are your best option for discovering how to smoke. As soon as you master this meat, you can carry on to other types of meat for a greater range. The basic skills you will discover with smoking pork will serve you well for different, more complicated types and cuts of meat.

Pork has an excellent degree of tolerance for grilling mistakes. You can often wind up with scrumptious tasting smoked pork even if things did not go according to plan. This is another crucial reason why barbecuing enthusiasts need to start their grand epicurean experience by familiarizing themselves with pork.

This should not serve as a pretext for a lax smoking technique. If you do everything right, you can certainly get better results.

Pork ribs are a great starting point. Not only are they easy to cook, but they are likewise extremely delicious. Their low price is another bonus offer that you will not wish to miss. If you are smoking your first meal, begin with pork ribs and the right recipe for the finest tasting barbecue you can be proud of.

Finally, if you have a brand new pellet grill or any other smoker, we recommend smoking a fatty piece of pork for your first cook to help season your smoker. The fatty meat, like pork roast, will add a taste to your smoker that will mildly transfer to your future cooks and remove that sterile taste.

Here are the different cuts of pork readily available in the market that you should acquaint yourself with.

  • pork roasts
  • Picnic shoulder
  • shoulder
  • butt
  • hams
  • ham hocks
  • small picnic hams
  • spare ribs
  • baby back ribs
  • rib roasts
  • bacon
  • pork loin/ tenderloins
  • pork chops
  • sausages
  • ground pork
best pork cuts for smoking

Here are some of the very best pork cuts for smoking.

Pork Butt

Since this cut has plentiful fat, the taste is beyond description, and the texture is incredibly moist, succulent, and juicy. Another major advantage is that you can debone this meat easily when fully cooked.

For beginners, the butt and the shoulder can be a perfect cut to practice with because of those reasons. However, even for seasoned veterans, this is still a top choice of meat for your pellet smoker.

Baby Back Ribs

This is a favorite cut for pork enthusiasts. Back ribs are likewise referred to as baby back ribs on account of their small size. The back ribs are the most frequently acquired pork meat for several factors, as you will soon find out.

Back ribs have an extraordinary level of softness and tenderness. When cooked correctly, they are very juicy and moist. Back ribs are bursting with wonderful tastes that can rarely be discovered in any other cut of meat.

Things get even better when amateur cooks discover that they are also extremely simple to smoke. These are some of the factors behind the tremendous appeal of baby back ribs.

Due to these numerous advantages, you should consider starting your smoking experience with back ribs as your first meal. Smoking this cut is extremely easy, as you will soon discover.

Spare Ribs

These ribs are not as soft as the aforementioned baby back ribs. Smoking them is not as simple as back ribs. You will require a particular level of ability to get the very best out of this pork cut in a pellet smoker. It makes sense to master baby back ribs first before moving on to this cut of pork meat.

However, you will be amply rewarded for your efforts. Spare ribs have a deep taste that barbecue enthusiasts love.

You can also pick from other great cuts of pork to flaunt your culinary know-how. There are several great products that you can make with different cuts of pork, such as smoked ham and cured bacon.

The basic skills that you learn with smoking pork will serve you well for other more difficult types and cuts of meat.

Poultry choices for your pellet grill

Poultry choices for your pellet grill

It is impressive how poultry meat packs such ease of cooking and tasty taste into one outstanding plan. As if this is not enough, poultry meat is also much cheaper compared to other types of meat.

There is a spectacular array of dishes that you can make with poultry. Considering that it has such a short cooking time and is so easy to smoke, poultry is among the best choices for newbies.


Many people in the United States consume chicken on almost a day-to-day basis. You shouldn’t be surprised when you find out that the per capita consumption of chicken meat is well over a hundred pounds a year.

Fried chicken is an excellent tasting food that not only tastes excellent but is likewise very easy to make. However, fried chicken is not possible to prepare on a pellet smoker.

Considering that chicken is so delicate, you do not need to smoke it for several hours, unlike pork and beef in particular. Chicken is an essential choice if you lack time for a long smoking session.

Here are some excellent cuts of chicken for a few of the very best and most hassle-free smoked dishes.

Smoked Chicken Thighs

On our shortlist of the best choice of meat for your pellet grill is chicken thighs for many reasons. Dark meat chicken tends to stay moist longer than other cuts of chicken, such as breast.

The flavor of dark meat chicken is also better than breast meat. Both of these points are directly related to fat content. The fat content helps the meat stay juicy and adds so much flavor.

Finally, chicken thighs are beginner-friendly. If I had one tip for a beginning chicken smoker, remove the skin before smoking. It takes a smoker expert to get good quality smoked check skin, so skip it!

Smoked Chicken Wings

Americans are used to having their chicken wings fried. However, you can likewise get some fantastic chicken wings by smoking these cuts. You can use a large variety of sauces and rubs on your chicken wings. This cut of chicken meat becomes an excellent vehicle for rich exotic tastes.

In addition to tasting amazing, smoked chicken wings take only 90 minutes to prepare. Just make sure that you set a low heat level since these pieces are delicate and very small.

Rotisserie-Smoked Chicken

A whole chicken is usually more difficult to smoke since it is such a large piece. It also does not build up as much flavor because of reduced surface area.

The upside to a rotisserie is that the inside of a whole chicken tends to be juicier than cut pieces. Additionally, the skin on rotisserie chicken can be crispy by raising the temperature for the last 10 minutes of your cook.

You can cut your chicken into smaller pieces and feed it to the rotisserie to even out the cooking. If you are going to do this, we recommend choosing another method.

Spatchcocking a chicken or using the beer can method are great ways to cook a whole chicken with entirely different results.

Click here to read our article How to Smoke a Whole Chicken In A Charcoal Smoker 3 Ways

Beef choices for your pellet grill

Beef choices for your pellet grill

Although beef is among the absolute best meats when it pertains to irresistible taste, it is more challenging to prepare. The smoking procedure is longer with beef than pork.

It can take hours to get that crispy dark crust and a juicy interior that barbecue connoisseurs appreciate.

The taste and texture are worth the effort that you put in.

Beef is harder to cook because it has a high level of connective tissue and fat that needs to be broken down. You need to smoke for numerous hours to break down the connective tissue and melt the fat prior to the beef being soft enough to be served.

However, the extra effort is warranted because you can enjoy the wonderfully great tastes of beef, which is better than any other meat.

You need to smoke beef at medium-low heat over numerous hours before serving it. It would help if you acquainted yourself with many cuts of beef to understand the best cuts for smoking.

As a rough guide, you will enjoy better flavor and softer texture with the fattier cuts. So, go for those cuts that have the greatest fat content.


The taste of beef brisket is unmatched, but beef brisket is not an easy cut to start with for beginners. This is because brisket is rather tough and can take a long time to prepare before it softens enough to enjoy.

You will require a reasonable level of cooking skill and lots of persistence to master this cut of meat. But once you master it, your hard work will pay off. Beef brisket is the preferred cut of BBQ fans and among the most popular products on the menu of barbecue dining establishments.

The fibers in the meat and the connective tissue are the main factors that make brisket more challenging. Additionally, the size of a beef brisket makes it above a beginner-level cook, but slow and low can win the day.

Our advice to the brave beginner is to keep a frozen pizza on hand when you need a quick dinner. Don’t fret, if you fail on your first attempt, you can dice the brisket, and it will make great meat for stew or chili.

Once you learn to smoke beef brisket, the king of bbq, you will have an exquisite meal on the platter that won’t remain intact for long in the presence of barbecue lovers.

Beef Ribs

This cut is tough to smoke. The final barbecue is simply amazing. The delicious special taste and the soft texture of beef ribs are the aspects behind Texas-style beef short ribs’ extraordinary popularity.

When prepared excellently, you will have mouthwatering beef ribs that no one can withstand. And, who would wish to resist such delicacies?

There are a few points to keep in mind. Beef ribs are not precisely small. Even the smallest ribs can have a considerable size and, for that reason, take a longer time to smoke.

The smoking process can continue as much as 10 hours since beef ribs are tough and big– they are full of connective tissue that needs to be broken down for good softness. However, when the ribs’ fat gradually melts down, you will have a tender cut of smoked meat. The flavor and juiciness of this meal are one of a kind.

If you feel that a single slab of beef ribs weighing a number of pounds is too huge for you, you can cut it down into smaller-sized pieces using a sharp boning knife. If you do not have a boning knife, your butcher can also do the job for you.

Classic Steak

Few things in the world can match the excellent taste of old-fashioned steak. The timeless barbecue items get even better when you smoke them on your pellet grill.

The smoky flavor and crisp, dark texture is a beautiful sight to see, as is the pink and tender interior. Steak sliced with a sharp knife exposes a cross-section of dark crust and a pink core that is nothing less than a work of art. It might take a while to reach this level of proficiency, but once you find out how, you can make smoked steaks that look as tasty as they taste.

To get the inflammation and taste just right, you need to carefully follow the temperature to ensure that absolutely nothing less than the juiciest steak is served on your table. When purchasing from your butcher, ensure that you choose the cut that features the bone, considering that it has a richer taste than the boneless type.

Once you begin to excel in the art of smoking the previously mentioned beef cuts, you can choose other cuts to consist of more beautiful beef recipes in your repertoire. There are more exciting beef dishes awaiting you, like corned beef and beef tenderloin.

Click here to read our article How Hot Should a Pellet Grill Be for Searing Meat

For the best smoky flavor that you will enjoy, choose pecan wood.

You can embark on your smoking experience and captivate your visitors with the highest level of taste by selecting the perfect wood pellet to match your meat choice. There exist a large selection of wood pellets to choose from.

Some wood choices are very mild, like apple and cherry, which will pair well with mild meats like chicken or pork. On the opposite side of the scale, you have robust and bold wood choices, like hickory and mesquite, that pair well with beef.

We always recommend going in the middle if you only chose to buy one type of wood pellet, and we have a saying to remember it by. When in doubt get the pecan out. Pecan is a flavorful wood that has all the smoked flavor you desire and will impart a slightly sweet flavor to anything you smoke on your pellet grill.

Click here to read our article How to Match Your Smoking Wood to Your Meat?


The very best meats to smoke will offer you the taste, moisture, and tenderness that you want in your smoked BBQ. When you add a pellet grill to the equation, a few meat choices will stand out as the best choices.

Our best choice of meat for your pellet grill is a pork shoulder with a medium fat cap. But don’t shy away from our other two favorites, pork ribs, and chicken thighs. We hope we provided the information you need about meat choices so you can decide where to start your pellet grill smoking journey.



What is the best meat to smoke for beginners?

When you’re first introduced to the world of smoked meats, it can be overwhelming deciding where to start. There are a variety of meats that are great to smoke if you’re a beginner. These include but are not limited to:

Whole chicken – A whole chicken is a fantastic option as a beginner as it’s cheap and fairly easy to carry out. You will need to smoke it at 324°F for 2-3 hours until the internal temperature is at least 164°F.

Pulled pork – As a beginner, pulled pork is one of the easiest smoked meats to start out with. Pulled pork needs to be smoked at 250°F for about 8 hours. After 4 hours, wrap the meat up and place it back into the smoker until the internal temperature reaches 199°F.

Tomahawk steak – Tomahawk steak is another good one for beginners. Smoke the steak for a couple of hours at 275°F until the internal temperature of the steak reaches how you like to eat your steak before searing it on high heat.

Lamb shankLamb shanks couldn’t be easier to smoke as a beginner! Simply braise it in a pot beforehand with any braising liquid and smoke it at 374°F for 3 to 4 hours.

Beef brisket – Briskets are usually smoked at 225°F for 10-20 hours. The ideal temperature of smoked beef brisket is 195°F. That being said, bear in mind that the internal temperature can increase by 10 degrees even after it’s been removed from the grill. 

What is the healthiest meat to smoke?

This is a tricky one to answer, and healthy is a relative term! A lot of foods can be deemed healthy when eaten in moderation. However, there are a few types of meat that are leaner than others and could therefore be seen as being healthier when smoked.

Chicken – Chicken breast is an incredibly lean meat to smoke. There are a variety of different marinades that work beautifully with the flavor, and it’s a crowd-pleaser!

Beef – If you can’t resist the taste of beef, then you will need to opt for lean cuts such as top sirloin and sirloin tip. Do not add oil to your marinades, as this introduces unnecessary fat.

Turkey tenderloin – If you like turkey, then turkey tenderloin is another lean meat option that you can chuck in your smoker. True to the name, this cut stays tender when cooked.

You should also avoid burning the meat. While charred meat can add a good flavor to your recipe, carbonized meat is considered unhealthy as it contains carcinogenic compounds that can lead to cancer. To avoid burning your meat, remove as much of the fat as possible.

It’s also worth mentioning that life is all about balance. Provided that you’re not eating fattier meats on a daily basis, they can still be considered healthy if you eat them alongside a healthy, balanced diet.

What is the hardest meat to smoke?

The answer to this question depends on who you ask, as it can be quite a subjective matter. That being said, the hardest meat to smoke is usually going to be anything that tends to dry out or is very tough going into the smoker.

When it comes to smoking meat, a lot of people find it hard to produce consistent results when cooking brisket. If you take the brisket out and it is tough, it is because it needs more time to cook to tenderize and break down the connective tissues.  A properly smoked brisket should be super tender and can even pull apart with your fingers.

In addition to this, ribs can also be tricky to get right in the smoker. Ribs are naturally tough and can turn out tough even after you’ve smoked them for a long period if you don’t cook them for long enough.

This often occurs when you cook your ribs too quickly at too high a temperature, and you can end up with chewy, tough ribs that make you wonder why you bothered in the first place.

The most important thing to remember when cooking ribs is to have patience! You should aim to cook them for a longer time at a lower temperature. Trust me, the results will be worth it.

What meat can you smoke in 2 hours?

Smoking meat in 2 hours is an ambitious target, which is why it is mostly always recommended that you smoke meat slowly for a long period of time.

There are two reasons for this: One is to give the smoke enough time to sink into the meat, and the other is to naturally tenderize the meat. 

That being said, you will be able to smoke some cuts of meat such as chicken thighs in under two hours.

Chicken legs and thighs that are smoked at 250°F should take around 1 and a half hours. Chicken wings usually take around 1 and a half hours to 2 hours when smoked at 250-275°F.

In addition to this, if you fancy trying different poultry, smoked quail should take around an hour when smoked at 225°F.

You can also smoke meatballs for 1 hour at 225-240°F and add them to a pasta sauce for delicious spaghetti and meatballs!

If you feel like smoking fish, you can smoke a salmon fillet at 220°F for 1 hour. Alternatively, you could smoke a whole trout for 1 hour at 225°F. If you prefer seafood, you could always opt to smoke lobster tails at 225°F for 25 minutes, or oysters for 30 to 40 minutes at the same temperature.

What meat can you smoke in 4 hours?

There are a variety of different meats that can be smoked in 4 hours. However, beef isn’t on the list as it typically needs much longer to tenderize slowly depending on the cut.

That being said, there are a few classic dishes that you can smoke in 4 hours that are all super delicious when you’re on a tight schedule.

For instance, if you’re planning a barbecue, you can smoke hotdogs in 3 to 4 hours at 225-240°F. Simply whack them on a good few hours before guests are arriving and you’ll be set.

You can smoke a whole chicken in 3 to 4 hours when smoked at 250°F. Alternatively, you can smoke chicken quarters at 250-275°F for just 2 hours. 

Turkey legs can be smoked in 3 to 4 hours when smoked at 240°F, while turkey breasts usually take around 4 hours at the same temperature.

You can also smoke tenderloin in around 2 hours when smoked at 225-240°F. 

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