When it comes to the easiest meat to smoke, it depends on what you call easy. Does that mean the least amount of prepping time? Does in mean the maintenance during smoking? Or does it mean the least amount of smoking time? Whatever the answer is, it most likely depends on a combination of these questions.
In this article, we will go over some of the easier cuts of meat to get ready for the smoker and which meats take less time and effort in the smoker.
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What is the Easiest Meat to Smoke?
Sausage is the easiest meat to smoke because you can put a raw sausage is a smoker and wait. Nothing could be simpler, but hamburgers are a close second.
For both sausage and hamburgers, preheat your smoker to 300 degrees with the maximum amount of smoke, then place your meat on the rack. After thirty minutes, flip your meat, and 30 minutes later, it should be ready to eat.
Learning what Makes a Meat Easy to Smoke
Smoking meats is a delicate process. You have to have not only the knowledge but also time and patience. But not all of us have these virtues to help us along the way and need to cook dinner now.
Not everyone can wait 8-12 hours to cook a single meal for the family. So, when choosing the easiest meat to smoke, you will want to try and go for something that is not so time-consuming in all the steps to cooking or smoking meats.
Try some smaller cuts of meat that won’t need to be in the smoker as long. Steaks and pork chops are excellent choices from the beef and pork category because they don’t need very long in any cooking application.
Many of the other meats like pork shoulder and beef brisket will take much longer, but if you ground them up into hamburger patties or sausages, they will take a substantially less amount of time.
Chicken is also meat that does not take nearly as much time as the others. Any part of the chicken, whole or ground, will be fast and easy. And lastly, any seafood or shellfish will take the least amount of time and, in some cases, under an hour for the entire smoking time.
How to Smoke the Meat
Even though these types of meats are easier to smoke than the rest, they are all still going to need different prepping and cooking applications in the smoker. However, that doesn’t mean that the process will be all that hard.
Sausage and Hamburgers
Since these meats are ground up, the cut of the meat has been deconstructed and doesn’t need a lot of cooking time. Plus, these can be smoked at any temperature because the key is to cook them until they are done all the way and just not raw or pink.
An internal temperature of 165 degrees is perfect for food safety. At 300 degrees, you will be able to smoke them in one hour or less depending on the thickness of the burgers and the length and size of the sausages.
Always preheat your smoker, so your meats come up to temperature at a food-safe rate to prevent bacteria.
Steaks and Pork Chops
When smoking steaks or pork chops, the rule of thumb is to treat them just like you would if you were cooking them in the oven. You can raise the temperature of your smoker to 300 degrees, which is somewhat abnormal when smoking anything, but for these cuts, it is just fine.
You don’t want them to cook in the smoker at a lower temperature because they will not only take longer to cook, but you also run the risk of them drying out and becoming overcooked. Minimal seasoning is needed to prepare them; salt and pepper will do just fine.
You can use any smoker or medium and try not to smoke them for more than an hour at 300 degrees unless you want a well-done steak, then you can take it a little further.
Chicken is straightforward to cook and is one of the better cuts of meat to go with as a beginner. It is very cheap to acquire chicken, so if you mess it up, you are not out that much money in the first place.
Whether it is on the bone, skinless, or which part of the chicken, it should not take more than two hours at 300 degrees. A whole chicken can even be smoked at 250 degrees for 3 hours and be thoroughly cooked.
If the cavity of the bird is stuffed, it may take longer, though.
Seafood and Shellfish
Lastly, seafood and shellfish take the least amount of time when you cook it in any way, so naturally, it will take less time in a smoker than any other protein. Whitefish like tilapia, cod, pollock, fluke, and halibut will take the least amount of time because they have the least amount of fat content and are usually thinner cuts.
Fattier and oilier fish like salmon or mackerel will take a little longer but still only about 30-45 minutes at 250 degrees unless they are thicker cuts than average. Meatier fish that have steak-like cuts will take the longest but only about an hour. Some of these are swordfish, spoonbill, and sturgeon.
For shellfish like shrimp, crab, and oysters, they will take no time at all and usually should take 30 minutes tops at 250 degrees. Any longer and they will become overdone and rubbery.
Tips for Smoking
- A good rule of thumb to follow to determine when your meat is fully cooked is to go by the temperature using an instant-read thermometer. When cooking chicken or poultry, check the temperature near the middle without touching the bone. The internal temperature should be no less than 165 degrees to avoid any foodborne illnesses. When cooking beef or pork, you want to make sure the internal temperature is at least 145 degrees unless cooking beef steaks to medium-rare or rare.
- You can use any smoker to quickly and easily smoke meats as long as you are able to maintain the temperatures. If using charcoal or pellets, make sure you have ready enough for the entire smoking process.
- Adding wood chips or wood chunks can add an extra level of smokiness to your meats. Some people like to soak them in water before placing them in the smoker, but that is unnecessary. This will only make them last a bit longer and add steam to the inner smoker. Wet woodchips will not work in most electric smokers.
- When smoking anything in any smoker, it is best to keep safety in mind every time. Keep a bucket of water and a spray bottle near the smoker. A sanitizer bucket with a rag will help you to keep your station clean while cooking as well. Finally, a fire extinguisher is always recommended by a stove, grill, or smoker.
- If your smoker has a water pan, be sure to keep it filled during the smoking process. This will keep the meat moist during the smoking process and keep it from drying out. You can also put other liquids in the pan like beer or flavored water to add additional flavor profiles to your meat.
While sausage is the easiest meat to smoke, any of the aforementioned cuts of meat will be great starters. We recommend you learn to run your, smoker on easy meats before jumping in the fire head first on some of the other larger and fattier cuts of meat.
For anyone just starting or new to the smoking process read through all the tips to start, practice, and pay attention to the smoker, and you will be a pitmaster in no time!
Can you smoke meats without a smoker?
Yes. If the cut is small enough to cook, then there are some options. If you have a grill or enclosed metal box, you can buy smoking rods or tubes that you fill with wood chips, light on fire, and place in the grill with the meat. It will generate plenty of smoke but not a lot of heat. So, it will be wise to also cook the meat on the grill or in the oven afterward if it needs it.
Is one type of smoker better than another to smoke meats?
No. This all depends on your personal preference. Many old pitmasters prefer to use wood or charcoal while some of the new smokers use pellets and are controlled by electricity. If you know how to control your smoker, one will not always be better than the other.
Do I need to flip burgers or steaks when smoking them?
No. As long as the smoker fills with smoke and you are cooking them fully, it is not required to flip them. However, if you flip burgers and steaks when they are more than halfway done, you will reduce the pooling of fat on top of your meats.
Can you smoke frozen burger patties?
Yes. You can smoke any type of frozen meat. But it will be best to first thaw them out before placing in the smoker, so they fully take on the smoky flavor.