Hot Smoked Turkey small

Easiest Meats to Smoke? With No Prep (Beginners Guide with Pictures)

Writer / Enthusiast / Meat Curer / Forager / Harvester | About Tom

For decades, immersed in studying, working, learning, and teaching in the craft of meat curing, now sharing his passion with you through eat cured meat online resource.

(Last Updated On: December 6, 2023)

After smoking meat for a few decades, here are some ideas for the easiest possible smoked (cooked aka hot smoking) options.

In this article, I am presuming you are new to smoking meat, so I want to be as helpful as possible.

You’ll find a quickfire rundown on smoking meats that will get you started.

Here are some details on what I consider the easiest meat to smoke and some tips on how to do it easily. Sometimes I want convenience and that awesome smoke flavor.

Easiest Meat to Smoke

The internet has many more complex styles of BBQ smoking like the 10-hour plus brisket journey, I thought it would be useful to suggest some easier meat options I have used over the years.

  • Smoked Sausage
  • Smoked Pork chops
  • Smoked Fish fillets
  • Smoked Steak – thick cut
  • Smoked Turkey – breast or thigh
  • Smoked Chicken – breast or thigh

The dimensions and density of the meat are significant factors because this will dictate how long the smoking process will take.

For those longer BBQ smoking sessions, it comes down to massive amounts of fat, which are forgiving and keep the meat moist and flavorful.

What is the Easiest Meat to Smoke?
Hot Smoked Fish – Pretty Quick too!

If you can form a pellicle on the meat, you will have more smoke flavor. Ideally, after a curing/brining, the pellicle can be formed in the fridge. Therefore the smoke can flavor the meat faster. I have written a full post explaining a pellicle’s benefit here.

Portable Smoker Thin Blue Smoke
My Portable Smoker Thin Blue Smoke – just on the gas grill

Smoked Sausage

Curing or Brining Time

None

Pellicle Formation

30 mins to 4 hours

Smoking Time

10-20 minutes to smoke sausage at 210 – 280 °F / 100 – 140 °C

Total time = 30 mins

  • In a portable smoker
  • On a gas grill with some smoke
  • In a Smoker

Homemade or bought sausages can easily gain smoked flavor. My favorite is chorizo sausages; I use a portable smoker with direct heat from below. The portable smoker is a very small enclosure. It means the sausage is surrounded by smoke gases easily.

Placing the sausages in the fridge uncovered for 2+ hours will also dry them out and help the smoke adhere to them.

Moderate to low temperatures work very well since the volume of the sausage is not very dense.

I have no problem cutting a test sausage in half to see if it is cooked. Generally, I will give myself the test sausage just to have a look and make sure it is cooked thoroughly.

Smoked Pork Chop

Pork Chop, easy meat to smoke
Pork Chop, easy meat to smoke, on the gas grill – has a bit of a smoke ring!

Being a dense meat, the process will take longer but generally under 2 hours.

A smoke ring is just a cold bit of meat that gets some smoke at a lower temperature to start, a reaction happens on the inside of the meat, it doesn’t change the flavor. It just looks nice.

An indirect heat source is better here because you want the smoking and cooking to take an hour to two.

Curing or brining will help the smoke adhere better to the meat. This can be done relatively quickly and won’t take an entire day.

Some simple spices can be added with the salt. For instance, I use:

  • Dry or Fresh Thyme
  • Dry or Fresh Garlic
  • Chilli Powder
  • Onion Powder

Curing or Brining Time

1-2 hours

5% salt brine = 5 grams salt to 1 quart/1 liter of water

Dissolve and submerge

Pellicle Formation

1-2 hours

Smoking Time

1-2 hours for Pork chops at 210-250°F / 100-120°C

Total Time =  3 – 6 hours

Cutting the chop in half will show you if it’s ready. Alternative thermometers are an option. Here are some suggestions for easy basic options or more advanced ones. If you’re looking at thermometers, here are a couple I like.

Smoked Fish Fillets

Hot Smoked Fish - Easy to Smoke
Hot Smoked Fish – Easy to Smoke

Again, I use a portable smoker for the small enclosure benefits. The portable smoker will sit on the propane grill burner with one burner on low.

Salmon & trout are great options. The oily type of fish works well in a smoker. Fattier fish absorb smoke better; remember, the fat is healthy, also.

I like inserting a temperature probe into the portable smoker to ensure I am smoking at 210 – 250°F/ 100 -120°C. Here are a range of temperature probes I like. Some are super simple, and my reviews are based on functionality and quality. Temperature probes aren’t essential but help create a more consistent outcome. Temperature control is more important than most other factors.

Curing or Brining Time

15 mins to 8 hours (overnight)

Pellicle Formation

1 to 4 hours

Smoking Time

15 to 30 mins for smoked fish at 210 – 250 °F / 100 -120 °C

Total Time =  15 mins to 12 hours

If it flakes easily when pressed with a fork, it’s cooked. Being less dense meat, this happens a lot faster than most people think.

Tea Wok Smoked Fish

Tea and smoked fish are another option. You can do this carefully in a kitchen, but there is a chance that the smoke alarm will go off.

You can do it in the backyard or on a patio. This is a subtle smoking technique that can work well. Here is the full post I wrote.

Smoked Beef Cut or Steak

Similar to the pork chop smoking method that I use. This, again, is dense meat, so it cooks for an equal length of time.

My preference is an essential seasoning of salt & pepper.

The weight and thickness can vary greatly depending on your butcher or your cut of meat. This will dictate the length of time.

Use a 1-2 inch thick steak cut for a simple and easy option.

The boneless steak will make this more accessible; it can also work with a bone.

Generally, I use the guide for every 1.5 lb of meat, an hour of indirect heat smoking at approximately 230 °F / 110 °C.

If I am in a rush, I will quickly cure the meat to hold moisture. The rule is 1/2 teaspoon of salt to each pound of meat. Give the meat 30-60 mins and then grill + smoke.

If you want ideas for smoking on a gas grill, please find a post here.

Curing or Brining time

4 hours to overnight

Pellicle Formation 2 to 4 hours

Smoking Time

1 to 2 hours for smoked beef steak (depending on volume) at 210
250°F / 100 – 120 °C.

Total Time =  7 hours to 16 hours

I have noticed that when the meat starts to show blood/moisture on the surface, it will be over medium cooked often. You can use this to indicate how cooked through the meat is.

Turkey Breast

Hot Smoked Turkey large
Smoked Wild Turkey Breasts harvested out the back of the vineyard

Farmed or wild turkey can vary considerably in both fat content and size.

I have found that wild turkey breasts that have been overnight salt brined with white wine, fresh bay leaf soft, hard herbs, and garlic will take 20-30 minutes to hot smoke at a moderately high temperature. Farmed will suit the same method from my experience.

A portable smoker works well over a gas/propane burner or BBQ. This does lead to a more subtle smokey flavor. The juicy meat is retained due to the brine, especially with wild turkey.

Brining works better because it is a larger piece of meat than salt rub curing.

My experience has been to make a stew or soup out of the turkey thigh; Mexican spice concoctions work well. If I am dealing with a whole wild turkey, it can also be roasted carefully (it does not fall into the easy category).

Brining Time

6 hours to overnight

Pellicle Formation

1 to 6 hours

Smoking Time

3 to 8 hours for turkey breast (depending on volume & temperature) at 210 °F / 100 °C  to 280 °F / 140 °C

Total Time

7 hours to 16 hours

Due to many people undercooking poultry, an essential thermometer can help make testing easier.

Chicken Breast or Thigh

Hot Smoked Chicken Breasts large
Overbrined for an extra day, the skin was a little tough

Being smaller than a turkey, the chicken meat will cook much quicker. The easiest way I have found is to overnight brine with a simple ratio of 30 grams per cup of water. Dry out and form a pellicle, then it’s ready for the smoking.

Brining or Curing Time

3 hours to overnight

Pellicle Formation

1 to 3 hours

Smoking Time

1 to 2 hours for smoked chicken breast (depending on volume) at 210-280 °F / 100 -140 °C

Total Time

5 hours to 13 hours

Easy Smokers to Use for Easy Meat

  1. Smoke Generator
  2. Pellet grill smoker
  3. Electric smoker
  4. Gas smoker
  5. Gravity-fed smoker
  6. Portable Smoker

This list gives a quick indication; from what I have learned over the decades, I have come to this conclusion for many reasons. If you want a complete breakdown, I wrote a whole post; please find it here.

Easy Woods to Learn about BBQ Smoking

Light and subtler hardwoods are the best for the beginner. They are easier to use because over-smoking is harder. Applewood and many kinds of fruit wood are ideally sweet & subtle woods. I wrote a post on Universal Woods for smoking here for more information.

Smoking Wood Sizes – Chunks, Chips, Pellets, Sawdust

Tip –Soaking wood seems somewhat controversial; the soaking doesn’t seem to penetrate much of the more significant wood types. It seems to delay the smoke from combustion. Therefore, I do not soak the wood for smoking.

From largest to smallest wood dimensions, here is a brief overview to help make it easy for you. If you want an easy guide on universal woods for smoking, please find it here.

Chunks

Wood chunks are generally 2 or 3 inches square and predominately used with charcoal smokers. Friends use these directly on a BBQ burner, placed on the flame guards (flame tamers/vaporizers), which can create some added smoke under the BBQ hood.

Chips

Wood Chips are a good option if you smoke for 1-3 hours. They will provide a decent level of smoke flavor.

Pellets

They tend to burn relatively fast, which can be better for the more accessible, shorter smoking times of the above options.

They come in various flavors; I am working my way through a massive bag of apple wood. It works for many of my different smokers.

Tip – Pellets are compressed wood, so they do not need soaking.

Wood Saw Dust

I use this predominantly for my portable smoker; it’s fast to start. It works best for fish fillets.

It is ideal for a quick camping and fishing smoker.

If you want more information on portable smokers, I have written why they are helpful here.

How To Keep Smoked Meat Moist

Apart from sausage smoking, the curing and brining process will help maintain the moisture in the meat you smoke. This is especially important for wild meat since it is generally always lean.

Famous BBQ Smoking – Brisket, Ribs & Pork Butt

BBQ Low and Slow Pork
Pork ready for the smoker

The popularity of Low & Slow has made this style both fascinating, competitive, and opinionated.

There are so many followers and passionate enthusiasts everyone has a different perspective. This is akin to the thousands of variations that salumi has across Italy. Italy has done this since Roman times.

It’s hot smoking at low temperatures, introduced by the German & Czech settlers initially. It has morphed and developed a lot over time.

My view is pulled meat simmered with smoke flavor added. The charcoal setup is the most involved process. You are managing an open (closed) fire with airflow control.

Easy Short Smoking Session to Learn How Your Smoker Works

Regardless of what you are using to produce smoke while cooking. There is always a learning curve. One aspect is to get the wood burning cleanly. This is called the thin blue smoke, sometimes a different color.

It’s a transparent-looking smoke that disappears after a few seconds. Not the bellowing white smoke that happens when you are getting an outdoor fire going.

It also has a pleasant smell, sometimes even slightly sweet.

Easy Portable Smoker for Camping or BBQ Grill

It’s a basic smoker, a portable smoker. It does seem to make preparation and smoking simple. For more information on why I love portable smokers, click here.

Smoking is all about slowing the cooking so the smoke has time to flavor the food.

How Do I Know When Meat is Cooked from Smoking?

The same principles of cooking the meat without smoking apply. I have included the USDA government-recommended internal meat temperatures in the post above to make it easier.

Generally, the internal temperature of any poultry meat should be over 165 °F / 74 °C.

Depending on how well you want beef/pork cooked, the USDA minimum is 145 °F / 63 °C. 

Also, depending on the smoking time, beef or pork may show some pink color; this does not mean it is uncooked as long as the internal target temperatures have been reached.

The above temperatures are from:

United States Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service, Smoking Meat and Poultry

Related Questions

What are the Best Meats to Smoke in an Electric Smoker?

Any meat is suitable for an electric smoker. The dimensions of the smoker will also dictate what is convenient. To start with smoked sausage, fish fillet, beef steak, pork chop, or poultry breast are easy to begin with.

Do you Keep adding Wood Chips When Smoking?

It depends on what is being smoked and what length of time the smoking time is. Generally, you will need to add wood chips for smoking sessions over 2 hours long.

How can I Smoke Food Without a Smoker?

Tea Wok smoking is a method that can be used. It involves a wok, aluminum foil, and tea leaves. This is based on a Chinese smoking style, generally adding certain aromatic spices and sugar.

Writer / Enthusiast / Meat Curer / Forager / Harvester | About Tom

For decades, immersed in studying, working, learning, and teaching in the craft of meat curing, now sharing his passion with you through eat cured meat online resource.

Share

Comments

  1. Tom, reading about your course and especially the meaning of Charcuterie has brought many years of floundering into perspective for me. I have always had a passion for gathering and processing meats but have been lost on the direction I should take because I loved doing everything so felt a bit like the saying; “Jack of all trades and master of none”. Well your wisdom has just given me what I was looking for: “It will take time but I may as be a master of the whole bloody lot”. I’m in lock down in new Zealand and after 5 consecutive hours of reading your web information i am going to have to go and sit in my garden with my rifle and fishing rod to try and get some sort of a buzz. 🙂
    I am fortunate to have access to excellent diving, trout fishing and hunting for pigs and deer so they are all going to get a thrashing when we come out of lock down.

    Cheers man

Leave a Comment