Easiest Meat to Smoke? (Beginners Guide with Pictures)

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

Here are some details on what I consider the easiest meat to smoke and some tips so it can be done with ease. Sometimes I want convenience and that awesome smoke flavor.

What is the Easiest Meat to Smoke?

The internet has a lot of the 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.

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 that explains the benefit of a pellicle here.

Further Detail on the Easiest Meat to Smoke

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

Home made or bought sausages can easily gain smoke 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 with 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 under 2 hours generally.

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. If you’re looking at thermometers, here are a couple I really like.

Smoked Fish Fillets

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

Again, I tend to use a portable smoker for the small enclosure benefits. The portable smoker will sit on the bbq burners, with 1 burner on low.

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

I like to insert a temperature probe into the portable smoker to make sure 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 bassed on functionality and quality. Temperature probes aren’t essential but they do help you create a more consistent outcome. Temperature control is more important then most other factors.

Curing or Brining Time

15 mins to 8 hours (over night)

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, then it’s cooked. Being less dense meat, this happens a lot faster than most people think.

Tea Wok Smoked Fish

Tea wok smoked fish is 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 also. This is a subtle smoking technique that can work really well. Here is the post I wrote here in full.

Smoked Beef Cut or Steak

Similar to the pork chop smoking method that I use. This again is dense meat so it cooks in a similar length of time.

My preference is basic seasoning of salt & pepper.

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

For a simple and easy option, use a 1-2 inch thick steak cut.

Boneless steak will make this easier, with a bone it can also work as well.

Generally, I use the guide 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 just give the meat a quick cure 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 over night

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 is when the meat starts to show blood/moisture on the surface it will be over medium cooked often. You can use this as an indication about how cooked through the meat is.

Turkey Breast

Smoked Wild Turkey Breasts, harvested out the back of the vineyard

Farmed or wild turkey can vary considerable 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, fresh soft hard herbs, and garlic will take 20-30 minutes to hot smoke at moderately high temperature. Farmed will suit the same method from my experience.

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

Brining seems to work better because it is a larger piece of meat compared to 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 (does not full 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 under-cooking poultry, a basic thermometer can help make testing easier for this.

Chicken Breast or Thigh

Over brined for an extra day, skin was a little tough

Being smaller then a turkey, the chicken meat will cook a lot 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 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. Pellet grill smoker
  2. Electric smoker
  3. Gas smoker
  4. Gravity-fed smoker
  5. Portable Smoker

This list gives a quick indication, from what I have learned over the decades there are many reasons I have come to this conclusion. If you want a full breakdown, I wrote a full 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. For more information, I wrote a post on universal woods for smoking here.

Smoking Wood Sizes – Chunks, Chips, Pellets, Sawdust

Tip –Soaking wood seems rather controversial, the soaking doesn’t seem to penetrate much of the larger wood types. It seems to just 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 like 2 or 3 inches square, they are predominately used with charcoal smokers. I have seen friends use these directly on a bbq burner, placed on the flame guards (flame tamers / vaporizers) which can create some added smoke under the hood of the bbq.

Chips

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

Pellets

Tend to burn relatively fast, which can be better for the easier shorter smoking times of the above options.

They come in a variety of flavor, I am currently working my way through a very large bag of apple wood. It works for many of my different smokers.

Tip – pellets are compressed wood, they definitely do not need any soaking.

Wood Saw Dust

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

Ideal for a quick camping and fishing smoker.

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

How To Keep Smoked Meat Moist

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

Popular 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 very 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 basically hot smoking at low temperature, introduced by the German & Czech settlers initially. It has morphed and developed a lot over time.

My view is pulled meat cooked slowly with smoke flavor added. The charcoal setup is 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 whilst cooking. There is always a learning curve. One aspect is to get the wood burning cleanly. This is called the thin blue smoke, it’s 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 really basic smoker, the 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 down the cooking so the smoke has time to give the food flavor.

How Do I Know When Meat is Cooked from Smoking?

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

As a general rule 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, often 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 temperature 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 suitable. 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, aluminium foil and tea leaves. This is based on a Chinese style of smoking, adding certain aromatic spices and sugar generally.

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

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