​Meat Smoking Basics: BBQing Methods for Mouth-Watering Meals

​Meat Smoking Basics: BBQing Methods for Mouth-Watering Meals

Posted by Home Billiards on 4th Jun 2024

There are so many ways to enjoy proteins such as beef, lamb, and pork — it can be hard to choose!

How about smoking meat?

Smoking meat has been a popular form of cooking since early humans. The smoke from the fire was utilized as a drying agent and a method of flavouring the meat and making it last longer.

It’s safe to say that meat smoking has been a well-loved cooking approach for thousands of years.

In this article, we’ll discuss the benefits of smoking meat, provide a list of what you’ll need to get started, and offer guidance on which meats to smoke first (as a beginner). Our goal is for you to see how smoking meats for beginners is simple.

So, if you own a meat smoker or barbecue and have ever considered smoking meat, let this article help you feel confident about adding it to your repertoire.

No matter your level!


  • Smoking meat is a fun and delicious way to enjoy different cuts of meat, even if you’re a beginner.
  • Smoked meat has a greater flavour profile and tender texture, and it has been used for thousands of years to preserve meat.
  • You’ll need a smoker, smoking wood, a meat thermometer, and other accessories.
  • Pork shoulder, pork ribs, and chicken thighs are traditionally easier to smoke than other meats.
  • Your grill can also smoke meats!

The Benefits of Smoking Meat

Smoking meat has many advantages, from enhancing flavour to honouring social and cultural aspects of cooking. Take a look at some of the benefits below:

Enhanced flavour profile

Smoking adds depth and versatility to the taste of meat, which builds a rich, smoky flavour that is harder to achieve through traditional cooking methods.

People who smoke meats use different woods, such as hickory, apple, and manuka, all of which can impact the taste and smell of the meat differently.

Additionally, cooking the meat for an increased time frame enables the flavours to penetrate deeper into the meat and meld with the texture.

Preservation of meat

As mentioned above, smoking meat was used as a preservation technique when refrigeration was inaccessible to most.

The combination of smoke, dehydration, and low heat inhibits bacteria from colonizing, which prevents food spoilage. Although meat preservation is not the main reason people choose to smoke meat nowadays, it is one of its benefits.

Tenderization of tougher cuts

When meat is smoked at a low, constant temperature, the tougher tissues of the meat (collagen, fat, etc.) are broken down, resulting in meat that melts in your mouth.

If you cook brisket, ribs, or pork shoulder, consider smoking it to make the meat very tender.

Versatility in cooking methods

Adding smoked meat to your dinner rotation or hosting spread can add variety to your offered dishes and cuisines.

Smoked meat can be enjoyed in many ways, such as shredded in pasta, sliced thinly for sandwiches, diced into salads, and more. If you’re looking for a way to experiment in the kitchen, smoked meats are a great way to do so!

But aside from tasty BBQ, did you know you can cook a whole range of food on your wood pellet grill? This trusty outdoor kitchen tool adds a whole flavour of versatility to your home cooking, so experiment!

Ability to infuse smoky aroma

As wood smoulders and releases flavours into the air, the meat absorbs the flavours. It produces an unmistakable scent that adds to the sensory experience of cooking and eating smoked meat.

This is especially beneficial while you’re hosting and cooking for guests, as they’ll be enticed by your cooking well before they even taste the food.

Creates a crust or bark on the exterior

One of the most incredible textures on smoked meat is the crust or bark that forms on the exterior. Not only is it visually appealing, but it also contrasts the tender meat on the inside of the cut.

Social and cultural aspects

Smoking meat, as a cooking practice, is culturally significant and incorporated into many dishes.

For example, Texas-style BBQ brisket is a widely-renowned dish representing American barbecue culture. Smoking meat is a way to bring people together over food and shared interests!

Enjoyment of outdoor cooking

Whether you have a complete outdoor kitchen setup or are interested in smoking meats with a singular outdoor grill, smoking meats is an enjoyable process that gets many beginner cooks out of their comfort zone.

If the weather is nice, choosing to make lunch or dinner with smoked meats can bring everyone together outside, even those who aren’t cooking.

What You’ll Need to Smoke Meat

Traeger Ironwood with grill accessories attached.

At a minimum, you’ll need four things to begin smoking meat effectively. This includes a smoker, smoking wood, a meat thermometer, and accessories (such as tongs).

A smoker

A smoker is the main cooking device for smoking meat. There are many kinds of smokers, such as charcoal, electric, pellet, and offset smokers.

Each produces slightly different results but generally creates the low and consistent heat required for smoking meat.

Smoking wood

The smoking wood you choose will significantly impact the final flavour of the meat. Some common smoking woods are hickory, apple, pecan, and maple. You may have to try each type to get the desired flavour.

Or, if you find a recipe for smoking a certain type of meat for a dish, check to see which wood type the author used.

Meat thermometer

Meat thermometers maintain the safety and accuracy components of smoking meat. To monitor the internal temperature of your smoking meat, a thermometer will let you know when the meat is safe to eat.

However, it is important to note that different meats require different internal temperatures, so always check what it is based on the meat you’re cooking.

Other accessories

Accessories such as tongs, gloves, meat injectors, and basting brushes make the smoking process easier and more varied. Tongs and gloves are useful for handling hot meat and adjusting the position of the meat on a grill or smoker.

Meat injectors can be used to apply marinades or other flavourings to the meat, bringing out new flavours and increasing its moisture during the smoking process.

Lastly, a basting brush can apply sauces, such as barbecue sauce, to your meat.

How to Smoke Meat: The Basics

Traeger Timberline with food on all three grills and smoke surrounding.

Now that you know the basics of why smoking meat is beneficial, as well as the tools you’ll need for success, here is a guide to smoking meat.

Following these steps, you’ll create delicious and tender meats for yourself or your guests!

Choosing the right meat cuts

Selecting the right meat is an important part of smoking meat. Tougher cuts of meat with high-fat content are ideal for smoking, as they will become more tender and juicer during the long cooking process. Many people choose brisket, pork shoulder, rubs, and pork belly for smoking.

Preparation of meat (trimming, seasoning, marinating)

To begin, trim the excess fat from your meat, leaving a quarter-inch fat cap on your meat once you’re finished.

Then, apply any seasonings, rubs, or marinades to your meat, ensuring you cover the entire cut evenly.

Finally, an optional marinating step involves steeping your meat in a flavoured liquid overnight in the refrigerator. Meats like turkey, which are naturally drier, may benefit from marinating.

Smoking temperature and time guidelines

First, follow the manufacturer’s instructions and preheat your smoker to your desired temperature. Although recipes vary, the ideal smoking temperature ranges from 107°C to 135°C.

As you smoke the meat, monitor its internal temperature and consider the cut of meat when learning the correct temperature to take it out. You can expect to smoke your meat for 1 to 1.5 hours per pound.

How to maintain consistent smoke and temperature

Using quality smoking wood is one way to maintain consistent smoke and temperature.

Soak the wood chips in water for at least 30 minutes to prolong the smoking time before adding them to the smoker. Also, monitor your smoking temperature regularly!

What Should a Beginner Smoker Smoke First

Recommendations for easy-to-smoke meats (e.g., pork shoulder, chicken thighs)

Some easier meats to smoke are pork shoulder, pork ribs, pork butt, and chicken thighs. Pork shoulder is quite forgiving and is great for smoking as it has a lot of fat and connective tissue that tenderizes during the smoking process.

Pork ribs are a fan favourite and cook more quickly than other meat cuts. Finally, chicken thighs are also easy to smoke and have a high-fat content, so smoking the meat makes it fall right off the bone.

Simple and forgiving recipes for first-timers

If you choose pork shoulder, consider pulled pork sandwiches!

Once your pork is done, shred it and add it to buns, along with barbecue sauce and coleslaw. Similarly, pork ribs are delicious with barbecue sauce or an Asian-inspired marinade, as they go with pretty much any side dish.

How to Choose the Best Smoker for Beginners

Traeger Ironwood XL with accessories attached on a cement patio with wood panel wall behind the grill.

Choosing the best smoker for beginners involves considering convenience, affordability, and the type of smoking you’re interested in.

Electric, charcoal, pellet, and propane smokers are among your options. As a beginner, you’ll want a smoker that is easy to assemble and within your budget.

If you’re dipping your toes into smoking, you can’t go wrong with reliable brands that continue to shine through time. These brands offer something that fits your needs — whether you want a high-end but portable option or something more minimalistic!

Do I Really Need a Smoker?

While having a dedicated smoker can improve your overall cooking experience, it's not necessary to get delicious results. Low and slow cooking is all about indirect heat.

Indeed, you can use a charcoal or gas grill with an indirect heat option. However, grills don’t offer the specific smoking feature that a smoker does.

What Else Can I Smoke?

In addition to traditional meat smoking, you can smoke many different foods! Fish, cheese, vegetables, and some desserts can be smoked. For instance, smoked fish is a very popular dish in northern Europe.


As we reach the end of this guide, here are some frequently asked questions that you may have about meat smoking. If you have additional questions, feel free to reach out, and we’ll be happy to help!

What’s the best type of wood to use for smoking?

There is no “best type” of wood for smoking per se – just use the wood that brings out the nicest flavour in your meat! However, as mentioned above, using soaked-in-water pellets will give you the longest-lasting wood in your smoker.

How long does it take to smoke meat?

It can take hours, depending on the amount of meat you’re smoking. For every 1 pound of meat, the cooking process will take 1 to 1.5 hours.

Can I smoke meat on a regular grill?

Yes, but there isn’t as much control over the smoking process with a regular grill. Smokers are specially designed to handle the smoking process, while you may have to tinker with a regular grill to get your desired output.

How do I know when the meat is done?

It is advisable to buy a meat thermometer to know when your smoked meat is done. Each meat type must reach a different internal temperature to be deemed safe.

Check with the Canadian Government’s safe cooking temperatures guide to ensure you cook your meat thoroughly.

Can I smoke different types of meat at the same time?

Absolutely! This can be convenient and efficient for many home smokers. However, consider each meat’s cooking time and temperature requirements. Also, consider the flavours you’ll impart onto your meats by smoking them together.


We hope that you’ve enjoyed this guide to smoking meats.

Make sure to check out our Traeger smokers line for more information!

Traeger grills are customizable and can accommodate all cooking styles. To learn more, check out our Traeger buyer’s guide and learn more about their excellent grill products.

We wish you the best of luck on your journey to curating delicious smoked meats!