Smoking meat is one of the best ways to make a flavorful plate of pork, chicken, or beef. You can smoke anything from venison to shrimp and a smoker will do it justice.
There is something about the infused essence of the wood whether it’s sweet, mild, or bold that makes smoked meats taste so good.
A good smoked rib or chicken can be downright sensational and I have some incredible smoker recipes for you to try as well as tips like what kind of wood to use, how to get a proper smoke and “What’s a spatchcock?”
Enjoy all of these delicious recipes!
Pairing Wood Chips with Meat
There is no wrong way to pair wood chips with the meat you cook. All types of wood chips are great for smoking, as are different types of meat.
Each has a flavor of its own and each combination brings something new to the table (so to speak). However, just because there is no “wrong” combination doesn’t mean there aren’t optimal pairings.
Just like combining any other two flavors (coffee and pastries, wine and cheese, etc.), some pairings hit the ball out of the park and you may just want to stick to those.
It all depends on what you want to get out of your smoked meat. You can add to it, you can draw out its natural essence. The right wood can be used to neutralize or balance flavors, or to make those flavors even bolder.
The Flavor of Wood
There are 8 main types of wood used for most smoker recipes to add smoky flavor to your meats or side dishes. Smoked food is more popular than ever!
These different woods can be used individually or can be made into a blend of your choice to highlight and include a variety of flavors for a rich and more nuanced flavor profile.
Many of the wood types are sweet and mild. A couple imbue the smoked meat with a certain fruitiness to it. A couple, like oak and mesquite, have bold flavors.
Of the fruity woods, there are really two choices, cherry, and apple. Applewood is most commonly associated with bacon, although pork is second only to chicken for how many optimal pairings you can make.
Just about anything pairs well with chicken depending on just what flavors you want to come across.
Beef on the other hand pairs best with only a few wood varieties: hickory, mesquite, and oak.
Venison does better with sweeter milder wood, like pecan, apple, or hickory.
Lamb is delicious smoked with fruity pairings or bold and sweet mesquite. Seafood also fares well with light or fruity wood varieties.
While almost every hardwood can and has been used to smoke meat, the following four hardwoods are the gold standard of smoking.
- Hickory - Savory and hearty. An almost universal wood that pairs well with all meats.
- Mesquite - A wood that packs a powerfully smoky punch. It's best used with beef as it has an extremely strong flavor that can easily overpower other meats, especially poultry.
- Apple - A mild, fruity wood that pairs well with meats like poultry and pork.
- Oak - Bolder than apple but milder than mesquite. Like hickory, it's a wood that can be used on just about any meat, making it perfect for any scenario.
Chips or Pellets?
Whether you use chips or pellets for smoking may or may not be determined by the kind of smoker you have. If you have a smoker made for using pellets then that’s the only option you have.
If you have any other smoker, the choice is yours. So, which is the right one? To begin with, it’s important to know that there is no wrong choice as long as you use the type of wood product that will work in the smoker you have.
However, there are distinct differences between the two that may play an important role in your personal preference.
Wood chips are chipped wood. Pellets are made from compressed sawdust. The idea of pellets is right away unappealing to many grillers and smokers who like to use “real wood”.
But the pellets are just as effective at smoking small batches of meat. If you have a larger smoker and/or more meat to smoke, wood chips are a more efficient way to get the job done.
Wood chips are better at imparting natural wood flavors to the meat as well, whereas pellets offer more flavored varieties that are not necessarily natural or original to the type of wood used.
If you like more flavor options, or have a smaller smoker, or have a smoker specifically designed for pellets, then pellets are the right choice. For all other occasions, chips are the preferred wood option.
I prefer wood chips whenever possible for a more natural flavor. However, wood pellets are perfectly safe, and for many smaller smokers, they are the only alternative. Don't worry. Pellets are just as effective when used for their intended purpose and totally safe.
How are Smoked Meats Different From Grilled?
They look similar and have similar components. Many people, even grill enthusiasts, will use the two interchangeably. However, grill and smoker recipes are inherently different from each other.
One uses direct heat to sear and cook meat over a dry heat source. The other uses lower heat and steam to retain moisture and cook meat slowly over time.
You can smoke grilled food, but the meat does not get imbued with the qualities of the wood the way that it does when you smoke it slow and low.
If you want to take hours to cultivate a good smoky flavor and you want that fall off the bone quality, then smokers are what you want to use. If you like a faster cook over a hot grill and you like to seal in the juices with a nice caramelized crust, then the grill will be your method of choice.
What is Needed to Make Sure the Meat Smokes Properly?
With most smoker recipes, you want to slowly bring it up to the right cooked temperature. You need either wood pellets or chips and you need a water pan for moisture.
It’s important to keep the pan full so that the moisture can continue to keep the meat from drying. Since you aren’t searing the meat, there is nothing to trap in the juices, that’s why you want to keep it humid in there and not cook it too fast.
Cooking slowly allows the outside of the meat to dry out a bit as it cooks which helps it to seal in the juices. Cooking with heat that's too high will cause the juices to leak out of the meat.
On the other hand, slow cooking won't squeeze the juice out of the meat, ensuring smoked meats that are tender and juicy on the inside and nice and crispy on the outside.
What is Spatchcock?
Spatchcocking is a unique cooking term used only for the preparation of poultry. It’s a process of breaking down the bird for faster cooking and easier access to the whole bird for seasoning.
Another term used for spatchcocking is butterfly which describes a similar process of cutting the poultry in half, spreading it apart, and allowing it to cook flat.
Spatchcocking involves cutting away the backbone, removing the wingtips, and pressing both sides flat before dressing the bird and cooking it.
Spatchcoking really is the best way to smoke poultry. Without this process, the breast will take longer to smoke than the extremities which leads to legs and wings that are over cooked, even if the breast is perfectly done.
Let me show you how to select your ribs for smoking. I'll break down a variety of ribs, why you want them, and what to look for. All ribs are delicious, but not all ribs are cooked the same way or even prepped the same way!
We'll look at different ribs, how to prep them, and how to cook them to ensure you make the perfect ribs every single time.
Bacon is so much better when it's smoked, and starting out with store-bought bacon is a huge time-saver, not to mention convenient.
This recipe uses thick-cut, store-bought bacon that is marinated and cooked on the smoker to create a bold, deep flavor that takes it to the next level.
This homemade smoked bacon starts with a pork belly! Yes, this maple smoked bacon is from-scratch candied, smoked pork belly bacon, and it's delicious.
This homemade smoked bacon is a true winner. This maple pork smoked belly bacon isn't just sliced bacon that we doctored up. Oh, no. This is an actually pork belly that we cured for 7 days and then cut into strips.
It's real, honest-to-goodness, homemade maple smoked bacon, and it is so good. Bucket list kinda good and I'm not even kidding.
This smoked eye of round roast is filled with the smoky flavor of cooking with wood, tender beef, and a delicious sauce. It’s the perfect meal for any carnivore.
This smoked chicken recipe shows how to get the most flavor out of a whole chicken in your smoker. Using the spatchcock method, this chicken is seasoned up so well and smoked to tender, juicy perfection, offering a flavor that everyone will love.
And, come on. Bourbon.
Smoked Salsa is a twist on this classic dip. All the same flavor as that savory dip, but with the added bonus of a deep smoky flavor that really takes this dip over the top.
Homemade salsa has always been a big hit around my house. We love chips and salsa. When you add a smoky flavor to the salsa it makes this classic dip recipe even better.
This smoked flank steak recipe makes a perfect flank steak every single time A simple marinade infuses the steak with citrus and spices and then is smoked to tender, juicy perfection.
If you love guacamole then you are definitely going to love this smoked guacamole with even more delicious flavors! It’s perfect on its own with crispy tortilla chips or you can use it as a topping for your favorite plate of nachos!
This easy smoked cream cheese crab dip is filled with cream cheese, crab, and a fantastic smoky flavor that pairs perfectly with the ingredients in this recipe. This delicious crab dip is the star of any get-together and comes together quickly and easily.
Is there anything better than warm crab dip? No. The answer is no. This delicious, creamy dish is always a welcome treat no matter when or where it's served. It's filled with tasty ingredients like cream cheese and, of course, crab, and it's so rich and creamy everyone always begs for more.
Looking for a twist on the traditional taco Tuesday? These Smoked Chicken Tacos are fresh, healthy and have a delicious smoky taste on tacos.
Tacos have always been a staple in our household. Ken loves them and so do I. I get tired of regular beef tacos, so I started looking for an easy but flavorful new recipe. I am so glad that I came up with this smoked tacos recipe.
These smoked lobster tails are rich and buttery with the flavors of citrus and garlic. Smoking lobster tails imparts a depth of flavor that you won’t find in traditionally prepared lobster tails.
Smoked Clams are delicious and coated in a buttery dill sauce. This fresh and healthy dinner is easy to make and tastes delicious.
There is nothing more fun than having a clam bake with friends. This Smoked Clams recipe is perfect if you want to invite friends over and have a delicious and tasty dinner.
This candied salmon recipe combined flaky, perfectly cooked salmon with a sweet and salty mix of kosher salt, brown sugar, and maple syrup to create a salmon dish that will have everyone’s mouth watering.
These smoked cauliflower florets are flavorful and tender. This smoked recipe makes for a great low carb side dish to get with any dinner.
Smoking vegetables have been my new favorite way to eat them. The smoked flavor really adds just a delicious taste and makes this vegetable cravable.
Smoked Green Beans are buttery, garlicky, and full of smoky flavor. Using this homemade green beans recipe will help you take this familiar side dish to the next level.
This five ingredient recipe is simple and easy to make. Not only is this recipe easy it’s also kid friendly.
Bacon-Wrapped Smoked Scallops are the perfect mixture of smoky and salty. These tasty little morsels make for a delicious meal or appetizer.
The last time Ken and I had some friends over, I smoked a batch of these bacon-wrapped scallops. We love both sea and bay scallops. And this easy smoker recipe is always a crowd-pleaser.
These smoked meatballs are absolutely overflowing with flavor. Juicy, homemade meatballs are coated in a spicy tomato sauce, then the entire thing is smoked to deliver a huge burst of flavor that always satisfies.
This smoked old fashioned recipe adds a new twist to an old favorite. The classic flavors of the old fashioned are emboldened even further with the addition of smoked garnishes for an extra depth of flavor.
The old fashioned is one of my favorite cocktails of all time. It’s just so classic and delicious. I decided to infuse it with smoke thanks to my husband’s insistence, and I’m so glad I did!
Serve up this easy smoked buffalo chicken dip for your next party, game day event or family get together! Juicy chunks of chicken in a spicy, creamy sauce with cheese and a lightly smoked flavor that’s perfect with veggie sticks, crackers and chips. It’s easy to make and sure to be a crowd pleaser!
Make Beef Jerky completely in the smoker, or finish it off in the dehydrator using this incredible recipe. Find out the best cut to use for beef jerky and how to coax out the best flavor.
This isn't like store-bought beef jerky. It's so, so much better. The flavor is so deep, and the smokiness pairs so well with the spices and herbs used in the marinade for this recipe.
These delicious smoked sweet potatoes are simple, sweet, and so delicious. No smoker? No problem. You can roast them, too! Take a big bite of natural sweetness and healthy nutrition with these delicious spuds.
This super easy, kid friendly pizza is out of this world good and definitely worth a try.
This smoked chicken pot pie recipe is comfort food that always satisfies. These delicious homemade crusts are filled with chicken, veggies, and a rich, creamy sauce. It’s the perfect comfort food!
The best way to use your smoker for beef ribs is all here so you can be sure to get the ultimate flavor and tenderness every time. Beef ribs and pork ribs are similar, but they aren't the same.
I'll show you how to get the most out of your delicious beef ribs.
Smoked Catfish is sweet and spicy catfish fillets that are smoked to perfection. Not only is this recipe healthy but so delicious.
We’ve been trying to eat a little healthier in our house, and this recipe is so tasty. You can’t even tell that you are eating something healthy. If you enjoy flavorful flaky fish you are going to love this easy recipe.
This smoked crab cakes recipe takes classic crab cakes to a new place thanks to the use of a smoker. Classic ingredients and that great crispy outer coating are infused with the flavor of smoke.
These pork ribs are a great example of how to use a dry rub when cooking in a smoke. Dry rubs add a distinct crust to the meat while providing a less messy alternative to barbecue sauce.
You might not have seen ribs that aren't slathered in barbecue sauce, so I can't wait for you to experience the deliciousness that is dry rub.
These Maple Glazed Donuts are soft, sweet and smoky. You can bake these in under 30 minutes in the smoker or oven. No matter if you choose to bake these donuts or smoke them, this maple donut and maple glaze recipe will definitely be a hit in your house.
Smoked cream cheese is a delicious treat that you have to try. Smoking cream cheese imparts a delicious, deep smoke flavor to this creamy, tangy cheese that creates a final product that is so good on its own with crackers or combined with other ingredients to create a dip.
This smoked bologna recipe takes plain bologna to a place you’ve never been before. Slow smoked for hours, this bologna is crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside, and features the perfect combination of smoke and classic bologna flavor.
Smoke ribs like they do in St. Louis. This smoker recipe shows how St. Louis Style Spare ribs are distinct from baby backs. There's no form of barbecue more iconic than St. Louis barbecue, and you'll be a pitmaster in no time with these tips and this step by step recipe.
The dry rub and Spicy BBQ Sauce can't be beat!
Have you ever smoked hamburgers? If you haven't then you're in for a treat. This Smoked Hamburgers recipe shows how easy it is to make and how long it takes to make the best, juicy, smoked hamburgers or smoked hamburger patties.
If you've never smoked honey salmon before, then get ready to be amazed. This honey smoked salmon how-to includes the best smoked salmon brine recipe, shows you how to eat smoked salmon and serve the best smoked salmon.
Smoked onions are soft and buttery onions that have a deep and rich flavor. These smoked roots make for amazing burger toppings and onions to add to your dips.
Smoked pork tacos are the perfect blend of classic low and slow pork with all the Mexican flavors we love in authentic tacos. Tender, delicious, slow smoked shredded pork butt or pork shoulder is piled high with all your favorite taco toppings, and they’re all nestled in a delicious, crispy tortilla shell.
These smoked stuffed mushrooms are filled with bacon, cheddar, and spices and then smoked to delicious perfection. They’re the perfect appetizer or side.
I don’t know about you, but I love stuffed mushrooms. Of course, you can go the traditional route of bread crumbs, but that’s been done so many times. Why not stuff those suckers with bacon and cheese and smoke them?
This amazing smoked pineapple recipe is the perfect mixture of sweet and smoky. Mixing together the delicious taste of fresh pineapple with a slight smoky flavor gives for a tasty snack or side dish.
Take pecan pie to the next level with this smoked pecan pie sweetened with maple syrup and served up in a flaky, buttery crust that’s cooked in a smoker giving the sweetness of the pie hints of a smokey flavor. It’s perfect served up with a dollop of whipped cream or scoop of vanilla ice cream.
If you love asparagus you are going to love this Smoked Asparagus recipe. Smoking the asparagus gives your vegetable a deep and tasty flavor.
This side dish is fresh, healthy and so flavorful. If you are looking for a different way to enjoy asparagus then this is the recipe for you.
Smoked hot dogs are a tasty twist on this American favorite. If you are looking for a way to change up grill night this is the recipe for you.
Not only are these smoked hot dogs easy to make but they are also kid-friendly. I really enjoy the deep flavor from these smoked hot dogs it really takes a grilled hot dog up a notch.
Smoked pumpkin pie is everyone’s favorite holiday pie with a twist! All the creamy, sweet spiced pumpkin goodness you expect with a hint of smoky flavor that comes from using maple wood to smoke this holiday treat. It takes a little bit more time to make, but in the end it’s completely worth it!
Smoked mac and cheese with lobster takes our potluck favorite and kicks it up several notches. This smoked gouda mac and cheese is rich and full-bodied and has the added decadence of lobster!
Did you know that smoked chipotle peppers are actually smoked jalapenos? These smoked and dried peppers greatly enhance flavor to many meals.
Smoked peppers have a distinct taste. Their smoky hot flavor makes them delicious in salsas and so many more dishes.
Smoked pretzels are so delicious and so easy to make. Seasoned and full of smoky goodness, smoking pretzels leads to a wonderful depth of flavor that you just can’t get any other way.
Smoked carrots with honey glaze are so tender and sweet, they make the perfect side dish for almost any meal. With their sweet honey flavor infused with smoke, they’re a whole new way to enjoy carrots!
These smoked BBQ beans are completely homemade and oh, so good. These smoked BBQ baked beans combine all the flavors we love in baked beans with the classic barbecue flavor of smoke for a delicious side everyone loves.
Creole smoked potato salad takes the classic side dish to a place you’ve never been! Loaded with delicious creole flavors and a healthy dose of smoke, this is one potato salad recipe you’ll want to make again and again.
This smoked tuna dip recipe takes simple tuna dip and takes it to a completely new place. This dip is loaded with delicious flavor, and the added smokiness makes it pop, pop, pop.
Smoked black cod combines the buttery, rich flavor and texture of black cod, also called sablefish, with the deep, complex flavor of smoke to deliver a delicious main course that tickles every tastebud you have.
Easy to make salmon cakes for an easy main dish or appetizer recipe infused with a smoky flavor that makes these cakes taste amazing! A simple recipe made in the smoker so you don’t need to turn on the oven or stove!! Only 15 minutes of hands on time required to make these smoked salmon cakes for dinner!
Cooking green bean casserole in the smoker adds some different flavors to a classic favorite! Serve up smoked green bean casserole for holidays or any meal during the year as a unique, yet tasty side dish.
This smoked whitefish is tender and flakey with a deep, smoky flavor. Smoking whitefish imparts a deep flavor that pairs perfectly with the tender, mild flesh of the fish.
Smoked brats combine the great flavors of bratwurst and rich smoke. Smoked bratwurst makes a great addition to any backyard barbecue!
Want the Best Smoker Recipes? Try These!
These are the best smoker recipes I've ever created, and they're some of the best smoker recipes out there in general if I do say so myself. From classics like ribs to unexpected treats like burgers, bacon, or jerky. These are some of the best smoked meats you'll ever try!
So bust out your smoker and get ready for some amazing flavor. These are all relatively easy recipes that just require a few ingredients for the rubs or sauces and a nice long stay in the smoker. When it's all said and done, you and your family will be enjoying the delicious flavor that you can only get when you enjoy smoked meats.
Just like almost anything, you'll need practice to make perfect.
If you’ve never smoked any food before, it’s definitely an art form that requires some practice. As many famous BBQ chefs say, it takes a whole lot of making bad BBQ to finally make good BBQ. The most important thing to smoking ribs as well the fact that you will need a smoker or grill that you can smoke out of.
You can absolutely use a standard charcoal grill to smoke food in, and if you like to grill and smoke then take a look at pellet grills like Traeger or even a stone style grill, the Big Green Egg.