From the standards to the under-appreciated, we cover them all in this definitive list of the Best Cuts of Meat to Smoke on a Pellet Grill.
We all know them, we all love them, but it may surprise you to see some that made the list and some that didn’t.
Pork Belly is the cut from which all our bacon dreams are birthed. Tender and full of fat and flavor, it is a prime candidate for low and slow cooking over smoke. The fat absorbs all the smoky flavor as it renders, delivering a salty and satisfying bite, no matter what form it was cooked, be it bacon, burnt ends, or cracklins’.
We love pork belly because it represents the best of barbecue. In our opinion, it is the crown jewel of pork cuts. Imagine eating a bacon steak. Are you sold yet?
It is no accident that American bacon is beloved all over the world and put on everything from donuts to pizza. Bacon flavor makes everything taste better.
Once Northern California’s little-known secret, Tri Tip’s popularity has exploded recently thanks in large part to social media. It is also simple to smoke on a pellet grill and can be done in just a few hours vs having to watch it all day like you would have to on other popular meat cuts. And we haven’t even mentioned the beefy flavor and soft tenderness of the meat which rivals more expensive cuts of beef.
“Tri Tip is my favorite cut. It is a versatile cut of beef that can be smoked, seared, and used for multiple meals.” Andrew Koster, Author of Master the Wood Pellet Grill: A Cookbook to Smoke Meats Like a Pro
Tri Tip is paired perfectly with Mesquite Hardwood and a spicy rub. The bold, smoke flavors and peppery seasoning is absorbed well into the meat for a delicious, savory umami experience. Cook one medium rare and you’ll also have a very photogenic picture for your Instagram after slicing it up.
Beef Brisket is an obvious choice but deserves to be here amongst the top cuts. When smoked right, it is a truly rewarding experience for both pit master and eater. After a long, laboring smoke, the tough piece of muscle is rendered down to be unbelievably tender, juicy, and flavorful. Not to mention after smoking a whole packer brisket, you get a TON of meat for everything from tacos and sandwiches to burnt ends and pho.
So, we mentioned how delicious and flavorful pork belly is, well since spareribs are located right about the belly, how do you think they taste? The answer is of course, incredible.
Juicy, tender, and full of flavor, spareribs absorb hickory smoke nicely and render a beautiful bark with the right rub. They take a little more work to prep than baby back ribs, but the meat is much more rewarding in our opinion. If you choose St. Louis Style, it can save you some of that time since there will be less meat and fat to trim.
If you’ve seen beef ribs on YouTube or live at Franklin’s in Austin and then gone to your local grocer only to be disappointed by the lack of meat, fear not. There are quite few different types of beef ribs. The “Flintstone” sized Texas ribs you love and know are called Plate Ribs. However, they’re extremely difficult to find on the consumer market and usually only available to restaurant suppliers. The good news is that Chuck Ribs come pretty darn close and from the same general area of the cow.
The great thing about smoking most cuts of beef is that they require simplistic seasoning. You don’t need extravagantly mixed rubs, just a little salt, pepper, maybe some garlic and onion, and let the beef and smoke flavors shine and do the rest.
To get the best value (and save some valuable time if you’re in a crunch) you’ll be hard pressed to do better than chicken thighs. Packed with flavor and taking about an hour to smoke at 225°F, chicken thighs are surprisingly inexpensive compared to chicken breasts and as well as other cuts of meat. Where we have seen considerable increases in the price of brisket and pork belly since the pellet grilling boom, chicken thighs have remained consistently affordable. If you’re looking to save a few dollars, then go with brisket on the weekends and chicken thighs during the week.
Chicken thighs are not only affordable, but they absorb flavor and retain moisture extremely well while smoking on the grill. Some might argue that the skin turns rubbery, but a simple sear at a high temp during the final minutes of your smoke can take care of that rather easily. The result is oh so pleasing crunchy skin and soft, tender and smoky meat. The combination is what makes this cut one of the best meats to smoke.
Most famously known as Prime Rib, a Standing Rib Roast is often hailed as the king of all beef roasts. While most restaurants roast the cut at high temps in an oven, smoking for a longer time it at low temperatures is undoubtably the best method for cooking it. This allows all the intramuscular fat to break down slowly and the smoky flavors to distribute deep into the meat.
The key is to smoke at low heat and then when it reaches just above a rare internal temperature (125°F) sear for a beautifully charred and flavorful crust. The end result is a delicious, medium rare roast that oozes beefy and smoky satisfaction in every bite.
“The smoky, fatty flavor that you get from salmon is just amazing!”Steven Grover, Lead Cook – Bon Appétit Management Company
Salmon is another cut that while it only takes a few hours to smoke, it tastes like you smoked it all day. The fatty, soft meat and the skin absorb the aromas incredibly efficiently, giving off a pleasing smell as you take a bite.
Like beef, salmon doesn’t need elaborate seasoning. A little salt, maybe something sweet like maple syrup or honey, and it will turn out delicious if it is cooked properly.
These are cuts you typically won’t see on your Facebook Group or Instagram, but they are worth putting on your grill.
If you’ve ever had barbacoa (real barbacoa that is), surprise, you’ve had beef cheek meat. It may be hard to find unless you live in Texas, the Southwest or California, but if you can get your hands on some, you will not be disappointed.
Beef cheeks contain a high ratio of muscle and collagen that, when smoked, turn into incredibly tender meat and gelatinous juices that just sing in your mouth. The grainy nature of the tissue makes beef cheeks a great candidate for pulled beef, which is excellent for tacos and sandwiches.
Looking for an elegant snack with smoky flavor? Oysters are a wonderful option for an appetizer or snack to serve while you’ve got dinner going on the grill. They are great on their own or on top crackers with cheese as an hors d'oeuvres. You can also mix it with pasta and your favorite sauce for a smoky Italian meal.
If you want lighter fare than beef but still desire red meat, lamb is a succulent choice. While lamb ribs may seem smaller than their pork and beef counterparts, they certainly aren’t lacking in the flavor department. It is slightly gamey, but oh so delicious.
Lamb ribs are quite easy to smoke on the grill. They don’t need wrapping (like pork ribs might) and take a few hours less to cook than both beef and pork ribs.
A simple salt, pepper, and herb rub should be enough to render an incredible pleasing rack of ribs. Serve with Spanish rice and broccoli and you have yourself one of the healthier barbecue meals you can get.
Whether it’s a brisket, spareribs, or salmon, no matter what you are smoking, it deserves a grill that was constructed with excellence in mind. Designed to keep heat in longer, Louisiana Grills Wood Pellet Grills were built with thick gauge steel on our hoods and cooking grates. When you see one in person, you will see how the competition pales in comparison. Be sure to visit your local dealer and how Louisiana Grills will elevate your cooking experience.
The best foods deserve the best grills.