Here’s Exactly How Long You Should Smoke Meat

Smoking meat is a great way to cook, but it’s such a cross between art and science that knowing exactly how long to smoke different types of meat can get confusing. Courtesy of the good folks over at BroBBQ.com, we’ve got a handy smoking times and temperatures chart that tells you everything you need to know about smoking meat by different type. Then read on for a few tips and pieces of advice that will make your meat smoking adventure easy and fun.

Smoking Times and Temperatures Chart
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Tips and Advice

Cooking times and temperature vary from meat to meat and can be affected by other things like outside temperature and whether or not the meat is bone in or not. The type of smoker you use can be super fancy or simple, but everything from a hole in the ground to an electric smoker will work. Some smokers use wood chips, some are charcoal smokers, but all are designed to cook your food with an indirect heat.

Low and slow cooking is the name of the game. The time windows are suggestions, so you’ll want to double check to make sure the finished internal temperature is in the safe zone before you take the meat out of the smoker. Use a good digital meat thermometer to help you keep track of the internal meat temperature.

Your smoker temperature will need to be higher than the finished temperature of the meat. If you don’t keep the smoking temperature constant and at the right heat level, you’re meat won’t ever finish cooking. As tempting as it is to keep checking inside the smoker, keeping it closed except when absolutely necessary will help keep the temperature inside where it needs to be.

Here are a few meat-specific tips to help you on your smoking adventure.

Beef

Your smoking time will vary depending on what kind of beef you’ve got in the smoker. Beef brisket can take up to 20 hours (but it’s oh so worth it), while ribs usually take between 4-6 hours. If you’re using frozen meat, make sure it’s thawed completely before it goes in the smoker. You might also cut the ribs apart so they cook faster.

Pork

If you’re smoking baby back ribs, spare ribs, pork shoulder, or pork butt, make sure you trim the excess fat off the meat and then use your favorite rub to flavor the meat before you put it in the smoker. For sausage, your cook time isn’t as long, and you also won’t need to turn them over during cooking.

Lamb

Thaw the lamb completely before it goes in the smoker. A good idea is to marinate it around 5-10 hours before you plan to cook it.

Poultry

Most poultry takes less time to cook in a smoker than other meats, but the smoker needs to reach a higher temperature because the finished cooking temperature for poultry need to be higher. You do want to check the meat carefully with a meat thermometer since you want to a) cook the meat enough so that you don’t get sick, and b) not overcook the meat so much that it’s tough and dry. Smoked turkey is excellent if you’re not able to find a whole turkey outside of Thanksgiving, try smoking a turkey leg for something different.

Seafood

Seafood also takes less time to cook and you’ll need to watch it to make sure it doesn’t dry out. You can cook anything from a salmon filet to lobster tails in a smoker. A good brine or marinade can give the seafood great flavor, but it’s best to dry it completely before it goes into the smoker.

Vegetables

If you can grill it, you can smoke it; vegetables are a great example of this adage. Smoked potatoes and corn are an excellent way to round out a meal, but that’s all you can do with produce and a smoker. You could, for example, smoke strawberries and then make jam with them. (You’re welcome.) Smoking vegetables and fruit is less about getting it cooked all the way through and more about infusing the food with the smokey taste, so it generally takes less time.

Watch: Wood Smoke 101: Pairing Wood with the Ideal Food Groups.