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, we've got a handy smoking times and temperatures chart that tells you everything you need to know about smoking meat by different cuts of meat. 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

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 piece of 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.

The best smokers out there today are pellet smokers. These use wood pellets to allow for perfectly smoked food every time. Some popular brands of pellet grills are Traeger and The Big Green Egg. You can purchase a Traeger Grill for about $700 on Amazon.


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 out the smoked meat. Use a digital thermometer, or 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 your smoker temp constant and at the right heat level, your 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 tips so you know how to smoke meat.


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 tenderloin usually takes 3 hours. Tri-tip, which is similar to brisket, becomes insanely tender if you smoke it for 2 hours. Some argue that the best meat to use is prime rib. It's a splurge, but but well worth it for the rich and flavorful beef.

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.


If you're smoking baby back ribs, spare ribs, pork shoulder/pork butt, or pork loin make sure you trim the excess fat off the meat and  use your favorite dry rub to flavor the meat before you put it in the smoker. To clear up any confusion, pork shoulder/pork butt turns into pulled pork once cooked.

For sausage, your cook time isn't as long, and you also won't need to turn them over during cooking. Pork ribs require 3 hours to get that fall-off-the-bone texture we know and love.


Thaw the lamb completely before it goes in the smoker. A good idea is to use your favorite marinade for around 5-10 hours before you plan to cook it.


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 internal temperature for poultry needs to be higher. You do want to check the cuts of 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.

A whole chicken makes a great item to smoke. You can satisfy the dark meat and white meat lovers, while also enjoying the crispy skin. For the whole chicken, you'll need to cook it for about 60-80 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit. You need to make sure the internal temp is 165 degrees. Chicken thighs are a great option if you love dark meat, and want to cook it quickly. Thighs only take about 45 minutes from start to finish.

Smoked turkey is excellent if you're not able to find a whole turkey outside of Thanksgiving, try smoking a turkey leg or turkey breast for something different. Smoked chicken wings also make a great party appetizer.


Seafood 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. Brining involves soaking the meat with seasonings and liquid. The purpose is to retain moisture and also season the meat.


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 not 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. You'll also smoke fruit at a lower temperature for less time. When we say low temperature, we mean no higher than 250 degrees.

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This post was originally published on April 2, 2019.