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Basic Smoking Techniques

Now that you’ve completed selecting a meat smoker, it’s time to cook. Plan on about 1 pound of uncooked meat per person when preparing to smoke meat for your next event due to fat rendering and moisture loss.

Pork (Shoulder – Boston Butt)

  • Best cuts will have at least moderate fat content
  • Trim any loose or hanging pieces of fat
  • We recommend that you apply a dry seasoning rub before smoking. A multitude of recipes for rub mixes are available on the internet.
  • Apply the rub by patting and rubbing into the meat, then refrigerate 8-12 hours for best results
  • Remove from the refrigerator and allow to reach room temperature before placing in the smoker
  • You want the temperature at about 220-225 degrees
  • This takes about 1.5 hours per pound in the smoker
  • Give yourself lots of time and some extra, sometimes a large piece of meat will stall (remain) at a lower temperature for up to a couple hours
  • We recommend using a wireless BBQ thermometer to monitor internal meat temperature such as the Maverick ET-732 featured in the sidebar
  • Wait a while before putting in the thermometer until the outside is cooked a bit to avoid cross contamination
  • Bring the meat up to about 170 degrees, wrap in foil and put it back in the smoker until it gets between 190-200 degrees
  • Take it out, wrap the meat still in the foil with a towel and put in a cooler for a couple of hours for the juices to redistribute

Pork (Spare Ribs)

  • The 3-2-1 method of smoking ribs is one of the most popular and very simple to follow
  • Remove the membrane.  Lots of youtube videos can help you here if you need it
  • Sprinkle liberally with your choice of dry rub and pat down well
  • Wrap them in plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator for 8-12 hours (overnight works fine)
  • take them out and let them come up close to room temperature
  • place in the smoker for about 3 hours at 225 degrees, until you can see the meat beginning to pull back from the bone a bit
  • take them out of the smoker, sprinkle with fruit juice (apple or pear) and wrap them in heavy duty aluminum foil. The bones are likely to poke through lighter grade foil and you’ll loose moisture and flavor
  • put them back in the smoker for 2 more hours at 225 degrees
  • Remove the foil and put them back in the smoker for about 1 more hour.  Use your remote meat thermometer.  The magic number is about 165-170 degrees
  • As with all cooked meats, let them rest for about 12-15 minutes before cutting.  This will allow the juices in the meat to reabsorb into the meat guaranteeing that you’ll keep all the moisture and flavor that you’ve been working toward for about 6 hours
  • Let the ribs sit on the counter for about 15 minutes before slicing to allow the juices to redistribute throughout the meat
  • For Baby Back Ribs your cooking times will be 2 hours, 2 hours, and 1 hour (2-2-1 method)
  • Some folks eat the ribs as they are, but we prefer a bit of sauce on the side

Beef Brisket

  • Purchase a 10-12 pound brisket (for the smokers recommended here): USDA ($), Certified Angus ($$), Prime ($$$), Wagyu ($$$$) – Get the best you can afford, aged and sealed in plastic
  • Some folks recommend letting it age it for 30-50 days to assist with tenderizing (that’s a bit beyond the basics so you can try that on your own)
  • We suggest trimming the fat cap to about 1/4 inch
  • Coat the meat with mustard, ketchup, or oil, then liberally apply the rub of your choice, wrap in plastic wrap and leave in the refrigerator for 8+ hours
  • You can inject the meat with flavorful concoctions – that too is beyond the basics
  • Place in the smoker, fat cap up – the melting fat will assist with moisture retention
  • Cook at 225 degrees for about 1.5 hours per pound
  • Mop the meat with apple juice or beef broth occasionally
  • When the meat hits about 150 degrees, wrap in heavy duty foil, add a some of your mopping liquid
  • put it back in smoker until it is a bit over 200 degrees
  • Take it out, while still in the foil – wrap in a towel and place in a cooler for 1-2 hours
  • Cut the meat thin across the grain of the meat
  • Make gravy with some of the drippings if you’d like

Beef Ribs

  • Pick ribs that have the most meat
  • Remove the membrane and trim any loose fat
  • Apply the dry rub or marinade of your choice, then wrap with plastic wrap
  • Place ribs in the refrigerator overnight
  • Before smoking, let the ribs sit in room temperature for around an hour
  • Place the ribs bone side down and smoke at 225*F for 5-6 hours
  • When the meat is “fork tender” it is done cooking
  • If you wish to add BBQ sauce, wait until after the first 3-4 hours then brush on liberally
    • Choose a BBQ sauce with less sugar or it might burn
    • Continue smoking for another 1-2 hours or until meat is fork tender
  • When ready, remove the meat and cover with foil then let rest for 10-15 minutes to allow the juices in the meat to reabsorb into the meat

Whole Turkey

  • We recommend choosing a fresh turkey, but if you must get frozen, make sure to follow the defrost instructions carefully
  • For the size smokers recommended here, we recommend one around 10-15 lb
  • Remove the neck and giblets from inside and rinse the turkey thoroughly inside and out
  • Pin the wings to the body with toothpicks to avoid being burnt
  • Apply a dry rub underneath the skin.  Slip your hand up the skin around the butt or leg and loosen it all the way up to the breast and down around the legs then generously apply the rub
  • Some recommend injecting the turkey with various mixtures of juices, spices, and herbs
  • Do not stuff the turkey. This will increase the cooking time which might allow the growth of bacteria
  • Place the turkey back into the refrigerator for anywhere between 1-3 hours before cooking once the rub is applied
  • Fill the water pan up to within an inch from the top with hot water
  • Place the turkey chest up in the smoker and cook at 235 degrees for 30-35 minutes per pound
  • To make gravy, place the turkey directly on the rack and place a pan underneath it with a couple cups of water to catch the drippings.  The water will keep the drippings from burning
  • Once the meat has reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees, it is ready to be removed.  Check temperature in both the leg and breast
  • Remove the turkey and let it rest in a pan covered with foil for 15-20 minutes before carving to allow the juices in the meat to reabsorb

Poultry Cooking Temperature Facts:

The USDA internal temperature requirement for killing salmonella is to reach a 6.5D thermal death rating. Because salmonella is harder to kill than e.coli, once the salmonella is killed, the e.coli is killed too. the 6.5D rating ensures the death 99.99997% of present pathogens.

  • to kill salmonella (6.5d reduction) chicken must reach an internal temperature of 150 for 1 minute & 10 seconds.
  • to kill salmonella (6.5d reduction) chicken must reach an internal temperature of 155 for 22 seconds.
  • to kill salmonella (6.5d reduction) chicken must reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees for 7.1 seconds.
  • to kill salmonella (6.5d reduction) chicken must reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees for 3.0 seconds.

So, there is really no need to cook poultry to the point that it is completely dried out.

Turkey Legs

  •  Use fresh turkey legs if possible.  If frozen, let them thaw completely while refrigerated.
  • It is a good idea to brine the legs before smoking them. Turkey can easily dry out.   However the legs are usually a bit moister than the breast.
  • There are many recipes online for making your own turkey brine.
  • After brining for 8-10 hours, remove the turkey legs and rinse with cold water.
  • Cover the legs with your choice of rub, trying to get some up under the skin on the legs
  • Place the turkey legs into the smoker at a temperature of 225-240 degrees and cook for 3 ½ to 4 hours hours.  The internal temperature of the legs should be 165*F.
  • Remove the legs from the smoker and cover with tin foil for about


  • Use a 3-5 lb chicken – if frozen, allow to completely thaw while refrigerated
  • We recommend brining the chicken before smoking.  Brining adds both flavor and moisture to the meat. Brine in the refrigerator for 12-15 hours
  • Clean and rinse the chicken inside and out.
  • It is also a good idea to use a rub on your chicken before smoking.  Try to get the rub mixture under the skin too
  • There are many brine and rub recipes online for chickens
  • Place the chicken back in the refrigerator for an hour for the rub flavor to begin working
  • Cook the chicken in the smoker at 235*F breast down for 1.5-2 hrs and the flip the chicken over for about 2 more hours.
  • Place a drip pan with about an inch of water under your roasting tray to catch the fat and extra juices.
  • Check the internal temperature of the chicken.  Once it is 165 degrees it is ready to be removed
  • Let the meat sit for 10-15 minutes before slicing and serving

From time to time we will be adding more cooking articles to this page. We’ll notify our subscribers when new articles are added.