5 of the Best BBQ Recipes to Make in Your Smoker

Smoked meats are basically the epitome of summer cooking! They bring people together and the end result is always so tasty.

Whether you’ve got an electric smoker, pellet grill, charcoal smoker, or some other popular variation, making and eating smoked meats is truly an experience. There’s just nothing like that smoky flavor. And you can smoke all types of meat to create everything from spare ribs to lamb shoulder to chicken thighs to pork chops and so much more. 

Smoking a whole chicken

In celebration of summertime, we’re featuring 5 of our favorite smoker recipes. So break out the seasonings and BBQ sauce, and let’s get smokin’ with Steamy!

But first, let’s talk about…

Where Did Smoked Meats Originate?

Imagine it’s a warm summer day, and the savory smell of smoked meats hits your nose. It’s so distinct, and nothing compares to it. You almost feel a kinship with everyone who’s shared in this experience and it makes you wonder… where did this delicious tradition begin? Let’s talk about the origins of smoked meats and how they became a summertime favorite.

It might come as a surprise, but did you know that smoked meats have been around for centuries? Yup! It all started with early humans in the Paleolithic era. Cavemen discovered that hanging meat *near* a fire gave it a different flavor and preserved it. It went on to be used as a preservation method before fridges became a thing.

The smoking process is all about slow-cooking meat over a low fire and letting the smoke infuse the meat with a rich, smoky flavor. And different cultures throughout the world each have their own twists on smoking meats. While Native Americans preserved fish and game with smoking, Europeans developed different methods for smoking pork, beef, and other meats. After many years of refinement, modern day pitmasters now spend their days perfecting the smoking technique down to a science.

What makes smoking and summer go together so well? Well, on a base level, it’s a social activity and a distinct experience. Friends and family gather around, converse, and connect while the slow-cooking process happens, which gives everyone time to relax and bond. And since smoking happens outside (because you don’t want everything in your home to smell like a bonfire), it makes for a great outdoor activity, which also makes smoking easily synonymous with lazy summer days. (And let’s face it, the smell will literally attract curious neighbors to your door like a moth to a flame.)

For many, there’s also an element of tradition. Because smoking meats has been around for so long, many families have their own smoking techniques that have been passed down from generation to generation. It’s a lot more than just a cooking experience for some.

Now that we know where smoking comes from, let’s dive into the recipes!

Smoked Salmon

by Hank of Hunt Gather Cook

Smoked Salmon by Hank of Hunt Gather Cook

Photo: Hunt Gather Cook

This delicious smoked salmon is NEXT LEVEL, and you may never eat salmon any other way after you try it smoked! And what’s great is there’s so many different ways to enjoy this recipe: plain, flaked, thrown in a salad, tossed with pasta… you name it! Whether you enjoy chum, char, Atlantic or any other trout type, this recipe works with it all! Now the only question left is… to eat it skin-on or skinless? 

Click here for the recipe. 

Smoked Chicken Wings

by Amanda of Recipes Worth Repeating

Smoked Chicken Wings by Amanda of Recipes Worth Repeating

Photo: Recipes Worth Repeating

Smoked wings are great any time, but especially if you’re a smoking newbie simply because they’re so quick and easy to make. These particular wings are guaranteed to be tender and juicy, and you can make them with any type of smoker. If you dig sweet wings, this recipe is definitely for you. In fact, the dry rub is made with simple ingredients you probably already have on hand. Just 10 minutes of prep and about an hour of smoking, and you’ve got yourself perhaps the best wings you’ve ever tasted!

Click here for the recipe.

Texas Style Smoked Beef Brisket

by Susie of Hey Grill Hey

Texas Style Smoked Beef Brisket by Susie of Hey Grill, Hey

Photo: Hey Grill Hey

Let’s face it. Smoking a brisket can be a little bit… intimidating. For starters, brisket is NOT cheap, and if you’re making a big one, that’s a lot more to potentially get wrong. But with this tried and true Texas Style Brisket recipe, you CAN do it, and it’s not as difficult as you might think. Susie of Hey Grill Hey has explored all the brisket-smoking methods so you don’t have to, and she’ll walk you through each step of this relatively simple process. And once you master it, you’ll be hooked!

Click here for the recipe. 

Easy Smoked Meatballs

by Kita of Girl Carnivore

Easy Smoked Meatballsby Kita of Girl Carnivore

Photo: Girl Carnivore

Meatballs? On a smoker? OH YES. Smoked meatballs will change your life FOREVER, and they may in fact spoil you away from regular meatballs! (Don’t say we didn’t warn you.) Girl Carnivore’s smoked meatballs are smoky and you only need a couple of easy ingredients: juicy meatballs, Italian seasoning, and tomato sauce. They’re great as a main course, as a side or appetizer, and even in a meatball sandwich! Oh, and don’t forget to break out your favorite marinara sauce for these bad boys. 

Click here for the recipe.

3-2-1 Smoked Ribs

by Matt of Ole Blue Dog

3-2-1 Smoked Ribs by Matt of Ole Blue Dog

Photo: Ole Blue Dog

Ever heard of 3-2-1 ribs? This smoking process is popular among veterans and it’s also an easy way to get super tender, fall-off-the-bone ribs! And it’s so easy, even a beginner can do it. It just takes 3 steps: 1) Add your favorite rub and smoke for three hours. 2) Cover the ribs with foil while soaking them in Carolina sauce or apple juice for two more hours. 3) Remove the foil, and baste with BBQ sauce (if you want), then smoke for one more hour. After you’re done, you’ll be left with decadently delicious and wickedly tender smoked ribs that are sure to impress everyone who tries them!

Click here for the recipe.

Smoking FAQs

What’s the best cut of meat to smoke for beginners?

If you’re a smoking newbie, chicken wings are a great choice. Once you get the hang of that, advance to pork shoulder (or what’s also known as Boston butt), which is forgiving, has a good amount of fat, and is sure to be tender and delicious.

How do I choose the right smoker?

The best smoker for you really depends on your preference and experience. A pellet smoker is good for the convenience factor and great temperature control, while charcoal smokers can give you more of traditional flavor. If you want both qualities, then a vertical smoker might be a good choice for you.

What are the best smoker recipes for pork?

Try pulled pork, pork ribs, or pork tenderloin. These cuts not only absorb smoke really well, but they’re also BIG crowd-pleasers. Also, you can really experiment with pork belly if you’re looking for a rich, decadent cut of meat.

How do I prepare meat for smoking?

First, bring your meat to room temperature. If you’re looking for a bolder flavor, you may choose to use a dry brine or marinate your meat with worcestershire sauce and apple cider vinegar. Other flavor enhancers include cream cheese stuffing in smoked chicken breast or spicy maple bourbon glaze on baby back ribs. The world is your (smoked) oyster!

How long does smoked meat take to cook?

The cooking time will vary with each cut of meat and smoker type. For example, pork shoulder will need about 1.5 to 2 hours per pound, while a whole brisket might take 12-18 hours. However long your cook time, be sure to use a meat thermometer to ensure it’s cooked properly.

How do you smoke poultry like chicken or turkey?

Whether you’re smoking a whole chicken, chicken legs, or smoked turkey breast, we recommend brining cuz it really helps retain poultry’s moisture. Then smoke that white meat at a low temp until it reaches a safe internal temperature. For some really great results, try the spatchcock method on your chicken before you smoke it.

What are some good side dishes for smoked meats?

There is no limit to what you can pair with smoked meats! Some of my favorites are coleslaw, baked beans, and cornbread. You can also smoke sides on a charcoal grill like grilled veggies!

What other appetizers and sides can I smoke?

Anything from hot honey wings to beef jerky to chicken sliders!

Any tips for maintaining my smoker?

Regular cleaning is super important. Be sure to remove ash and grease buildup after each time you use your smoker. For charcoal smokers, always make sure your grill top and skewers tools covers are in good condition, as this will extend the life of your smoker!

Smoke Like a Pro!

We hope this collection of amazing smoker recipes has inspired you to try something new, whether that be just a new recipe or smoke cooking in general! Whatever it is, we wanna hear about it! Looking to prepare prime rib or maybe whip up some pulled pork sandwiches? Let us know in the comments!


Realcook Vertical Charcoal Smoker Giveaway

Do you like to have your own Charcoal Smoker at home? Enter this amazing Realcook Vertical Charcoal Smoker Giveaway now!



  1. I always purchase smoked meat in the grocery store. I would love to have my own smoker

  2. my husband smokes his fish and meat in an old weber grill that has holes in it. I would love to win him a good smoker.

  3. I do not have a smoker but always interested in one. I have propane for the last 5 yrs and am ready to move up to smoker.


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Jaden Rae
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I'm Jaden Rae, a TV chef, cookbook author, recipe developer, and the creative force behind Steamy Kitchen, a 19-year food blog focused on Asian cuisine and mindful living. Steamy Kitchen has been featured on The List, the Today Show, Oprah.com, Martha Stewart Living Radio & more.

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