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budget bbq, cheap meats to smoke guides tips

Budget BBQ: Top Cheap Meats to Smoke for Amazing Flavor

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Tiffany Parra, Owner of Fire Pit Surplus

As a seasoned backyard barbecue aficionado, I can attest to the joy that comes from smoking your own meat. However, costs can add up, particularly when it comes to choosing the right cuts of meat. In this guide, I'll share my top picks for the most affordable, yet delicious, cuts of meat to smoke.

Quick Summary

In this article, we will explore 12 cuts of meat that won't break the bank but will still deliver that smoky, juicy flavor we all crave. We'll delve into the unique characteristics of each cut, offer some tips for choosing the best cheap meats to smoke, and even provide some advice on how to smoke meat on a budget.

 afforadble cuts of meat to smoke

The 12 Most Affordable Cuts of Meat to Smoke

  1. Whole Chicken: A budget-friendly choice that, when smoked, delivers a unique flavor quite unlike roasted or fried chicken.
  2. Chicken Thighs and Drumsticks: These cuts are both economical and packed with flavor, especially when smoked.
  3. Chicken Wings: Perfect for a crowd, smoking gives wings a depth of flavor that frying just can't match.

bbq chicken wings, smoked chicken wings


  1. Spare Ribs: While they require a bit of work to prep, the flavor payoff when smoked is well worth it.
  2. Skirt Steak: This cut is often overlooked, but it's affordable and, when smoked, offers a robust beefy flavor.
  3. Hanger Steak: Known as the butcher's secret, this affordable cut delivers impressive flavor when smoked.

hanger steak recipes, hanger steak


  1. Pork Butt (aka Boston Butt): Despite the name, this cut is actually from the pig's shoulder, and it's an absolute star in the smoking world.
  2. Pork Shoulder: Another excellent cut for smoking, it's perfect for pulled pork.
  3. Pork Loin: A larger cut that's ideal for feeding a crowd. It's also lean, which can be a nice counterpoint to some of the fattier cuts.

pork loin recipes


  1. Chuck Roast: This cut from the front part of the cow is flavorful and becomes incredibly tender when smoked.
  2. Beef Brisket: While brisket does require a longer smoking time, the results are worth it.
  3. Ground Beef: Smoking isn't just for whole cuts of meat. Try making smoked meatballs or burgers for a twist on traditional barbecue fare.

ground beef, burger recipes

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How to Choose the Best Cheap Meat for Smoking

When looking for the best cheap meat for smoking, there are a few key factors to consider. Firstly, look for cuts with a decent amount of fat. Fat renders during the smoking process, keeping the meat moist and adding flavor. Secondly, don't be afraid to choose larger cuts. These often have a lower cost per pound and can provide multiple meals. Lastly, look for fresh, not frozen, meat when possible. Fresh meat tends to hold up better during the long smoking process.

Tips for Smoking Meat

Smoke Slowly on Low Heat

Patience is key when smoking meat. Low and slow is the name of the game. A slow, low-heat cook allows the smoke flavor to permeate the meat, and the low heat ensures that the meat doesn't dry out.

Watch the Smoke

Keep an eye on the smoke coming out of your smoker. Ideally, it should be thin and blue. Thick, white smoke can lead to a bitter taste on your meat.

Use a Water Tray

Using a water tray in your smoker can help keep the environment moist, which in turn helps to keep your meat moist.

Keep the Smoker’s Lid Shut

Resist the urge to constantly check your meat. Every time you open the smoker, you lose heat and smoke - both of which are essential for achieving that perfectly smoked flavor.

Allow the Meat to Rest

Once your meat is smoked, give it some time to rest before slicing into it. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, leading to a juicier end product.

Essential Tools for Smoking Meat

Smoking meat requires some essential tools, including a good quality smoker, a reliable meat thermometer, and the right kind of wood chips for flavor. Depending on the type of smoker you have, you might also need fuel like charcoal or propane. And let's not forget the meat itself!

charcoal grill, propane grill recipes

How to Smoke Meat on a Budget

Smoking meat doesn't have to break the bank. Buying cheaper cuts of meat, choosing cost-effective fuel sources, and minimizing waste can all help to keep costs down. Also, remember that smoking often results in leftovers that can be used for future meals, which adds value to the process.

Frequently Asked Questions

BBQ faq

What is a Good Meat to Smoke for a Beginner?

If you're just starting out with smoking, pork shoulder (also known as pork butt) is a great choice. This cut is relatively forgiving, meaning it's less likely to dry out, which can sometimes happen with leaner cuts. It's also typically quite large, so it's perfect for practicing your smoking technique. The end result is a tender, flavorful meat that's perfect for pulled pork sandwiches or served as is with a side of coleslaw.

What is the Easiest Meat to Smoke for a Crowd?

When feeding a crowd, brisket is a standout choice. It's a larger cut of meat that can be smoked in bulk and then sliced to serve. Brisket is a crowd-pleaser due to its rich, beefy flavor and tender texture when smoked properly. Also, it pairs well with a variety of sides, making it easy to satisfy different taste preferences. Just remember, smoking a brisket is a commitment - it requires a long, slow cook for the best results.

What Cuts of Meat Are the Easiest to Smoke?

Generally, larger cuts of meat with a good amount of fat, like pork shoulder or beef brisket, are considered easier to smoke because they are more forgiving and less likely to dry out.

Is Smoking Meat Healthier?

Smoking can be a healthier way to prepare meat, as it often requires fewer added fats. However, it's important to remember that the type of meat and other ingredients used will also impact the overall healthiness of the meal.


Smoking meat is a great way to add flavor and tenderness to cheaper cuts of meat. With a bit of patience, some essential tools, and the right techniques, anyone can produce delicious, smoked meat meals on a budget. So, why not give it a try? Fire up that smoker, and discover the deep, smoky flavors that you can achieve at home.

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