For years there were smoker grills, and there was me. And never the twain met. Although I love smoked food, I couldn’t get our grill to smoke properly.

While the old Weber has a smoker box, it still requires some MacGyvering, a skill that I am sorely lacking. I’m much more the push-button kind of guy. That’s when I bought the basic Bradley Smoker. And I’ve never looked back.

It was after getting that dedicated smoker I developed recipes for homemade smoked espresso bacon and smoked pickled potatoes (a revelation). And since then, I’ve smoked just about anything you can put into your mouth.

But I don’t want to scare you off these smoky delectables by making you think you can’t make them unless you have a smoker. You can jury-rig your grill–gas or charcoal. One of our testers even used a cardboard box attached to a collapsible vent duct to smoke his meats.

To quote a very old Calvin Klein ad: “Do you know what comes between me and my smoked foods? Nothing.”

David Leite's handwritten signature of 'David.'
A wooden cutting board topped with two rack of smoked pork ribs.
Keller + Keller
1 of 14

Smoked Pork Ribs

I like to go all out and serve some of the classic sides to go with the smoked meat: mac and cheese, braised collards or turnip greens, potato salad, coleslaw, beans, cornbread, and corn on the cob.
A partially sliced smoked coffee brisket on a wooden cutting board with a meat fork resting beside it.
Leigh Beisch
2 of 14

Smoked Coffee Brisket

Smoked brisket with coffee takes a few of our favorite things and combines them into a meltingly tender, spicy, and smoky masterpiece.

This is an awesome smoked brisket recipe, and I suggest it to anyone who wants a succulent piece of brisket.

Four smoked whole chickens on a metal sheet pan with a metal fork lying beside them.
Time Inc.
3 of 14

Smoked Whole Chicken

This Texas-style smoked whole chicken is made by rubbing whole chickens with an ancho and piloncillo spice rub and then slowly smoking them on your grill or smoker until tender and juicy. Easy and perfect for entertaining a crowd. Here's how.
Three smoked turkey legs on a plate with a bowl of coleslaw in the background.
Angie Zoobkoff
4 of 14

Smoked Turkey Legs

Can smoked turkey legs you make at home possibly be as good as the ones at the carnival or theme park? Actually, they're even better. All it takes is a simple brine and a little patience. Here's how to make them.

These smoked turkey legs were absolutely yummy. They tasted like the ones at the fair. We will be saving this recipe!!

A smoked prime rib sliced in half on a wooden board with a green-handled knife beside it.
Ed Anderson
5 of 14

Smoked Prime Rib

This smoked prime rib, coated with a sugar spice rub and smothered with a horseradish mustard mixture, becomes slowly infused with smoky flavor and is simply the best prime rib we’ve ever tried.
Two smoked spareribs and a knife on a slab of stone.
Aimee Buxton
6 of 14

Smoked Spare Ribs

These smoked spare ribs are coated in a spicy rub, slowly smoked, and finished with a Texas-style barbecue sauce. No smoker required.

My first time smoking ribs. The ribs turned out perfectly, and, although I’m definitely no connoisseur when it comes to ribs, I thought they were the best I’ve ever tasted. The meat was juicy, tender, and delicious, with just the right amount of spiciness. I’ll be cooking more of these smoked spare ribs and highly recommend this recipe.

mitch m.
A large tray tray of cheesy elbow noodles and a spoon.
Ken Goodman
7 of 14

Smoked Mac and Cheese

Macaroni and cheese is a very traditional accompaniment to great BBQ. This recipe simplifies the process of making this extra-cheesy dish by using only one pan for the cooking.
A smoked chicken on a piece of crumpled parchment paper with a knife and a bowl of spice rub on the side.
Angie Zoobkoff
8 of 14

Smoked Chicken

Brining in a very simple salt and sugar brine makes the chicken juicier than a typical bird and it’s seasoned throughout. The addition of the dry rub makes it even more flavorful.

Delicious smoked chicken recipe. No brine for me on this one, dry rub only, a good smoke with a 20-minute finish in the oven, and they came out absolutely perfect. Thanks.

A wire basket on a wood cutting board containing several types of cheese, including smoked cheddar cheese.
Michelle Furbacher
9 of 14

Smoked Cheddar Cheese

This smoked Cheddar cheese recipe explains, step by step, how to smoke cheese at home into smoke-imbued exquisiteness. Hickory Farms, be worried.
A whole smoked pork shoulder.
Deborah Llewellyn
10 of 14

Smoked Pork Shoulder

When slow-smoking a pork shoulder, you should figure 1 1/2 hours per pound of pork. A 10-pound, bone-in pork shoulder takes a long time to cook, but for the majority of that time it is in the smoker. You can get it started right after breakfast and have it ready in time for dinner.

The smoked pork shoulder was absolutely mouth-watering, tender, and easy—five stars, without a doubt.

A Texas style smoked turkey cut into breast and leg pieces on a cutting board with a knife.
Johnny Autry
11 of 14

Texas Style Smoked Turkey

This Texas style smoked turkey, which is smothered with a bold spice rub and slowly smoked on the grill, is welcome any time of the year, whether on your Thanksgiving table or your annual backyard shindig.
Two slabs of bone-in smoked beef ribs.
Keller + Keller
12 of 14

Smoked Beef Ribs

You can smoke the ribs as individual ribs, or you can have your butcher leave them as one large rack that you carve when done. These are sometimes called dinosaur ribs, like what Fred Flintstone eats at the drive-in.

When you finally unwrap the smoked beef ribs, they are moist, tender, smoked, and seasoned with the rub. I like to paint them with a mixture of three BBQ sauces and place them on a foil-lined rimmed cookie sheet at 350°F for 10 minutes to glaze them at the end. These are better than 99% of restaurant BBQ beef ribs.

stu b.
A sliced smoked pork tenderloin with maple chipotle glaze on a white plate.
Ken Goodman
13 of 14

Smoked Pork Tenderloin with Maple Chipotle Glaze

As a change-up from burgers, steaks and hot dogs, pork tenderloins offer a lot: a flexible canvas (the mild flavor takes well to marinades, glazes and sauces), ease, speed and tenderness.
Two pieces of maple smoked grilled salmon on a white plate with a fork and knife on the side.
Ken Goodman
14 of 14

Maple Smoked Grilled Salmon

A combination of sweet maple syrup and maple wood give this easy grilled salmon its sweet, smoky flavor.

I made this smoked salmon for dinner tonight and got thumbs up from my family as the best salmon I ever made! I used a simple homemade bbq rub with maple syrup and applewood chips for the smoke flavour.

The salmon was moist and the smoke penetrated throughout. Thanks so much…I will be making this again soon!!


Smoker FAQs

What’s the 3-2-1 method?

The 3-2-1 method is a popular way to smoke ribs, to get tender and juicy fall-off-the-bone meat. It involves smoking over low heat for 3 hours, wrapping the ribs in foil, and continuing to cook for two more hours. Finally, the ribs are unwrapped and cooked for another hour, basted frequently with bbq sauce.

what’s the best type of wood to use for smoking?

In general, choose hardwood, as it will burn slower and longer than softwood. As for the specific type of wood, it depends on what you’re smoking. 

For smoked beef, hickory, mesquite, and oak are popular choices, as the strong flavor of the smoke pairs well with the meat.

Hickory and maple are great choices for all cuts of pork, including smoked pork ribs or shoulder.

For poultry, choose a wood that produces slightly sweet and mild smoke, such as maple or pecan. Sugar maple is an excellent choice for smoked turkey.

can i smoke frozen meat?

No, it’s not recommended to smoke frozen meat. Smoking is a slow cooking process done at low temperatures, and if you start with frozen meat, it will remain at a low temperature for an unsafe period of time and can also cook unevenly. Thoroughly defrost your meat before you begin smoking.

No matter which smoking recipe you choose, you’re guaranteed to elicit some oohs and ahhs from your dinner guests. Round out your meal with some classic side dishes, including grilled corn on the cob, barbecue beans, creamy coleslaw, and classic potato salad.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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