Cheap Meat to Smoke: Budget-Friendly Options for Delicious BBQ

Looking for some cheap meat to smoke? Our article covers various options, types of wood to use, and serving suggestions. Happy smoking!

Are you a budget-conscious foodie looking to enjoy some smoked meat without breaking the bank? Smoking meat can be an excellent way to add unique flavors to your favorite cuts, but it’s no secret that some cuts can be costly. However, don’t let that deter you from indulging in the smoky goodness you crave! In this article, we’re sharing a comprehensive guide on the best cheap cuts of meat for smoking. With our expertise, you’ll learn how to achieve the perfect smoked flavor while keeping your wallet happy. So, whether you’re a seasoned smoker or a beginner, read on to discover the best-kept secrets for smoking meat on a budget.

Whether you’re a seasoned smoker or just starting out, finding affordable cuts of meat perfect for smoking can be challenging.

With some knowledge and careful shopping, you can find a variety of delicious and budget-friendly meats. Many inexpensive options are perfect for smoking, from pork butts and spare ribs to chicken and skirt steak.

Most affordable cheap meat to smoke:

  • Pork: Pork butt, pork shoulder, pork ribs
  • Beef: Beef ribs. Also, chuck roast is an entirely acceptable alternative to brisket when cooked correctly.
  • Poultry: Spatchcock chicken, chicken wings, turkey legs
  • Fish: Salmon, trout
  • Liver: Chicken or beef.

Impatient? Jump to our table that shows the cost of meats you may want to smoke.

Types of Cheap Meat for Smoking

Smoking brisket, chicken, and sausage
Smoking brisket, chicken, and sausage at the same time

Pork Cuts

Pork is one of the most commonly smoked meats because it is affordable and flavorful.

Some of the cheapest cuts of pork to smoke include pork butt, pork shoulder, and spare ribs.

Pork butt is the easiest and cheapest cut of meat to smoke and is perfect for beginners. It is also known as Boston butt and comes from the upper shoulder of the pig.

It has more intramuscular fat than a picnic and takes about 12-14 hours to smoke.

Pork shoulder is a decent substitute for pork butt and takes about 10-12 hours to smoke.

Spare ribs are also a great option; they take about 5-6 hours to smoke.

The average cost per pound of often smoked pork cuts is around $3-$5.

Beef Cuts

Beef is another popular meat to smoke but can be more expensive than pork.

Some of the cheapest cuts of beef to smoke include chuck roast, brisket, and flank steak.

Chuck roast is an excellent option because it is affordable and has a lot of marbling, which makes it perfect for smoking. Smoke takes about 6-8 hours and costs around $3-$4 per pound.

Brisket is also a good option, but smoking can be more challenging. It takes about 12-14 hours to smoke and costs around $4-$5 per pound.

Flank steak is a leaner cut of beef, but it is still an excellent option for smoking. It takes about 2-3 hours to smoke and costs around $4-$5 per pound.

Poultry Cuts

Poultry is the cheapest meat to smoke and is perfect for those on a budget.

Some of the most inexpensive cuts of poultry to smoke include whole spatchcock chicken, chicken wings, and turkey legs.

Whole spatchcock chicken is an excellent option because it is affordable and easy to smoke. It takes about 2-3 hours to smoke and costs around $1-$2 per pound.

Chicken wings are also a great option, taking about 1-2 hours to smoke. The average cost per pound of often smoked poultry cuts is around $1-$2.

Fish and Seafood

Fish and seafood are also great options for smoking, and they can be very affordable.

Some of the inexpensive fish and seafood to smoke include salmon, trout, and shrimp.

Salmon is an excellent option because it is inexpensive and flavorful. It takes about 2-3 hours to smoke and costs around $5-$6 per pound.

Trout is also a good option; it takes about 1-2 hours to smoke.

Shrimp is an excellent option for those who want a quick and easy smoke. It takes about 30-45 minutes to smoke and costs around $6-$7 per pound.

Average Cost per Pound of Often Smoked Meat

Here is a table showing the average cost per pound of often smoked meat as a US average:

Feb. 2022Jan. 2023Feb. 2023
Beef and veal
Chuck roast, USDA Choice, boneless, per lb.$6.83$6.86$6.82
Round roast, USDA Choice, boneless, per lb.$6.32$6.22$6.24
All Uncooked Beef Roasts, per lb.$6.90$6.77$6.82
Steak, round, USDA Choice, boneless, per lb.$7.49$7.27$7.22
Steak, sirloin, USDA Choice, boneless, per lb.$10.58$10.31$10.29
Beef for stew, boneless, per lb.$6.98$6.77$6.79
All Uncooked Beef Roasts per lb.$9.75$9.58$9.68
All Uncooked Other Beef (Excluding Veal), per lb.$6.95$6.60$6.52
Chops, center cut, bone-in, per lb.$4.37$4.57$4.61
Chops, boneless, per lb.$4.45$4.28$4.49
All Pork Chops, per lb.$4.03$4.14$4.26
Ham, boneless, excluding canned, per lb.$5.12$5.48$5.67
All Ham (Excluding Canned Ham), per lb.$4.06$4.30$4.37
All Other Pork (Excluding Canned Ham), per lb.$3.48$3.61$3.59
Chicken, fresh, whole, per lb.$1.63$1.86$1.89
Chicken breast, boneless, per lb.$3.82$4.32$4.37
Chicken legs, bone-in, per lb.$1.80$1.87$1.84
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Here’s an image you can use – pin it on your fridge!

Cheap meat to smoke - yearly costs

Preparing Cheap Meat to Smoke

Marinades and Rubs

Marinades and rubs are a great way to add flavor to affordable cuts of meat or any cut of meat.

A marinade is a liquid mixture of acid, oil, and spices that helps tenderize the meat and infuse it with flavor.

On the other hand, a rub is a dry blend of spices rubbed onto the meat before smoking.

For cheap cuts of meat, a simple marinade or rub can go a long way.

A basic marinade can be made with vinegar, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, and brown sugar. Mix salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, and onion powder for a rub.


Brining is another way to add flavor and moisture to cheap cuts of meat.

Brining involves soaking the meat in a saltwater solution for several hours before smoking, which helps the meat retain moisture and enhances its natural flavor.

A basic brine can be made by mixing water, salt, sugar, and spices.

A good starting point is a brine of 1/4 cup salt, 1/4 cup sugar, and one tablespoon of your favorite spices per quart of water.

Trimming and Slicing

Trimming and slicing the meat properly can also make a big difference in the final product. For example, trimming excess fat from the meat can help prevent flare-ups and ensure even cooking.

But remember that the fat also can help protect the meat from the heat.

Depending on the cut of meat, it may be helpful to butterfly or spatchcock it to increase its surface area and reduce cooking time.

When smoking cheap cuts of meat, it’s essential to remember that they may require longer cooking times than more expensive cuts.

For example, a pork shoulder may take 12-14 hours to smoke at 225-250°F, while a brisket may take 10-12 hours.

It’s also essential to choose the right type of wood for smoking.

For cheap cuts of meat, a mild wood like apple or cherry is a good choice as it won’t overpower the meat’s natural flavor.

Preparing cheap cuts of meat for smoking requires a little extra effort and attention to detail, but it can result in delicious and budget-friendly meals.

With the right marinade, rub, brine, and cooking technique, even the cheapest cuts of meat can be transformed into tender and flavorful dishes.

Smoking Techniques for Cheap Meat

Choosing the right wood for smoking

When smoking meat, it is essential to use the right type of wood to get the best flavor.

  • For pork – hickory, apple, and cherry wood
  • For beef – oak, mesquite, and pecan wood
  • For poultry – apple, and cherry wood
  • For fish – alder and maple wood

Different types of wood impart different flavors, so selecting a wood that complements the meat is essential.

  • Hickory: Strong, smoky flavor that pairs well with pork and beef.
  • Apple: Sweet, fruity flavor that pairs well with pork and poultry.
  • Mesquite: Bold, earthy flavor that pairs well with beef and lamb.
  • Cherry: Mild, sweet flavor that pairs well with pork and poultry.
  • Alder: Light, sweet flavor that pairs well with fish and poultry.

Temperature and Time

When smoking cheap cuts of meat, it’s essential to cook them low and slow to ensure they are tender and flavorful.

The ideal temperature for smoking meat is between 225-250°F.

The time it takes to smoke meat varies depending on the cut and size of the meat. Meat smoking times depend on many factors, including the weight of the meat, the temperature you are cooking at, and even atmospheric conditions such as wind and humidity.

For a more in-depth analysis, look at our article that discusses how long to smoke a brisket based on size and temperature.

Here are some high-level estimates.

  • Pork shoulder: 12-16 hours
  • Pork ribs: 4-6 hours
  • Beef brisket: 12-16 hours
  • Chicken: 2-3 hours
  • Turkey: 6-8 hours

We cover smoking most of these types of meat in other articles.

Smoker Types

Many types of smokers are available on the market, each with advantages and disadvantages.

Here are some options:

  • Pellet smokers use wood pellets to generate smoke and heat, making them easy to use and affordable.
  • Charcoal smokers use charcoal to generate heat and smoke, making them affordable and traditional.
  • Electric smokers use electricity to generate heat and smoke, making them easy to use and affordable.

Since we’re talking about “cheap cuts of meat,” I should add that a basic charcoal smoker is the least expensive of the above choices.

Oklahoma Joes Upright smoker from the outside
My Oklahoma Joe’s upright smoker

Smoking cheap cuts of meat can be a great way to enjoy delicious, flavorful meat without breaking the bank. Anyone can enjoy delicious smoked meat at home by choosing the right wood chips, cooking at the right temperature and time, and using an affordable smoker.

And with costs as low as $2 per pound for pork shoulder and up to 16 hours of cooking time, it’s a budget-friendly way to enjoy a tasty meal.

Tips for Perfectly Smoked Cheap Meat

Resting and Slicing

It is crucial to rest your meat after smoking. Build the rest time into the overall expected cook time. Each type of meat will need to rest for a period of time – some longer, some shorter.

This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, resulting in a more tender and flavorful end product.

When slicing your smoked meat, slicing against the grain is important, and this helps to break up the muscle fibers and make the meat more tender.

Aim for slices that are about 1/4 inch thick for the best texture. I tend to think of “pencil-width” slices when slicing brisket.

Serving Suggestions

Here are a few serving suggestions for your perfectly smoke cheap meat:

  • Serve sliced meat on a sandwich with your favorite toppings and condiments.
  • Chop meat as a filling for tacos, burritos, or quesadillas.
  • Serve sliced meat alongside your favorite sides, such as baked beans, coleslaw, or cornbread.

Storing and Reheating

It’s important to store leftover smoked meat properly to ensure it stays fresh and flavorful.

Wrap the meat tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil, and store it in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.

When reheating smoked meat, it’s best to do so slowly to avoid drying it out.

Place the meat in a baking dish with water or broth, cover it with foil, and bake at 300°F for 10-15 minutes or until heated.

Least expensive to most expensive meat for your smoker

  1. Chicken: Chicken is generally the cheapest meat to smoke. It’s also relatively easy to smoke and has a mild flavor that pairs well with various wood chips.
  2. Pork: Pork is another affordable meat to smoke. Common cuts include pork shoulder, ribs, and loin. Pork has a rich flavor and tender texture when smoked properly.
  3. Turkey: While whole turkeys can be expensive, turkey breasts and legs can be more affordable. Turkey has a mild flavor and pairs well with fruit woods like apple or cherry.
  4. Brisket: Brisket is a popular meat to smoke, but it can be more expensive than chicken, pork, or turkey. However, a properly smoked brisket can be incredibly flavorful and tender.
  5. Beef ribs: Beef ribs can be pricier than pork ribs, but they have a rich flavor that makes them a favorite among meat enthusiasts.
  6. Salmon: While not technically a meat, smoked salmon is popular. It can be expensive, but it has a delicate flavor and tender texture that many people enjoy.
  7. Lamb: Less common than beef or pork, lamb has a unique and delicious flavor. Lamb can be expensive, but a smoked leg of lamb can be a show-stopping centerpiece for a special occasion.

Cheap meats to smoke – conclusion

In conclusion, smoking inexpensive meats can be a budget-friendly way to enjoy delicious and flavorful meals. There are many options, from chicken and pork shoulder to brisket and even fish. When it comes to choosing the right type of wood, it’s important to consider the flavor profile and intensity that will complement your meat of choice. Whether you prefer mild smoke or a stronger one, there are many types of wood to experiment with, from apple and cherry to mesquite and hickory. Finally, when it comes to serving your smoked meat, there are endless possibilities, from sandwiches and tacos to salads and pasta dishes. With a little creativity, smoking inexpensive meats can lead to some truly memorable meals.

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