I've been slow-smoking meats for a couple of years now, and there is a wide variety of cuts I like to throw in my backyard pit. However, when I was starting out, it was clear that some meats were more forgiving than others. Thinking that I could tackle anything, I tried smoking my first brisket very early on, only for that expensive cut of beef to turn out like sawdust. With hard work, my cooks have improved since, but I had a lot of practice with some more beginner-friendly cuts.

If you're cooking on a pellet grill, you don't have as much to worry about in terms of maintaining temperature. However, if you're cooking with a stick burner, like an offset smoker, there will be some more techniques to learn. For me, I first started out using a pellet grill and worked my way up to an off-set smoker, but whatever you choose to use, these will be the best cuts to work with if you're new to slow cooking. Here is the list from Grilla Grills:

Pulled Pork (Boston Butt)

According to Grilla Grills, pulled pork is perhaps the most forgiving form of barbecue. It's made from the shoulder of a pig and is more commonly referred to as a "Boston butt." Personally, I like to find one with a good fat cap, and I'll score the top with a knife to get more salt and seasoning in the meat.

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Chuck Roast

Chuck Roast, also called "poor man's brisket," is a great way to practice smoking brisket without shelling out a lot of cash. Grilla Grills notes that chuck roast is a great option because it's a thinner cut with plenty of fat and connective tissue that will give you a nice, tender end result. I enjoyed it so much the first time I made it that I'll now throw one on if I have room in my smoker while making ribs or something small.

Whole Chicken

My family eats a lot of chicken, so this is something that I cook often. The best thing about whole chicken, as highlighted by Grilla Grills, is that it takes much less time to cook compared to bigger slabs of meat. Additionally, these small birds are often cheaper than beef or pork, making them a great option for family dinners.

Whole Turkey

If you want to cook a bigger bird, turkey is another cost-effective and calorie-friendly option. Smoked turkey is phenomenal, and it's something I really enjoy. That said, be careful while smoking this bird, as it is very easy to dry out the breast during a long cooking session. I recommend keeping an eye on the internal temperature.


Whenever someone mentions barbecue, ribs are generally the first thing that comes to mind. Grilla Grills says smoking a slab of ribs looks intimidating but is not really that challenging. There are a lot of great techniques you can follow, but if you're just starting out, I recommend the 3-2-1 method. This simply means you leave the ribs in the smoker uncovered for three hours, followed by two hours in a foil or paper wrap. During the final hour, you'll unwrap the ribs and place them back on the smoker (with sauce if you choose to do so). You'll want to smoke them at around 225–250 degrees Fahrenheit.

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