“Discover the Ultimate Budget-friendly Meat Smoking Guide: Unlock the Secrets to Deliciously Affordable Smoked Cuts! Transform ordinary, cheap cuts into mouthwatering masterpieces with our expert tips and techniques. Elevate your BBQ game without breaking the bank – indulge in irresistible flavors on a budget!”
8 Cheap Meats to Smoke: The Best Options
Smoking meat can be an expensive hobby, but there are affordable cuts that taste delicious. One of the cheapest and easiest cuts to smoke is pork butt. It has a good amount of intramuscular fat, making it perfect for pulled pork. A bone-in pork butt usually costs between $0.99 – $1.99 per pound.
Whole chickens are also a cheap option for smoking. You get multiple parts from one chicken, allowing you to cater to different preferences within your family. Chicken wings are particularly affordable, making them a great choice for smoking.
Pork loin is an underrated cut of meat that often goes on sale for as low as $0.99 per pound. It offers both shoulder and loin meat, making it versatile for sandwiches or stand-alone meals.
Pork spare ribs are the most affordable type of pork ribs on a per pound basis. They can be purchased either as St. Louis cut or whole spare ribs, depending on your preference and budget.
While beef cuts tend to be more expensive, brisket is considered a value cut due to its lower advertised price per pound. However, the cost quickly adds up when you consider the trimming required for brisket smoking. Chuck roast is a cheaper alternative that still delivers great flavor when smoked.
Another overlooked option is smoked bologna. Bologna is a cured sausage that only requires some additional smoke and caramelization to enhance its flavor.
Eye of round is an excellent choice for homemade beef jerky due to its minimal fat content and defined grain structure. Lean cuts like bottom round or top round also work well for jerky.
Slicing up hot dogs and serving them as smoked hot dog burnt ends adds variety to your barbecue menu without breaking the bank. Look for high-quality hot dog brands that offer good flavor and texture.
The Best Cheap Cuts of Meat to Smoke
Smoking meat can be an expensive hobby, but there are affordable cuts that taste great. One of the cheapest and easiest cuts to smoke is pork butt, which has a lot of intramuscular fat and is perfect for making pulled pork. Pork shoulder is also a decent substitute if pork butt is not available. A bone-in pork butt typically costs $0.99 – $1.99 per pound.
Chicken wings are another cheap option for smoking, costing around $0.99 – $1.99 per pound. Whole chickens are even more affordable because you can separate the individual parts and choose your preferred cuts. Chicken leg quarters and bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs are also reasonably priced alternatives.
Pork loin is an underrated cut that often goes on sale for as low as $0.99 per pound. It offers both shoulder meat and loin meat, making it versatile for sandwiches or standalone meals with other fixings.
Pork spare ribs, especially St. Louis cut, are the most affordable type of pork ribs on a per pound basis. Baby back ribs are pricier due to better marketing, but some prefer spare ribs for their flavor and belly meat.
While beef cuts tend to be more expensive, brisket is considered a value cut at around $3-5 per pound. However, the trimming required increases the overall cost. An alternative is chuck roast, which costs around $4-5 per pound and provides similar flavor when smoked.
Bologna is a cheap and easy cut of meat to smoke, often overlooked by many articles. It can be caramelized with sugars and barbecue sauce for added flavor.
Beef jerky can be made from any cheap cut of meat by slicing it thinly against the grain and marinating it overnight. Eye of round is a popular choice due to its minimal fat content and defined grain.
Smoked hot dog burnt ends are a unique option for barbecue, offering a different twist on traditional grilling. Sliced hot dogs can be smoked and caramelized for a crowd-pleasing treat.
1. Pork Butt or Pork Shoulder
Pork butt is one of the cheapest and easiest cuts of meat to smoke. It comes from the upper shoulder of the pig and has more intramuscular fat than picnic. This extra fat makes it perfect for smoking and rendering into tender pulled pork. When selecting a pork butt, look for bone-in cuts with a firm, white fat cap and evenly marbled intramuscular fat.
Whole chickens are another affordable option for smoking. They are usually priced around $0.99 – $1.99 per pound, making them a budget-friendly choice. Buying a whole chicken allows you to separate the individual parts according to your preferences, whether it’s breasts, wings, legs, or thighs.
Pork loin is an underrated cut of meat that can be found at a great price when on sale. Look for whole or halved pork loins priced at around $0.99 per pound. The loin meat is great for sandwiches when sliced thin, while the shoulder meat is perfect for serving as a stand-alone meal.
Pork spare ribs are the most affordable type of pork ribs available for smoking. Whether you choose St. Louis cut or untrimmed spare ribs, they offer great flavor at a lower price compared to baby back ribs.
If you’re looking for a cheaper alternative to brisket, consider smoking chuck roast. It weighs around 2-3 lbs and has a similar price per pound as brisket, but without the need for extensive trimming.
Smoked bologna is an easy and inexpensive option for smoking. Look for whole chunks of bologna, such as Wunderbar brand, which can be found at around $3.99 – $4.20 per pound.
For homemade beef jerky, leaner cuts of meat work best. Eye of round is a great choice as it has minimal fat and a defined grain for easy slicing. It usually costs around $4-5 per pound.
Slice up hot dogs and serve them as smoked hot dog burnt ends for a unique twist on a backyard barbecue favorite. Choose high-quality hot dogs like Kayem brands for the best flavor.
2. Whole Chicken
Whole chicken is a cheap cut of meat that is perfect for smoking. It is often priced around $0.99 – $1.99 per pound, making it an affordable option for smoking enthusiasts. The low cost is because you are not paying for someone to butcher the chicken; instead, you can separate the individual parts yourself. This is advantageous as you can choose which parts you prefer and which ones your family likes.
From a whole chicken, you get 2 breasts, 2 wings, and 2 legs. If you prefer certain parts like thighs, wings, or legs, you can focus on smoking those specific cuts. Additionally, even if there is a shortage or unavailability of whole chickens in the grocery store, cuts like leg quarters and bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs are usually available at a similar price per pound.
3. Pork Loin
Pork loin is a super underrated cut of meat that is often overlooked. It offers a great balance of flavor and tenderness, making it an excellent choice for smoking. In some cases, you can find whole or halved pork loins on sale for as low as $0.99 per pound, which makes it an affordable option for smoking. When selecting a pork loin, look for ones that are closest to the pork butt, as they offer both shoulder meat and loin meat.
When smoked, the thin-sliced loin meat is perfect for sandwiches, while the thicker-sliced butt meat can be enjoyed as a stand-alone meal with other fixings. Unlike other cuts of meat that require long smoking times to melt collagen and connective tissues, pork loin only needs to be smoked until it reaches an internal temperature of around 145F. This means that the smoke time is relatively quick at around 2 hours.
Overall, pork loin is a budget-friendly option for smoking that offers versatility and great taste. Keep an eye out for sales and stock up when you find them at a lower price to save even more money on your smoking adventures.
4. Pork Spare Ribs
Pork spare ribs are one of the most affordable cuts of meat to smoke. They are available in both St. Louis cut and whole spare ribs. St. Louis cut ribs have the sternum, coastal cartilage, and flap removed, making them slightly more expensive than untrimmed spare ribs due to the extra labor involved in trimming. However, if you don’t plan on eating the trimmings, it’s better to spend a little more for St. Louis cut spare ribs.
Baby back ribs, which come from the loin meat, are more expensive compared to spare ribs because they are marketed better. Baby back ribs have a greater meat-to-bone ratio and are considered by some to taste better. On the other hand, spare ribs come from the belly meat and are said to have more flavor according to barbecue enthusiasts.
When choosing pork spare ribs, consider factors such as leaness and intramuscular fat content. Look for ribs with minimal intramuscular fat as it can result in a greasy texture when smoked.
5. Chuck Roast
A chuck roast is a cheap and affordable cut of beef that can be smoked to perfection. It typically weighs between 2-3 lbs and has a price per pound of around $4-5. While it may not have the same level of marbling as a brisket, it still offers great flavor and tenderness when cooked low and slow on the smoker.
When purchasing a chuck roast for smoking, it is important to choose one that is at least USDA choice grade or higher. This ensures that you are getting a quality piece of meat that will turn out delicious when smoked. Trim any excess fat from the roast before placing it in the smoker.
Smoking a chuck roast is similar to smoking a brisket in terms of technique. You will want to cook it at a low temperature (around 225F) for several hours until it reaches an internal temperature of around 195-205F. This slow cooking process allows the collagen in the meat to break down, resulting in tender and flavorful beef.
Bologna is a cheap and underrated cut of meat that is perfect for smoking. It is a cured sausage that is ready to eat, but smoking it adds a delicious smoky flavor and caramelizes the sugars and barbecue sauce. Not many articles mention bologna as a smoking option, but it is a great choice for those on a budget.
When buying bologna for smoking, look for the whole chunk instead of pre-sliced options. One recommended brand is Wunderbar, which can range from $3.99 to $4.20 per pound at local delis.
To smoke bologna, you will need a commercial barbecue rub that leans towards sugar-based flavors. Thinly slice the bologna against the grain and marinate it overnight before smoking it at around 160-180F for 6-10 hours. The end result is a delicious smoked bologna with a rich and smoky taste.
7. Beef Jerky
Beef jerky is a cheap and delicious option for smoking meat. While any cut of meat can be transformed into beef jerky, leaner cuts work best as the fat won’t render and go rancid. Eye of round is a great choice for beef jerky as it has minimal fat and a defined grain, making slicing straightforward. It usually costs around $4-5 per pound, making it an affordable option.
Other round roasts like bottom round or top round also work well for jerky and are fairly affordable. If you’re not comfortable with slicing meat, you can also source pre-sliced meat from places like Wild Fork Foods, although this may come at an extra cost. When choosing the right cut of meat for jerky, consider the presence of intramuscular fat. Flank steak, for example, has almost no intramuscular fat and makes for great jerky. Skirt steak, on the other hand, has lots of intramuscular fat and is not suitable for jerky.
Beef jerky is easy to make by thinly slicing the meat against the grain, marinating it overnight, and then smoking it at around 160-180F for 6-10 hours. A 2-3 lb eye of round roast can produce enough jerky to fill a 1 gallon ziploc bag. Whether you choose eye of round or another cheap cut of meat, beef jerky is a delicious and economical option for smoking.
8. Hot Dog Burnt Ends
Hot dog burnt ends are a delicious and affordable option for smoking meat. Instead of simply grilling hot dogs, you can slice them up and cook them to perfection on the smoker. While not as commonly mentioned as other cuts of meat, hot dogs can be transformed into a flavorful and smoky dish.
I recommend using high-quality hot dogs such as Kayem brands like Deutschmacher or Schonland. These brands offer great taste and texture, making them perfect for hot dog burnt ends. A regular box of Schonland hot dogs typically costs around $16-20 for 2.5 lbs or 20 franks.
To make hot dog burnt ends, simply slice the hot dogs into bite-sized pieces and smoke them for about 1 hour at 225F. Then, finish them off in the oven for 30-40 minutes at 375F to caramelize the sugars. The result is tender, smoky, and flavorful bites that are perfect for feeding a crowd.
In conclusion, opting for cheap meat to smoke can be a cost-effective choice, but it is important to consider the quality and source of the meat. While affordable options may save money, they may lack in taste and tenderness. Prioritizing well-raised, high-quality cuts ensures a more satisfying and flavorful smoking experience.
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