Cheapest Meat to Smoke – 9 Tasty Options!

January 27, 2023
Written by Kristy J. Norton

Generally, the most tender cuts of meat tend to be expensive. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t prepare tender meals with affordable meat cuts.

If you’re looking for your next barbecue, you don’t have to break the bank to have a delicious plate. Instead, concentrate on using traditional, high-quality, low-cost cuts of meat. From experience, chicken is the cheapest meat to smoke. 

Today, I’ll discuss the tastiest and cheapest cuts I’ve smoked over the years and highlight the nine cheapest cuts of meat. We’ll also examine a few meat smoking tips to ensure you always get wonderful results.

cheapest meat to smoke

9 Cheapest Meats to Smoke

Price Summary


Price (Avg)

Whole Chicken

$1 - $2



Pork Shoulder


Pork loin

$2 - $4

Ground Beef



$3 - $7

Lamb Breast


Chuck Roast


Pork Ribs


1. Whole Chicken

First, we’ll start with the cheapest cut of meat. Chicken holds up well in smokers and can be prepared in several delicious ways. 

In my opinion, I don’t think any other protein can provide these many options to chefs. Typically, the price of a whole chicken will be considerably less than other chicken cuts.

For example, whole chicken costs $1 to $2 per pound, while the price of chicken cuts can range between $3-$5 per pound.

The most expensive cuts of whole chickens are the breasts. However, chicken thighs and wings are cheap cuts and work just as well.

Overall, I’m a huge fan of the versatility of whole chicken, and this bird gives me so many cooking options.

Pro tip: You can remove the skin of the chicken thigh or breast for a leaner meal with a little fat cap.

Roasted Whole Chicken

2. Turkey

Turkey is another affordable meat that tastes delicious when smoked. I particularly like smoking turkey breast, as it’s tender and flavorful.

Turkey is one of the best cuts of meat for smoking because it absorbs flavors and cooks consistently. You can also experiment with seasoning to make a unique platter of turkey for your taste preferences. Keep in mind that turkey costs $2 a pound on average.

Roasted Turkey Dinner with Fruits and Veggies

3. Pork Shoulder

Pork shoulder has always been regarded as one of the most delicious and inexpensive cuts of meat for smoking. Taken from the upper shoulder of the pig, this cut of meat is simple to cook, and the natural sweetness makes this protein hard to drop.  

Pork shoulder is among the cheapest cuts of meat you can use to make roasts, pulled pork sandwiches, and other tasty recipes. Remember, pork shoulder costs less than $2 per pound.

Like pork ribs, the pork shoulder takes a long time to fully smoke. BBQers can expect to finish smoking a pound of pork shoulder in about 60 to 80 minutes

Baked Pork Shoulder

4. Pork Loin

Pork loin is another pork cut that is cheap to buy and easy to smoke. Pork loins typically sell at around $2 to $4 per pound.

It is a flavorful meat cut that tastes divine when smoked, even with low to moderate seasoning.

You can use this cheap cut to serve your guests as a stand-alone meal or as a filling for sandwiches, including pulled pork sandwiches. In addition, pork loin cooks quickly.

With pork loin, you should stop smoking at an internal temperature of about 145 degrees Fahrenheit. You’ll also need to smoke this piece of meat for about two hours

Roasted Pork Loin

5. Ground Beef

If you’re going to have beef at your barbeque, ground chuck is one of the cheaper cuts of meat you can buy.

Burgers are usually a good choice when hosting barbecues, and you can spice them up with tasty extras or toppings while still keeping the price down.

Avoid the leaner, more expensive ground beef, such as the top round and flank steak to save money. Bear in mind that a pound of ground beef typically costs around $3.

Hot and Juicy Cooked Ground Beef

6. Brisket

Beef brisket is a staple of smoked and barbecued cuisine. This meat is taken from the lower chest and belly of the steer. Beef brisket can be one of the toughest meats to cook.

Beef brisket often ranges from $3 to $7 per pound. However, some brisket cuts cost as high as $20 per pound.

Beef brisket will benefit most from a lengthy, slow roast at 200–210 degrees. Ensure that you let the smoked brisket rest for around 30 minutes after smoking.  

For the tastiest results, I suggest you chop the flesh against the grain to prevent it from becoming tough and rubbery.

Sliced Smoked Brisket

7. Lamb Breast

Depending on the cut, lamb can be pricey. Popular lamb cuts like the leg, rack, and loin will cost more than other parts of the sheep meat.

However, the breast is a flavorful, less expensive alternative. Lamb’s breasts are a tasty and soft cut of the lamb because it is taken from the rib area, close to the lamb’s rack.

Walmart’s lamb breasts cost roughly $4 per pound. However, you should find cheaper lamb breasts at your local butcher’s shop.

You can buy the breast meat with ribs attached, or have them removed. Making lamb kebabs with veggies can be an affordable and creative dish for your guests or family.  Plus, smoking kebabs can feed more people at the gathering.      

Grilled Lamb Breast

8. Chuck Roast

Like the chuck eye steak, the chuck roast comes from the shoulder of the cow (which is a heavily used muscle in the cow).

So, you can expect the meat to be tough, and you need to cook the chuck roast under low temperatures. 

That said, I found that the chuck roast tastes excellent when smoked slowly on low heat. This inexpensive cut comes out of the oven juicy and is jam-packed with tasty flavors. Chuck roast typically costs around $5 per pound.

Related Reading

Sliced Slowly Cooked Chuck Roast

9. Pork Ribs

Pork ribs are a great candidate for smoking a delicious barbecue. In addition to being simple to prepare, everybody loves ribs. Make sure you select pork ribs with more meat than bones.

Generally, pork ribs start at about $6 per pound. Additionally, beef ribs are another tasty and tender alternative to pork spare ribs. Typically, the price of beef ribs ranges from $4 to $6 per pound.

Pork Spare Ribs

Tips for Smoking Meat

Now you know nine cheap cuts of meat you can smoke. Let’s discuss some smoking tips to ensure that you consistently produce delicious results.

1. Smoke Slowly on Low Heat 

From experience, it’s usually best to smoke your desired cuts of meat slowly at lower temperatures.

This technique will give the meat’s proteins and fat enough time to cook properly, absorbing all the meat’s juices for a tasty outcome. 

Remember, if you rush when smoking meat, you may be left with tough or undercooked meat. So, take your time. It’ll be worth it!

2. Watch the Smoke

Traditional BBQers have long criticized pellet smokers for not producing enough smoke. It may be tempting to believe that more smoke translates to more flavor.

However, this is not the case. Let me explain. Incomplete combustion typically results in thick clouds of smoke, which give your meat a bitter, charred flavor.

The objective should be to get your smoker to produce thin, blue smoke that will give your dish a delicious smoky flavor.

3. Use a Water Tray

Humidity affects how long meat cooks when smoked. The meat starts to lose moisture as the temperature increases.  

Keeping the smoking chamber humid by using a tray of water will help to reduce the effects of evaporative cooling, resulting in juicier cuts of meat and faster cooking times. 

In addition, you can also add porous rocks to the water tray for even better results.

4. Keep the Smoker’s Lid Shut

Opening the grill’s lids too often will cause temperature changes which lengthen the smoking time of your meat cuts. So, it’s best to trust the process; keep the lid closed and let it cook.

5. Allow the Meat to Rest

Grilling meat requires patience. It’s crucial to remember to give the smoked meat time to rest.

Resting the smoked meat will allow it to marinate in its juices and produce a cleaner cut. I recommend covering the meat with foil and kitchen towels after pulling it out of the smoker. Once ready, you can enjoy the meat with barbecue sauce and other toppings.

Grilled Lamb Chops Engulfed in Flames on a Barbecue Grill

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What Cuts of Meat Are the Easiest to Smoke?

Cuts of meat with high fat content like pork butt, beef brisket, and pork ribs are the easiest to smoke. Although smoking can dry out other types of meat, pork butt and brisket have more fat that helps them stay moist and tender. 

2. Is Smoking Meat Healthier?

Smoking cheap cuts of meat are healthy because it typically doesn’t involve using fats, oils, or sauces. Furthermore, smoking can help minimize dietary fat by allowing it to leak out during the smoking process, resulting in a healthier result.

Wrapping It Up

There are several inexpensive cuts of meat you can smoke for your guests. You don’t always have to spend a fortune at the butcher’s shop to cook delicious meat.

Fortunately, the ten meat cuts we discussed are an excellent option for people who want to save money without sacrificing the taste of quality meat.

I recommend asking your butcher for help in selecting meat cuts to get a better deal and enjoy the most value for money. Furthermore, ensure that you follow our tips and enjoy the delicious results.

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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