3 Beginner Smoker Recipes for the First Timer

3 Beginner Smoker Recipes for the First Timer


Dip your toe into the waters of smoked meats recipes and it's easy to get overwhelmed.

For every cut of meat, there are seemingly thousands of ways to prepare it. And that's not to mention the endless narratives that wax nostalgic leading up to each ingredient list and cooking instructions.

While there is a certain high-stakes feel to preparing anything on your ugly drum smoker for the first time, your inaugural meat smoke should be one you enjoy and produce a great dish with. It should also leave you feeling ready to take your meat-smoking abilities to the next level.

But where to start?

To that end, we've curated a few smoker recipes for beginners to help any first timer start building the foundation of a diverse BBQ repertoire.

3 Beginner Smoker Recipes for the First Timer

When we were kids, there was nothing better than ...

Just kidding.

What are the best things to smoke for beginners? The standards of BBQ that allow the first timer to gain confidence with now and experiment on later. These easy beginner smoker recipes should help you comfortably take your first steps into the world of meat smoking:

  1. Beef brisket
  2. Pork shoulder
  3. Whole chicken


1. Beef Brisket

One of the keystones of BBQ, the beef brisket is in many ways made for smoking.

Coming from the lower chest of a cow, this cut of meat is characterized -- in part -- by its toughness from connective tissue. The smoking process, however, tenderizes the meat and brings out its amazing flavor.


  • 1 brisket (about 6 lbs)
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce


The Night Before:
In a small bowl, combine paprika, garlic powder, black pepper, onion powder, cayenne pepper, apple cider vinegar, ketchup, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, and soy sauce. Apply the mixture all over the brisket and refrigerate.

Of note, you can apply the mixture to the cut as far as 24 hours or as close as 2 hours to your smoke. We've found applying it the night before gives your meat enough time to get to know its covering.

The Day Of:

  • Preheat your smoker to 275℉
  • Place brisket on smoker and cook for 6 to 8 hours, adding smoker chips or chunks as necessary (we recommend hickory)
  • Once the brisket reaches an internal temperature of 200℉, it's ready to be removed
  • Allow the cut to rest for at least 1 hour before slicing


Pro tip: While it's tempting to want to look at your brisket (or any meat) as it cooks, only do this rarely. Whenever you open the lid to your smoker, heat escapes and your meat loses the benefit of smoke at a consistent temperature.

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2. Pork Shoulder

The foundation of many a good sandwich or piled high open plate, the pork shoulder boasts a bold, yet sweet flavor.

Like the beef brisket, a pork shoulder is ideal for smoking. In long smoke sessions, the shoulder becomes tender and its flavor profile pops. Unlike its contemporary, the pork butt, a pork shoulder is less fatty and has less marbling.


  • 1 pork shoulder (6-8 lbs)
  • Approximately 1 cup yellow mustard
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper


The Night Before:

  • Pat the pork shoulder dry with paper towels and coat it in a thin layer of mustard (To those who have a distaste for mustard -- don't worry, the mustard flavor goes away during the smoke.)
  • Combine brown sugar, smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, and black pepper to create a rub.
  • Apply your rub all over the shoulder and refrigerate. Note: “Rub” is a misnomer - you’re not giving the meat a massage. Rather, coat the cut and pat it gently to ensure a thorough and even application.

The Day Of:

  • Preheat your smoker to 225℉
  • Smoke the pork shoulder for 6-8 hours, adding smoking chips or chunks as necessary (we recommend a combination of hickory and apple wood)
  • Remove the shoulder from the smoker (it should be at 200℉ internal) and let rest for 1 hour before carving, pulling, or shredding

Starting Out With Your Own Smokin’ Ugly Drum Smoker?

You’ll want to read our “Ugly Drum Smoker: A First Timer’s Guide

3. Whole Chicken

The humble chicken -- the standard to what many other types of meat are compared to and a mainstay of smoking.

Similar to barbecuing, it's hard to go wrong with a smoked whole chicken. A faster smoke and a versatile meat, a whole chicken appeals to the masses and has a great presentation.


  • 1/4 cup paprika
  • 1/4 cup garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 whole chicken


The Night Before:

  • Rinse the chicken inside and out, then pat it dry with paper towels.
  • Combine paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, black paper, cumin, chili powder and salt to create a rub.
  • Apply rub to the outside of the bird in an even coating. At most, pat the rub onto the chicken (don't actually rub it in). Any leftover rub can be sprinkled inside the cavity of the chicken.

The Day Of:

  • Preheat your smoker to 225℉
  • Place the chicken in the smoker and smoke for about 3 hours, adding smoking chips or chunks as necessary (we recommend a combination of apple or cherry wood) or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 165℉
  • Remove the chicken from the smoker and let it rest for 10 minutes before carving and serving

Beginner Smoker Recipes: Your First Step Into a Much Larger World

Though your first time using a meat smoker is usually the most stressful, the end result is also the most memorable. There’s nothing like enjoying a smoked meat you carefully prepared.

Remember: these beginner smoker recipes are only a start. With these basic recipes mastered, the sky’s the limit for your BBQ.

Hungry for More Recipes?

Download our Smokin' Ugly Cookbook:


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