Smoking Times and Temperatures Chart: An Outline of Slow Cooking

Smoking Times and Temperatures Chart: A Detailed Outline of Slow Cooking

If you're looking to slow roast some of your favorite meat (or food) and you're not sure what smoking times and temperatures to cook it at, don't worry, we have you covered. We can explain to you exactly everything you need to do to get the best tasting food possible.

Smoking food involves exposing the food to smoke from a fire. It tastes best if it's a fire that's created from hardwood. The twos ways to smoke food are hot smoking, which is when the temperature is between 100 and 250 degrees Fahrenheit, and there's also cold smoking, which is when the temperature is less than 100 degrees.

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If you're new to smoking food, it's important to make sure you have all the right equipment before you think about smoking your favorite dish. A good smoker, a thermometer to check the outside temperature, and a digital meat thermometer to check the final temperature of the meat when you think you're done the cooking.

The only type of wood you should use to smoke food is natural hardwoods. Find hardwoods that are low in resin and high in flavor. 

We included a little cheat sheet below (starter guide) for when it comes to the different types of wood you should use when it comes to cooking a variety of different foods. A good note to keep in mind is that you don't want to smoke your meat for more than half the time you're cooking it.

Best Woods for Smoking Meats Chart

Best woods for smoking food

Best woods for smoking meats (different types of food)

Selecting the right smoker can be essential to cooking. You can smoke with anything between a hole in the ground, to a top of the line, $20,00 smoker. The fuel can range from a variety of different sources including electricity, charcoal, and hardwood. 

When choosing your smoker, keep in mind that if your smoker isn't suited for hardwood, then you might not end up with a tasty satisfying smoky flavor to the food that so many people desire.

If you do decide to use hardwood, it's important to soak the wood in water for about an hour before you begin to smoke your food. Wet wood is going to last you a lot longer (hours longer), while smoking with fresh wood, the wood can burn away in 20 minutes or less. 

The best thing you can do with wood chips is soaked them in water for over an hour and then later put them in an aluminum foil pouch and poke the pouch with several tiny holes. This should allow them to smoke for several hours and leave your meat with a succulent smokey taste.

Hopefully, you have a good idea on what the next meal you want to cook on your slow roaster is. If you're new to the grilling world, don't be afraid to go online, do some research, and ask questions. 

These tips will give you a much better understanding of how to cook and prepare different types of meats and should help you be well on your way to learning how to make the best tasting foods possible.

The Benefits of Slow Smoking Your Meat

Keeping your temperature low, and slowly roasting your meat is going to allow the smoke enough time to settle into the meat and give it that delicious flavor everyone is looking for. 

The other thing that slow roasting your meat will do, is it will make your meat nice and tender to where the meat could just fall off and you can eat it with barely needing your teeth.

No longer is slow roasting used to just preserve meat. It's going to be one of the best ways to prepare your food for your friends and family. It's also going to have the food tasting way better than anything you've tried before, and it's also going to be a lot healthier for you.

There won't be much grease or oil in the food when slow cooking. You'll be able to control the cooking process every step along the way since you'll be having a constant eye on it when patiently waiting for it to cook.

You can also save on a lot of money depending on the type of slow cooker you get. I've found that wood pellets or hardwood have been the most cost-efficient ways of slow cooking my meat (this comes from someone who's had multiple smokers of all different types).

Smoking Times and Temperatures Chart

Let's get into some tips and tricks so you can have a better understanding on which meats to cook at what temperature, as well as some good information on how to season your meat and also what you can do to make the flavor stand out more.

Smoking Times and Temperatures Chart

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Beef Smoking Times and Temperatures

Time

Smoking Temp

Finished Temp

Short Ribs

6-8hr

225-2500F

190-2000F

Back Ribs

3-4hr

225-2500F

185-1900F

Beef Brisket

12-20hr

225-2500F

190-2050F

Prime Rib

1hr/4lbs

225-2500F

140-1450F

Chuck Roast

12-20hr

225-2500F

190-2000F

Rump Roast

30min/lb

225-2500F

1450F

Tri-Tip

2-3hr

225-2500F

130-1400F

Sausage

30-60min

225-2500F

1600F

Spare Ribs

5-6hr

225-2500F

190-2030F

Tenderloin

2.5-3hr

225-2500F

190-2000F

Whole Ribeye

25min/lb

225-2500F

1350F

Tips on Smoking Beef Brisket

Brisket is going to take more time than any of the other meats to smoke. There's a nice and easy math equation that you can do to make sure you cook the brisket properly. You should cook the meat for one and a half hours for every pound of meat you have. 

Make sure to do the math ahead of time before you start cooking, that way you know how long you're going to need the fire to go for. The temperature should be heated up between 200 F and 230 F.

Brisket tends to dry fast and if you have the meat low to the fire, you might want to try wrapping the brisket in foil after the first five to six hours, otherwise, you'll have to mop (or baste) it every hour to keep the surface nice and moist. 

If you're using a water smoker, it's ok to leave it fat side up the entire time. With an offset smoker, you'll want to turn it every few hours to prevent the bottom from drying out.

When measuring the temperature of the final product, it should be as close to 180 F as possible. Find the thickest part of the meat and plug your meat thermometer into it. Make sure to avoid the fat when checking the temperature.

Carving the Brisket - When you take the brisket out of the smoker, let it sit for about 10 - 15 minutes before you start carving. When you carve the brisket, lay the brisket fat side down. 

When you look at the grain and fat line, you should be able to see it very clearly. Carve the remaining layers of fat off. Carve across the grain and carve thin, long strips of meat, about the thickness of a pencil. You should come out with long rectangular pieces of meat.

Tips on Smoking Beef Back Ribs

Back ribs (beef) are usually cooked between four and six hours, depending on how thick they are. It's advised that you should cut the ribs apart before you begin cooking. This will allow the meat to cook more thoroughly and take less time.

You should want to hold the temperature around 225 F for up to four hours (or six depending on the size of the ribs). Prepare the ribs by removing the membrane from the underside of the ribs and make sure to trim off any loose meat or fat.

The temperature of the ribs when you slather any extra sauces on them should be at 175 F. After 10 minutes, turn the ribs over and brush the other side during the cooking process. The final temperature of the ribs when finished should be between 185 F and 190 F.

Check here to know better way to smoke beef ribs.

Tips on Smoking Short Ribs

Short ribs can take anywhere from six to eight hours to cook. You should preheat the smoker to 255 F to get a really nice crunchy smoky flavored tasting rib. The finished temperature should be between 190 F and 200 F.

Make sure to take your ribs out of the refrigerator (should already be completely thawed) at least one hour before you decide to cook them. Add a thin coat of mustard, vinegar, olive oil, honey, or Worcestershire sauce to your ribs before you smoke them and make sure to coat both sides of the ribs with a rub (be liberal with the rub). 

Using a "mop" with two tablespoons of your dry rub and a cup of vinegar, apple cider, or beer will go a long way in making sure your short ribs don't end up dry. 

I would mop your ribs every 45 minutes and for the last 30 minutes of cooking, mop them a final time and wrap them in aluminum foil to make them really tender. It will force the meat to reabsorb the liquids that were lost during the cooking time.

When it comes to different woods to use for ribs, I've found the best-tasting smoke comes from hickory, mesquite, oak, alder, apple, pecan, and maple wood.

Tips for Cooking Tenderloin

The tenderloin should be cooked around 225 F because it's already tender meat and doesn't need too much heat to break down the toughness. You're going to want to cook them for close to three hours. Salt the slab of meat with two tablespoons of kosher salt and spread butter all over them to help keep the moisture in while cooking. 

The inside temperature should be around 145 F to make sure it isn't overcooked and it will hold it's moisture well. You want to have a pink look all the way around with no gray ring when it's done.

The best wood for cooking tenderloin I've found to be pecan wood. Finish it with some Madeira garlic sauce and peppering it with black pepper can be just the perfect touch you're looking for when seasoning it.

Pork Smoking Times and Temperatures

Time

Smoking Temp

Finished Temp

Whole Pork

16-18hr

225-2500F

​2050F

Pork Butt

1.5hr/lb

225-2500F

​2050F

Tenderloin

2.5-3hr

225-2500F

​1600F

Baby Back Ribs

5hr

225-2500F

​1800F

Belly Bacon

6hr

<1000F

1400F

Spare Ribs

5-7hr

225-2500F

180-1850F

Loin

4-5hr

225-2500F

1450F

Pork Sausage

1-3hr

225-2500F

16​50F

Tips for Cooking Pork Shoulder or Pork Butt

You're going to want to spend one hour of cook time per pound of meat when cooking pork shoulder or pork butt. The ideal size is around 12 lbs of meat. So it should take on average 12 hours to fully cook. As with any meat, make sure you completely thaw it first before you plan to smoke it. 

With pork shoulder feel free to rub your sauce on it before you start smoking it. Cut any excess fats on the meat (including any big pieces of meat that's hanging). It's best to use the low and slow method and keep the temperature between 225 F and 250 F. 

This is a good meat to wrap once the inside temperature gets between 160 F and 165 F. You'll want to take it off and wrap it in aluminum foil, and then put it back in until the internal temperature reaches between 190 F and 195 F.

Tips for Cooking Baby Back Ribs

Baby back ribs aren't going to take nearly as long to cook due to the fact that they don't have as much meat on them as some of the other meats that we cook. Typically five hours should be enough time to get them cooked all the way through. 

The outside temperature should be between 225 F and 250 F and should be 165 F inside when finished cooking.

Tips for Slow Cooking Pork Belly

Pork belly is one of the most delicious meats you can slow cook. It has an abundance of fat making it great for slow cooking because of how tender the meat will be. Leave the pork belly in the fridge uncovered for about one hour after it's completely thawed. Rub the skin with oil and a generous amount of salt to cure it.

You're going to want to go low and slow with pork belly with the temperature being between 90 F and 95 F. Slow roast it between four and six hours, and the final temperature should read at 140 F.

I've found that alder wood, apple, cherry, hickory, and oak make the best woods to slow roast it with as the sweet flavor tastes delectable with the meaty fat of the pork belly.

Tips for Pork Sausage

Pork sausages are another meat that you can quickly roast in your smoker. They usually take between one to three hours to smoke and should be cooked between 225 F and 250 F. The inside temperature should be 165 F when finished. 

You should always preheat your smoker at least one hour beforehand. When you put the sausages in the smoker, add some wood to get the heat higher and to produce more smoke. 

You don't need to rotate or turn the sausages when they're cooking, however, you should put some tiny holes into the sausages before you start cooking them to allow the heat to escape.

Lamb Smoking Times and Temperatures

Time

Smoking Temp

Finished Temp

Lamb Leg

4-8hr

225-2500F

​140-1500F

Lamb Rack

1.25hr

200-2​250F

​​135-1400F

Lamb Shoulder

5-5.5hr

225-2500F

1700F

Lamb Shank

4-5hr

225-2500F

1900F

Tips for Lamb Smoking

All the smoking temperatures for smoking lamb should be between 225 F and 250 F. The difference is going to be for how long you cook it as well as the final inside temperature when done.

Lamb Leg - Cook between four and eight hours until the inside temperature reaches between 140 F and 150 F. The best thing to do when adding a sauce is to marinate your lamb 5 - 10 hours earlier and soak it in a plastic bag during that time.

Lamb Shoulder - Cooking lamb shoulder should take between five and five and a half hours. The final temperature inside should be at 170 F. If you've never cooked lamb shoulder before, we recommend going boneless because it will make it a lot easier to cut and cook.

Lamb Shank - Lamb shank should be cooked for four to five hours. You should be looking for the final reading on the thermometer to be at 190 F.

Poultry Smoking Times and Temperatures

Time

Smoking Temp

Finished Temp

Chicken Whole

2-3hr

275-3500F

1700F

Chicken Wings

1.25hr

275-3500F

185-1900F

Chicken Thighs

1.5hr

275-3500F

1700F

Chicken Quarter

1-2hr

275-3500F

1700F

Turkey Whole

4-5hr

275-3500F

1700F

Turkey Breast

4hr

275-3500F

1650F

Turkey Wings

2-2.5hr

225-2500F

1​700F

Turkey Leg

2-3hr

225-2500F

1​700F

Whole Duck

4hr

225-2500F

1650F

Cornish Hens

2hr

2400F

1650F

Quail/Pheasant

1hr

​2250F

1650F

Tips for Cooking Poultry

Cooking poultry, in general, you should set the smoking temperature between 275 F and 350 F. The exception being quail/pheasant and whole duck. Quail being cooked at 225 F and when cooking a whole duck you should cook it between 225 F and 250 F.

  • Tips for Cooking Whole Turkey - At 275 F your turkey should take around 25 minutes per pound to cook. For cooking a turkey, you can rub your choice of preferred oil on it before sticking it in the smoker. Preheat your smoker to the required temperature and after about 10 minutes go ahead and stick the whole turkey in. Turkey is great when cooked with any sort of sweet tasting hardwood. Some of my favorites are using mulberry, cherry, and pecan hardwood.

You can find some really amazing hardwood pellets here to meet all of your flavoring needs. 

Which flavor pellets chart

Which flavor pellets

Find you pellets flavor

The turkey should be done when the inside temperature reaches 165 F because the temperature will continue to rise once it's been taken out of the smoker.

  • Turkey Legs - Cooked between two and three hours
  • Turkey Wings - Cooked between two and two and a half hours
  • Turkey Breasts - Cooked for four hours
  • Whole Chicken - A whole chicken should take between two to five hours to smoke. Average time being four hours. The average size of a chicken is around 4 lbs, give or take half a pound. Your chicken will need to be cooked between 275 F and 350 F and the internal temperature should read 165 F to know that it's properly done. When smoking chicken it's important to season the chicken before you put it on the smoker.
  • Tips for Cooking Chicken Thighs - The low and slow method is the optimum method we like to use when cooking chicken thighs. You'll get the crispy tasting skin if done correctly and the meat should be juicy and tender. When seasoning the chicken, go as light or heavy as you feel necessary, just make sure you cover the whole piece of meat for a consistent taste in flavor no matter what part you decide to bite into.
  • Chicken Leg - Cook for one and a half hours. Details smoking tips here.
  • Chicken Wings - Cook for one hour and fifteen minutes

Fish & Seafood Smoking Times and Temperatures

Time

Smoking Temp

Finished Temp

Salmon Whole

Starts to flake

2000F

1​450F

Salmon Fillet

1hr

​2200F

1450F

Lobster Tails

45mi

​2250F

1400F

Trout Whole

1hr

2250F

1450F

Tilapia Fillet

1hr

​2200F

1450F

Oysters

30-40min

2250F

N/A

Shrimp

20-30min

2250F

N/A

Scallops

45-60min

​2250F

1450F

Tips for Cooking Salmon Filet

Smoking salmon filet should be done at a temperature of 220 F for one hour. One of the best things to do for salmon filet is to mix some brine (can use water, salt, and brown or white sugar) with your fish into a plastic container and let it sit until the brine reaches a temperature of 40 F or lower (should put in the refrigerator).

Next thing you want to do is pat the brine dry. Once you've finished that, let your fish dry for a maximum of two to four hours. Then preheat your smoker to 220 F and cook for one hour. Add seasonings once the fillet has finished cooking. The final temperature should be 145 F inside.

Tips for Cooking Whole Trout

You should always smoke trout at 225 F, and it should be cooked for one hour as well. You should also prepare brine for your trout but you don't need to have as much of it for your trout as you would for salmon. As with any fish, clean the fish before brining. If you want to add some extra seasoning, we suggest adding some olive oil, garlic, or black pepper for a delicious taste.

Trout needs to be smoked for a minimum of one hour, but you can leave it on a tad bit longer to let the flavor soak in a little more. Just make sure that the fish doesn't dry out.

Tips for Cooking Lobster Tails

There are many ways to cook lobster tails but slow cooking them is my favorite. Most people don't slow cook seafood because they're afraid of trying new things, but this might be one of the best seafood to slow roast.

I like to marinate my lobster tails in white cooking wine, butter, and garlic before sticking it in to cook. Get the temperature up to 225 F and cook for 45 minutes. During the last 5 - 10 minutes, I like to soak them one more time and then wrap them in aluminum foil before putting them back in to cook. 

The final temperature should be 140 F and the meat should come out having a medium golden tint.

Vegetables & Various Smoking Times and Temperatures

Time

Smoking Temp

Finished Temp

Smoked Corn

1.5-2hr

225-2400F

N/A

Boudin

2hr

225-2400F

N/A

Smoked Potato

2-3hr

225-2400F

N/A

Brats

2hr

225-2400F

N/A

Tips for Cooking Smoked Potatoes

For potatoes, I like to completely rub butter all over them and season them before I smoke them. I tend to use an ample amount of seasoning to really make the flavor stand out. Extra wood pellets will help the temperature stay where you need it to be, which is between 225 F and 240 F.

They should be in the smoke for a minimum of two to three hours at that temperature to end up completely cooked.

Tips for Smoking Corn

Corn is pretty easy to smoke. Get a pan or some other oven equipment and pour butter or oil all over it (butter over oil is preferred). Cooking corn should only take between one and a half to two hours, at temperatures between 225 F and 240 F. Also make sure to keep adding wood pellets to moderate your temperature and sustain it to where it needs to be.

Tips for Cooking Boudins & Brats

These are fairly straight forward to cook. Cook them at a temperature between 225 F and 240 F for a minimum of two hours. Goes great with hickory, oak, or any type of fruity hardwood (apple, cherry, pear, peach, etc).

Other Tips & Advice

When smoking meat (or foods) outdoors, make sure that you take the temperature outside into consideration. If you can find a smoker that is completely contained and isn't open, it will go much further for reaching the desired temperature you want when cooking outside in your smoker.

Make sure to buy a good digital meat thermometer. You don't want to leave yourself guessing to what temperature the meat is at because cooking undercooked or overcooked meat can be harmful to your health. Even worse, it can give you a bad reputation as a chef!

When smoking your food, you want to aim for a constant stream of white or bluish colored smoke (black smoke is bad). If you're adding too much wood to the fire, you can often times get an unpleasant bitter taste to your food. Make sure your fire has enough ventilation and you don't overdo it with the wood.

Check the temperature around every hour to make sure you're keeping a steady temperature throughout the entire time you're cooking. Be careful not to peek and open the lid (unless you need to tend to the fire), as when you open the lid, you'll lose heat and smoke (two of the most important elements to making an extraordinary meal).

Learn to put the right amount of sauce on. You don't want to overpower the amazing flavor of your smoked meat with a potent sauce. This is what differentiates the professionals from the amateurs. 

Being able to tell what meats to use a generous amount of best sauce on and other meats that you should be more conservative with the seasonings can be a make it or break it scenario for how your food ends up tasting.

Some More Things to Keep in Mind When Smoking Your Meat

  • How thick the meat you're cooking is (the thicker it is, the longer you'll need to leave it cooking for)
  • Whether or not the meat has been deboned (if it has bones still in the meat, it's going to require a longer cooking period. We recommend always getting deboned meat when possible)
  • How much fat does the meat have (the more fat on the meat and the thicker the meat, the longer the cooking time)
  • The weather elements and how well insulated is the type of smoker you have (if it's cold outside you have to have an enclosed smoker as cooking with the cold elements of the wind and outdoor temperatures can prevent you from getting the correct temperatures outside unless you have an enclosed smoker)
  • Using charcoal or hardwood, the type of wood you use will affect the flavor of the meat (the first hour is the most important when using hardwood. Use the lowest temperature possible when smoking for the first hour to really get the flavor of the wood into the meat)
  • Always make sure to marinate the meat and keep it in the refrigerator and completely thaw it before throwing it into the smoker (if you don't thaw the meat all the way you can end up with unevenly cooked meat)

The summary is as follows:

Now that you have a great idea on how to start slow roasting your meat, you can experiment as much as you need until you find out exactly what's right for you. If you find that your meat is being overcooked or undercooked, there are a few things that you can do to help recover the meat.

If you've found that you've accidentally overcooked the meat, what you can do is put it back into the smoker and reheat the smoker slowly at a lower temperature. This is going to let the meat tenderize again. But you have to be careful as you're only going to get one chance at re-tenderizing the meat. So make sure you pay close attention to the meat and the amount of heat you're using.

When you've accidentally undercooked the meat, you can cut it into smaller pieces and heat up the temperature 50 F to 100 F higher than you had it at before. Don't ever go past 350 F though. You should always be aiming for the final internal temperature as stated above.

Follow the steps carefully here to avoid food poisoning.

Slow roasting isn't just for professionals. It's also for anyone that loves having BBQs and for anyone that's willing to put a little time and sweat into learning how to make a perfect meal.

Some people want to impress friends and family members, and other people simply love the taste of a slow cooked meal. Whatever reason you choose to slow roast your meal, it's a mighty fine reason, as it's the best way possible to prepare a meal for your loved ones.

One last tip is that not all meats cook the same. Some meats you want to go low and slow throughout the entire process, and for thicker cut steaks, pork chops, chicken, and even potatoes, they taste great if you start low and finish high. Typically starting between 210 F and 250 F, and finishing at a higher temperature, usually around 275 F.

This should give you a much better idea on how to slow smoke your meat and veggies. If not, at the very least, hopefully, you've learned one or two things that you can try next time you go to the grill. Slow smoking is more of an art than a science and with a little practice and experimentation, you can have all your friends and family wishing they were at your next backyard BBQ.

Theresa Lori
 

Hi, I'm Theresa. My passion for grilling delicacy gradually built during the time I was living with my parents. My family members especially my mother was a great fan of grilled dishes to and from the love of food. I started preparing smoked food with my mom. This bonding helped me to know more and more about to smoke, grill delicacies and also with smokers. So, in a word you can tell me a BBQ lover.

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