How Long Does It Actually Take to Smoke Meat?

It is believed that Romanians were the first to start smoking meat to make it last longer way back in the 1800s.

Since then, as technology and knowledge have improved, smoking meat has become a cross between art and science.

pieces of smoked meat on plate
pieces of smoked meat on plate

If you want to give it a go, one question you may be wondering is: how long does it take to smoke meat?

Smoking can take 1 to 24 hours depending on the cut, type, thickness, and weight of the meat. Different temperatures, and the quality of your smoker all play a major role in how long it all takes. Pork typically takes the longest, while seafood is usually done faster.

When I said it is a cross between art and science, here is what I meant: the professionals have given us guidelines for smoking different types of meat; the art is taking those guidelines to your own smoker and playing around until you get that perfect taste.

If you are smoking meat like pork or chicken that can carry devastating health issues if it is not properly cured or cooked, you must follow the guidelines – at least as a minimum amount of time to cure. If it is not cured long enough the center part of the cut could still carry harmful bacteria, microorganisms, roundworms, and viruses.

I have a few basic tables for you to ensure your meat is properly cured and fit (and tasty) for consumption just below.

Beef Smoke Times

CutSize/WeightSmoker Temperature In FahrenheitSafe Finished Meat Temperature In FahrenheitTime to Smoke
BrisketSize affects the cook time; skewer should meet no resistance when the brisket is ready225 – 250190 – 20512 – 20 hours
Tri-Tip2 – 3 lbs.225 – 2401452 hours
Prime Rib4 – 7 bones225 – 2501454 – 5 hours (15 minutes per pound)
SteakTime depends on the thickness of the cut; can be finished at 75% by searing on the grill210 – 220145 Prime rib            225-250° F   135° F for Medium            15 minutes/lbs.45 – 60 minutes
FattiesTime depends on the thickness of the fatty225 – 2401603 hours
Chuck Roast3 – 4 lbs.225 – 250145  8 – 10 hours
BurgersAccording to thickness and taste2251601 hour
Back RibCut apart before smoking225 – 250185 – 1903 – 5 hours
Short RibTimes will vary according to size225 – 2401456 – 8 hours
Beef Country Style RibDone when tender225 – 2401453 – 4 hours
MeatloafTime depends on the thickness of the loaf225 – 2401603 hours
Spare RibTime depends on thickness and overall size of the ribs225 – 250190 – 2035 – 6 hours
Rump Roast 225 – 25014530 minutes per pound for well done
Whole Ribeye 225 – 25013525 minutes per pound for medium
Sausage 225 – 150  16030 – 60 minutes
Tenderloin 225 – 250  130 – 1402 ½ – 3 hours

Pork Smoke Times

CutSize/WeightSmoker Temperature In FahrenheitSafe Finished Meat Temperature In FahrenheitTime to Smoke
Whole Hog 225 – 25020516 – 18 hours per 10 pounds
Spare Rib 225 – 250180 – 1855 – 7 hours
Belly Bacon Less than 1001406 hours
Pork Butt 225 – 2502051 ½ – hours   per pound
Loin8 – 10 lbs.225 – 25014512 – 15 hours
Tenderloin1 ½ – 2 lbs.225 – 2501602 ½ – 3 hours
Baby Back Rib 225 – 2501805 hours
Pork Sausage 225 – 2501651 – 3 hours

Lamb Smoke Times

CutSize/WeightSmoker Temperature In FahrenheitMedium Rare Temperature (Chef Recommended) In FahrenheitSafe Finished Meat Temperature In FahrenheitTime to Smoke
Lamb Shank 225 – 250 1904 – 5 hours
Lamb Shoulder 225 – 250 1705 ½ – 5 hours
Lamb Rack 200 – 225 135 – 1401 ¼ hours
Lamb Leg7 – 9 lbs.225 – 250 140 – 1504 – 8 hours

Poultry Smoke Times

CutSize/WeightSmoker Temperature In FahrenheitSafe Finished Meat Temperature In FahrenheitTime to Smoke
Whole Chicken2 ½ – 3 lbs.  275 – 3501702 – 3 hours
Chicken Thighs 275 – 3501701 ½ hours
Chicken Wings 275 – 3501701 ¼ hours
Chicken Quarters 275 – 3501701 – 2 hours
Whole Duck4 – 5 lbs.225 – 2501653 ½ – 4 hours
Quail / Pheasant 2251651 hour
Whole Turkey10 – 12 lbs.275 – 3501707 – 8 hours
Turkey Wings 275 – 3501702 – 2 ½ hours
Turkey Breast 275 – 3501654 hours
Turkey Leg 275 – 3501702 – 3 hours
Cornish Hen 2401652 hours

Seafood Smoke Times

CutSize/WeightSmoker Temperature In FahrenheitSafe Finished Meat Temperature In FahrenheitTime to Smoke
Lobster Tails 22514045 minutes
Scallops 22514560 minutes
Whole Salmon4 – 6 lbs.2001453 ½ – 4 hours (Until it starts to flake)
Salmon Filet4 – 6 oz.2201451 hour
Shrimp 225N/A20 – 30 minutes
Whole Trout4 – 6 lbs.2251453 ½ – 4 hours (Until it starts to flake)
Oysters 225N/A30 – 40 minutes
Tilapia Filet4 – 6 oz.2201451 ½ – 2 hours

Tools for Smoking Meat


Obviously, to smoke meat you will need smoke. You can smoke meat over a campfire, using a wood stove, a smoker, a smoke room, tent, or even in your barbeque.

The key is to use the smoke, not the flames. You will need to keep the fire going for however long you are smoking.

a homemade smoker for smoking meat
a homemade smoker for smoking meat

Two Excellent Thermometers

You will never get your meat smoked properly if you do not own two good thermometers.

You will need to constantly check the temperature of the smoker and, when the appropriate amount of time has elapsed, you will need to check the temperature of the meat to ensure it is safe for consumption.

The thermometer for measuring the temperature in the smoker monitors the air temperature to ensure the temperature stays at the correct heat throughout the smoking process.

If you purchase a proper smoker, it will probably have a built-in thermometer.

It is essential that you check the thermometer every time you use it to ensure it is working properly and gives you an accurate reading.

The second thermometer you will need is a food thermometer. These come in two forms:

  • An oven-safe thermometer can be inserted into the meat to monitor the temperature throughout the smoking process.
  • An instant-read thermometer can be used when you remove the meat from the smoker when you believe the meat is properly smoked.

Ready to Do Some Smoking?

As with normal preparation, seafood, poultry, and pork are extremely dangerous to eat if they are not smoked properly.

For this reason, stick with the minimum time listed at these temperatures. If you are in doubt as to whether your meat is completely smoked, give it a few extra minutes.

When smoking meat, four things are important to bear in mind:

  1. Do not let different cuts of meat or different types of meat meet each other; this is to reduce the risk of cross contamination.
  2. Always monitor and control the temperature and cook for the appropriate amount of time.
  3. Always ensure that you are working hygienically; ensure that you clean your smoker as well as skewers used to hang meat thoroughly to prevent contamination of your meat as well as other, often touched or handled, surfaces of your home.
  4. Refrigerate your smoked meat within two hours after smoking,

4 thoughts on “How Long Does It Actually Take to Smoke Meat?”

  1. I thought you were going to list times for smoked meat preservation. That’s what the first sentence implies. This is just time to smoke for bbq. I’m sure the whole point to preservation was that you didn’t have to refrigerate within 2 hours. You certainly can’t preserve a 2 3/4 lb chicken by smoking for 2 1/2 hours.

    1. While you can use a bbq to smoke meat, it is different from a bbq. a bbq uses a flame to fry the meat. the times given are for how long the meat should be exposed to smoke to preserve. the fridge is to cool the meat rapidly, but it also does keep the meat fresher for longer. the meat will deteriorate just like biltong with time and exposure to heat or moisture.

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