Does Smoking Meat Add Calories?

Smoking can add a delicious flavor to meat that just takes it to the next level, and a properly cooked piece of slow cooked, slow smoked meat is often moist with those meat juices just running down the meat. As a barbecue, smoked meat, and just carnivore in general, just thinking about it gets my stomach growling. However, there’s one nagging question that bothers a lot of people when looking at smoked meat: how many calories does smoking add to meat?

After all, frying often leads to more delicious dishes than steaming and that adds calories, so something as good as smoked meat must have extra calories, right? Right?


Smoking meat adds flavor but it does not add any extra fat, calories, or cholesterol. In fact, smoking meat does not directly affect the nutritional values of the meat in anyway, though in some cases it might mildly reduce calories by causing fat to drip off the meat during cooking.

So where do rumors about smoked meat come from since there is no added butter, oil, or anything the meat could soak that would result in more calories? This might be because of sliced lunch meat in packets at the grocery store.

Many of these are higher calories per serving than non-smoked meat, but that’s because of chemical processes many of these companies use to simulate the taste of smoked meat – not because smoking meat would actually create more calories.

slicing smoked brisket
Now that’s what I’m talking about! Mmm-mmm good!

Is Smoked Meat Healthy Then?

Well wouldn’t go that far. The questions about healthy or not are always complicated. Meat in moderate amounts is great. You need protein, you need fat, and for people who have issues with grains and gluten, having meat that doesn’t have excess calories from butter and oil is a good alternative.

However, there are always arguments about whether a little meat is healthy, a moderate amount is healthy, and then there are the low-carb, keto, and carnivore diet defenders who argue that more meat is healthier.

I’m not qualified to say which is true, those are arguments that are going to continue on with or without my input, but as someone who has smoked a lot of meat over the past two decades, and backed by science and even more experienced barbecuers than myself, there are a few things I do know about smoked meat, and one of them is that smoking meat doesn’t add any calories – just incredible flavor!

So in summary:

  • Smoking meat does NOT add calories
  • Smoking meat does NOT add fat
  • Smoking meat does NOT add carbs
  • Overly smoked meat eaten in excess may increase risks of heart disease or cancer (whether that is from the smoking or eating too much meat is up for debate)
  • Smoking meat does not make it less healthy than grilling or baking

If you are going to be smoking meat, you’re using one of the better or healthier ways of preparing it, and there’s no question that it’s one of the tastiest!

What About Marinades?

Marinades should be a lot more for grilling, unless you’re doing actual barbecue that is wet sauce instead of dry rub. In those cases, then yes, you are adding calories to the meat but it isn’t because of the smoking process or the smoker, it is because you’re literally adding calories from the marinade.

If you’re smoking well, you don’t need marinades. Smoking with cherry, mesquite, hickory, apple, pecan, or a variety of other woods just creates outstanding flavor profiles that aren’t nearly as distinct when you cover them up with some type of mariande.

So skip the marinades, learn to properly smoke meat and enjoy the results…with no added calories.

So Should You Smoke Meat?

At the end of the day smoking meat is about taste and flavor. Creating stunning pieces of moist meat that just fall apart in the mouth and bring incredible taste to a meal is just wonderful. Personally, slow smoking meat is one of my favorite ways to prepare meat and it’s hard to argue with the final results when the smoking is done right.

The effort and time it takes means I probably don’t do this as often as I should, but man when you plan well and you see that juicy meat that you can just cut right through with a fork, with all the flavor of apple wood or pecan or mesquite – then you know all of that effort was worth it…and it’s less brutal on my waistline than pan frying a steak which adds hundreds of calories of butter to the final nutrition.

So don’t worry so much about the waistline when it comes to smoking meat. Without extra sauces, butter, or oils, smoking meat can be one of the best ways to prepare it without adding any extra calories.

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