Smoked Chuck Roast for Pulled Beef – A Step-by-Step Recipe
Pulled pork is one of the most popular and delicious meats to ever come off the back of a smoker. Equally delicious, but often overlooked, is pulled beef. Just like pulled pork, pulled beef can be an incredible addition to countless smoked meats recipe options. It is tender, juicy and smoky, with plenty of bold beef flavor that brings brisket and other barbecued beefs to mind. For those who want to find a compromise between the full-bodied taste of brisket and the juicy flavor of pulled pork, pulled beef can be the perfect option. Like most smoker recipes, making delicious smoked pulled beef can be incredibly easy. As you get the recipe and ingredients down, you'll have the opportunity to experiment with different flavor profiles as well, making each future smoking unique and personalized for your tastes. Let's learn how to cook the best smoked chuck roast for pulled beef!
What You Will Need For This Chuck Roast Recipe
- Chuck Roast
- Coarse salt
- Dry rub mix
Why Chuck Roast?
Smoking experts agree, chuck roast may be one of the best cuts to use for your pulled beef recipes. Beef chuck roast is very similar to pork front shoulders, otherwise known as pork "butt" roasts. Chuck roasts are made from steer front shoulders, and they are ideal for long, slow cooking sessions. They are full of marbling, fat and collagen, all of which break down during the cooking process to create an unbelievably juicy final product.
Using the right cuts can make a massive difference in the final product. You wouldn't use tenderloin for pulled pork, so there is no reason to use anything but chuck or rump to make a tasty batch of pulled beef. Similarly, you want to make sure that you get the best possible chuck roast for your needs. Rump roast, like chuck roast, is a very heavily exercised part of the cow, full of marbling and collagen. It can be just as delicious as chuck roast, though chuck often provides shoppers with a more affordable purchase. Regardless of which you use, the right smoked beef rump roast or chuck roast should always be fatty and well-marbled. If the cut is too lean, it will not be as tender or juicy as desired. The point of smoking for pulled beef is to find a meat that is full of internal fat enough that it can be rendered into a juicy delicacy.
The Necessary Prep
Always begin with trimming, as the process to making a good pulled beef is a lot like the process to making a good pulled pork. Trim the fat cap and the excess fat around the roast. This will allow your rub to penetrate deeper and adhere to the desired bark formation throughout the cooking process. Do not leave any of the fat cap behind, like you would with brisket. Chuck will almost always have more than enough fat marbling to get the job done, so trim off as much as you can.
Dry brine your meat. For thicker pieces of meat, like an entire chuck roast, it is best to give yourself as much time as possible. 24 hours is often the best amount for a more delicious overall flavor. A good tip to keep in mind is to use roughly half a teaspoon of salt per every pound of meat. This means that for a four pound chuck roast, you will need two teaspoons of salt. Make sure that you apply your brine as thoroughly as possible all over the meat. Do not worry about working with mustard, oil or anything else that would help the rub stick to the meat. There should be enough moisture to begin with. Use coarse Kosher salt where possible for these measurements, but if you have to use smaller granules of salt, be sure to cut the amount you use in half. This means one teaspoon for every four pounds of chuck roast you plan on smoking.
Once your brine is all set, be sure to store your meat in the fridge. Aim for a temperature between 34 and 38 Fahrenheit. Wrap the meat in plastic or just leave it uncovered to aid in developing a drier bark. Make sure that it is kept out of the way of other foods to avoid contamination.
Getting Ready to Smoke
Once it's been 24 hours, take the meat out and add your unsalted rub. If you are planning on including salt in your dry rub, you can just skip the dry brine step entirely. Use the rub instead of the dry brine for 24 hours and then get to smoking!
It is strongly recommended to use different rubs for beef than you would for pork. If you are just getting started, it is highly recommended to grab a premade beef rub from the store. Experiment with your favorites, and then start playing around with your own mixes!
Here you can add oil or mustard as desired, but it is not necessary. These additions will just help your rub stick to the meat better. Plain water will be just as sufficient, if you are not interested in any other flavors. A spraying of PAM is one of the most recommended options, as it is easy to apply all over the meat.
Cooking Smoked Chuck Roast
It is strongly recommended to go with the standard low and slow temperature at 225 Fahrenheit. Put hot water in the water reservoir and as soon as you spot the kettle getting to 225 at grate level on the cooking side, add your chuck roast. It can be added directly from the fridge. Set a thermometer probe as close to the center of your roast as possible to get the most accurate readings.
The specific variety of wood you use is up to your personal tastes almost entirely. There are many to choose from, and some of the most popular options include oak, hickory and just about any fruit wood like cherry or apple. There are many other factors that will affect your meat's final flavor, so don't worry too much about choosing. Use just about three fist-sized chunks of wood, or four if you are going for smaller pieces.
The Smoking Process
The temperature on your bbq chuck roast will start to rise relatively quickly, though it is possible for it to begin stalling for an hour at roughly 150 to 170 Fahrenheit. Eventually the temperature will rise again, and it is important for you to monitor the internal temperature after it reaches 200 to make sure that the roast has the chance to soften.
Beef is a little different from pork in this regard because a smoked chuck roast needs to hit a higher internal temperature to fully render its fat. Pulled pork may be fine at around 203, and then a placement in a Cambro, but chuck roast may require upwards of 210. Once it reaches this temperature, it is vital to keep it there for at least an hour or two.
The most important way to test here is to use a probe to make sure that the meat is tender enough. Use your meat thermometer or any other skewer to check the texture of the meat. You want your smoked chuck roast to give as easily and quickly as possible. There should be practically no resistance, with a feeling similar to butter when the probe comes in and out. If it still feels too dry or tough, give it another hour and check then.
Wrapping your meat in foil, otherwise known as "crutching", can be an excellent way to speed the process along. Wrapping from the start, however, may not be recommended, as it can reduce a large portion of the delicious barking at the crust of the meat. If you are interested in wrapping your meat, wait until the internal temperature is roughly 180 Fahrenheit and then wrap the meat in foil to get the desired juiciness within.
Shredding and Recipe Ideas
The best part of the finished meat is the versatility. Once it's out of the smoker, all you need to do is shred it. Let it cool a little for the juices to settle, and then use two forks to pull the beef apart into strands. Make sure that you do this in a bowl so that all of the juices can collect and distribute within the finished product.
Some of the best and simplest recipes for pulled beef include nachos. Simply top your favorite tortilla chips with the beef and drop on plenty of Monterrey Jack and/or cheddar cheese. Enjoy the pulled beef in a sandwich as well. Provolone cheese, sauteed onions and peppers, and mushrooms can all come together with the meat to make a delicious meal. The beef can also be used in tacos and burritos. Use the appropriate tortillas for either option and include all your favorite additions in the mix, like onions, cheese, cilantro and beans.
The sky's the limit when it comes to perfecting your own blend of spices for your smoked chuck roast. Be sure to get creative when it comes to your mixes. You can blend delicious strong elements like cumin and cayenne with more subtle tones like black pepper and chili. Keep a list of rubs nearby so that you can always have inspiration for a specific dish or mood.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best cut of beef for pulled beef?
Our favorite cut of beef for making pulled beef is definitely the chuck roast. It’s not only an affordable roast, especially as compared with more expensive cuts like brisket, but it also has a great amount of intramuscular fat marbling. This keeps the beef juicy as it cooks, resulting in a better pulled beef.
How do you shred beef?
Shredding beef works in exactly the same way as pulled pork. You start by cooking a chuck roast at low and slow temperatures, and the smoker is perfect because it infuses the meat with extra flavor, too. Once the meat is fall-apart tender, you let it rest for at least 15 minutes. Then pull the meat apart in opposite directions it using meat claws, two forks, a set of tongs, or your hands (if the meat is cool enough to handle).
How long does it take to smoke a chuck roast?
At 225 degrees Fahrenheit, a chuck roast can take anywhere from 6 to 14 hours, depending on the size of the chuck roast. It’s best to plan plenty of time when smoking large cuts of beef like chuck roast, and we absolutely recommend using an instant read thermometer to know when the chuck roast is done.
What temperature do you smoke a chuck roast?
There are two stages in cooking a perfect chuck roast. The first is letting it cook inside the smoker until it reaches 190 degrees Fahrenheit. This should take anywhere from 4 to 8 hours, depending on the size of the chuck roast. Once it reaches these temperatures, wrap it tightly in aluminum foil or butcher paper and let it continue to cook until it reaches 200 to 210 degrees.
How do you know when a chuck roast is done?
The best way to ensure your chuck roast is finished is to use an instant read thermometer. If you don’t have one, you can lightly probe the roast with a fork to see if it flakes. The roast is tender when it pulls easily apart.