What the heck is a smoked chuck roast and why would you want to make it anyway? Let's see, have you ever craved some smoked brisket only to abandon the idea because of the effort and the time required to make it? I know you have. This happens to me a lot. But there is a solution! If you are time-strapped, make a smoked chuck roast. It's almost as good as brisket but made in a matter of just a few hours. You will love it!
Beef chuck is a cut that comes primarily from the shoulder section of the steer. Beef chuck roast is just a small part of a full chuck which can weigh in at 100lbs or more. It looks like a big steak. Or a roll if the butcher ties it up with twine. Together with brisket and short rib, chuck has the beefiest flavor in the steer. It's great for burgers. And it's excellent when smoked.
Prepping beef chuck for smoking
As is true with brisket, the more marbled the chuck is, the better it will taste. Choice grade works well, just pick the more marbled one. I see certified Angus chuck roasts on sale every now and again, they look beautiful. Nicely marbled, those are great for smoking. That marbling is the reason why I decided to smoke one in the first place.
If you have the luxury of time, keep that chuck in the fridge for 2-3 weeks in the Crayovac bag it came in. Wet aging will do its magic and make the meat very tender.
Put the seasonings on (coarsely ground pepper and salt for Texas-style) at least a couple of hours and up to a day before and refrigerate. The salt will draw some moisture out the meat which will be reabsorbed. Keep the meat uncovered. This will facilitate the creation of pellicle on the surface of the meat. A pellicle is a dry sticky layer that attracts smoke which results in a better color and a better smoky flavor.
If you salt the meat right before smoking, the meat will be wet. Not good for smoking. I do the same when cooking steaks, it works like a charm.
It's a good idea to take the meat out of the fridge an hour before smoking to let it warm up a bit. This will ensure that the meat won't sweat in the smoker. Smoke doesn't like wet surfaces.
The biggest challenge for me when smoking beef chuck is maintaining the temperature at around 225F at the grate level . Which isn't that much of a challenge. You don't want to smoke chuck at higher temps as it will cook too fast and won't have enough time to get enough smoke. This is the reason why I like smoking it at 225F. It takes about 4-6 hours to get it to about 180F - 185F, the temperature when it's firm but tender, and still very juicy. The timing will depend on the chuck's size and thickness: larger and thicker ones will need close to 6 hours, while thinner and smaller ones will be done in four.
The wood choice for smoking chuck is the same as for brisket: oak and hickory. I prefer oak for larger pieces of meat and hickory for smaller pieces that will cook faster as hickory has a stronger aroma.
One trick I use when smoking chuck is I tilt it slightly by putting a wood chunk under one side. This is necessary as its surface becomes uneven during cooking, resulting in liquids pooling in various spots.
With chuck roasts being relatively thin, they have no trouble reaching 180F, so there is no need in a 'Texas crutch'. If you intend to pull the meat, wrapping becomes essential. You want to preserve every bit of moisture. Once the meat hits 175F - 180F, wrap it in foil or butcher paper and smoke until about 208F - 210F internal.
Smoked chuck roast resting and serving
After smoking, wrap the meat in foil or butcher paper and let rest for an hour or so to relax, re-absorb lost moisture and further tenderize, and until the internal temperature hits 145F. Then unwrap, slice and serve with a potato salad, pickled red onions or whatever side dishes you like.
When smoking to 208F - 210F and the meat was already wrapped, simply remove from the smoker, and let rest for about 1 hour, wrapped, until the internal temperature comes down to about 145F. Then unwrap, pull and serve.
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- 2 lb chuck roast
- 2/3 Tbsp kosher salt or to taste
- 1 Tbsp black pepper coarsley ground; or to taste
- If possible, wet-age the meat in the fridge for 2-3 weeks in the Crayovac bag it came in.
- Apply the salt and the pepper at least a couple of hours and up to a day before. Keep the meat uncovered.
- Take the meat out of the fridge an hour before smoking to let it warm up a bit.
- Preheat the smoker to 225F. Smoke with oak or hickory for about 4-6 hours until the internal temperature reaches 180F – 185F.
- It the liquids start to pool on the surface of the meat, tilt it slightly by putting a wood chunk under one side.
- If you want to pull the meat, wrap it in foil or butcher paper once the meat hits 175F – 180F, then continue to cook until about 208F – 210F internal temperature.
- After smoking, wrap the meat in foil or butcher paper and let rest for an hour or so to relax, re-absorb lost moisture and further tenderize, and until the internal temperature hits 145F. Then unwrap, slice and serve.
- When smoking to 208F – 210F and the meat was already wrapped, simply remove from the smoker, and let rest for about 1 hour, wrapped, until the internal temperature comes down to about 145F. Then unwrap, pull and serve.