Best Beef For Smoker

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The best beef for smoker is going to have a marbling you can almost see through, it should have an intact fat cap surrounding and covering each individual muscle, and it should still have enough elasticity to be pulled into thin sheets of meat that almost resemble cellophane noodles.

The Best Cuts of Meat for Smoking

Look toward the cheaper, less desirable meats

Smoked Brisket

Smoking is a low and slow process of cooking that uses smoke to add flavor and tenderize meats. It’s an art and a favorite technique for barbecue aficionados, but that doesn’t mean that this style of barbecue is out of reach for the backyard enthusiast.

While you may be tempted to toss your best cuts of beef and pork on the smoker, you’ll find that the better choices are, in fact, the cheapest and less desirable cuts. This is great news because while smoking is fun, it can also a bit of a challenge. So, since you’ll be saving money on the meat, you can enjoy the freedom of experimentation. It’s one of the reasons so many people get really excited about smoking foods and true barbecue.

In reality, true barbecue—not hot dogs and hamburgers, but low, slow smoking—is based on cheap, unappealing cuts of meat. Smoking improves these less than desirable cuts with the low temperatures and super slow cooking times. (Warning: if you don’t have a lot of patience when it comes to cooking, smoking is not for you.)

Watch Now: The Best Meats for Smoking

The Smoking Process

Smoking is a method of cooking that is low (in temperature) and slow (in time). The cooking process usually lasts for more than 30 minutes a pound, but it can be much longer—there are times when the meat can be in the smoker for up to 20 hours. Many good, lean cuts of meat would dry out and become inedible after cooking for this long; however, tougher cuts need this length of time to tenderize and become enjoyable to eat.

Cuts of meat that we tend to think of as “bad” or low-quality can handle this prolonged heat. In fact, meat that is full of fat and connective tissues (collagen) is best in the smoker. The meat will actually improve and come out tender, flavorful, and downright delicious. This is because as the collagen slowly breaks down, it turns into sugars which sweeten the meat and keep it moist during smoking; additionally, the smoke has time to infuse the meat with the signature smokey taste. 

The Best Meats for the Smoker

We can look to traditional barbecue meals when determining the best cuts for the smoker. The classic meats of barbecue are generally beef brisket, pork shoulder, and ribs. These cuts are tough, chewy meats and generally so poor in quality that they are not good when cooked using other cooking methods.

If you are new to smoking foods, it’s best to begin with an easy cut of meat. You cannot go wrong with a small pork shoulder roast like a Boston butt or a picnic roast. (If you don’t see these cuts in the meat section of your grocery store, ask your butcher.) These cuts are generally forgiving and relatively inexpensive. This makes them perfect for learning your equipment and perfecting your smoking technique. They’re also good for experimenting with different types of wood, the temperature and time, as well as other factors like seasoning rubs that you can play around with.

As you learn more and become comfortable with the smoking process, you can move on to larger and more difficult cuts like brisket or ribs. You may also want to try a whole chicken or turkey, or leg of lamb and prime rib once you feel you’ve got the hang of it. Before you know it, you’ll master the art of true barbecue.

Best meats for the smoker

Keep These Cuts Off the Smoker

In general, any cut of meat that we consider “good”—like pork tenderloin or a good lean roast—should not be smoked. And when it comes to steaks, grilling is a much better option. It is unnecessary to spend the time and waste the wood and money on a meat that is delicious when cooked simply, quickly, and often over high heat. Plus, you won’t taste the benefits of your smoking efforts if you smoke a good cut because the meat will be so dried out it will be inedible.

Best Cuts of Beef to Smoke – How to Cook Them

Summer is right around the corner! Do you know what that means?

Time to pull out your grill, meat grinder, meat slicer and place an order for the best charcoal for smoking because it’s barbeque season. A barbeque isn’t a barbeque without some beef. The variety of textures and cuts of meat make it a must-have for the BBQ season.

If you want to get the best out of your beef barbeques, you need to know which cuts are the best. Each cut is meant to be cooked in a specific way that enhances the flavors.

In this post, we’ll be discussing some of the best cuts of beef to smoke. We’ll also tell you the best way to smoke/grill/cook and serve each cut.

We can guarantee that once you’re through reading this post, you’ll have the whole beef cut diagram memorized and will be able to make your next beef BBQ spectacular.

7 Best Cuts of Beef to Smoke

Smoking beef is a long task that requires a lot of patience. Beef has a lot of fat and connective tissues, which is why it takes so long to cook.

However, if you use the right cuts and the right techniques, you can bring out the rich, juicy flavor. After much research, we’ve compiled a list of the seven best beef cuts for grilling and smoking.

In addition, we’ve added a few tips on how to cook them so you can enjoy a delicious steak.

1. Beef Brisket

If you’re looking for top-tier meat cuts, then the beef brisket is what you’re looking for. The brisket is one of the best cuts; nothing beats the tough meaty fibers and the tender fat that combine to give you fantastic flavor.

You’ll have to take special care while smoking your brisket, but if done correctly, it’s totally worth the effort.

When choosing your cut, we suggest going for a Prime brisket with a lot of excellent marbling. However, if the Prime brisket is a bit heavy on your wallet, you can always opt for the Choice brisket.

If you’ve got a good cut, you won’t need a lot of seasoning as the meat itself is already full of flavor. Just make sure you don’t trim off any of the fat. The fat acts as an insulator, ensuring that your brisket gets smoked properly.

Tip: here’s a little tip to remember while buying your brisket cut. Hold up the brisket for a bit. If you see the meat bending a little, then it means that it’s tender and perfectly ready to be thrown on that charcoal grill.

  • Target Internal Temperature: 205 °F
  • Cooking Time: 5 to 6 hours
  • Recommended Smoke Wood: Oak, Hickory, Pecan, Cherry.

2. Beef Ribs / Short Ribs

If you’re new to smoking/grilling beef, an excellent cut to start with are the ribs. Beef ribs are some of the easiest cuts to smoke.

The well-marbled area between the flank steak and the brisket is where you can get your rib cuts from. As there’s a lot of fat in the area, the meat is tender and flavorful.

Normal beef ribs are too big to fit your grill, which is why they have to be cut to fit into your grill and be an edible size. The large bone of the ribs helps evenly cook the meat.

The ribs can be taken from the loin, chuck plate, or brisket. Depending on your preferences, you should specify your meat supplier whether you want chuck plate ribs or full plate short ribs.

As far as seasoning goes, you can add a little salt and pepper and still end with delicious ribs—another reason why ribs are one of the best cuts of beef.

  • Target Internal Temperature: 205 °F
  • Cooking Time: 5 to 6 hours
  • Recommended Smoke Wood: Oak, Hickory, Pecan, Cherry.

3. Chuck Roast

Chuck roast is a great alternative for brisket. Not only is it cheaper, but it also cooks faster thanks to the smaller size.

Don’t misunderstand, though, a smaller size does not mean you’re losing flavor. You get just as much flavor as with a brisket. Only it’s a lot easier to cook.

To get the most out of your chuck roast, there are two ways you can cook it. The first way is the same way you smoked your brisket. While it may be a bit more tender than a brisket, you can still use a sharp knife to get it into nice even slices.

The key to a perfectly smoked chuck roast is to start cooking at 225 °F and stop when you reach an internal temperature of 180 °F.

Alternatively, you can pull at the meat in a manner that’s similar to pulled pork. To do this, make sure you start cooking at 240 °F and stop when you reach an internal temperature of 180 °F.

To get the best results, we suggest you invest in a smoker thermometer to help you keep track of the temperature.

  • Target Internal Temperature: 205 °F
  • Cooking Time: 5 to 6 hours
  • Recommended Smoke Wood: Hickory, Pecan.

4. Top Sirloin Steak

Another great option for beginners who want beef cuts for smoking, the sirloin steak is an affordable cut with loads of flavor. You can choose the top of the button sirloin from the hip for your cut. The top sirloin is better for smoking as it is more tender.

One great way of grilling a sirloin steak is by dry bringing the meat. Not only will this help make the meat more tender, but it will add more texture to it as well.

We suggest leaving the meat in the fridge to marinate for two to twenty-four hours. The longer it sits, the more flavor you’ll get. We suggest using the best food vacuum sealer to ensure your meat stays fresh while it marinates.

  • Target Internal Temperature: 145 °F
  • Cooking Time: 1 hour per pound.
  • Recommended Smoke Wood: Hickory, Mesquite.

5. Flank Steak

You can’t really go wrong with flank steak. Not only is it cheaper, but it is tender and packs a lot of flavors. The flank steak comes from the underside of the animal near the belly.

Keep in mind that the flank steak is different from the skirt steak, don’t confuse the two cuts. The flank is taken from the lower abdominal area, while the skirt steak is taken from near the diaphragm.

You don’t need to stand in front of the grill for too long to smoke this cut. Just make sure you marinate the meat beforehand. As the beef flavor for the flank steak is rich and strong, you can marinate it with strong seasonings like garlic, pepper, and citrus juice.

Moreover, you can get strong pellets like hickory and mesquite to get the best results. The meat itself has a strong flavor so it won’t be overpowered with the pellets, making it perfect for a pellet smoker.

  • Target Internal Temperature: 145 °F
  • Cooking Time: 3 hours.
  • Recommended Smoke Wood: Hickory, Mesquite.

5. Tri-Tip

If you enjoy lean cuts of meat, then you’ll really like the Tri-tip. This cut is a triangular-shaped cut that is chewy and doesn’t have a lot of fat content.

If you want to get the most of the flavors out of this cut, you will need to remember the three S: seasoning, smoking, and searing.

Start by rubbing your spice seasoning onto the meat. Then let it sit on your gas grill. Keep a check on the temperature to ensure the internal temperature is 135 °F.

You can use a skillet and some butter to sear the steak before you serve it.

  • Target Internal Temperature: 135 °F
  • Cooking Time: 2 hours.
  • Recommended Smoke Wood: Hickory, Oak, Cherry, Pecan.

6. Top Round

Lastly, there’s the top round steak. This one is a tough one, though. You need to be fully prepared in order to get the right flavor and texture out of the cut.

You need to prepare the meat before you put it on the grill to smoke. Similar to the sirloin steak, you need to dry brine the top round steak. You can also add your spices before you let it sit overnight in the fridge.

Place it on the grill and monitor the temperature. You can remove it once it reaches 150 °F.

Wait a few minutes before cutting into the meat. We suggest slicing across the grain and enjoying it while it’s still hot.

  • Target Internal Temperature: 150 °F
  • Cooking Time: 5 to 6 hours.
  • Recommended Smoke Wood: Oak.
Best Outdoor Pizza Oven

Beef cuts best for fast grilling and slow smoking

Conclusion

By now, you must be familiar with the beef cuts chart. With all this information, you’re ready to hit the butcher to get your preferred cut of meat.

Be sure to follow our little tips if you want to get the best flavor out of your beef cuts.

SMOKIN’ HOT – THE GREATEST SMOKED BEEF

Smoking beef infuses a natural, smoky, aromatic flavour and brings an unrivalled tenderness to your favourite beef cuts. Just follow our super-easy guide to smoking, and you’ll seriously impress family and friends.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

WHAT IS SMOKING ? 

Long before the invention of fridges, smoking preserved the shelf life of beef using two techniques:

  • Cold smoking uses wood-infused smoke from low heat (around 12–22°C) to flavour and preserve beef rather than cook it.
  • Hot smoking cooks beef over wood chips, infusing it with exceptional smoky flavour so it’s immediately ready to eat. 

BEST BEEF CUTS FOR SMOKING

Slow smoking

Slow-cooking beef on the barbecue is the sure-fire way to please a crowd. It also suits budget-friendly, well-marbled cuts with muscle. The long, slow heat and smoke melts the fat and tenderises the meat around the bone, creating pull-apart finger food that’s delicious in a bun. 

Cuts that are ideal for slow, slow smoking include:

  • Brisket
  • Shoulder
  • Short ribs
  • Chuck
  • Tri-tip
  • Standing rib roast

Fast smoking

Fast, hot smoking introduces a moreish zestiness into cuts that don’t require long cooking times including:

  • T-bone
  • Sirloin
  • Meatballs (smoke for 10–15 minutes, then pan-fry for an incredible taste sensation)

SMOKING EQUIPMENT  

  • Smoker – use your wok, the oven, the stovetop or the barbecue. Dedicated smoking artisans use purpose-built smokers, available from BBQ, outdoor and electrical stores.
  • Smoking accessories – barbecue mitts, long tongs for stoking the wood and a meat thermometer.
  • Smoking chips – hardware, barbecue speciality stores and some supermarkets sell gourmet culinary wood-chip ranges, specially formulated to suit a variety of beef cuts. Check out our quick guide to the different flavour characteristics below.

QUICK GUIDE TO SMOKING WOOD CHIPS

Wood chip typeSmoky flavour characteristics
AcaciaNot as strong as mesquite. Burns hot, so use smaller amounts.
AlmondSweet, nutty taste.
AppleAdds a light, fruity and sweet taste.
AshLight, distinctive and slightly sweet. Burns fast, so ideal for quick flavour infusions.
CherrySweet, mild and slightly fruity.
HickoryStrong and smoky. Good for quick smoking, or low and slow for an intense flavour hit.
LemonMedium flavour with a subtle hint of fruit. 
LilacMild, sweet, smoky flavour.
MesquiteSweet, light and especially good with ribs. Burns hot and fast so good for quick smoking.
OakHeavy smoke taste that’s not overpowering.
PecanLighter and more subtle than hickory, with a delicate flavour.

CHEF’S TIP 

Get the most out of your wood chips

  • Try different combinations with different beef cuts.
  • Pine, cedar or green woods are not suitable for smoking.
  • If you’re a beginner, use a small amount of wood to test the flavour and gradually increase to taste.
  • Soak wood chips in water 30 minutes before you cook. For maximum effect soak for up to 24 hours, so chips smoulder rather than burn.

SMOKING TIME AND TEMPERATURE GUIDE

Popular cutsSmoking temperatureSmoking cooking time (may vary)Final smoked temperature
Smoked brisket (sliced) 104°C 1.5 hours/500 g 79°C
Smoked brisket (pulled) 107°C 1.5 hours/500 g 90°C
Smoked beef ribs 107°C 3–4 hours 74°C
Smoked baby back ribs 107°C 5 hours Tear-apart tender
Smoked spare ribs 107°C 6 hours Tear-apart tender
Smoked meatballs (5 cm) 107°C 1 hour 74°C

PREPARING YOUR MEAT FOR SMOKING

Dry rubs, marinades and spices

Smoky beef is simply delicious, but if you want to enhance the flavour use a dry rub or marinade – or why not try beer basting?

  • Rubs transform your beef cut with your own flavour combinations! For smoking, create a Cajun, Indian, Mexican or Korean blend of spices. Marinades – select one with sweeter ingredients as it can help create a delicious crispy or caramelised coating.
  • Fresh herbs – these bring out the flavour of all smoked cuts, especially parsley butter!

CHEF’S TIP

  • Meat can appear pinker when it’s smoked using rubs and marinades. Use a meat thermometer to check its doneness rather than relying on a visual check.
  • Smoked veggies taste amazing too! Cut wedges of potatoes, pumpkins, carrots or sweet potatoes, season and generously glaze in olive oil. Smoke according to taste and finish in the oven or on the barbie.

SIX EASY WAYS TO SMOKE BEEF

Indoors or out, it’s easy to smoke beef at home. Take it from us, those mouth-watering aromas while cooking will have them queuing up – and they’ll savour that beautiful smoky flavour and pull-apart tenderness.

Things to know before you start:

  • Remove beef from fridge an hour before cooking. It’s best to start the cooking process when meat is at room temperature.
  • Use a meat thermometer to check the beef’s temperature while cooking.
  • Always cover a cooked joint and let it rest for 10–20 minutes before serving.
  • Slow-cooked joints such as brisket may require higher temperatures for some recipes.

HOW TO SMOKE USING A WOK

Location:

  • Indoor cooktop (must have a good extractor fan)
  • Outdoor barbecue hotplate

What you need:

  • Wood chips
  • Heavy duty aluminium foil
  • Wok
  • Metal rack (cake cooling rack is fine)
  • Chosen cut of beef 

How to do it :

  • Press foil into base of wok, allowing it to hang over the side by 10 cm (large enough on all sides to come up over the metal rack set on top). 
  • Add wood chips to wok and set barbecue hotplate or stovetop burner to medium-high, allowing wok to heat up until wood starts releasing smoke (around 5 minutes).
  • Using oven mitts, place metal rack onto wok. A round rack can be inserted into the wok if it’s 8 cm above the wok base. 
  • Place beef cut on top of the rack in the centre, leaving space between each piece. 
  • Using oven mitts, place a second large piece of foil over the top of the meat, lift edges of the bottom sheet and pinch the two pieces of foil tightly together. Enclose the entire rack in a foil ‘tent’, leaving as much space for air circulation as possible.
  • Infuse beef for at least 10 minutes. Turn off heat and leave for a further 20 minutes as smoke dissipates. Remove beef and finish off on the barbecue or in the oven, cooked to your liking.

 

HOW TO SMOKE IN AN OVEN

Location:

  • Indoor oven

What you need:          

  • Wood chips
  • Foil oven tray (available from most supermarkets)
  • Heavy duty aluminium foil
  • Metal rack (cake cooling rack is fine)
  • Selected cut of beef 

How to do it:

  • Place moistened wood chips into aluminium tray. Cover with foil and pierce holes so smoke can escape.
  • Place metal rack over the smoker box.
  • Set beef on top of rack and create an airtight ‘tent’ using foil. It should surround the aluminium tray and meat.
  • Cook to the required level of doneness, then rest beef. 
  • When ready, carefully unwrap the foil, taking care with the hot steam. You can complete your delicious smoky meat on the barbecue according to taste, or serve straight from the oven.

 

HOW TO SMOKE ON A STOVETOP

Location:                        

  • Indoors

What you need:          

  • Wood chips
  • Large cooking pot
  • Metal steamer insert
  • Heavy duty aluminium foil
  • Selected cut of beef 

How to do it:

  • Line cooking pot base with foil and cover with a sprinkle of wood chips.
  • Add another foil layer over chips and place steamer insert on top.
  • Place beef on top of the steamer, allowing space for smoke to circulate.
  • Arrange foil generously around the edges of the lid to stop smoke escaping.
  • Heat on high for 5 minutes or until it starts smoking.
  • Lower heat to medium-low and smoke meat to the required degree of doneness. Turn off heat and leave beef resting in the smoker for 10 minutes.
  • Remove foil and serve immediately, or finish cooking the aroma-infused meat on the barbecue to taste.

HOW TO SMOKE ON A GAS GRILL BARBECUE

Location:                        

  • Outdoor gas grill barbecue

What you need:          

  • Aluminium tray
  • Wood chips
  • Heavy duty aluminium foil
  • Chosen cut of beef 

How to do it:

If you don’t have a store-bought smoker box (available from barbecue shops), create your own by placing drained wood chips in an aluminium tray.

  • Cover with foil and pierce holes so smoke can escape.
  • Place smoking box inside the hood of the barbecue.
  • Clean and lightly oil barbecue grill and fire it up.
  • Smoke meat, checking it now and then, adding more chips if necessary.
  • Cook meat to preferred degree of doneness, using a meat thermometer to check. 
  • Keep barbecue hood closed as much as possible to maintain even temperature.
  • Wrap meat loosely in foil and rest 10 minutes before serving.

 

HOW TO SMOKE ON A KETTLE BARBECUE

Location:

  • Outdoor kettle barbecue

What you need:          

  • Wood chips
  • Chosen cut of beef 

How to do it:

  • Clean and lightly oil barbecue grill.
  • Fire up barbecue with charcoal or briquettes, and add smoke by topping with plenty of wet wood chips and chunks.
  • Smoke meat, checking it now and then, adding more chips if necessary.
  • Cook meat to preferred degree of doneness, using a meat thermometer to check. 
  • Keep kettle hood closed as much as possible to maintain even temperature.
  • Wrap meat loosely in foil and rest 10 minutes before serving.

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