Most people start off their smoking experience by learning to smoke pork cuts, such as pork belly or baby back ribs. Beef also makes great smoking meat, but understanding the best beef to smoke can sometimes be challenging.
Our expert smokers have put together a list of their favorite beef cuts for smoking, giving you a valuable head start in expanding your skills with beef smoking!
Drawing from my extensive professional experience as a chef, I recognize the crucial importance of selecting the right type of meat.
That's why I have personally tested the cooking of the meats listed below. Not only are these cuts easy to work with, but they also promise to deliver some of the finest bites.
- The best beef cuts to smoke are brisket, beef ribs, chuck roast, tri-tip steak, and top round roast.
- Brisket, a popular choice, requires careful smoking due to its internal temperature plateau.
- The choice of wood for smoking also impacts the flavor, with hickory and mesquite being popular choices.
The Best Beef to Smoke
If you are new to meat smoking or have only smoked pork in your smoker, you may be unaware of what cuts of beef do well in the smoking process.
When people talk about beef smoking, you will undoubtedly hear beef brisket come up the most in this conversation.
Beef brisket may be one of the most common cuts of beef cooked in smokers, but other cuts can also be used.
As selected by our expert smokers, the best beef to smoke includes the following cuts.
1. Beef Brisket
Brisket is the most popular beef cut to smoke. It comes from the forequarter, lower chest of the cow.
The meat has a good amount of internal and surface fat, making it ideal for smoking .
Brisket is the prime cut for low and slow smoking since if it is cooked too quickly, brisket can be pretty tough.
Brisket may be one of the most popular beef cuts to smoke, but brisket is also one of the most difficult cuts to perfect in a smoker.
The dreaded internal temperature stall when smoking brisket has been the downfall of many people new to smoking this cut of meat.
The phenomenon causes the internal temperature of the meat to plateau for many hours, which results in the need to intervene and add additional components to the smoking process, such as wrapping the meat at certain stages to increase the internal temperature of the meat .
The cook time for brisket varies between 10 to 14 hours, making for a long session in the smoker.
Always start smoking your brisket sooner than you think you should. You will be grateful to have some extra time available!
The ideal internal temperature to aim for is 205°F or 96°C. The best wood smoke to pair with this meat is oak or hickory for a dark, deep flavor, or cherry or pecan wood for a lighter taste.
2. Beef Ribs
Beef ribs are a standard favorite to smoke, but beef ribs can be as fall-off-the-bone tender and juicy if done right.
The smoke time is faster with this beef cut, and most types of beef ribs are often cheaper than pork ribs, making it an economical cut for smoking as well.
The meat on the beef ribs is relatively thin, making the smoking time a reasonable 5 to 6 hours, easily achievable on a weekend afternoon!
The internal temperature for beef ribs should be 135°F or 57.2°C for the duration of the smoke.
The best woods to pair with beef ribs are the same as the brisket; hickory and oak for deep, dark flavor and pecan or cherry for a lighter smoke.
‘‘A steak is a steak, so I tried to experiment with different side dishes, such as truffle croquettes, and unusual condiments, but I learned that people don't want you to change the steakhouse.’’ - Jean-Georges Vongerichten, French Chef
3. Beef Chuck Roast
Beef chuck roast is from the cow's upper forequarter, shoulder area. The marbling of fat in this meat cut makes it great for smoking.
Any roast cut is a thick piece of meat, but it is shorter than a cut such as brisket.
You may think it would need a longer smoke time, but this is not the case. The need for a higher internal temperature means a higher smoker temperature than usual.
A beef chuck roast is not only a great cut of meat to smoke, but it is the ideal cut for a beginner to experiment with as their first beef cut to smoke.
The internal temperature to aim for on a beef chuck roast is between 190°F or 87.7°C and 205°F or 96°C, which will require an outer temperature of between 225°F or 107.2°C and 250°F or 121°C.
The smoke time will vary depending on the size of the roast, but it is typically between 5 to 6 hours for a medium-sized roast but can be up to 10 hours for a larger piece of meat.
The best wood smoke to pair with a chuck roast is commonly Hickory wood or pecan wood.
4. Tri-Tip Steak
Tri-tip steak is a cut from the sirloin area in the upper hindquarter. It is not always easy to find, but it is worth the effort to seek out since it does very well in a smoker.
Tri-tip steak is one of the cheaper steak cuts, making it an economical choice for smoking meat.
Another bonus with this cut is that it takes a very short time to cook in the smoker, so it is an ideal choice if you have time constraints.
If you like your meat rare, smoke the tri-tip steak to an internal temperature of 120°F or 48.8°C. An internal temperature of 127°F or 52.7°C will give a medium-rare cook, 133°F or 56.1°C a medium, 140°F or 60°C medium-well and 150°F or 65.5°C will produce a well-done cook.
The tri-tip steak will take a mere 90 minutes in the smoker, and our preference is to pair it with the lighter flavors of cherry or pecan wood smoke.
5. Beef Top Round
A beef top round roast is a cut of beef sourced from the upper hindquarter of the cow, just behind the sirloin section.
These cuts have less external fat and less internal marbling than the other cuts of meat from this section.
Consequently, it requires a shorter smoke (also known as 'hot cooking', a famous method that involves smoking the beef at higher temperatures for a relatively shorter period) to cook through and retain moisture in the meat.
Top round beef can easily be cooked and ready to eat in the space of an afternoon, making it an excellent choice for a busy weekend!
Dry brining this cut of meat overnight in the refrigerator with a good quality sea salt is an excellent technique to retain moisture during the smoking process.
The smoke time for a top round will vary depending on the size of the piece of meat. It should, however, average between 4 to 5 hours in the smoker.
The internal temperature you should target is 135°F or 57.2°C, which usually requires a smoker temperature of between 225°F or 107.2°C and 250°F or 121.1°C.
Oak, hickory, and mesquite make a good smoke pairing for this beef cut since it works well with heavier flavors.
Wrapping Up: The Best Beef Cuts for Smoking
Beef may not be everyone’s first choice of meat to smoke, but specific cuts of beef work equally well in a smoker as pork.
Beef cuts typically take a shorter time to cook in the smoker and can be a more economical way to try out your smoking skills.
If you're looking for a reliable source for your beef, ButcherBox is worth considering. They deliver high-quality cuts directly to your home, providing a solid foundation for your smoking endeavors.