As a food writer and culinary expert, I've spent countless hours experimenting with different cooking techniques to find the most delicious and flavorful ways to enjoy food.
Smoking a steak happens to be one of my personal favorites for main course cuisine.
Whether you're a beginner cook or a seasoned grill master, smoking is an excellent way to take your steaks to the next level.
If you're eager to try your hand at smoking a steak but find yourself in need of a high-quality, premium smoker that is also easy to operate, don’t miss our list of the best beginner-friendly smokers.
In this guide, I will share all my tips and tricks to help you smoke the perfect steak every time.
- Ensure your smoker is clean and well-maintained to get the best flavor.
- Choose a marinade or rub to add extra flavor to your smoked steak recipe.
- Monitor the temperature and smoke levels frequently.
7 Steps to Smoking a Steak
Here is a step-by-step guide that will surely get you the best cooking results.
1. Choosing the Best Steak
When selecting the meat for smoking, know that the best steaks for smoking are at least 1 inch thick.
These thicker cuts of meat will take longer to smoke, but they will also retain more moisture and flavor.
It is also important to look for steaks that have good marbling. Marbling refers to the fat that is interspersed throughout the meat.
This fat helps to keep the steak flavorful and moist during the smoking process.
Here are some of the most popular cuts for smoking steaks:
- Filet Mignon: The filet mignon is a lean cut of meat that is known for its tenderness. It is cut from the tenderloin and has a mild taste.
- Ribeye Steak: This is a marbled cut of meat that is known for its rich, beefy flavor. Smoked ribeye steak is taken from the rib section of the steer and has a tender texture.
- Top Sirloin: This is a lean cut of meat that is known for its tasty beefiness. It is from the top of the sirloin and has a slightly chewy texture.
- T-Bone: This cut is less expensive than a ribeye, making it perfect for those who want to experiment without breaking the bank.
You can also try New York strip, London broil, or flat iron steak as options.
2. Seasoning the Steak
Salt and pepper are the classic seasonings for smoked steak.
To smoke a steak with kosher salt and pepper:
- Dry the beef with a paper towel, then coat the meat with a thin layer of olive oil. Sprinkle the spices generously on both sides.
- Use kosher salt, which has larger crystals and will stick better to the meat.
- Allow the steak to sit out for 30 minutes before cooking to allow the pepper and salt mixture to act as a dry brine and penetrate the meat.
It is important to note that while pepper and salt are the usual seasonings when you smoke a steak, many other options are available. Some popular options when you smoke a steak include garlic, rosemary, and thyme.
You also can use prepared spice rubs when you smoke steaks. Cook steak with different herbs and seasonings to find your favorite flavor combinations.
3. Preparing the Smoker
Before using your smoker, you must make sure it is clean. A dirty smoker can negatively affect the tastiness of your smoked steak.
Be sure to preheat the smoker for at least 30 minutes before you smoke steak.
Smoking is based on low and slow cooking, so you'll want to ensure your smoker emits a stable and consistent temperature before adding the meat.
Aim for a temp between 225 degrees F and 250 degrees F.
Next, add wood chips or chunks, depending on the smoker you're using. Fill the hopper with your desired wood pellets if you're using a pellet smoker.
To add different flavors, you can experiment with wood chips, including oak, hickory, apple, pecan, or cherry.
The pellet grill makes smoking steaks simple when compared to a charcoal grill. This is because it maintains a consistent heat while you smoke a steak.
When you use wood chips, soak them in water for at least 30 minutes before placing them in the smoker.
This will prevent them from burning too quickly and will allow them to smoke for a more extended period.
4. Smoking the Steak
One of the keys to smoking steak on the grill is to cook it low and slow. This means cooking the steak at low heat for a long period of time.
This allows the smoke enough time to penetrate the meat and infuse it with flavor.
When you smoke a steak, it's important to use indirect heat.
This means placing the meat on the grill away from the heat source so it cooks slowly and evenly. Indirect heat will prevent the beef from drying out and becoming tough.
It also allows the smoke to circulate around the meat and cook it evenly.
However, don't overdo it with the smoke. Too much smoke can readily overpower the flavor of the smoked steak.
5. Timing the Steak
How long you cook the steak depends greatly on how thick it is. A thick steak cooked to medium could very well take as much time as a thin steak smoked to well done.
Use a meat thermometer to ensure your smoked steak is cooked to the desired temperature.
For medium-rare steak, the internal temperature should be 135 degrees F. Of course, the USDA recommends a minimum temp of 145 degrees F for food safety .
"When you smoke a steak, the cooking method is all about the balance of flavors. The smoky essence combined with the great flavor of steaks cooked perfectly create a harmonious marriage that leaves your taste buds dancing with joy."
- Emeril Lagasse, American Chef
6. Finishing the Steak
To achieve the perfect crust and additional flavor, consider finishing your steaks with a high-heat method like the reverse sear.
This step adds a delightful contrast of textures and elevates the overall taste.
To use the reverse sear method, follow these steps:
- After the meat gets within 5 degrees F of the final temp, heat the grill to a high temperature (around 450 degrees F).
- Place steaks on the grill grates and cook for 1-2 minutes on each side.
- Alternatively, you can put a cast iron pan on high heat and add a tablespoon of butter or olive oil.
- Once the cast iron skillet is hot, reverse sear the steaks on each side for 1-2 minutes until a crust forms.
7. Resting and Serving
After smoking a steak, it is essential to let it rest before cutting it. Resting allows the natural juices to redistribute within the tissues, resulting in flavorful and juicy meat.
To rest a steak, remove it from the grill and place it on a cutting board at room temp. Tent the steak with foil to keep the heat in and let it rest for at least five minutes before cutting into it.
When serving a smoked steak, it's important to consider the presentation and tastiness.
Here are a few tips to ensure a delicious and visually appealing steak:
- When slicing the smoked steak, cut it against the grain with a sharp knife. This helps to break down the muscle fibers and results in a more tender bite.
- Serve the meat on a clean cutting board or platter to avoid any cross-contamination.
- Garnish the meat with fresh herbs, such as rosemary or thyme, for added flavor and visual appeal.
- Pair the steak with a complementary side dish, such as roasted vegetables or a baked potato.
Though it is not too challenging, smoking a steak may take some practice before you get it right.
So here are some of the common issues people face and how to overcome them:
- If your meat takes too long to reach the desired temperature, ensure your smoker maintains a consistent temp and adjust the airflow if necessary.
- If the temp fluctuates, try to reduce the number of times you open the smoker. Each time you open the smoker, it will take some time for the temp to return to the desired level.
- If your meat is overcooked and dry, try using a lower temp or smoking for a shorter amount of time. Additionally, make sure that you are monitoring the internal temp with a thermometer and not relying on visual cues alone.
- If the smoky flavor is too subtle, try using different wood chips or increasing the smoking time.
6 Tips for Smoked Steaks
Smoked steak can be an impressive and flavorful dish, but there are some things to keep in mind for the best results.
Here are some of our top tips for smoking beef:
- For added flavor, consider using marinades or dry brines before smoking. These can enhance the tastiness and tenderness of the meat.
- Let your steaks reach room temperature before smoking to promote even cooking.
- Wood chips can be found at most grocery stores or specialty stores that sell grilling/smoking supplies.
- Experiment with different woods, such as hickory, mesquite, or fruitwoods, to find your preferred smoky flavor.
- Keep an eye on the temp to avoid overcooking past your preferred doneness. Remember, you can always cook the meat a bit more if needed, but you can't undo an overcooked steak.
- Use a meat thermometer to ensure accuracy and to achieve the proper temp for your desired doneness. Note that when you smoke a steak, cooking time will heavily depend on the thickness of your meat.
Can You Wrap Steak in Foil When Smoking?
You can wrap steak in foil when smoking, but it is an optional technique. It can help to retain moisture and tenderness, especially if you prefer a more juicy result. Remember that wrapping the beef in foil will inhibit the exterior from developing a crust, so if you prefer a crispy outer layer, you may skip this step.
Do Smoked Steaks Taste Good?
Yes, smoked steaks taste good. This meat has a distinct and delicious smoke flavor, highly sought by steak enthusiasts. Combining the smoky aroma and the infusion of flavors from the wood chips creates a unique and mouthwatering profile.
Can You Marinate Steak Before Smoking?
Yes, you can marinate steak before smoking. While marinating can add flavor and tenderize the meat, it is not required to achieve delicious smoked steaks.