Introduction: Smoked Pulled Beef

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Few things are more rewarding than making your own pulled beef from the backyard smoker. The cuts used for pulled beef are among the cheapest from the store, but are transformed into the softest and tastiest dish you've ever had. Smoked meats also develop a deep and flavorful bark on the outside, a uniqueness only found when using a smoker. The process for smoked pulled pork is mostly the same, except using pork shoulder instead of beef chuck.

Enjoyed on a slider bun, or just on it's own, this recipe is sure to make you the king of backyard parties. Any type of charcoal or electric backyard smoker will work. If you're unsure, check out this part of my Smoker Lesson to learn more.

Here's what's needed:

This Instructable is a companion to the Meat Smoking Lesson, and relies on a basic understanding on how smokers work. Check out the smoking lesson and get a primer on outdoor smokers, and the difference between hot and cold smoking.

If you like this smoker recipe you're sure to like some other great food to make on the smoker, like smoked almonds, homemade sausages, and even beef jerky.

Step 1: Hot Smoking - Beef Chuck

Picture of Hot Smoking - Beef Chuck

As covered in the Cuts Of Meat Lesson, the chuck is a cut from the neck area and is usually quite tough, however if we cook it slowly with low heat the toughness turns to tender goodness. This is the cut we'll be using for our smoked beef because it's inexpensive, a large cut, and accepts smoke perfectly.

Start with 3-6 lbs. (1-3 kg) of beef chuck. The butcher may have this in rolls or as large flat cuts - either is fine. Generously sprinkle the entire surface with Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper, then roll into a tight bundle and secure with butcher's twine.

Step 2: Smoke That Meat

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Heat your smoker to around 280°F (140°C) with wood chips and smoke until the meat reaches an internal temperature of about 160°F (70°C). Use your probe thermometer to ensure accurate readings. Time will depend on your type of smoker and how large the chuck is that you are smoking - this can be anywhere from 2-6 hours.

The most important thing to know when smoking is patience; once food is inside the smoker resist the urge to open the unit for an inspection. Opening the smoking chamber will drop the temperature immediately and release all the smoke, thereby defeating the point of smoking and causing your smoking to take even longer.

Step 3: Texas Crutch

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Once you hit an internal temperature of 160°F (70°C), remove the meat from smoker and wrap in aluminium foil (shiny side in). Wrapping your smoked meat in foil is called the Texas Crutch - the idea here is to speed the cooking and decrease the total moisture loss of the chuck.

Once wrapped, place back on the smoker with the probe inserted and continue cooking.

We're looking to hit an internal temperature of around 230°F (110°C) and continue cooking for a few hours until meat is tender enough to fall apart when a fork is inserted (about 2-3 hours depending on size of chuck and type of smoker).

Step 4: Remove Foil and Finish

Picture of Remove Foil and Finish

The last step is to finish the outside of the beef. After the target temperature has been held for a few hours with the foil, remove the foil and place the beef back on the smoker to finish the outside and give it a nice exterior.

Like with stove top cooking, we're looking to have a nice crust to our beef to give it some texture and intense taste. When smoking, the outer layer is called bark. Leave on smoker for about 20-40 minutes with a few fresh chunks of wood for added flavor depth.

Step 5: Remove and Rest

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Remove the meat from the smoker and cover in foil to allow the meat to cool slowly, then allow to rest until the internal temperature falls to around 160°F (70°C) before opening up and serving.

Step 6: Cut and Serve

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After resting unwrap and cut the twine, then pull the meat apart with tongs and a large fork to shred it. You'll know you've done it right when the beef falls apart and shreds easily. A hallmark of great smoking is the obvious crust layer, visibly defined by a dark contrast in color to the lighter interior.

You'll have a hard time keeping this delicious beef dish for long, so make sure you gobble some down quickly before the aroma draws the neighbors over!

Smoking meat does take some preparation and dedicated time to monitor the smoker, but the results are unlike anything else. As with all skills, learning your particular smoker and refining the technique may take some trial and error, but it's really easy once you understand that the key to smoking is low and slow; if you do that you really can't go wrong!

For more on smoking, check out this my Smoker Class!


Share a picture of your smoky, slow cooked things in the comments below. I want to see all the delicious things you make and will try on my smoker, too!

Comments

jim21489 (author)2017-07-18

Nicely done. Seems everyone does pork all the time. This is a nice change of pace. Plus I like beef (but pork is still hard to beat).

deluges (author)2017-07-10

This is crazy! I just got inside the house to bring my pork shoulder out of the homemade smoker I made out of a trash can and a heat plate where it spent two hours, and into the oven where it will cook for 8 more hours at 90°C. What a timing coincidence. I'll report on results at lunch tomorrow...

mikeasaurus (author)deluges2017-07-10

Yum! Please do.

I'm dialing in my process every time I smoke. Pork shoulder or beef, I smoke for at least 8 hours. I talked with the owner of a BBQ restaurant near me and their smoker runs for 14 hours. I wish I could leave mine unattended for that long.

deluges (author)mikeasaurus2017-07-11

So it turned out delicious, the smoky flavor was there even with just two hours of smoking. I'd have liked to cook the whole time in the smoker but I had no real control over temperature so not really viable.

mikeasaurus (author)deluges2017-07-11

Looks delicious! If you don't have a thermostat to regulate the temperature you can always do a 2-zone cooking and aggressively vent to keep a consistent temperature. The trick to killer BBQ is "low and slow".

No matter, it looks great! I've also had some success with combining BBQ with a slow cooker for shredded pork/beef. Just another option to throw out there.

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