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:
- 8-12" Kitchen knife
- Knife steel
- Large cutting board
- Probe-style thermometer
- Stainless steel kitchen tongs
- Butcher twine
- Aluminium foil
- Kitchen tea towels
- Salt (Kosher is best but sea salt is great, too!)
- Beef chuck
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.
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Step 1: 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
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
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
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
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
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!