Chuck roast is best fresh off the grill or smoker. It’s cooked for hours low and slow over hickory, making it one of the best smoked beef cuts. Find out everything you need to know with our full smoked chuck roast recipe and guide.
Smoked chuck roast is an incredible cut of beef, made of the right balance of rich marbling and strong connective tissue. Barbecue it right and you’ll have a smokey, melt-in-your-mouth chuck that’s perfect for serving pulled or sliced.
Its quality is close to barbecue brisket, but comes at a fraction of the price. In this recipe, we’ll be smoking a 10lb chuck roast on our choice of offset or drum smoker, and cooking until perfectly tender.
Chuck roast is often regarded as either an oven or pan-cooked meat, but it’s unmatched when barbecued. Like brisket, it needs some serious cooking time (over 6 hours) before it becomes tender. But oh boy, is it worth it.
Beef chuck is comprised of different groups of the cow shoulder and is best suited to long, slow cooks. Its fat will render, enriching it with moisture and flavor, and it will be close to falling away. It’s outrageously delicious. So let’s get into it!
What is chuck roast?
Because the shoulder is a well-worked area of the cow, the chuck contains a healthy amount of muscle but also carries a mass of sinew and fat. This perfect blend of rich muscle fibers, healthy marbling, and connective tissue is what makes beef chuck such excellent meat for low and slow smoking.
It’s traditionally used as part of a pot roast (hence ‘chuck roast’), but it can also be barbecue smoked. Smoking allows it to turn tender and moist, and full of rich beef flavor. The fat content in the marbling slow renders and melts as it cooks, infusing the meat with a rich beef flavor.
Chuck roast vs brisket
Chuck steak and brisket each come from different parts of the cow, making them two entirely different kinds of beef. They are different in terms of taste, texture, and how they should be cooked.
Chuck steak comes from the shoulder, while brisket comes from the lower chest or breast area of the cow. Brisket contains more fat and meat than chuck, making it popular for smoking.
Where to buy beef chuck
Decent beef chuck is widely available at most store meat counters, but the quality might vary. To ensure that you get a high-quality cut containing the right amount of marbling and fat, visit a butcher. Make sure that you are getting chuck roast, not steak.
Rinse the beef under cold water. Place it on a chopping board and apply salt to the surfaces of the meat. Apply it across the entire surface of the meat and rub it in. This is called dry brining and helps the meat retain its moisture and flavor while it’s exposed to warm temperatures in the smoker for several hours.
Transfer the meat to your refrigerator and allow it to sit for a couple of hours. This will allow the salt to be absorbed.
Remove it from the refrigerator and apply some yellow mustard over the entire surface, including the bottom. The mustard will act as a glue or paste for the seasoning to stick to. The actual mustard flavor will fade quite a bit after smoking, so don’t be worried about the taste getting up your nose.
Sprinkle the seasoning over the roast and massage it in across the chuck, including in any folds or crevices that you find.
BBQ dry rub
For this recipe, I’ve opted for just a simple rub. Just like with brisket, I like smoked chuck roast to do the work and not lean on spices or herbs.
The ingredients for my rub are:
- 2 tbsp kosher salt
- 2 tbsp black pepper
- 2 tbsp garlic powder
If you do like your meat to have a bit of a kick, try adding a teaspoon of cayenne pepper and half a teaspoon of chili powder. I find it’s better to use too little than too much, so be careful not to go overboard.
Prepare the smoker
Get the temperature of your smoker up to about 225°F (107°C). If you’re using a charcoal grill as a smoker, try to set up your grill for indirect grilling.
If you’re using a gas or outdoor electric grill this will work, but you’re going to have to make sure you keep feeding it smoking chips so that there is a constant feed of smoke for the 6 hours of cooking time that we have planned for this!
Pro tip: Try using a pellet tube smoker. These little contraptions sit on top of your grill and contain pellets that will help provide a constant stream of smoke on whatever you’re smoking.
Place your chuck roast on the smoker grates, and let it cook for between 1 ½ to 2 hours per pound or until it reaches 195°F in the center. Thickness and weight can both have a huge impact on cooking time, so you might find that it takes a lot longer than this!
You might want to wrap the roast in aluminum foil once you get to about 160°F to help speed things up a bit. This isn’t always necessary but can help if the rise in temperature in the meat seems to stall.
If you continue to struggle to kick the heat up, try placing the chuck in the oven (while wrapped in foil) to help get it over the line. This should only be used as a last resort.
Do try to remember to try and keep the heating temperature around 225°F, as anything higher will risk burning any seasoning or rubs that you use (both during and after cooking). Lower heat leads to tastier meat!
Resting and serving
Remove the chuck roast from the smoker and wrap it in foil (if you haven’t done so already). Wrap a thick towel around it and place it into an empty ice chest, or soft-sided cooler. While these are often used for keeping food cool, they are also good at helping meat retain its juices after cooking.
Fill in any remaining space with more towels or blankets, and leave it for at least an hour. This is called the resting period and the reason we recommend this is because it allows the juices to re-circulate through the meat, helping to keep a great consistency through the roast.
Unwrap the foil and transfer the beef to a cutting board, and allow the internal temperature of the meat to drop to about 150°F.
Smoked chuck steak can start to dry out once it’s cut, so don’t slice it until you are serving it. Use a sharp knife to slice the roast into thin pieces, about a quarter-inch thick.
Only slice what you are using. If you have any leftovers, keep them intact and store them in airtight foil or wrap them in the refrigerator.
If you prefer pulled beef over slices, this part is for you! Open the foil and let the meat cool for a few minutes. Be careful: The beef will still be hot after this resting period!
Pull the meat into chunks the size that you want, or use a cleaver or sharp knife to chop up the long strands of tender beef to make them shorter.
Once you’ve done that, mix in your choice of rub… and enjoy!
Best smoking wood
The best woods for smoking beef tend to be woods that are deep and earthy in flavor, as opposed to the sweeter woods that we might use for poultry or pork.
These include oak, hickory, and mesquite.
For chuck I recommend hickory. It’s a strong and deep wood, and you’ll only need a little bit to get the flavor you want.
Any smoked meat is only cooked once it reaches our target temperature, and in the case of beef chuck, we want to go for between 190°F and 200°F.
This is a little higher than most types of beef, but we want the chuck to reach a consistency at which we can pull the beef. Aiming for 195°F helps the connective tissues in the meat render and break down, so we can achieve that ideal melt-in-the-mouth feel that we want.