Delicious smoked pulled beef fresh off the backyard smoker. Made with beautiful beef chuck roast, this hickory-smoked beef cut is smoked low and slow until ready for shredding. Perfect for sandwiches, tacos, or just by itself!
This smoked pulled beef encapsulates everything we love about barbecue beef and transforms it into the perfect filling for BBQ sandwiches, tacos, or enchiladas.
Our recipe uses smoked chuck roast due to its rich marbling and fat content, making it ideal for shredding and turning into a juicy, tender meat filling.
From choosing the right smoking wood to mastering meat shredding, discover how to smoke pulled beef today.
Chuck Roast Explained
From the steer’s primal shoulder area, beef chuck sits just above the brisket and in front of the ribs. Because the shoulder is a well-worked area of the cow, beef chuck carries a healthy amount of muscle as well as 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 with the right approach. Smoking makes it tender and moist as the fat slowly renders and melts away, infusing the meat with a rich beef flavor.
BBQ Dry Rub
The only step of meat preparation we’ll be using for this recipe is applying a generous layer of dry rub seasoning to the chuck roast before placing it on the smoker.
While we don’t tend to add too much spice to most of our smoked beef recipes, for this pulled beef we want to take the opportunity to add a bit more flavor and bite to our shredded meat. Any good BBQ dry rub should offer a balance of herbs and spices with just a little sugar.
For this recipe, we’ll use a mild blend of smoked paprika and cayenne pepper, with just a dash of chili powder added for depth. It features smoked paprika, chili powder, and cayenne pepper and offers a well-rounded depth of flavor.
Simply combine all the ingredients (find the full list in our recipe below), use a fork to mix well, and crush any lumps that appear (it happens!). Then, spread a thin layer of yellow mustard to the chuck to act as an adhesive. Then apply the rub blend generously, working it into any folds or crevices along the meat surface. Once that’s done, we’re good to go!
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. This includes robust hardwoods such as oak, hickory, and mesquite.
For pulled beef chuck, we recommend hickory. It’s a strong wood with stunning depth, and you’ll only need a little to get the flavor you want. It imparts a smokey, sweet, slightly nutty flavor to the food that it smokes. Hickory also has a strong color. It creates a particularly dark smoke, adding extra depth to the meat it is smoking.
Times & Temperatures
We’ll be smoking our chuck roast at 225°F (107°C) for the first stage before we wrap it. Once we wrap it in aluminum foil for the second stage, we’ll ramp up the temperature to 275°F (135°C) to help push our meat through the stall and help put it on its way to our target temperature.
Like with any smoked meat, we want to smoke to temperature and not time, meaning we should only remove it from the smoker once it hits our target internal temperature of 205°F (95°C). This is higher than most smoked meat recipes, but we need the meat to become extra-tender for efficient shredding for pulled beef.
Smoke time will depend on a variety of factors, particularly meat size. In general, chuck roast requires 90 minutes per pound of meat. So, for our 3lb chuck roast cut we should expect approximately 4 to 6 hours of cooking.
- Make a little excess beef broth and keep some for when you come to shred the beef. If the meat looks dry as you shred it, add some beef broth to add more moisture and salt.
- When pulling the beef, use meat shredding claws (like these on Amazon) to grip the meat and twist slowly to pull the beef apart. You can just use forks if you prefer, but purpose-built claws will work through connective tissue more efficiently.
Smoked Pulled Beef
- 3 lb chuck roast
- 2 tbsp yellow mustard
- 2 cups beef broth
- ¼ cup smoked paprika
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- ¼ cup chili powder
- ¼ cup ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tbsp kosher salt
- Fire up your smoker to 225°F (107°C). If you are using a charcoal grill, ensure you are set up for 2-zone cooking.
- In a small bowl, combine dry rub ingredients. Use a fork to crush or remove any lumps that may form.
- Pat chuck roast with paper towels to remove moisture. Then, apply a thin layer of yellow mustard across the meat’s surface, covering all sides.
- Apply the dry rub to the chuck roast across its entire surface. Apply liberally and work into any crevices or folds in the meat.
- When the smoker has hit 225°F, add hickory wood chips to coals or wood tray. Place chuck roast on smoker grates, close the door, and smoke until meat internal temperature is 160°F (70°C). Usually 3-4 hours, depending on the size of your beef cut.
- Place the chuck roast in aluminum foil and create a pouch. Pour the beef broth over the chuck roast, and add excess broth to form in the pouch around the meat.
- Wrap the chuck roast and beef broth tightly in foil, and place back in the smoker. Increase smoker temperature to 275°F (135°C) and smoke until meat internal temperature hits 205°F (95°C), about 3-4 hours.
- Remove wrapped chuck roast from smoker and leave to rest (still in foil) for 30-60 minutes
- Use forks or meat claws to shred the beef