Slice into tender smoked beef without having to wait for an entire brisket. Smoked chuck roast is simple, tender, and very easy to prepare.
Poor Man’s Brisket is one of our family favorites, for those times we want to eat smoked brisket but don’t feel like putting in the effort. Smoked brisket is incredible, not only in flavor but in the experience and accomplishment. Sometimes I simply feel lazy, or cheap, and just want to satisfy smoked beef cravings with an easier method.
If you’re looking for smoked shredded beef, you must check out the Smoked Pulled Beef recipe which is another fantastic smoked chuck roast recipe.
Why Choose Chuck Roast?
- It’s cheaper. They don’t call this Poor Man’s Brisket for any other reason. Brisket can be cheaper by the pound at times, but not everyone is willing to buy a 10-pound plus piece of meat. This goes into my next point.
- The smaller size is convenient. Not everyone is willing to spend the time, or fridge space, on a massive whole packer brisket. Smaller households are generally looking for easy, simple cooks. This is it.
- Quicker smoke time. Depending on the size of your chuck roast, the entire smoke can take 1/3 or potentially less time than a smoked brisket.
- It’s more accessible. Looking at stores around the country, chuck roast is one of the most common cuts with the correct amount of fat.
- Easy to cook. Aside from the occasional spritzing, and wrapping with butcher paper, there’s absolutely nothing to this. There’s almost no prep work.
- Ready to go. I’ll reinforce the fact that there’s almost no prep work. Do you want simple? Here you go. Maybe you have to trim a little silverskin on the outside, but these are mostly ready to be seasoned, smoked, and turned into the best, shredded beef.
How to Trim a Chuck Roast for Smoking
One of the best parts of working with chuck roast is the lack of preparation. Most of the time you can simply remove the chuck roast from the wrapped package, pat it dry, and it’s ready to go. Sometimes there could be some silverskin or intermuscular fat on the outside that requires a little trimming.
The intermuscular fat is the thick band of fat running through the center of the chuck roast. This type of fat does not render down completely and tends to end up slightly chewy if you try to eat it. Chuck roast is comprised of a few different muscles, and this fat holds everything together.
Smoking the chuck roast low and slow like brisket will render down the majority of that fat band. If you choose a cut that has a massive intermuscular fat band, there’s definitely potential that it’ll be there when you’re serving.
How to Choose the Best Cut
See the image below for an example of the chuck roast before it’s seasoned. You’ll notice the thicker intermuscular fat, almost like a rubber band in the middle. When choosing the best chuck roast for smoking, make sure that this band is as thin as possible, which means you’ll have less waste and fuss for serving.
Look for meat that has high-quality marbling throughout the muscles as well. Pictured below was a Choice grade of chuck roast, but more marbling means more flavor.
How to Prep for Smoking
You have 2 different options for seasoning: Right before you smoke the chuck roast, or the day before you need it. The chuck roast will taste great if you season just before, but there are huge benefits to seasoning ahead of time, which is called a Dry Brine.
What is Dry-Brining?
This is a fancy name for the simple process of salting and resting meat before cooking it. Doing so provides the same goals of wet-brining without diluting the natural flavors of the meat. The food becomes deeply seasoned and remains very juicy.
Season the meat, and allow it to rest uncovered in the fridge for a period of time. It’s as simple as that. Osmosis and diffusion do the magic, drawing out excess moisture and sucking back in salt, creating a natural brine that penetrates deep into the muscles.
Benefits of Dry-Brining
- Crispier bark, crust, or skin on the outside.
- Deeply seasoned food throughout every bite.
- Higher juice and moisture retention.
- Simple process, very little work involved.
You’ll be using this same method for ALL meats, including whole chicken, turkey, pork, chicken wings, and more. Dry-brining works well for anything that will be smoked slowly, or grilled directly over the coals.
How Long Should the Meat Dry-Brine?
The time required for dry-brining depends on what you’re doing and the size of the meat. Smaller cuts that you’ll cook for a shorter period of time and searing on the grill won’t take much longer than an hour or so, and larger cuts like the Prime Rib above need to dry-brine overnight. Most meats will be seasoned properly if rested overnight.
Equipment for Dry-Brining
Aside from your seasoning of choice, the only equipment that I recommend is a wire rack on a baking sheet. Allowing the meat to be elevated provides even airflow around the meat, drying out the outside on the bottom as well, which lifts it out of its own juices. Having a soggy bottom goes against what you’re trying to accomplish.
Seasoning Choices for Smoked Chuck
You have the freedom to add any flavor you choose with premade rubs, but for the classic flavors of low and slow-smoked beef, I tend to keep it classic with a Texas dalmatian rub as the base. Half
Texas Dalmatian Rub
- 1/2 cup salt: Kosher, coarse, sea, etc. Don’t use table salt, but use a salt that you’re familiar with. Kosher salt is one of my favorites, but it’s pretty coarse. I personally choose to use fine sea salt, which blends well and sprinkles evenly along with the black pepper.
- 1/2 cup ground black pepper: Fresh ground or pre-ground, it’s your choice. Again, I personally use a pre-ground variety because it sprinkles evenly across the meat.
Optional Flavor Additions
- Chile powder: So many choices here, my preferences would be ground guajillo, ancho, or chipotle chile powder.
- Garlic: You can use either powder or granules. I prefer granulated garlic for a consistent texture.
- Paprika: Personally, I choose not to use this for a brisket rub. It’s extremely popular for its flavor, but if I were going to use it, it would be smoked paprika. The color really makes the bark pop.
- Coffee: Ground coffee, or espresso, really adds a deep flavor to the bark. Make sure it’s finely ground, similar to the salt and pepper if possible. A little goes a long way and creates a very dark bark.
These are the most common additions to the basic blend. Use what tastes good, or test these in a small amount and continue to adjust.
How to Smoke the Chuck Roast
We know how to prep (easy peasy) and season a chuck roast. Now it’s time for the fun part, which is smoking. You can smoke a chuck roast on a pellet grill, charcoal grill, offset, or even gas grill. As long as you’re monitoring the temperature and using a source of wood-fired smoked, it can be done. There are two main stages for the chuck roast on the smoker: Smoking & Spritzing, and Wrapping.
Smoking & Spritzing
Preheat the smoker to 250°F. Many people love to smoke at 225°F as there is a myth that it’s the ultimate temperature. You can smoke at that temperature if your smoker doesn’t put out enough quality smoke at 250°F. Use your tool wisely.
I do not believe in smoking a chuck roast on a pellet grill at 180°F using the “Smoke setting”, as this does not render the fat properly. This would also increase the cooking time substantially. The smoke ring and dark bark you see in the photos are from 250°F on a pellet smoker,
Spritzing: I use apple cider vinegar, coffee, beef stock, or flat stout beer. This all depends on the flavor profile I want, and what I have handy to grab. Coffee and stout will create a rich, dark bark. Apple cider vinegar and beef stock will work very well, adding their flavors as you’d expect. Use what you feel would taste good, spritzing every 45 minutes after the first hour.
Wrapping & More Smoking
Wrap the smoked chuck roast in pink butcher paper when it reaches about 165°F. It’s not always exact, but the beef stalls around that temperature. I proactively just wrap when it’s close, regardless of what’s going on.
I like to add moisture by either spritzing or pouring in 1/4 cup of melted beef tallow over the top. The tallow is my preference, but both options work. (see image below)
Wrap the smoked chuck roast tightly and place back into the smoker until the temperature reaches around 200-205°F and is probe tender.
Smoked Chuck Roast Temperature
The smoked chuck roast will be ready to pull off between 200-205°F, and you’ll have to use intuition. The temperature probe should slide right through the thickest part with very little resistance as if you’re sticking it into a jar of peanut butter. At this point, it’s important to remove the wrapped chuck roast and allow it to rest.
Every cut will be different, depending on the fat content and size. Use your judgment and don’t stress, it will work out!
How to Rest After Smoking
This step is just as important as smoking the chuck roast!
At this point, the meat is still wrapped and fresh off the smoker. Allow it to sit at room temperature, on a cutting board or baking sheet, until it starts to cool down to about 190-195°F. This should take around 20 minutes or so. Cooling down means that if you choose to put the smoked chuck roast into a cooler to extend the warming time, it will not overcook the beef. The temperature is on its way down now, so anything you can do to slow the process is helpful. I recommend resting the chuck roast for at least an hour total.
- Insulated Cooler: Place the slightly cooled smoked chuck roast, still wrapped, in an insulated cooler. I do not recommend styrofoam.
- Loosely tended foil: Use heavy-duty, or traditional foil and loosely tent the chuck roast while still wrapped. This slows down the cooling.
- Oven: Once the smoked chuck roast has started to cool, place it in the oven at the lowest setting, about 170-175°F. It only needs to rest about an hour, it’s not a huge full-packer brisket.
Slice against the grain, and only slice what you plan to serve right away. Slicing too far in advance, or too much will cause the meat to dry out quickly. I love to slice when everyone has gathered around with plates, eager to pick off their servings right away.
What to Serve with Smoked Chuck Roast?
- Coal-Roasted Pineapple Burnt Ends
- Creamy Hatch Chile Mac and Cheese
- Grilled Broccoli Crunch Salad
- Creamy Southwestern Coleslaw
- Southern Macaroni Salad
- 1 beef chuck roast, 3-4 pounds
- 2–3 tablespoons dalmatian rub, 50/50 salt and black pepper
- 1/2 cup liquid for spritzing (see notes)
- (optional) 1/4 cup melted beef tallow
- Season the chuck roast generously on all sides with the rub. Set it on a wire rack with a baking sheet in the fridge, uncovered for at least 2 hours or up to overnight.
- Preheat the smoker to 250°F. Remove the chuck roast from the fridge and let it warm up while the smoker preheats.
- Smoke the chuck roast, and spritz every 45 minutes after the first hour. Cook it this way for a few hours, until the temperature reaches around 165°F.
- Wrap the chuck roast in butcher paper. Spritz it one last time, or pour 1/4 cup of melted beef tallow over the top. Wrap tightly and place back in the smoker with the seam-side down.
- You will be cooking until your thermometer or probe has little to no resistance when checking the temperature, between 200-205°F. Each piece of beef will be slightly different.
- Remove the wrapped chuck roast from the smoker and allow it to rest at least for an hour. See blog notes for details.
- Slice and serve.
For spritzing, I use apple cider vinegar, coffee, beef stock, or flat stout beer.
- Prep Time: 2 hours
- Cook Time: 5-6 hours
- Category: Beef & Lamb
- Method: Smoking
- Cuisine: Beef
Keywords: smoking, chuck roast, smoked chuck roast, poor man’s brisket