You won’t find a dry chuck roast here! Smoked chuck roast is the best alternative to the big boy (beef brisket) for smoked pulled beef. It’s smaller, generally much more affordable per pound, and it takes significantly less time to cook.
This guide is going to show you how to take chuck roast and make the most flavorful smoked pulled beef. Sometimes I’ll use a chuck roast as a replacement for sliced brisket because I’m feeling lazy. That guide is here: Smoked Chuck Roast, Poor Man’s Brisket.
Smoking a chuck roast low and slow will help break down the tough connective tissue through the beef. This is a similar process to brisket, beef ribs, and other tough cuts. Patience pays off, you will have incredibly tender and moist shredded beef.
Why You’ll Prefer Chuck Roast for Shredded Beef
You might be surprised that you’re not seeing a brisket, shoulder clod, beef cheeks, or another cut. Let’s break down the reasons why we use chuck roast for smoked pulled beef:
- Just the right amount of fat. It’s much more difficult to make smoked pulled beef with leaner roasts, like the eye of round or bottom round. Beef cheeks are SO delicious, but their fat content isn’t pleasing to everyone. Yes, brisket points work very well, but there are a few other reasons we’re not using those.
- It’s cheaper. Usually, chuck roast is cheaper than most of the other cuts you’ll find. There are times I’ll find brisket points on sale for a price that’s similar, but I’d still prefer to use a chuck roast.
- The right size. The muscle fibers are shorter, meaning that when you shred the chuck roast to serve as pulled beef, you don’t have 6-8″ meat fibers that you have to cut. Some larger cuts, such as brisket points, will have much longer fibers which will cause additional work.
- 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 up with some broth, 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.
Step 1: Trimming the Chuck Roast
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.
Don’t worry about cutting it out or trimming it down. It’s the glue that binds everything together for the cooking phase, and it’s very simple to remove when shredding. At the end of smoking the chuck roast, you’ll focus on shredding the different pieces of meat on the outside and can simply discard the thick band of intermuscular fat.
Seasoning Choices for Chuck Roast
There are so many opportunities in the process to customize the flavor profile of your chuck roast. The seasoning, the spray, and the braise. Play with combinations that you feel could be a hit! I like to mix it up and spray it with coffee for a darker, bolder flavor. Try adding warm spices, or smashed garlic into the broth for additional aromatics.
- Classic Salt & Pepper: If you’re not sure. Texas definitely knows its flavors when it comes to BBQ beef. Stick with the basics and it will absolutely work well.
- Smoky Southwest Dry Rub: This is for a deeper, earthy flavor built off of dried chiles and aromatics. It creates a really nice bark as well.
- Espresso Steak Rub: Leaning more towards the classic salt and pepper, with a dark tone from the coffee. Use this if you’re planning on a rich dish, like pulled beef sandwiches with melty cheese.
Step 2: Smoking Phase
Place your seasoned chuck roast in the smoker, preheated for 250°F.
The beef will cook for a few hours, time will vary based on the size of the roast and how many you are cooking.
Spritz the chuck roast with a little liquid along the way, specifically after the first hour. This helps the edges from drying out.
I’ve found that regardless of the size, it’s usually around 3 hours, sometimes a little less. Just keep an eye on the temperature of the beef. Once it hits about 165°F internal temperature, it’s time to wrap.
Step 3: Braising with Liquid and Aromatics
Similar to brisket, chuck roast tends to plateau with its internal temperature at 165°F.
Place the chuck roast in a skillet or foil pan, and add some broth and sliced onions before increasing the temperature to 265°F. You’ll be cooking it like this the rest of the way until about 200-205°F.
Make sure the vessel you use is wrapped tightly with heavy-duty aluminum foil, or a lid that fits.
Step 4: Shred the Beef when Tender
This is critical, you’ll need to go by feel.
Stick the thermometer into the beef once it’s around the 205°F mark. It should go in with very little resistance.
Think about how it would feel to stick the thermometer into a jar of peanut butter – the feeling should be the same when checking to see if the chuck roast is ready.
Frequently Asked Questions
Cook it longer. BBQ isn’t about strict rules, you have to use intuition. It should be probe tender when it’s ready to shred. Every piece of meat is slightly different.
I let mine rest at room temp (still covered) for 30 minutes, which allows some of the juices to retreat back into the muscles and also cools it off enough to handle.
Let it cool down to about 180°F, still in-tact, and then you can wrap the container in a warm cooler which should keep it warm for quite a while. Do not shred ahead of time, that will cool it off.
You can use a heavy-duty foil pan, cast-iron skillet, or Dutch oven. Any of those will work well, the key is to make sure that it is large enough to fit the chuck roast and your liquid. Seal the top of it with either heavy-duty foil, or the lid if it comes with one.
Watch a Quick Process Video
Sides to Serve with Smoked Pulled Beef
- Smoked Mac and Cheese
- Margarita Grilled Shrimp
- Campechana, Grilled Mexican Shrimp Cocktail
- The BEST Buffalo Wings
- 1 chuck roast (3–4 lb)
- 2 tbsp kosher salt
- 2 tbsp fresh ground black pepper
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp chile powder (chipotle, or guajillo)
- 1 cup beef broth
- 1/2 onion, sliced thin
- Season the beef on all sides generously. Allow it to sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
- When you’re ready, preheat your smoker to 250°F.
- Place the beef on the grates and cook for about 3 hours, spraying with beef broth at least once an hour. This will help build flavor and keep the edges from drying out.
- The internal temperature will stall around 165°F, around the 3-hour mark. This is completely normal, meaning that the temperature will seem like it’s not going up anymore. Increase the smoker temperature to 265-280°F. Place the chuck roast into a skillet or foil pan, adding in the beef broth and onions. Cover the skillet or pan with foil and continue to cook.
- 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 beef from the liquid and shred. Strain the fat from the liquid, and add the meat back into the juices or reserve for a dipping sauce.
Time will vary depending on the meat. It might take more than 3 hours to hit 165F, and it might take more than 6 hours total cooking time. Plan accordingly, always start early. It’s easy to keep meat warm, but it’s not easy to keep guests from being hangry!
- Prep Time: 1 hour
- Cook Time: 6 hours
- Category: Beef
- Method: Smoking
- Cuisine: Pulled Beef
Keywords: smoked chuck roast, beef, pulled beef, shredded beef, bbq beef