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Start with a chuck roast in the 5-pound range. Rinse it under cold running water and blot dry with paper towels.
Secure chuck roast with 1 to 2 pieces of twine, tied around its circumference and 3 to 4 pieces of twine going around the width at 1 to 1 ½-inch intervals, making a grid pattern with the twine.
Combine all the ingredients for the rub in a small bowl; stir with a whisk to mix and remove any clumps. Rub the spice rub onto the chuck roast on all sides. If you have time, wrap the roast in plastic wrap and let it cure in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or as long as overnight. Smoking the roast right away is ok, but sitting in the refrigerator for several hours allows the rub to penetrate the meat.
Soak a few handfuls wood chips for about 30 minutes in water before placing on the coals.
Preheat the smoker or charcoal grill (using to 250 degrees F. To maintain this low temperature, use only half as much charcoal as usual. (A half chimney-full.)
Alternatively, using a charcoal grill set up for indirect heat with a drip pan of water directly underneath the meat to stabilize the temperature.
When the coals are ready, place the prepared chuck roast onto the center of the hot grate, over the drip pan filled with water and insert temperature probes (if using). Toss a handful of soaked wood chips and some dry wood chunks onto the hot coals; cover and allow the beef to smoke.
David likes to use a combination of dry and wet wood chunks, alternating between the two. The dry gives a quick intense smoke and brings the heat up. The wet wood chunks provide a lower, slower smoke and bring the heat down. Heat adjustments can be made using this technique, along with adjusting the vents on the smoker.
Bring the temperature up to 225 degrees F, using the vents and wet and dry wood chips to regulate the temperature. You will need to add fresh coals and more wood chips almost every hour for at least the first 4 hours.
Check the temperature of the smoker every hour, staying as close to 225 degrees F as possible. Resist the temptation to open the lid unless you need to add more charcoal or soaked wood chips to maintain temperature and smoke.
Smoke the chuck roast until a dark “bark” (outside crust) forms and the internal temperature of the meat is about 190 degrees F, about 6 to 8 hours; if you don’t use a probe thermometer, use an instant-read meat thermometer to test for doneness.
The ideal temperature of a properly smoked chuck roast is no less than 160 degrees F for medium to 190 to 200 degrees F for well done. The internal temperature of the chuck roast can increase by 10 degrees even after it’s been removed from the smoker, so keep that in mind. If the internal temperature is 190 degrees F when you take it off the smoker, it may rise to an optimal 200 degrees F, perfect! Any hotter than that and could overcook your chuck roast, which results in dry, chewy meat.
Remove the chuck roast from the smoker wrap it in double-layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil; return to the smoker for at least 1 hour maintaining an internal smoker temperature between 225 to 250 degrees F.
Holding helps tenderize by allowing some carryover cooking which helps melt tough connective tissue. The foil captures the natural au jus for use in a sauce, and holding allows the surface parts that have dried out during cooking to absorb some of the juices.
Remove the foil-wrapped chuck roast from the smoker. Carefully unwrap the layers of foil and transfer the meat to a cutting board, tent with foil. Allow the chuck roast to cool until internal temperature drops to around 150 degrees F before serving, 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Don’t slice until the last possible minute. The chuck roast dries out quickly once it is cut. When you are ready, start by cutting off and discarding the twine. With a sharp chef’s knife, slice the chuck roast thinly, with the grain, about ⅛ to ¼-inch thick. For best results, slice only what you are serving.
Perfectly cooked meat should be moist and juicy. You can serve it simply sliced on a plate or as a sandwich. If you wish, drizzle some sauce (cheese or BBQ sauce) and serve slices of flat fanned out like a deck of cards surrounded by chunks of burnt ends.