Grilling is an outdoor cooking favorite, but for the serious home cook, it’s not quite the pinnacle of flavor.
For the most amazingly complex and mouthwatering flavor, nothing beats smoking.
Smoked meat is in a league of its own and you can use wood chips, chunks, or pellets as ingredients to impart flavors that range from subtle and mild to big and bold.
Beef is easily the best meat to smoke, and, best of all, smoking means that you can use some of the inexpensive cuts to get fantastic results.
For meals that you will never forget, whether relaxing with family or entertaining friends, you need to start with the 7 best cuts of beef to smoke.
1: Beef Brisket
This one is a given.
There is no other cut that is as popular for smoking.
Arguably, none are quite as versatile or as flavorful, either.
Brisket is inexpensive. It’s tough if it’s not done right.
But, with a smoker, you can enjoy tender meat that will become a favorite for special occasions or any time that you want something amazing on your plate.
Brisket has countless connective tissue strands that create toughness and chewiness when it is cooked too quickly.
Low and slow in your home smoker is the way to go.
Brisket should be smoked at 225°F (107°C) and the interior temperature should be 200°F (93°C) when it’s done.
It can take up to 12 hours for a large cut, but you could be done in just 5 hours with a more modest piece of brisket.
A dry rub of salt and pepper is enough to season a brisket.
The real flavor will come from the beef protein, fat marbling, and your smoke.
Oak is a good all-rounder for brisket, especially if you want a milder flavor.
But we think this versatile cut is better served by Hickory, which is sweeter and richer.
Try these Weber Hickory Wood Chunks for the best beef brisket you’ve ever had at home.
2: Chuck Roast
The humble chuck roast is another cut that can be relatively affordable but extremely flavorful.
It has some larger strands of fat and connective tissue and there’s some good marbling to be had when you choose a prime or premium cut.
The flavor is rich and beefy, and it’s made even better when you add Hickory smoke.
The Weber chunks in our top pick would work perfectly.
Chuck roast isn’t as tough or as sensitive as brisket, so you can cook it faster and the internal temperature can be lower.
Slightly rarer, it will be tender, full of moisture, and delicious.
Smoke chuck roast at 250°F (121°C) and it will be ready when the interior temperature reaches 165°F (73°C).
A typical cut will be smoked in about 5 – 6 hours.
3: Beef Ribs
Ribs are similar in texture to chuck when uncooked.
When smoked, they are extremely tender and rich in flavor.
It helps that the bone is in.
This adds a heartier flavor as the marrow renders and infuses the rest of the meat.
Beef ribs are relatively inexpensive so are a good choice when you want some restaurant-quality smoked beef on a budget.
They’ll take around 5 hours in the smoker at a temperature of 250°F (121°C).
Ribs can be cooked rarer because they’re smaller than other cuts.
Keeping things around medium rare will give you the best texture and flavor.
Aim for an internal temperature (next to the bone) of 145°F (62°).
This will melt the connective tissue and fat for maximum flavor.
Your choice of smoke is flexible, and you can experiment with any wood that you like.
The beef flavor is on the strong side so the smoke is unlikely to overpower it.
For a good balance, try smoking beef ribs with Western Premium BBQ Products Post Oak.
4: Tri-Tip Steak
Beef Tri-Tip is a sub primal cut.
It comes from the bottom of the sirloin.
It’s not as inexpensive as brisket or chuck, but the texture and flavor easily justify the price.
It has a moderate to heavy beef flavor like steaks that you would sear on your grill.
The difference here is that you’ll be smoking it, so it will retain more flavor while also taking on the characteristics of the wood that you choose.
This is a rich beef cut so Oak and Hickory will be fine.
Because the cooking time is relatively short for smoked meat, you could also use a heavier and bolder smoke like Mesquite.
You can try Weber Mesquite Wood Chunks for perfect results every time.
Smoke at 250°F (121°C) for 60 – 90 minutes or when the internal temperature is 135°F (57°C).
5: Top Sirloin
There are top and bottom sirloin cuts but it’s the top that you want for your smoker.
It’s leaner but will still have some decent marbling for flavor.
It’s a tougher cut, so it’s affordable.
All that toughness disappears in the smoking process so you’ll be left with meat that can be sliced thick and served hot.
It can be cooled and sliced thin for deli-style subs.
It can even be enjoyed on its own as a cold cut.
Smoking time is around one hour, so it’s a good one to go for when you want a big flavor in a hurry.
The shorter cooking time also means that you can get adventurous with heavy smoke like Mesquite.
For something lighter, choose Hickory instead.
Smoke at 225° (107°C) and aim for an internal temperature of 145° (62°C) for medium-rare that will melt in your mouth.
Sirloin benefits from a marinade.
A simple soy sauce, garlic, and pepper combination will do the trick.
If you want to try a pre-made marinade, consider the Mr. Spice Organic Garlic Steak Sauce.
6: Flank Steak
Flank steak is an affordable cut for cooking on your grill.
It gets even better when you prepare it for your smoker.
If you’ve ever grilled this cut, you will know that the connective muscle fibers run throughout it and can cause it to become tough if overcooked or sliced incorrectly.
In the smoker, the cooking time helps to break down these fibers so it’s going to be much more tender than even a medium-rare flank steak seared on a grill top.
Smoking temperature can be lower at 225°F (107°C).
This will prevent the steak from drying out.
The internal temperature is best at 145°F (62°C). It will take around 3 hours to finish a flank steak in your smoker.
The smoke choice is entirely up to you.
Flank is rich in beef flavor, but it does lend itself well to a bold smoke choice like Mesquite.
If you’re looking for a milder smoke, go for Hickory to add sweetness, or even Oak for something that would be better suited to a large group of guests with different preferences.
7: T-Bone Steak
T-Bone combines tender meat with the bone for a richer flavor.
This cut leans more towards the costly side, but it’s worth it.
It’s a favorite of the Northwest, particularly in Montana.
Many people refer to smoked T-Bone steak as Montana steak.
Seasoning should be simple with just salt and pepper to taste.
Smoke flavor and the beef itself will do all the rest of the work.
Like other smaller cuts, the cooking time is relatively low so you can go with Mesquite wood for something bold and upfront.
Or, if you want the authentic Northwestern version, Applewood will be your best bet.
This is milder in smoke, but the complex sweetness adds a unique profile that contrasts well with the rich and tender beef.
Smoke at 225°F (107°C) and aim for an internal temperature of 145°F (62°C).
These Weber Apple Wood Chunks are perfect for T-Bone steak.
Use a Thermometer Probe for the Best Smoked Beef
We’ve noted temperatures for our best cuts of beef to smoke.
The cooking temperature can easily be controlled with your digital or analog thermostat on your smoker.
For the internal temperature, you’ll need a probe.
A probe eliminates guesswork, and it will ensure consistent results every time.
Temperature is key to flavor and texture, so it’s not something that you want to improvise.
Opening your smoker during cooking will interrupt the process and lose you a whole lot of smoke and flavor.
You can invest in probes that stay in the meat, allowing you to check the temperature throughout, so you’ll know exactly when it’s ready.
The ThermoPro TP25 is one of the most popular meat thermometers for home grilling and smoking.
It can even be used when cooking in your kitchen oven.
This model has four probes and a digital display to easily check the temperature.
It can also connect to your smartphone using Bluetooth, so you’ll be able to check on your smoked beef throughout the day – this is particularly helpful for brisket and the cuts that take more than a couple of hours.
Rest and Serve the Best Smoked Beef You’ve Ever Had
The last thing to remember is to always rest your smoked beef.
Thinner and smaller cuts can be rested for around 5 minutes before slicing.
Larger cuts can be rested for up to 10 minutes.
If you want cold deli-style cuts, rest first, cover, and put the smoked beef in your refrigerator.
Learning how to smoke the best beef cuts will give you new options for cooking at any time of the year.
Nothing beats smoked beef, and now you’re ready to try it for yourself.