If you love smoked brisket but don’t want to shell out the dollars or spend the next 14 hours tending to your smoker, I have the perfect solution for you: the smoked chuck roast. It is easy, doesn’t take forever to smoke, and it will give you a finished product that will make you wonder why you haven’t tried this sooner.
But wait, how can a simple $20 chuck roast give you brisket like results? Isn’t a chuck roast meant to be cooked in a crock pot with wine and potatoes and carrots for pot roast? That has always been the traditional way of doing it, but we are Big Green Egg people! We can cook anything that can be made on a stove, in an oven or on a grill on our Eggs. Eggheads unite!
What is a chuck roast?
To know how to properly prepare a chuckie for smoking, we must first understand a little bit about this inexpensive and flavorful cut. Here comes the science lesson. The chuck is cut from the shoulder and neck region just above the short rib on a cow. This cut is the perfect candidate for smoking low and slow because it is full of connective tissue that is created by the movement of the cows’ limbs. This tissue will break down over several hours of smoking and turn this tough cut into a juicier and more flavor-filled final product that your guests are sure to enjoy.
In the past, I have heard of chuck roast referred to as “poor man’s brisket” and it always confused me as to why. You too? I mean, it can actually cost more per pound than a brisket so what makes it “poor man’s?” Let me explain. If you go to buy a whole brisket, you are most likely looking at a piece of meat that will weigh upwards of 15 pounds or more. Now, even at a modest cost of $3.99/lb., you are looking at a $60 piece of meat that you now have to trim 3 to 4 pounds of fat off. OUCH! With a chuck roast, a nice one will run about 5 pounds and cost somewhere around $5 per pound. That’s only a $25 investment and you don’t really have to trim any fat off it. That sounds like a much better deal to me, wouldn’t you agree?
If you’re not sure what to look for, chuck roast can go by many names. Some common names you may see in your butcher’s case are chuck roast, shoulder steak, boneless chuck roast, or chuck shoulder pot roast. Although they all have different names, it is still the same tasty, marbled piece of meat that we are searching for. If you don’t see what you’re looking for, simply ask. Most butcher shops and grocery stores are very happy to help.
How do I pick a chuck roast?
So now that you know a bit about what you’re going to cook, let’s dive into how to pick a good one. This is not rocket science here, folks, so don’t get nervous. You’ll want to pick the roast with the most marbling you can find. The more fat veins running through your piece of meat, the more tender, juicy and flavorful it will turn out. You can also look for one with the fewest muscles in it. You can spot them by them having different grains and it will have dividing lines of fat or grizzle around them. The more uniform piece of meat, the more evenly it will cook and therefore, the better the end product will be.
Now that we have a pretty good idea of what it is that we are cooking, let’s jump right into preparing this beefy hunk of goodness, shall we?
How do you prepare a chuck roast?
The first step to preparing your chuck roast for smoking is to trim and properly season it. Yes, I know, I already said earlier that you don’t have to trim it—it’s only any loose hanging pieces or maybe some extra fat that is still attached that you’ll want to get rid of. This is very minor trimming, if any is even necessary. Just like a brisket, though, I like to season my chuckie the same way, Texas style. A simple rub of a 50/50 mix of kosher salt and coarse ground black pepper is all that you’ll need.
Here is the controversy: binder. A binder is simply an oil or liquid used to help adhere the rub to the meat. Many people use hot sauce or oil, but I like to use a very thin layer of good old mayonnaise as a binder. Mayo is mostly made up of eggs and oil has a very high fat content. This makes for a perfect binder and will help form a better bark. I know it may sound crazy but give it a try. I think you’ll like it! (Try it on a pork butt, too)
For this application, you will want to rub and season your meat from one to eight hours before you are ready to cook it. Simply rub the meat with the mayonnaise and apply your rub. At this point, place the meat uncovered in the refrigerator. This will help to dry out the surface and form what is known as a pellicle. A pellicle is a skin or coating that forms on the meat and allows the smoke to better adhere to the surface during the smoking process. This is just one more small step that will give you a superior finished product. You can take it out of the fridge an hour before smoking so that it comes to room temperature; that is the ideal way to put the meat on your cooker.
While all of that is happening, you can begin to prepare your Egg or smoker. You’ll be cooking your chuck roast at 250° using the indirect method. This simply means that you’ll install the deflector aka plate setter aka convEGGtor for this cook. We do not want any direct heat or flames coming in contact with the roast. No sir, this is low and slow cooking at its finest!
You can use some wood chunks to help impart a nice smoky flavor. It is best to get the fire going a bit and place the wood chunks right on the edge of the fire so that it will catch fire and start smoking for the first couple of hours of your cook. This is when the meat will absorb the most smoke flavor.
The process is very much the same as smoking a brisket, right down to the internal temperatures of the meat. First, smoke the meat until it hits an internal temperature of 165°. At that point, wrap it in pink butchers’ paper (foil will work, too) and let it go until a probe slides in and out with little to no resistance. This should occur somewhere around the 200° mark. It may be a little less or a little more; just check it and wait until that probe goes in like a sharp knife through hot butter. Even 1° can make a difference.
In keeping with our brisket style cook, once it is done cooking, it is very important to rest it in a small cooler wrapped in towels for a minimum of one hour. This resting period allows all of the juices to redistribute through the meat and the carry over cooking will allow the connective tissue to break down further, giving you a more tender final product.
Lastly, after resting, simply pull the chuck roast out of the cooler, unwrap the butcher’s paper like a 5-year-old on Christmas morning, and admire your beautiful creation you have made. Always remember to slice across the grain in ¼-inch slices (about the thickness of a pencil) for the most tender bite possible. You can also cut it into cubes and make Poor Man’s Burnt Ends, but that is an article for another time.
I hope that you enjoy your Poor Man’s Brisket Chuck Roast. It is a great way to save time and money and turn out a mighty tasty meal. Remember to get out and grill and Egg on!
- 5 lb. chuck roast
- ¼ cup mayonnaise
- ¼ cup kosher salt
- ¼ cup fresh cracked black pepper (16 mesh, if you can find it)
- Smoking wood chunks (oak, hickory or cherry are great choices)
- Lump charcoal
- Drip pan
- Pink butchers’ paper or foil (paper will let the meat breathe a bit while foil will give a bit more of a steaming effect)
- A “leave in” temperature probe thermometer
- Trim any excess fat from your roast and pat it dry.
- Give a very light coat of mayonnaise all over the meat.
- Combine the salt and pepper and evenly coat the entire roast with the mix.
- Place it on a rack in a tray and place it in the refrigerator for at least one hour, eight hours or maybe even overnight, if you have the time.
- Remove the meat from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature while you prepare your grill.
- Prepare your Big Green Egg for indirect grilling at 250°. Place your wood chunks around the fire and place a drip pan on the convEGGtor plate.
- Once your Egg has reached the proper temperature and has clean smoke coming out, place your thermometer in the middle of the roast and place the meat in the center of the grid. Close the dome and let her roll that smoke!
- Once the chuck roast has hit an internal temperature of 165°, remove the meat from the grill, wrap it in the butcher paper or foil, and place it back on the grill
- When it reaches an internal temperature of 200°, begin checking for doneness with a probe. It will slide in and out with no resistance at all when it is done. The average temperature is 203° but it could vary from one piece of meat to another.
- Remove the meat and place it in a small cooler, not too much bigger than the meat. Wrap it in towels to help retain the heat and take up more space in the cooler. This is to allow it to rest, have some carryover cooking, and redistribute all those tasty juices. A minimum of one hour is recommended.
- After resting, unwrap the paper, place it on a cutting board and slice. The slices should be pencil thin, approximately ¼-inch thick.
- Category: Beef
- Method: Smoking
Want more Big Green Egg recipes? Check out these posts!