Smoked Chuck Roast Recipe: Easier than Brisket?

By Dylan Clay
Last Updated 
April 20, 2022

While I love my smoked brisket, it's also quite expensive and time consuming.

For those times I don't feel like waking up early, I'll usually opt to smoke a chuck roast aka "poor man's brisket."

For my chuck roast recipe I follow the same strategy as my brisket. I use the same rubs/spices, the same meat quality (USDA choice grade), the same hardwood (post-oak), and smoke at the same temperature (250-275F).

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What to Look for in Chuck Roast?

All I look for in chuck roast is for a USDA grade of choice or higher. Choice grade beef will have less marbling or intramuscular fat dispersed throughout the lean meat than Prime. However, it's significantly better than select/non-graded chuck roast.

chuck roast

Aside from that, the only other factor to consider is weight - the chuck roast in this recipe was 2.27 lbs and fed myself and my father - we are both bigger people and can eat quite a bit; My mother also had two pieces. This amount of chuck roast is more than adequate for a family of four.

How to Prepare Chuck Roast

For this section, you will need:

  • Chuck roast
  • Cutting board
  • Knife

When buying a chuck roast at the grocery store, it will likely come in an over-wrap meat tray. Use a knife to open the tray and place the chuck roast on a cutting board.

chuck roast in package

After which you can discard the over-wrap tray in the trash.

Do not rinse the meat - doing so could contaminate your sink, utensils, and other surfaces.

Some resources might tell you to pat dry the meat but this isn't necessary as the meat isn't vacuum sealed and there is no purge (meat protein and water solution). The surface is already dry due to how it's packaged.

At this stage, I don't do anything else to the meat. Some folks might tell you to use butcher twine to hold the meat together - I find this step entirely unnecessary.

I also don't do any trimming or remove any fat - I just leave the meat as I bought it.

A lot of people like to make the entire chuck roast into burnt ends (by cubing it up with a knife), however I typically treat the chuck roast just like I would a brisket and keep things as simple as possible.

Smoked Chuck Roast Recipe

For this section, you will need:

  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  • Lawry's Seasoned Salt

I've used lots of different rub combinations for smoking brisket as well as chuck roast and I'm honestly a big fan of just kosher salt, pepper, and Lawry's seasoned salt. I also almost always have these three ingredients on-hand.

chuck roast dry rub

A lot of different recipes will complicate smoking chuck roast but it can't get any more simple than salt, pepper, and Lawry's.

With that said, I'm also a big fan of actually tasting the beef - the above seasonings compliment the meat while not overpowering it. Lots of other recipes do the opposite, they have you create layers of flavor to the point that you're only tasting rub.

In terms of the amount of each, the following is a rough estimation:

  • 1 Tablespoon Morton Kosher Salt
  • 1 Tablespoon Freshly cracked black peppercorns
  • 1 Tablespoon Lawry's seasoned salt

This amount will change based on the size of the chuck roast you buy. My main goal is to have all the surfaces covered, including the edges.

chuck roast rubbed

After seasoning the chuck roast, I put it in my fridge (mainly to prevent my dogs from eating it off the counter). At this point you're technically dry-brining the meat as the salt is pulling moisture out.

Setting up Your Smoker

For this section*, you will need:

  • A smoker
  • Hardwood chunks
  • Charcoal

*This section will change based on whatever you use to smoke with. Just to sum things up, smoke at 250F with post-oak or a similar variety of hardwood. Just like seasonings, I think post-oak compliments the meat well while not over-powering it.

My favorite grill or smoker to use is my Weber Kettle. It's the easiest to grab, setup, and put to use right away. I've also been testing and using the Slow N' Sear attachment and have been quite happy with the results.

The first step is to get the smoker up to temperature. I typically start with 12-15 lit coals that I bank off to one side on the Slow N' Sear and then fill the rest of the charcoal basket with unlit charcoal - the lit charcoal will ignite the unlit charcoal over time.

However if I didn't own the Slow N' Sear, I'd use a charcoal arrangement like the charcoal snake (learn more by clicking here); Both methods work super well and can maintain 250F for several hours.

charcoal snake
The Charcoal Snake Method

I typically use a charcoal chimney to light my charcoal, however, I didn't have any firelighter and I didn't feel like using the chimney.

I just decided to use my hand-held butane torch to light a few of the coals. I then covered the lid and allowed the partially lit charcoal to self-ignite the unlit charcoal; This process took roughly 20 minutes.

Note: At this point both the intake damper and exhaust vent were completely open just to start the fire.

When I came back to the smoker, it was up in temperature - roughly 300F and I adjusted my vents accordingly. I closed the exhaust damper half way and then closed the intake so that it was about 1/4 open. I also filled the water reservoir with a quart of water - a benefit of a water pan is that it can help to keep temperatures stabilized. However, it's entirely up to you if you want to use one.

Note: A big reason I like smoking with the Weber kettle is that if the grill happens to spike in temperature, simply opening the lid allows all the heat to escape. Granted, this adage applies: If you're lookin' you ain't cookin'.

After doing the adjustments above and waiting 15 minutes, the grill was at 400F over my fire (the lid thermometer and exhaust damper are oriented incorrectly on the Weber kettle - especially for smoking), which I know is roughly 250F in the cool zone - which is where the chuck roast will be placed.

lid thermometer temperature
400F over my fire and 250F in my indirect/convection zone

This is illustrated below, the meat is placed in the zone opposite of your fire which is the "indirect" zone - convection heat.

indirect heat zone

I then placed a large post-oak chunk over the lit coals and allowed that to smolder.

Putting the Chuck Roast on the Smoker

After the above process - roughly 30-40 minutes - I then took the chuck roast out of my fridge and then placed it in the cool zone on the smoker (opposite of the fire).

A lot of websites will tell you to "let the meat come up to room temperature" before placing it on the smoker, however I've never noticed a difference.

The chuck roast went on my smoker at 11:15 am.

chuck roast on smoker

After smoking for an hour, I went back outside to check-in on progress. I added another post-oak wood chunk to the fire and went back inside.

chuck roast hour one
One hour on the smoker

At this point I'm only adding a wood chunk every hour for three hours; This is more than adequate in terms of adding smokiness to the chuck roast.

two hours chuck roast
Two hours on the Smoker

The biggest thing I watch for are color changes on the meat - this more so comes from experience. The surface will almost look like it's burned but it's not, this is bark formation, which is what you're after.

chuck roast hour three
Three hours on the smoker - pulled for wrapping

However, if you're a beginner, you can pull the chuck roast to wrap at an internal temperature between 150 - 160F.

Wrapping the Chuck Roast

Just like brisket, chuck roast can be wrapped to speed up the cooking process. A chuck roast isn't a large cut of meat (2-3 lbs vs 8-20lbs for brisket) and won't stall for nearly as long as brisket.

With chuck roast, I'll typically wrap in two layers of aluminum foil just to blow past any sort of meat stall and to accelerate the cooking process.

chuck roast wrapped

A lot of recipes tell you to add beef broth to the wrap, however, in my opinion this isn't necessary.

This is also another reason I opt to only use USDA choice-grade or higher. The rendering of fat and the subsequent moisture build-up in the wrap will result in more than enough liquid. Meaning, you do not need to add beef broth for "extra beef flavor."

When to Take the Chuck Roast Off the Smoker

Chuck roast is similar to brisket and will typically finish between 195F to 205F.

The first hour after wrapping, the internal temperature at the thickest point was 178F. An hour later, the internal temperature was 198F.

Keep in mind, meat is considered done based on probe tenderness. Meaning, if the internal temperature was 198 F and there was resistance as I inserted the probe, the meat is not considered done. I'd continue to leave the meat on the smoker until the probe feels like it's sliding through hot butter.

In this case, the chuck roast was finished at 198F at 4:45 pm.

While the above will take experience in terms of sensory queues like touch, a good internal temperature to shoot for is 203F. As a beginner, this is an okay stopping point.

Overall time on the smoker was 3 hours unwrapped and 2 1/2 hours wrapped.

Resting the Chuck Roast

After taking the chuck roast off the smoker, I left it wrapped in aluminum foil and put it on a baking sheet in order to rest in my oven.

Unlike brisket, you don't have to rest chuck roast for a long time. A rest of 30 minutes is more than adequate to allow the temperature to come down.

I personally think the barbecue community is super anal about their rest times. From the way you're supposed to rest (the container/apparatus), the length of time you're supposed to rest, the temperature you're suppose to rest to, etc. It's all super nuanced.

However, if this is you, don't fret. Rest in your oven for 30 minutes and if the internal temperature has settled to 165F, you can feel free to slice.

Slicing the Chuck Roast

I have an entire article that goes over meat grain structure but to summarize:

  • Slice against the grain

That's it.

Some recipes will tell you to make an indicator cut into the meat before-hand to tell yourself later where/how to slice. However, with chuck roast you already have so little meat, I don't find this idea particularly fruitful.

sliced chuck roast
If I didn't know any better I'd say that was brisket!

Even for this smoke when I went to slice, I actually sliced with the grain on my first cut, which wasn't a problem. I ate the piece that was cut incorrectly, changed the orientation of the meat and then sliced the meat in the correct direction.

The grain direction of chuck roast can be sort of hard to determine, however, this picture of a rump roast cut both ways is useful for comparison with your own slices.

With and Against the Grain

If you slice and the "grain" or "lines" run parallel like the top, switch the orientation of the meat so that you're slicing perpendicular. Even when cooked, the direction of the grain on the chuck roast will be readily apparent.

In my opinion, slicing against the grain is a super important part of the eating experience.

Is Chuck Roast Better than Brisket?

In my opinion, no.

Properly smoked brisket and it's rendered pillowly fat is really hard to beat. However, chuck roast is probably the closest alternative to brisket - especially in terms taste and texture.

chuck roast bend test
Chuck roast bend testing just like brisket

The biggest benefits of "poor man's brisket" is that it costs way less than brisket and it's a lot less of a time investment.

smoked-chuck-roast-recipe

Smoked Chuck Roast Recipe

Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: chuck roast, poor man's brisket
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 5 hours 30 minutes
Resting Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 6 hours 10 minutes

Equipment

  • Smoker
  • Charcoal briquettes Firelighter to ignite the charcoal or a butane torch
  • Post-oak wood chunks
  • Aluminum foil
  • Cutting board
  • Baking sheet

Ingredients

  • 2.27 lbs Chuck Roast

Dry Rub

  • 1 Tbsp Kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp Black peppercorns
  • 1 Tbsp Lawry's seasoning salt

Instructions

  • Remove chuck roast from over-wrap meat tray.
    2.27 lbs Chuck Roast
  • Place chuck roast on cutting board and apply dry rub. The goal is to cover all surfaces of the meat (including edges) while still being able to see the meat itself.
    1 Tbsp Kosher salt, 1 Tbsp Black peppercorns, 1 Tbsp Lawry's seasoning salt
  • Put dry-rubbed chuck roast on a baking sheet and into the fridge.

Smoking the Chuck Roast

  • Get your smoker to 250F. I personally used a Weber kettle with the Slow N' Sear, however what you use may vary; Your goal should be to maintain around 250F.
  • Once the grill has stabilized, place a post-oak wood chunk on the coals and allow it to smolder.
  • Bring the chuck roast outside and place in the cool zone of the smoker - opposite of your fire.
  • Check on the meat every hour. If you notice certain parts are finishing faster than the other, turn the meat accordingly, ie. position the end that needs more love towards the fire. Add a new post-oak wood chunk every hour you check the meat.
  • After roughly 3 hours, the chuck roast has likely taken on enough smoke. The outside has likely developed a bark and is ready to be wrapped in aluminum foil. Wrap the chuck roast tightly in two layers of aluminum foil.
  • Place the wrapped chuck roast back on the smoker in the cool zone.
  • Start checking internal temperature with a meat thermometer every hour. Chuck roast isn't a large piece of meat and will quickly blow past any sort of meat stall when wrapped in aluminum foil.
  • This process took two more hours to reach 198F. At this point the meat was probe tender. When checking for done-ness, use your meat thermometer to poke the meat - if it feels like it's sliding through hot butter, it's done. However, if it has resistance, it needs to continue smoking in the tinfoil.

Resting the Chuck Roast

  • Place the wrapped chuck roast on a baking sheet and put it in your oven. Allow the meat to rest for 30 minutes.

Slicing the Chuck Roast

  • Slice the chuck roast against the grain. Chuck roast has a grain structure that's somewhat hard to see, however, make a singular cut and see what direction the meat fibers are running. If the first cut is parallel, turn the meat and slice perpendicular.
Dylan Clay
I've grilled and smoked meat for roughly half my life. While i'm not a professional Pitmaster, I've worked with nearly every cut of meat. Not everyone has a hands on guide to teach them BBQ. It's my hope that Barbecue FAQ can be that helping hand.

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