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Best Cuts of Beef to Smoke

While there are all kinds of food you can smoke on a Traeger Grill, beef may be the most popular. Not only is it filling, high in protein, and versatile, it holds up well to the low-temperature smoking that infuses it with the flavors of wood pellets. Whether you’re a new grill user or a pro, picking the right cut of beef can make all the difference for your next cookout.

Here are the most common beef cuts to consider with tips for making them delicious.

Best Grades of Beef to Smoke

The beef you buy from the store will also be graded by tenderness, juiciness, and flavor, as well as how much meat you can get from the cut:

Prime

With more fat between the lean portions (marbling), prime comes from young, well-fed cattle and is sold to high-end eateries. It’s best for dry heat methods like roasting or grilling.

Choice

This meat has less marbling than prime but still offers great flavor and texture. It can be cooked with dry heat – but watch the temperature so you don't overcook it. Adding moisture with a brine, glaze, or braising can help preserve juiciness.

Standard

You’ll find this commercial meat grade as store brand meat and may see mixed results, but it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it. Smoking may be just what it needs to bring out the best flavor and texture possible.

Not all cuts of beef of the same grade cook the same. With varying thickness and tenderness, each part of the animal requires slightly different preparation and smoking treatment. Use this quick guide to achieve the best chance of success using a BBQ smoker.

Best Cuts of Beef to Smoke

Chuck Roast

Recommended wood pellet flavor: Pecan

This large, flavorful cut also goes by the names chuck eye roast, chuck pot roast, and chuck roll roast. It’s the meat you get when you have a traditional pot roast dinner. So, can it also be great smoked? Yes! It’s recommended that you use a low and slow method with this cut, and when finished, you can use it for anything where a smoky shredded beef ingredient will work.

You may also want to use wet heat methods to add moisture, like braising after smoking.

First, smoke the seasoned meat for 90 minutes at 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, put it in a dutch oven and pour broth or liquid over it before cooking at 275 degrees for another 4 or 5 hours. This smoked pot roast recipe gives you more tips for the right results.

Tri-Tip

Recommended wood pellet flavor: Hickory

The tri-tip comes in a roast or sliced up as [steaks](Tri-Tip%20Steak TRI-TIP STEAK) and is a tasty portion of the bottom sirloin. It’s an ideal substitution for brisket, as it smokes up nicely and is much more affordable. Because it’s so forgiving, you can cook it at almost any temperature, but smoking it slowly will give you the best flavor.

To smoke, season as you would any steak, then cook at 225-degree Fahrenheit temperature for about 60 to 90 minutes for roasts. Be sure to turn up the heat to get a good sear on both sides of the meat just before the roast is your preferred doneness level. It should reach an internal temperature of 130 degrees.

Be sure to let it sit for 15 minutes before slicing and serving. This smoked tri-tip recipe goes into more detail on how it’s done.

Prime Rib

Recommended wood pellet flavor: Cherry

The prime rib cut is a tender portion of the animal and is basically the entire primal rib cut. You might find it as a bone-in section of meat that tastes delicious smoked.

Make sure to plan ahead, as it can take 24 hours or more to prepare and cook this massive piece of beef. Season it with your choice of spices and let it rest in the refrigerator for a day or longer to help make it flavorful.

From there, your Traeger will do all the work. Set it to 275 degrees Fahrenheit, and let it smoke the meat until it reaches a proper internal temperature of 125 degrees. Be sure to remove it from the heat at this point and let it rest for at least 15 minutes before serving. The internal temperature will continue to climb while it rests – getting it to that desired 130 degrees.

First-timers will find all they need in this smoked prime rib recipe, which details seasoning ideas and ways to make it more tender after cooking.

Beef Ribs

Recommended wood pellet flavor: Pecan

When you think of beef ribs, you probably think of smoky, sauce-glazed ribs with a great smoky flavor. They aren’t difficult to make if you have some time to prepare.

The ribs themselves are from the back of the animal, and may still be connected in one long rack when you get them from the butcher.

The best way to smoke beef ribs is with pecan pellets after seasoning the ribs with our Traeger beef rub. Braising is optional and will add another 2 to 3 hours to your total time.

Cooking them directly on the grill grate at 225 degrees Fahrenheit produces incredible results. When the meat reaches an internal temperature of 205 degrees, you’re done (the process can take between 8 and 10 hours). Feel free to glaze with sauce during the last few minutes, or check out this beef back ribs recipe for marinade ideas.

Brisket

Recommended wood pellet flavor: Texas Blend

One of the first things people want to know when buying their first Traeger is how to smoke brisket. It’s pretty simple once you get the basics down. This cut of meat is so full of flavor, you won’t need to add much seasoning or other extras, to make it shine. The smoke will do much of the work and give it that taste you’ve come to recognize in a brisket.

Brisket is the breast and can be a little tough. However, since there is connective tissue and fat mixed throughout the tougher muscle, there's a chance to use low heat and long cooking times to create a slice of hearty meat that practically melts in your mouth.

For best results, our Signature Blend is recommended because it takes the guesswork out of picking the right wood variety. To get it cooked right, set your grill to 225 degrees Fahrenheit, and cook the brisket until it reaches a 160-degree internal temperature (around six hours). Then, turn up the heat to 275 degrees and cook for an additional 3 to 4 hours. You want it to be at 200 degrees inside the meat before removing it from the heat and letting it rest for a full hour. Then, you can serve.

You can find all of the details for the best way to smoke a beef brisket in our smoked beef brisket guide, which covers how to trim the meat, season, and smoke it for yourself or guests.

Top Sirloin Steak

Recommended wood pellet flavor: Apple

These steaks are cut from the animal’s hip, so they aren’t the most tender. You can still do a lot with them, however, and this popular cut of beef is great for a variety of dishes. Season with your favorite rub, and use apple pellets for a nice, sweet flavor. For additional ideas, consider this simple top sirloin steak recipe.

Cook over a 225-degree Fahrenheit grill for around 30 to 45 minutes, then sear on high heat for an additional five minutes. If you like a medium-rare steak, look for an internal temperature of 135 degrees.

Flank Steak

Recommended wood pellet flavor: Hickory

Because the flank steak comes from the muscles of the animal's belly, the meat isn't very tender, but it has great flavor. Smoking with hickory pellets is recommended to get the most from this cut. The texture of the meat also benefits from marinade, which you can find ideas for in this smoked n’ grilled flank steak recipe.

Some people marinate for up to 48 hours, and the more time you let it soak, the better. When you’re ready to smoke, place it on your grill and smoke at 225 degrees Fahrenheit for up to three hours. When it’s finished, quickly sear it for three minutes per side. The inside of the meat should reach 135 degrees or more. The hotter the temperature, the more well done the meat will be.

Top Round Roast

Recommended wood pellet flavor: Hickory

Top round cuts, both the roast and steaks, come from the rump of the animal. It’s a tougher meat, which is why some butchers simply grind it for hamburger meat or make jerky out of it.

You can still smoke it low and slow for a long time and get a great meal. Be sure to use a strong wood variety like hickory pellets, and set the Traeger for a high temp of 500 degrees Fahrenheit to begin. After cooking the top round roast in a dutch oven for 25 to 30 minutes, you can turn the heat down to 225 degrees and smoke under a foil lid for 2 or 3 hours – until the temperature reaches 135 degrees. Keep adding broth throughout to keep it from drying out.

The meat is best served after resting for at least 15 minutes. Slice thin for best results.

This Sunday supper roast recipe has more ideas for grilling a top round the right way.

What Is the Best Cut of Beef to Smoke?

The best cut of beef to smoke is up to you and how much time you have to prepare it. But nothing beats a smoked brisket, tri-tip, and a prime rib.

These are just the highlights of the beef cuts, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy other delicious parts of the animal. Our cuts of beef guide gives you additional ideas for using up more of that meat you find from your local butcher. With some time and practice, you can make any cut incredible on your Traeger grill.

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