When I first began my barbecue journey, one of the first meats I attempted to smoke was chuck roast. It is nicknamed ‘poor man’s brisket’ because it is a fatty, collagenous cut of beef, much like brisket, that requires a cook time that allows the tissue within to soften and break down to render it into a tender, edible finished product. While you may spend upwards to $40 to $50 or more on a big hunk of brisket, chuck roasts are smaller and in the range of two to five pounds, and you spend less in comparison to what you will on brisket.
I think the name ‘poor man’s brisket’ is a bit of a misnomer, though. Over in my neck of the woods, chuck roast is often more expensive than brisket (per pound), coming in at $5/lb. while a choice brisket from my local Wal-Mart can be purchased at a price point of $2.96/lb.
With that said, one of my local grocery stores recently ran a sale for chuck roast at $2.99/lb., and I picked a couple of them up for a big barbecue dinner I planned for my family and friends, because for chuck roast that is quite the bargain. Poor man’s brisket or not. Maybe we should start calling brisket, ‘poor man’s chuck roast’ for now on.
When you think of barbecue, you probably don’t think about chuck roast. When you think of a chuck roast, I’m sure you are likely to think of a big pot roast consisting of the meat, carrots, potatoes, onions and maybe mushrooms cooked up low and slow in a slow cooker. Well, sure, that is its most common use in the realm of the culinary world, but it is a sneaky, delicious cut of meat in the barbecue world and I think it is time that pitmasters everywhere begin accepting it as a veritable element in the game of smoked grub.
Smoking a Chuck Roast
I want to share with you how to go into ‘next level’ mode when you smoke a chuck roast.
As I stated, I purchased two chuck roasts while they were on sale at the aforementioned local grocery store. One was around 2.6 pounds while the other weighed in at just shy of 3 pounds. The night before I began the cook, I took the guesswork out of the preparation by applying my rub of choice for these chuckies. I sliced both of them down the middle to create four equally sized pieces. There were two reasons I did this: for one, doing so meant a quicker cook time, and two, more surface area to create a nice, dark bark on the outside of the meat so that when it was time to cut up the finished product, there would be more bark in more bites for my guests to enjoy, and if you are into barbecue, you know that the bark is everyone’s favorite part of the meat.
I rubbed the four hunks of chuck roast with 2 Gringo’s Chupacabra Brisket Magic. I had them sitting on a sheet pan that I then placed in the refrigerator to sit overnight, allowing the rub to settle onto the surface of the meat.
The next morning, I fired up one of my drum smokers, my Barrel House Cooker 18C, with a combination of Kingsford’s charcoal briquettes, two chunks of hickory wood and two chunks of pecan wood, and when the smoker’s internal temperature gauge read 200, I added the four pieces of chuck roast to the middle grate and closed it up. This was at around 9 in the morning.
The reason I added the chuck roasts to the cooker at 200 rather than waiting for the temperature to rise even further is because I wanted to go ahead and allow them to hit some smoke, as the heat was coming up quite nicely, and the actual temperature of the middle of the grate was probably at 250 degrees since it was closer to the fire source. In a drum smoker, the cooking environment is hotter than other smokers since one is typically not using a water pan, so there is no type of heat deflector between the meat and the cooking source.
I began checking my temperatures at around three hours into this cook. However, the total cook time was about five and a half to six hours, as I finally removed all four pieces of the chuck roast at about 2:30 p.m. when the internal temperatures of the pieces of meat were reading 200-204 degrees by that time.
I allowed the meat to rest for fifteen minutes before slicing it up like a brisket and subsequently cutting it up into bite size pieces. This was by far and away the juiciest chuck roast I have ever smoked up to this point. Serve on a bun, eat by itself or make tacos with it, like I did.