Sous Vide Smoked Beef Chuck Recipe

Beef chuck is cooked sous vide until meltingly tender and then finished in a grill or oven to develop a flavorful, crusty bark.

Sous vide smoked beef chuck finishing on the grill, with dark, crusty bark.

Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

Why It Works

  • Cooking sous vide takes all of the guesswork out of traditionally attention-intensive barbecue.
  • Combining sous vide cooking with actual smoke from the grill makes for beef that's moist and tender yet still smoky, with a great bark.

Beef chuck is an excellent alternative to brisket for barbecue. It's easier to find, cheaper, incredibly flavorful, and more forgivingfoolproof. However, this cut requires some additional treatment prior to smoking to allow it to fully tenderize while smoking. Without special treatment, the exterior of meat dries out before the collagen has had a chance to break down. 

You can wrap the chuck in heavy aluminum foil for the last half of smoking, or for an even juicier (and more foolproof) end result, use sous vide.

My sous vide smoked brisket was such a success, making the holy grail of barbecue a more convenient, more infallible process. Why not apply the same technique here? I let it cook at 155°F (68°C) for 36 hours. Then I finished it in the smoker for three hours, to create that memorable, crunchy bark. 

Alternatively, you can finish the meat in the oven. If you wish to have that pink “smoke ring” when carving, you can add pink salt to the seasoning. And a bit of high-quality liquid smoke added to the vacuum bag will add smoky flavor, even if the entire cooking process takes place indoors.

August 2016

Recipe Facts

2.9

(10)

Active: 60 mins
Total: 42 hrs
Serves: 8 to 10 servings

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Ingredients

  • 2 ounces coarsely ground black peppercorns (about 1/3 cup; 55g) (see note)

  • 2 1/4 ounces kosher salt (about 1/4 cup; 65g)

  • 1/4 ounce (10g) pink salt, such as Prague Powder #1 (optional; see notes)

  • 1 (4- to 5-pound; 1.8 to 2.25kg) piece beef chuck roll

  • 1/4 teaspoon liquid smoke, such as Wright's Liquid Smoke (optional; see notes)

  • Dill pickles, sliced yellow onion, and white bread, for serving

Directions

  1. Combine pepper, salt, and pink salt (if using) in a small bowl. Rub 2/3 of mixture evenly over surface of chuck. Reserve remaining 1/3 of mixture. Secure chuck roll with 2 to 3 pieces of twine tied around its circumference at 1- to 1 1/2-inch intervals.

    The seasoned chuck roast is tied with twine.

    Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

  2. Place chuck roll in a vacuum bag or zipper-lock bag. (Fold over top of bag while you add beef so that no rub or juices get on edge of bag.) Add 1/4 teaspoon liquid smoke to bag, if using (see note). Seal bag using a vacuum sealer or the water displacement method and let rest for 2 to 3 hours in the refrigerator.

    The chuck roast is sealed in a vacuum bag.

    Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

  3. Set your precision cooker to 155°F (68°C). Add chuck to water bath and cover it with a lid, aluminum foil, or table tennis balls. Cook for 36 hours. Allow cooked chuck to cool at least to room temperature before proceeding (an ice bath can speed up this process). Chuck can be stored in the refrigerator at this stage for up to 1 week before finishing.

    The bagged and seasoned chuck roast is submerged in water for cooking.

    Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

  4. To Finish on the Grill: Light 1/2 chimney full of charcoal. When all charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange coals on one side of charcoal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill, and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Alternatively, set half the burners on a gas grill to medium-high heat, cover, and preheat for 10 minutes. Clean and oil grilling grate.

  5. Remove chuck from bag and carefully blot dry with paper towels. (Liquid from bag can be added to your favorite barbecue sauce and simmered down to provide extra flavor.) Rub reserved salt and pepper mixture into surface of chuck.

    The cooked chuck roast is reseasoned before finishing.

    Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

  6. Place chuck on cooler side of grill. Add 4 to 5 hardwood chunks to hotter side of grill. (If using a gas grill, wrap wood chunks loosely in aluminum foil before placing over hotter side of grill.) Cover and allow chuck to smoke, adjusting vents to maintain a temperature between 275 and 300°F (135 and 149°C) and adding 2 to 3 wood chunks twice during cooking. Smoke until a deep, dark bark has formed, about 3 hours. Continue with step 8.

    The finished smoked chuck, ready to be transferred from the grill.

    Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

  7. To Finish in the Oven: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 300°F (149°C). If your oven has a convection setting, turn it on and adjust heat to 275°F (135°C) instead. Remove chuck from sous vide bag and carefully blot dry with paper towels. (Liquid from bag can be added to your favorite barbecue sauce and simmered down to provide extra flavor.) Rub reserved salt and pepper mixture into surface of chuck. Place chuck on a wire rack set in a rimmed baking sheet and place in oven. Roast until a deep, dark bark has formed, about 2 hours. Continue with step 8.

  8. Remove from heat, transfer to a cutting board, tent with foil, and allow to cool until internal temperature drops to between 140 and 165°F (60 and 74°C) before serving, 30 minutes to 1 hour.

  9. To serve, slice meat in half with its grain, running knife in between the two largest muscle groups to separate them. Discard twine and place the two halves cut side down on cutting board.

    The smoked chuck roast is sliced in half on a cutting board.

    Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

  10. Slice meat thinly against the grain, using a sharp chef's knife or slicing knife. Serve beef with sliced onion, pickles, and white bread. For best results, slice only what you are serving. Remaining chuck can be wrapped in foil and stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Reheat leftover chuck in a 275°F (135°C) oven directly in the foil until hot, about 1 hour.

    Close-up of the smoked chuck, which has been thickly sliced against the grain.

    Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

Special Equipment

Butcher's twine, sous vide cooker or immersion circulator, spice grinder (optional), vacuum sealer (optional), grill, chimney starter, and hardwood chunks (if finishing on the grill), wire rack and rimmed baking sheet (if finishing in the oven), instant-read thermometer

Notes

You can grind pepper in a pepper mill, a food processor, or a blade grinder, but the easiest way to get a consistent coarse grind in bulk is to use a grinder.

If you'd like a pink smoke ring for a more traditional look, use pink curing salt. Liquid smoke can be used to add smoke flavor to the beef if you're not planning on smoking it outdoors.

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Nutrition Facts (per serving)
480 Calories
29g Fat
12g Carbs
47g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8 to 10
Amount per serving
Calories 480
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 29g 37%
Saturated Fat 12g 59%
Cholesterol 149mg 50%
Sodium 3288mg 143%
Total Carbohydrate 12g 4%
Dietary Fiber 5g 17%
Total Sugars 4g
Protein 47g
Vitamin C 8mg 39%
Calcium 252mg 19%
Iron 5mg 30%
Potassium 1029mg 22%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)