Times & Temperature based on different types of beef

Chuck roast, brisket

Brisket should be cooked at a high temperature for an extended period to tenderize the meat and melt all the tough internal connective tissue, giving rise to an incredibly moist and flavorful cut with a nice crust.

Now, I know that saying a brisket will smoke in 10 to 18 hours seems unhelpful, but it’s the best you’re going to get, I’m afraid.

Every brisket is unique, with varying weights, thicknesses, moisture content, marbling, and inter-connective tissue. Briskets of the same weight and size have taken 12 to 16 hours to cook. That much variation is possible.

So, how do you tell if a brisket is done?

The absolute best temperature to take it to is 203F+, but it can range between 203F and possibly as high as 212F.

When you shake your brisket, it should wobble like jelly, and when you prick it with a thermometer probe or a skewer, it should go through easily like a hot knife through butter.

However, if you want to slice it thinly, you must stop when the meat reaches a temperature of about 185F, or it will fall apart.

  • Servings: Allow 1 pound of raw weight per person.
  • Total smoking time: 12 – 20 hours.
  • Per pound smoking time: 1 – 1.5 hours.
  • Finished internal temperature: 190 – 200°F.

Back ribs

Many recipes call for the back ribs to be cut into individual ribs before smoking, and you can buy them in this form. However…

I tried grouping them and smoking them separately. I’ve also smoked them in pairs and as 3…..4…5 bones…

Individual smoking was by far the worst for me. They dry out a little too much and don’t taste as good as a larger cut when smoked.

On the other hand, cooking in pairs can be beneficial if you want to maximize the amount of crust and rub per portion.

  • Servings: Allow 1.5 pounds of raw weight per person or approximately half a rack.
  • Total smoking time: 3 – 4 hours
  • Smoking time per pound: 1 hour
  • Finished internal temperature: 190 – 205°F
  • Rest time after smoking: 10 – 15 minutes

Ribs (short)

Short ribs of beef are my absolute favorite cut of meat to smoke!

They’re just as flavorful – if not more so – as brisket, cost a fraction of the price, and cook in half the time. What isn’t to love?

  • Servings: 1 pound of raw weight per person, or two short ribs per person
  • Total smoking time: 6 – 8 hours
  • Per pound smoking time: 1 hour
  • Finished internal temperature: 190 – 200°F
  • Rest time after smoking: 10 – 15 minutes

Prime rib

A typical prime rib has 3-7 bones and can weigh between 4 and 11 pounds or more. As a result, determining an exact time to smoke is difficult.

So, instead, I’ve given times per pound to reach various doneness levels so that you can calculate a rough time yourself.

The times I’ve given are based on having three or more ribs. Because they are so thin, a single rib or two will cook in much less time, but you will be left with a steak.

I strongly advise cooking a prime rib to a finished meat temperature of around 135 degrees Fahrenheit.

This is because cooking it to a good medium-rare temperature allows the internal fat to cook out and melt a little more, giving rise to juicier meat with fewer lumps of almost raw fat.

  • Servings: 1 pound raw weight per person
  • Total smoking time: variable
  • Smoking time per pound: 20–30 minutes per pound
  • Finished internal temperature: 135°F for medium
  • 30 – 45 minutes of rest after smoking

Tri-tip

So, whatever level of doneness you desire, remove it from the smoker about 10 degrees Fahrenheit before it hits, let it rest for a few minutes, then give it a nice sear all over to bring it up to your desired finished temperature.

  • Weight: 2-2½ lbs (each)
  • Smoker temperature: 225°-250°F + high heat for searing
  • Time: 1 hour for smoking + 4-6 minutes for grilling
  • Internal temperature/doneness: 120°-125°F (rare); 130°-135°F (medium) (medium-rare)

Tenderloin

When cooked properly, beef tenderloin is extremely lean and tender.

I strongly advise you to keep this cut between rare and medium-rare. I prefer medium-rare, where you can cut it with a spoon!

Rare is also acceptable, but anything more than medium-rare loses the tenderness for which this cut is known.

  • Amount: 4 pounds (trimmed)
  • Smoker temperature: 225°-250°F + high heat for searing
  • Time: 45-60 minutes for smoking + 6-10 minutes for grilling
  • Internal temperature/doneness: 120°-125°F (rare); 130°-135°F (medium) (medium-rare)

Top tips for smoking beef

Here are a few pointers for smoking a roast with pop flavors and a texture that melts in your mouth.

Low and slow cooking allows the beef to develop flavors that stand out.

Before applying the spice rub, rub the outside with a little Worcestershire sauce. The Worcestershire enhances the natural umami flavors of the beef while also aiding in the adhesion of the rub to the roast.

The general rule is to keep it as low and slow as possible when it comes to time and temperature. We recommend smoking 3 to 4-pound beef roasts for 4 to 6 hours at 215°F. Larger roasts will need to be smoked for a longer period.

If you don’t have all day, you can smoke the roast at 240°F to 260°F for 4 hours and still have delicious roast beef; it just won’t be as tender as one cooked at a lower temperature.

To avoid drying out the beef, avoid using high temperatures or leaving the roast in the smoker for an extended period.

Using a digital thermometer that allows you to monitor the temperature of the roast without opening the smoker is a great way to keep a consistent temperature and ensure the roast comes out at the right time.

Because of its ease of use and wireless range, we prefer Thermopro’s dual probe digital thermometer.

Smoked roasts make an impressive presentation.

One of our favorite ways to cook roasts is a contemporary take on classic roast beef and using sous vide to imbue the beef with deep penetrating flavors.

Wood types for smoking

  • Hickory

Gives the beef a sweet, savory, and hearty flavor. Because of its strong flavor, it is one of the more popular woods.

  • Mesquite

It has a very smoky flavor and is ideal for cooking smaller cuts in a shorter amount of time.

  • Oak

One of the most common smoking woods. It has a subtle flavor that is ideal for cooking larger cuts because it is not overpowering.

  • Apple

It will have a sweeter flavor and a mild fruitiness. Excellent for blending with other wood types or for use on its own.

  • Pecan

Gives the beef a rich, sweet, and nutty flavor. Because it is sweet, it works well as a mix-in.

  • Cherry 

Adds a fruity note to the beef and can be used alone or in combination with other woods.

  • Maple

Will impart a sweet, light, and mild smoky flavor to the meat. It is excellent for combining with other woods or using alone.

The issue with relying on temperature graphs

Temperature charts are an excellent resource. They’re especially useful to a newbie for checking the time, temperature, and average cooking time all in one place.

An experienced pitmaster, on the other hand, will question any temperature chart.

The truth is that you can produce excellent barbecue cooking by cooking it low and slow at 225°F or hot and fast at 350°F+.

When it comes to determining when a brisket or pork butt is done, there is no exact temperature. The temperature at which you should pull your meat can vary by 10-20 degrees.

It’s also difficult to provide precise cooking time estimates. Meat’s shape, thickness, and diameter can all be as important as its weight.

This means that calculating minutes or hours per pound is always an estimate.

All of the following factors can affect smoking time:

  • Do you intend to cook bone-in or deboned meat?
  • The thickness and diameter of the meat (rather than its overall weight);
  • The amount of connective tissue and fat.
  • The time it takes will depend on the weather and how well your smoker is insulated (allow longer if you are cooking in the snow).
  • Humidity in the smoker, as well as extreme weather, can both slow cooking time.
  • The type of smoker can also have an impact. If you cook your meat to the ideal safe (and delicious) temperature and keep your temperature steady, you’ll have a successful barbecue, according to amazingribs.com.

This is why a dual probe thermometer setup, such as the ThermoPro TP20, is always recommended.

How to tell if your smoked brisket is done

The ideal temperature for smoked brisket is usually between 195 and 205°F, with many pitmasters aiming for 203°F.

Remember that the brisket will continue to cook while you rest. It may rise by 10°F or more.

If you’re not sure if your brisket is done, look for the following signs:

  • The entire muscle jiggles like a jello bowl.
  • You probe it with a toothpick, and it slides in like warm butter.