Best Cut of Beef to Smoke | The Pitmaster’s Choice

June 30, 2023

I’ll tell you straight from the shoulder; beef brisket is my best cut of beef for the smoker anytime, any day! It’s not hard to explain why this is my ultimate choice for smoked meat. It’s tough enough to withstand the long hours needed for my BBQ smoking sessions. Then it’s capped and interspersed with enough fat and marbling to moisturize and flavorize the meat throughout the 8 to 10 hours smoking session.

But aside from beef briskets, beef ribs, tri tip, top round, and chuck roast are some of my favorites for the smoker grill. I believe you will agree with my choice of the best cuts of beef to smoke once you go through my view on them and why they’re so great. I’ll also provide cooking times and recommended wood types for each cut, as well as tips on how to determine when they’re done. So, let’s get started!

best cut of beef to smoke

What are the Best Cuts of Meat to Smoke?

Below are my favorite cuts of beef for smoking:

Beef Brisket

When most pitmasters think of smoking beef, briskets are the cuts of beef that come to mind. This is because it’s well-suited for smoking and has a lot of flavors. 

Brisket is taken from the lower chest of the cow and covers the front two ribs region. It’s a tough beef cut, but that also makes it perfect for smoking. So why is that?

Well, the muscles in the brisket are used for movement and are subjected to a lot of stress. This is why it is tough. But, when you cook it for an extended period of time at a low temperature, the connective tissues in the brisket break down, resulting in a tender and well-flavored finished product.

The fat marbling in the brisket also helps to keep it moist and flavorful during the smoking process. As the fat melts and bastes the beef cuts, it helps to prevent the brisket from drying out.

Because of its tough texture, brisket needs to be cooked low and slow. I like to smoke at around 225 degrees Fahrenheit for about 8-10 hours

For wood, I prefer to use oak or hickory. I find that these woods give the brisket a nice smoky flavor without being too overpowering.

The best way to determine doneness when smoking meat is to use a kitchen thermometer. The minimum inner temperature should be around 145 degrees Fahrenheit.

Overall, the combination of low and slow cooking and the presence of fat make brisket an excellent choice for smoking.

Raw Beef Brisket

Beef Ribs

I’m a big fan of pork ribs but smoking beef ribs is one of my favorite activities around the grill. They’re boney, but they’re also flavorful and tender. Not to mention, they’re one of the easiest cuts of beef to smoke.

As for the options, you’ve got beef short ribs and beef back ribs, which is similar to the baby back ribs in pigs.

Beef ribs are well-suited for smoking because, like pork ribs, they have a lot of fat in addition to connective tissue. When cooked at low temperatures, the tissue breaks down till you have those tender, fall-off-the-bone ribs.

For the best results, use a mix of apple and hickory or pecan. Target internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit minimum and smoke for about 3-4 hours.

Raw Beef Ribs with Onions

Chuck Roast

Smoking chuck roast is a great way to feed a large group of people. Plus it’s usually my best substitute for beef brisket. So automatically it’s one of my best smoking beef cuts.

Chuck roasts are relatively cheap cuts of beef and forgiving enough that even someone who’s new to smoking can produce a decent outcome. So, you see why I must recommend it among the best cuts of beef to smoke.

Chuck roast is a cut from the shoulder of the cow, and it contains a good amount of fat and connective tissue. So, you should be expecting a similar outcome in texture with beef brisket.

I like to smoke my chuck roast using hickory wood. It has a strong flavor that stands up to the beefiness of the meat, and it produces a nice, smoky crust. 

I usually cook mine at 225 degrees Fahrenheit for around four hours, or until the target internal temperature reaches around 145 degrees Fahrenheit.

Raw Beef Chuck Roast in Butcher Paper

Flank Steak

Flank steak is a thin, tender cut of beef that’s ideal for smoking. If you want some unique flavor, try rubbing the steak with a mixture of chili powder, garlic powder, brown sugar, cumin, and cayenne pepper. Then let it marinate overnight in the fridge. 

This will give the beef cut time to absorb all that delicious flavor and make it tender when smoking.

The best wood choice for smoking flank steak is mesquite, hickory, or pecan. Target internal temperature between 145 – 165 degrees Fahrenheit (62.8°-73.9°C). 

Depending on the thickness of your cut, you can smoke your flank steak anywhere from an hour to two hours or until it reaches the minimum inner temperature. 

But, if you like your smoking meats well done, then you can cook it up to 155 degrees Fahrenheit (68°C). Be sure to use a food thermometer when testing for doneness.

Once the desired internal temperature has been reached, take the steak off the smoker and let it rest for 10-15 minutes before slicing it against the grain into thin strips. Enjoy!

Related Reading

Raw Flank Steak

Sirloin Steak

Sirloin (not to be confused with top sirloin steak) is an excellent option when it comes to smoking beef. This cut is great because it has a lot of flavors and like chuck roast, it’s not too expensive. One of the best things about smoking sirloin is that you can control the cooking time. 

With sirloin, you’ll want to smoke for about an hour or so at a temperature of 225-275 degrees Fahrenheit. You can also experiment with different wood types, such as oak or mesquite, to give the steak a unique flavor.

When smoking sirloin, always aim for an inner temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit before serving. If you cook too long, the steak might become tough and dry so make sure to keep an eye on the temperature. 

While sirloin doesn’t need a marinade or rub like the chuck roast, you can add more flavor by brushing it with butter or oil before cooking and adding herbs or spices after cooking.

Related Reading

Sirloin Steak with Veggies


Tri-tip is a good cut of meat for smoking because it is relatively inexpensive. It has good marbling, which means it has streaks of fat throughout the meat that will melt during cooking and help keep it moist and flavorful.

Tri-tip is also a relatively small cut of meat, which means it will cook quickly and evenly. Additionally, because it comes from the bottom sirloin, it has a robust, beefy flavor that pairs well with a variety of wood smoke flavors. 

Overall, the tri-tip is a versatile cut of meat that is well-suited for smoking.

From experience, I recommend smoking a tri-tip at around 225-250 degrees Fahrenheit. This will allow the meat to cook slowly and evenly, letting it have a tender and flavorful final product. 

As for cooking temperature, I would recommend searing the tri tip on high heat for about 1-2 minutes on each side to create a nice crust. Then finish it in the oven at 375-400 degrees Fahrenheit until it reaches an inner temperature of 145-165 degrees Fahrenheit for medium-rare.

Let the meat rest for at least 10-15 minutes before slicing and serving to allow the juices to redistribute and the meat to reach its optimal tenderness.

Uncooked Tri-Tip Triangle Roast

Top Round Roast

The top round is one of the best cuts of beef for smoking as it is a lean cut with a moderate amount of fat marbling. This helps to retain the moisture and flavor of the meat during smoking. 

It is also a relatively inexpensive cut of meat, making it a good choice for smoking on a budget.

For medium-rare top round, you should smoke the meat until it reaches an inner temperature of 130-135 degrees Fahrenheit. 

For medium, you should smoke the meat until it reaches an inner temperature of 140-145 degrees Fahrenheit. And to be well done, you should smoke meat until it reaches an inner temperature of 150-155 degrees Fahrenheit. 

It’s important to note that the smoking can take several hours, so be sure to plan accordingly.

Raw Fresh Beef Top round Roast with Spice and Herbs

Summarizing The Differences Between the Recommended Cuts

Here is a summary of the differences between beef brisket, beef ribs, chuck roast, flank steak, sirloin, tri-tip, and top round:

Meat Cut

Smoking Time

Smoking Temp

Best Wood

Doneness Temp

Calories (per 100g)

Protein (per 100g)

Beef Brisket

8 - 10 hrs

225 - 250 °F

Oak, Hickory

145 °F



Beef Ribs

3 - 4 hrs

225 - 250 °F

Apple, Hickory

145 °F



Chuck Roast

3 - 4 hrs

225 - 250 °F

Hickory, Pecan

145 °F



Flank Steak

1 - 2 hrs

225 - 250 °F

Mesquite, Hickory

145 - 155 °F



Sirloin Steak

1 - 1.5 hrs

225 - 275 °F

Oak, Mesquite

145 °F



Tri Tip

2-3 hrs

225 - 400 °F

Mesquite, Hickory

145 - 165 °F



Round Roast

5 - 8 hrs

225 - 250 °F

Oak, Pecan

130 - 155 °F



Keep in mind that smoking times and temperatures may vary depending on the size and thickness of the meat, as well as personal preference. It is always recommended to use a meat thermometer to ensure that the meat is cooked to a safe internal temperature.


What is The Hardest Cut of Meat to Smoke?

There are a few cuts of meat that are generally considered to be more challenging to smoke than others. These include the following:

  1. Tough cuts of meat with a lot of connective tissue, such as beef brisket or pork shoulder. These cuts require a longer cooking time to break down the connective tissue and become tender.
  2. Lean meat, such as chuck roast and tri-tip, can dry out more easily during the cooking process. It is important to monitor the target internal temperature of these cuts carefully and to keep the smoker or grill at a consistent temperature to prevent overcooking.
  3. Whole muscle cuts, such as a whole beef tenderloin or pork loin, can be difficult to smoke because it can be challenging to achieve an even cook throughout the entire cut of meat.

Overall, the key to smoking any cut of meat is to be patient. Make sure you use a good-quality meat thermometer like the ThermoWorks ThermoPro TP19H. This helps to ensure that it is cooked to the desired target internal temperature. With practice and experimentation, you will be able to master the art of smoking any cut of meat.


When it comes to smoking beef, there are several cuts you can choose from. My favorites are beef brisket, beef ribs, flank steak, chuck roast, sirloin, top round steaks, and tri-tip.

Of course, the best cuts of beef for smoking will depend on your personal preference and the desired outcome. You may prefer leaner cuts of beef, while others prefer those with extensive fat marbling. 

Experimenting with different cuts and techniques will help you find the one that works best for you.

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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