Smoked Roast Beef
When I got a meat slicer, I knew the two things it would be used most for would be bacon and roast beef. The former mainly because I hadn't tried making bacon before and had a whole universe of recipes to explore, the later because I love roast beef and what you get at a supermarket counter just doesn't cut it for me. True to my visions, I'm now four bacon recipes deep and this smoked roast beef marks my third delicious attempt at it, and it's also by far the best one yet.
Part of my roast beef journey has been trying to find my favorite cut to use. There isn't a singular piece of beef that's better than the next for roast beef, and different uses may call for different roasts. So far I tried out an eye round and bottom round to good results, so I changed things up with a top round for this recipe, which does tend to be one of the most suggested cuts for roast beef thanks to it low fat content, medium beefy flavor, and affordability.
Along with the cut, I'm also playing with different seasonings affect the final flavor outcome. My first go was a minimal salt and pepper seasoning, then the second time I used a barbecue inspired rub, and this time I opted for an herbal crust. I thought a good way to inject more flavor and help the adherence of the spices would be to brush the beef with mustard first, which is a method I employ occasionally with my ribs.
After coating the roast in Dijon, I applied the spice mixture which used a trio of dried herbs by way of rosemary, thyme, and oregano, plus garlic powder, a little brown sugar, and the required salt and pepper, of course. For maximum flavor and moisture retention, I wrapped the beef in plastic wrap and let it rest in the fridge overnight. During this time, the salt acts as a brining agent, extracting moisture, then reabsorbing it back in a manner that lets the meat retain its juices better during cooking. If you're short on time, you can let it sit for as little as an hour.
The biggest difference with this roast beef recipe was the decision to smoke it. I hoped that not only would the meat pick up a smokiness by doing this, but thought the more even and low cooking temperature would help me get to a roast beef with the medium-rare doneness I like from edge to edge. I previously have used my grill for cooking, and the higher heat led to a great exterior, but uneven results in the interior as inevitably the areas of the beef closer to the hot fire got cooked more.
The one thing I wasn't sure about was if the relatively short cooking time would be enough for the beef to pick up a substantial smokiness. I was shooting for an internal temperature between 120-125°F, which was 10 degrees shy of the final medium-rare range of 130-135°F to account for carryover cooking and any need to sear the beef after the smoke. It took my three pound piece of top round one and half hours to hit this mark—I actually went a couple degrees over, but wasn't too worried about that.
While the beef was done inside, the outside did not look like good eats with its grayish and soggy looking appearance. So I was going to need a finishing sear and my initial instinct was to take out the water bowl from my smoker so I'd have instant direct heat. I had a rack of ribs cooking at the same time though which weren't done, so that wasn't a viable option, which led me to probably and even better idea—sear it on a blazing hot charcoal chimney. I liked this concept because the intense heat would very quickly render the exterior brown, so fast that there wouldn't be much time for the interior to cook more and potential go beyond what I think is the ideal doneness for the best roast beef.
This roast beef wasn't destined to be eaten the same day, so once it was seared and rested to closer to room temperature, I wrapped it up and placed it in the fridge. It wasn't until the next day that I got to cut into it and see just how perfect this had come out—nearly completely rosy red and juicy from edge to edge with with just the extreme outsides really browned at all.
Now I love owning a meat slicer and once I got one I've used it way more than I ever thought I would. I've found mine isn't always the best at cutting everything, and sometimes I struggle with larger cuts like long pork belly, although I always make do in the end. This roast beef though was the perfect size and consistency for my slicer, cutting it into beautiful thin pieces with ease.
I couldn't help but eat a bunch while slicing and was super pleased with the end results. The beef did pick up a noticeable smokiness that paired well with the herbal crust that was pretty prominent in the overall taste. The real excitement for me though was just how great the flavor and texture of meat was—tender and juicy with just the right amount of beefiness. It was so good that I ended up eating a large portion of it as is, but what I did manage to save made for a tasty take on the classic beef and cheddar sandwiches—I dunked the beef quickly in some hot stock to warm it up and then topped with my favorite green chili queso!
Smoked Roast Beef
- Yield 6-8 servings
- Prep 5 Minutes
- Inactive 1 Hour 15 Minutes
- Cook 1 Hour 40 Minutes
- Total 3 Hours
- 4 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 3lb boneless bottom or top round roast
- 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1-2 fist size chunk of medium smoking wood, such as pecan or oak
- In a small bowl, mix together salt, black pepper, brown sugar, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and garlic powder. Brush beef all over with mustard and coat liberally with seasoning mixture. Wrap beef in foil or plastic wrap and place in refrigeration for at least one hour, up to overnight.
- Fire up smoker or grill to 225°F, adding chunks of smoking wood chunks when at temperature. When the wood is ignited and produces smoke, place the beef in the smoker or grill and smoke until an instant read thermometer registers between 120-125°F when inserted into center of roast, about 1 1/2 hours. Remove beef from smoker and let rest while preparing the grill.
- Light 3/4 chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange the coals in a single pile on one side of the charcoal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Place beef over fire and cook, flipping occasionally, until all sides are well seared. Remove beef from grill and let rest for 15 minutes.
- Slice against the grain and serve immediately for hot roast beef. For cold roast beef, wrap roast in a plastic wrap and place in refrigerator until completely chilled. Slice thinly against the gain and serve.