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Oct 23, 2011 10:16 PM

A Beef Smoking Sukkos

i recently became really interested in smoking (meat, that is). over this last Sukkos, I smoked short ribs, spare ribs and a 3lb ribeye steak. It was such a huge success that I wanted to share it with you.
I set up a regular bbq grill that had the meat on one side over a water pan and the other side had the lit charcoal. I added apple wood to the charcoal to give it the fruity smoky flavor I was going for. Luckily I was using a grill with a built in thermometer to make sure I was maintaining the proper 200-225 degrees required for ideal cooking/smoking. I let the short ribs, (which only had a dry rub of herbs and spices on it) stay in the smoker for 12 hours. I put them on before shacharis and served them for dinner. It was the juiciest most flavorful piece of meat I have ever cooked and it needed no sauce or oven cooking.

Anyways, it kind of excited me and I would love to hear some thoughts.

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  1. I don't believe I can properly smoke on such a small setup as a Weber, or even my old offset Char-Griller with which I began my forays into BBQ. I no longer have the patience to be up all night. Having my commercial Southern Pride convection smoker (which can smoke 600 lbs at a time) spoiled me. So I tried to get that smoker working again (hadn't smoked since I closed my BBQ joint), but I couldn't get it working over Chol Hamoed- in fact, it wasn't until today that I was able to troubleshoot the problem). So now I have my smoker working, and can do a few briskets begore the next chag (or a few turkeys for Thanksgiving, since the birds go on sale soon).

    I have never been able to successfully smoke a rib steak or roast without either getting it dry, or not putting enough smoke on it. Same for shoulder roast. Problem is they are tender enough right off the bat, and are leaner cuts than optimal for BBQ.

    31 Replies
    1. re: ganeden

      I've had great success smoking beef back ribs in a Weber kettle - using metal racks, I put four or five racks of ribs off to one side, and a metal fence made for this purpose to keep the coals and wood confined to the other side of the grill. I do use a drip pan under the ribs, but no water in it.

      One cheat I use though is to front-load heavy smoke - hickory - at the beginning, keeping the ribs in the kettle for only 2.5 hours. After that, they go in a 200 degree oven for five hours. I got this idea from a New York Times article (, and it works like a charm, seriously cutting down on the amount of time I need to spend baby-sitting the smoker, which usually needs to have the wood refreshed every half an hour or so.

      I've also smoked whole chickens, and while I've tried briskets and other larger cuts of beef, I've never had success with those. I agree about rib steaks though - cuts like that are meant to be cooked on high heat, not the low and slow of BBQ.

      1. re: Beerhound

        I didnt use a weber grill. It was a large rectangular surface area with the meat situated between the heat source and the exhaust allowing for the smoke to pass through the meat on its way out. As far as having to add more wood every half hour I have experienced that if you have large , maybe fist sized chunks of wood they will almost always outlast the coal. I was able to keep it going steady without touching it for up to an hour.
        I agree that the rib steak and roasts etc arent ideal for a full cook in smoke. I read an article in saveur magazine that discussed cooking a 12 lb bone in ribeye roast fully in smoke but I have not tried that yet. The short ribs were a complete slam dunk though. All I did was put a dry rub overnight and let the smoke do the rest.
        All I gotta do now is try and recreate the process perfectly...

        1. re: NYCFoodster

          It is easy to turn a Weber grill into an awesome smoker with this product. I've used it a ton.

            1. re: Beerhound

              I believe that charcoal rails are good for slow cooking, but that is different from smoking. The Smokenator does use wood chunks and also has the water pan, which yields a more flavorful and humid atmosphere in the grill than I think you'd get from the rails.

              1. re: SimonF

                You can use wood chunks with the charcoal rails, you don't have to use charcoal. as for water, I don't think that those pans add much humidity to the equation - in fact, I know people who argue that they serve more as a heat sink, and that you'd be just as well off using sand. Either way, you can easily put a pan of water on top of your wood chunks with the charcoal rail.

                1. re: Beerhound

                  We'll just have to have a cook-off :).

                  1. re: Beerhound

                    I thought the reason you put a pan of water under the meat is to catch the fat drippings, and to prevent them from igniting. Supposedly, fat when it burns is a major source of carcinogens.

                    I have heard that flareups from the grease actually contribute to the flavor of the meat.

                    1. re: Dovid

                      The drip pan provides a great number of benefits. It prevents the fat from starting a flame up. It also slowly boils away directly over the flame, creating steam which tenderizes your meat in addition to providing for a more even heat distribution throughout your smoking chamber. I've experimented a great deal this year with seasoning the water pan with everything from my dry rub, to fresh herbs to red wine in on order to add another level of flavor infusion. To disarm Beerhound's heat concern, I recommend filling the pan with hot water in the first place.

            2. re: NYCFoodster

              You're probably right about wood chunks lasting longer - I usually use lump charcoal, with hickory chips sprinkled on top. Then again, I'm also trying to get a lot more smoke than you do over the course of two and a half hours, because I'm not leaving it in there for 12 hours.

              1. re: Beerhound

                More smoke over a shorter time is not an alternative to slow smoking at low temps. You need to convert chewy, tough collagen into gelatin as part of the smoking process and that only occurs at fairly low temps (internal temp of 150-175) held for a longer duration.

                1. re: ferret

                  Ferret, I agree - that's why after intensely smoking for 2.5 hours at those temps, I move it to the oven for another 5 hours at 200 degrees. It's still low and slow, I just don't have to maintain the smoker for an extended period.

                  1. re: Beerhound

                    I know this is probably sacrilegious, but you can only work with the tools you have. I have smoked ribs and chicken on my gas Weber. I place the meat at the far end, with only the front flame on the lowest setting. I place a pouch of wood chips, hickory or mesquite on top of the front flame, and then leave for 3 to 4 hours. I use a dry rub for the smoking and then finish off the last 10 or 15 minutes with a wet rub. The ribs fall off the bone, and the chicken is moist and flavorful. Both have a good smokiness to it.

                    1. re: njkosher

                      Not necesarily sacriligeous, but you will get better results from using charcoal or hardwood. A by-product of the combustion of gas or propane is water vapor which tends to stick to the meat and prevents full penetration of the smoke. I am not sure you will get a smoke ring on a gas grill.

                    2. re: Beerhound

                      Beerhound, play around with wrapping the meat in foil after the initial 2.5 hours of smoking, this is based on the 3-2-1 method of smoking the pork ribs. 3 hours in the smoker with smoke 2 hours in foil and one without foil but sauced all at 200 to 225 deg. The time in foil helps tenderize the meat and can be done in the oven since no smoke is used..

                      1. re: chazzer

                        Thanks, though I may skip the sauce - I like my simple dry rub fine, and have yet to find a sauce that improves on it.

                        Also, won't the foil kill the nice little crust I've got by giving it a steam bath? Not a problem of course if you opt for sauce, but again, I like my dry rub, there's plenty of moisture inside.

                        1. re: Beerhound

                          The additional time after the foil should help reestablish the crust, when I have tried this on different meats that I sauce the sauce carmalizes and forms a crust.

                          1. re: chazzer

                            What's the recipe for your sauce? Or do you use a commercially available one?

                            1. re: chazzer

                              It's interesting, I actually just saw an article on wrapping in foil...It's called a "texas crutch" and it's mainly used to help with what people refer to as "the stall" temperature increases and inches toward your desired temp, it just stops, and is known as "the stall"...there were different reasons attributed to it, but in this article, it said the reason it happens is "evaporative cooling" - meaning, as moisture evaporates off the surface it cools the meat, preventing it from getting they wrap the meat in foil, which prevents evaporation from happening


                    3. re: Beerhound

                      Well, for my heat Ive been using charcoal briquettes. I have been looking into using hardwood briquettes but I'm not sure exactly what the difference is. I think it burns hotter longer. For the smoke, I prefer chunks.

                      1. re: NYCFoodster

                        For grillng I use hardwood lump charcoal because it burns hotter and cleaner than charcoal briquettes. For smoking I use briquettes since they last longer than lump.

                        In any event, I am thinking about moving over to elecric or propane for smoking since tending a charcoal fire for hours is not much fun.

                        1. re: shaytmg

                          I agree, briquettes make more sense for smoking, I just use what I happened to have on hand. For high-heat grilling, nothing gets as hot as lump charcoal, which is the main reason I bought my weber kettle - I already had a gas grill, but it just didn't get as hot.

                      2. re: Beerhound

                        I used to use lump charcoal to start my offset box, then would use logs for the rest- hickory or plum or apricot. I used it throughout the cooking, up to 20 hours on a brisket, 4 to 6 on ribs. I didn't need to feed it every half hour, but I needed to be up during the night for brisket , to adjust the temperatures and mop. Needless to say, I use logs with my Southern Pride, which I retained because of ease of use (face it, not too often will I do 600 lbs of meat- it's overkill, but it will still do 5 lbs easier than the offset). Who knows? Maybe I'll have the chance to use it again commercially.

                        I like the intensely smokey flavor of using smoke over the entire cooking time. I think the key is to burn the wood hot, rather than just scorching it into thick, heavy smoke. The Southern Pride has a blower to the fire box to continuously add air for hot burning.

                        1. re: ganeden

                          I have always had a problem regulating the temperature in my Char Griller. If I build a moderately sized fire, the temp shoots way up, while if I build it too small it burns out rather quickly.

                          Any tips?

                          1. re: shaytmg

                            you need to use the damper on the side of the fire box and the cover for the smoke stack to regulate the temp, by closing the damper almost or all the way it will cause the moderately sized fire to burn more slowly at a lower temp, also the cover on the stack can be used to regulate the temp and amount of smoke in the smoking chamber by opening and closing.

                            1. re: chazzer

                              So I have been salivating for these short ribs ever since sukkot. I cant recreate them with a smoker because i live in the city and dont have outdoor space. Is it even possible to recreate a smoked short rib with that crusty outside and the juicy center that 12 hours of 200 degree smoke gave me in an oven? Or am I stuck with braising?

                              1. re: NYCFoodster

                                You can't accurately recreate the smokey flavor (though deft use of liquid smoke could surely help), but baking under low heat for a long time in a regular oven, uncovered, will certainly give everything else in terms of texture, juiciness, etc. Or you can raise the temp to as high as 325 degrees for a shorter time. When the meat contracts on the bone, an inch or more from the end, and the fork goes in easily, the meat is done.

                                1. re: ganeden

                                  I kinda figured that would work out considering temperature and timing and such. Will try that and post the results.

                                  1. re: NYCFoodster

                                    I'm sorry, I was thinking of back ribs. Short ribs will need to contract a few inches from the end of the bone in order to get to the point where a fork can go in easily. Back ribs (I bought the Alle, and they were labeled "spare ribs"), since they are more like a rib steak and less like a brisket, will require less time. (Short ribs are from closer to the belly of the animal, like brisket, and are tougher meat).

                                2. re: NYCFoodster

                                  You can try an indoor smoker. I believe a lot of restaurants use this products for stovetop smoking:

                                  It has many glowing reviews, and I am even considering trying this out since it seem a whole lot easier than my offset barrel smoker and doesnt require me to brave the winter cold.

                                  It even has Michael Ruhlman's seal of approval, if that does anything for you. :)

                                  1. re: shaytmg

                                    Thanks - I just bought one and will report back. I'll try ribs first.

                  2. Kind of band-wagoning the discussion here, because this seems like a lively thread among knowledgeable people...want to chime in here with question about meat selection. Seems in the spirit of this pretty open smoke chat.

                    I haven't smoked meat much, but while visiting Austin, Texas a couple years ago, I did a 13-lb packer brisket that was a stunning success. Now we're heading back, and I'm trying to import my own upscale free-range, grass-fed meat, for a mix of ethical and culinary reasons. (See


                    -What do you think: will 8-10 hours of smoke pretty much obliterate any of the finer subtleties of the upscale meat? I'm guessing it probably will. If so, I might just abandon smoking and straight-up grill (though that involves a totally different meat selection process!).

                    -The upscale mail-order places (KOL and Grow & Behold) don't have >10 lb briskets, which I wanted for the large crowd and leftover potential (but don't want to do two 8-pounders). Anyone know anything about "whole shoulder"? KOL has an 11-pounder. Appears to be a very different cut than brisket -- in fact, may be a couple different cuts, all in one. Would it smoke? Could I pretty much use the same technique as for a packer brisket? How would it slice? Did a bit of google-searching, but didn't find anything.

                    Would love to hear people's thoughts!


                    4 Replies
                    1. re: fmogul

                      First of all, what kind of upscale meat? If you mean choice or prime vs. select, then no, the relative tenderness of the meat remains, and the intramuscular fat bastes the meat much like a fat cap would, only better. I have smoked many wagyu briskets, and while I don't typically like the flavor as much, the meat comes out very tender, so I don't need to smoke it quite as long, and it therefore retains more moisture and weight. In the restaurant, I was getting it pretty inexpensively when I could get it, and it was my preferred brisket. On the other hand, if you are talking grass-fed beef, not necessarily a better grade, but these days more expensive typically than grain fed, except the Uruguay stuff (which is really, really tough), then the smoke will not necessarily overpower the difference in flavor, but you may actually need a longer cooking time due to toughness. Some of that Uruguayan meat never gets tender, no matter how long it gets. But American grass-fed probably doesn't have a problem.

                      The whole shoulder sounds like something called "shoulder clod", which is basically a chuck/shoulder combo. The reason I say it sounds like that is that when I bought whole shoulders, they were on the order of 60-70 lbs, not 11. Shoulder clod is the classic Texas BBQ cut, fattier inside the meat than a brisket. The same technique is fine.

                      1. re: fmogul

                        Wow. Both those places are way expensive!

                        1. re: ganeden

                          Thanks, ganeden! Great intel. I might just go for the so-called whole shoulder. Yes, indeed, way expensive! I just don't eat meat much. At home we have a dairy kitchen, partly out of laziness and partly out of distaste w the meat industry. But since we're going to be in Texas, seemed like the time was right to splurge! Would I be crazy to put a piece of meat that pricy into a smoker? And how long do you think an 11-lb shoulder clod would need to smoke?

                          1. re: fmogul

                            You wouldn't be crazy if it gives you your preferred flavors. And face it, shoulder clod, if it's mostly chuck roast anyway, is more of a pot-roasting cut than a dry-roasting cut, so it will require time no matter how you cook it, so it might as well be low-and-slow smoking. I have no idea how long, but I would say that you're looking for internal temperatures on the order of brisket. It may take less time, though, because of more internal fat.