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Is It Done? Target Temperatures for Smoked Beef

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One of the most important steps on the path to barbecue enlightenment is determining when the food is done. (It is the most often asked question at Barbecue University, the intensive 3-day class I teach for barbecue and grilling enthusiasts at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs.)

Overcook the green beans, and someone will helpfully point out, “That’s how they like them in Greece.” (Which is true.) But overcook pricy proteins like prime rib, beef tenderloin, or special occasion steaks, and there will be consequences. Not the least of which is that you, the pit master, will feel bad. And perhaps be intimidated by that cut of meat forever more.

Some people will argue that barbecuing /smoking is an intuitive endeavor. To a certain extent, it is. There is latitude in selecting the meat, seasoning it, and cooking it. I know some pit masters (Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue is one of them) who judges his finished briskets mostly by feel. If they are “jiggly” and soft, they are ready to serve the throngs who line up each morning at his Austin, Texas, barbecue restaurant.

The rest of us mortals would be well-advised to invest in a reliable thermometer (preferably remote), such as one made by ThermoWorks or Maverick.

In order to help you determine doneness when smoking at home, I’ve put together a helpful chart, one in a series I’ll publish in the coming weeks. (The charts have also been published in my book Project Smoke.) I hope you find this chart and those that will follow extraordinarily useful. Beef Smoking Times and Temperatures Chart

Beef Smoking Times and Temperature Chart

Brisket (packer)

  • Amount: 14-18 pounds
  • Smoker Temp: 225°-250°F
  • Time: 12-18 hours
  • Internal Temp/Doneness: 205°F

 

Brisket (flat)

  • Amount: 6-8 pounds
  • Smoker Temp: 225°-250°F
  • Time: 8-10 hours
  • Internal Temp/Doneness: 205°F

 

Pastrami (beef navel)

  • Amount: 6-8 pounds
  • Smoker Temp: 225°-250°F
  • Time: 8-10 hours
  • Internal Temp/Doneness: 200°F

 

Beef tenderloin

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

 

Prime rib

  • Amount: 6 pounds (3 ribs)
  • Smoker Temp: 250°F
  • Time: 2-3 hours
  • Internal Temp/Doneness: 120°-125°F (rare); 130-135°F (medium-rare)

 

Top Round

  • Amount: 6 pounds
  • Smoker Temp: 225°-250°F
  • Time: 4-6 hours
  • Internal Temp/Doneness: 120°-125°F (rare); 130°-135°F (medium- rare); 145°F (medium)

 

Beef plate ribs

  • Amount: 2-2½ pounds (each rib)
  • Smoker Temp: 225°-250°F
  • Time: 8-10 hours
  • Internal Temp/Doneness: 200°F; meat shrinks back 1-2 inches from ends of bones

 

Tri-tip

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

 

Strip steak

  • Amount: 1½ – 1¾ pounds (each)
  • Smoker Temp: 225°-250°F + high heat for searing
  • Time: 45-60 minutes for smoking
  • Internal Temp/Doneness: 4-6 minutes for grilling

 

Beef jerky

  • Amount: 2 pounds
  • Smoker Temp: 160°F
  • Time: 3½ – 4 hours
  • Internal Temp/Doneness: Browned and dried, but still flexible

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