If you're a meat eater, then you already know there's nothing like biting into a tender and juicy steak. Though there are several different ways to cook steak – like grilling it or baking it – how you cook it depends on what type of cut you have and how you want it to taste. One way to cook steak is by smoking it. Cooking it this way will give you a delicious steak, but only if you have the right directions and you know how long you need to smoke it for.
Before smoking a steak, read through all the directions and make sure you're comfortable with doing it. Smoking steak can be a little more challenging than grilling, so it's a good idea to have mastered that first.
What Is a Smoked Steak?
When most people think about how they'll cook a steak, they usually decide to grill, especially outdoors in nicer weather. Grilling is also one of the easiest ways to cook a steak, and it can usually be done by beginners. But, if you're already comfortable with grilling, then you may want to try smoking a steak the next time you cook one.
Smoking is how people generally cook ribs and brisket. It's a slow-cooking method that allows the flavor to really soak into the meat. Smoking is a process that involves cooking the steak gradually and at a low temperature, giving it a distinguished taste. Of course, the key element is that there is typically a lot of smoke involved, and the method is very common to see in BBQ restaurants. The other main difference is that the steak is not being cooked by an actual flame as it is in grilling.
"Delicious" may be the word that people use when describing smoked steaks. But, if you're new to this method and wondering if it's worth your time, then another way to describe it is "woody" or "smoky." The wood chips -– and the particular type of wood chips used – are a major contributor and predictor of the flavor that you'll get. Ultimately, though, the smoke gives it that nice, smoky barbecue flavor.
What's the Easiest Meat to Smoke?
Some steaks are meant to be smoked more so than others, not only because they'll taste better, but because they are larger and are more appropriate to cook in a smoker. At the end of the day, it all comes down to personal preference. You can ask the butcher at your local supermarket what type of steak they'd recommend for your smoker. But, in general, the best steaks to smoke are thick, boneless cuts with marbling and ideally weighing more than 1.5 pounds, including, but not limited to:
- Pork shoulder
- Wagyu beef
The Best Type of Smoker
While the type of steak you smoke is important, it won't matter much unless you have the right equipment. Smokers come in all different shapes and sizes, relying on different cooking mechanisms, including electric, propane, charcoal, wood and pellet.
An electric or charcoal smoker will be the easiest for cooks that are new to smoking steaks. Although wood smokers typically yield the most authentic flavor, they can be a little harder when it comes to controlling the temperature. This will make it difficult to determine how long to smoke the steak.
For best results, choose a smoker that comes with a metal tray or a water pan for water, or at least a space where you can place one.
How to Smoke Without a Smoker
If you don't have a smoker or you want to experiment with this style of cooking before committing to the purchase of one, then you can actually turn your grill into a smoker. To do this, just take wood chips you're using in your grill and dampen them for about 10 minutes. Then, place the wood chips on a piece of tinfoil and place another piece of tinfoil on top to cover it. Seal the pieces together and poke holes all around. Then, place the wood chip pack directly on top of the grill burner.
What Else Do You Need to Smoke a Steak?
Once you have your grill or smoker set up, you will need a few other key tools and ingredients before you get cooking:
- Charcoal or propane, depending on what type of grill or smoker you're using.
- Flavored wood chips, like mesquite, oak or pecan for a particular flavor.
- Tinfoil if cooking on the grill.
- Metal tray or water pan filled to capacity with water.
- Seasonings and/or marinade.
- A fork and a spatula.
How to Smoke a Steak
The steps for smoking a steak will vary a bit depending on whether or not you're using a grill or a smoker, and if you're using a smoker, the kind of smoker that you're using. In general, though, the procedure is more or less the same no matter which smoker you have.
First, marinate the steak using whatever marinade you like. Some people like to use a combination of Worcestershire sauce, lemon, basil, garlic powder, etc. Or, you can just use salt and pepper. It's a good idea to marinate the steak the night before, and let it sit in the marinade in the refrigerator. This will give it a juicier flavor. The next day, take out the steaks and prepare the smoker.
To get the smoker ready, fill the water pan and place it between the charcoal, underneath the grate or wherever your smoker indicates that you put it. The water pan prevents the steak from cooking on direct heat, adding moisture to the food and creating a cooking environment with smoke. Then add the damp wood chips by scattering them in the spaces between the charcoal. It's okay to use a lot of wood chips, and if you have to, keep adding them while your steak smokes.
How Long to Smoke Steaks
Even if you've correctly prepared the steaks and the smoker, that's just the tip of the iceberg. There's still more work to do, and that's cooking the steak. Although a steak in a cooker will more or less cook itself, it's critical that you pay attention to how long you cook it.
First and foremost, your smoker should be at 230 F when it's ready to cook. A good rule of thumb is that for every 1.5 pounds of meat, the steak should cook for an hour. Using this calculation, you can come up with a good estimate of how long your steak will take to cook. You can rotate the meat or the racks every quarter of the hour or halfway through, so that the steak cooks evenly throughout.
Measure the Steak's Internal Temperature
As long as the weight of the steak is around one pound to a pound and a half, you should start measuring the internal temperature of the meat at 45 minutes using a meat thermometer.
To see if the steak is ready, insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat. The temperature should be between 125 F and 145 F. If you like your steak rare, then 125 F is a good temperature. If you like it medium, it should be around 145 F.
The smoker will be very hot. Keep children and pets away and use caution when handling the grill.