Pulled Beef

After buying our last half of a beef, I discovered that our butcher had unhelpfully labeled all of the roasts as “Roast.” Since now I’m never sure what I’m getting when I take one out of the deep freeze, I needed a roast recipe that would work as well for a top sirloin as it would for a chuck.

I decided to try making pulled beef. This low-and-slow barbecue approach is similar to the one used to make pulled pork, but because of the (relative) lack of fat and connective tissue in some beef roasts, this recipes adds a braising step to ensure that the meat is moist and tender.

I started with 2 medium beef roasts, about 7 pounds total. While this recipe would work well in an oven, I like the flavor that slow smoking adds. I used my Big Green Egg ceramic cooker, but this will work on any grill or smoker that can be set up for an indirect cook at 250 – 350°F for at least 8 hours.

While your grill is getting up to temperature, season the roasts with this simple rub:

Texas Beef Rub

4 tablespoons kosher salt
4 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons ground black pepper
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons sweet paprika

Combine the dry ingredients in a shaker-topped bottle and apply generously to the meat. Work the rub in with your hands, making sure to coat all sides of the roasts.

Put the roasts on a v-rack set in a shallow roasting pan and add an inch or so of water to the pan. If you have a remote thermometer, insert it into the thickest part of the smaller roast. If using a gas grill, place 2-4 cups of soaked hickory chunks in the smoker box. If using a charcoal grill, toss a fist-sized lump of hickory into the coals, and then set the pan full of beef away from the heat on the grill and close the lid.

Cook the roasts until the thermometer reaches 160°F. Remove the thermometer and put the roasts on a plate in a warm oven.

Braising Liquid

Strained pan juices with most of the fat skimmed off
1 cup red wine
1 cup barbecue sauce
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic gloves, chopped
1/2 cup red or yellow pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon of fat from the pan juices.

Strain the juices that have accumulated in the roasting pan into a measuring cup. Chill until the fat separates. In a medium sauce pan, saute the onions, garlic, and pepper in the beef fat until soft. Add the wine, barbecue sauce, and pan juices. Cook over medium heat until it just begins to boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool for another 5-10 minutes.

Return the roasts to the roasting pan, but without the rack – just set them in directly the pan. Cover with the braising liquid. The liquid should come about half way up the meat. If it doesn’t, add a little water or beef stock until it does.

Increase the grill temperature to 300°F. Re-insert the meat thermometer. Replenish the smoking wood and place pan full of beef away from the heat on the grill and close the lid. Cook until the thermometer reaches 210°F.

Remove from the grill and let the roasts rest in the pan for 20 minutes. Trim any fat and start pulling the beef apart with a fork or a pair of bear paws to separate the fibers. The idea is to remove all the remaining inedible bits, break the meat down into bite-sized pieces, and ensure an even distribution of the dark, chewy exterior. Add more barbecue sauce if the meat is too dry. Serve on cheap white buns with dill pickle slices.

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