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I have been wanting to bring some smoked steak to the table for a while now and it's so quick and easy to do using the smoker and a quick sear on the grill.
I am going to show you how to season the steaks with my very own rub recipe, start the steaks out on the Brinkmann Horizontal smoker (or whatever type of smoker you have), get some nice smoke on them and then finish them off in just the last few minutes on the grill.
What to purchase
You may have your family favorites and almost anything will work with very few exceptions.. I personally recommend using something that is naturally tender such as tenderloin, ribeye, tbone, porterhouse, etc..
For this recipe, I purchased 4 tenderloins, a boneless ribeye and a porterhouse. Those are some of my favorites and are all naturally pretty tender.
How to Prepare the Steaks
I like to marinate my steaks regardless of whether I am grilling or smoking and I usually use something store-bought or just something simple like worcestershire and some extra garlic and onion, etc. but this time I decided to use my rub recipe since it makes a really nice paste when it is put on meat overnight.
I sprinkled some of my rub onto the bottom of the bowl with just a splash of Worcestershire. The steaks went in then I put more rub and Worcestershire between each layer of meat and a little more on top just before I covered it with a lid.
You can see how the paste is already starting to form after just a few minutes and it smelled incredible!
Once you are done gazing at your masterpiece, cover with a lid or some plastic wrap and place in the fridge overnight or at least for 8-12 hours to allow the flavors to do their magic.
Here are the steaks when they came out of the fridge the next morning.. the awesome smell was driving me wild and I couldn't wait until they were ready to eat. Just BEAUTIFUL!
At this point, I went out to get the smoker ready while the steaks came up to room temperature on the cabinet. One of the most important things when grilling steaks is to NOT put them on the grill cold. I wanted to follow this same concept for smoking but I also did not want to wait as long as I usually do. I wanted to have plenty of time in the smoker for the smoke to do a lot of flavoring of the meat.
Getting the Smoker Ready
I dragged the old brinkmann horizontal smoker with side firebox out of the barn and here it is after giving it a quick bath and killing all the spiders and wasps. Rusty firebox but it still works pretty good.
This smoker can use all wood if you have something on the milder side like oak or some fruit woods like apple, cherry, etc. but I prefer to use lump charcoal and add wood on top. My procedure for this smoker gets me a nice 225-240 degrees every time with at least 2 hours before I have to do anything else to it.
Set the chimney on something non-flammable.
Find some old newspaper. Turn the chimney upside down and stuff about 2-3 sheets of the paper into the bottom.
Fill to the top with lump charcoal.
Light the paper with a match or use this opportunity to play with the butane torch.. your choice;-)
Within about 15 minutes or so, maybe less, you'll see the top of the coals starting to glow and there may even be flames leaping out the top. The charcoal is ready to pour into the firebox.
I poured 2 chimneys of lump charcoal into the firebox, placed a piece of pecan on top and closed the firebox lid. I had to cut up some pecan pieces with my chainsaw to make them fit but then I enjoy getting to use my Stihl easy start once in a while so that's no problem at all!
Within 20 minutes or so the smoker was holding steady at around 230 degrees.
I used the smoker temperature probe from my stoker to keep me informed of the temperature. It has a nifty little clip that holds the probe just up above the grate a little. I love technology!
If you don't have a stoker, you can use a digital probe meat thermometer with the probe stuck all the way through a potato. Set the potato with the probe sticking out level horizontally on the grate to give you the same effect.
If you are a big risk taker, you can just take a chance that the thermometer on your smoker is the same as mine. This is where the needle was pointing when my smoker was at 234 degrees.
Here is the thin blue smoke that you are looking for.. when you see it change from white puffy smoke to thin, almost hard to see smoke, it's time to put on the meat.
Note on Damper/Chimney settings: I noticed that my charcoal cleanout door was warped a little and had a 1/2 inch opening around the bottom. I propped a metal rod against it and wedged it against the ground to hold it tightly closed. I then just barely cracked open the butterfly vent about 1/4 inch (or just slightly less)to give me enough airflow to keep the smoke flowing pretty steady. It does not take much air on these to get it really hot, you have to have enough air but with all the leaks, it gets more than enough at the setting I have recommended.
The chimney was about 1/2 open for the entire time.
Smoking the Steaks
I placed the steaks on the smoker on the cool side of the grate. On this type of smoker, unless you do some modifications to it, the firebox side is just too hot and must be used for chicken or something that can handle the higher heat or it must be left unused.
I kept a temperature probe in one of the steaks at all times so I would know when they got to about 100 degrees. I knew that somewhere between 100-110 degrees, I wanted to throw them on a really hot grill and get some good grill marks as well as char the outside just a little.
Once the steaks reached about 90 degrees, I went and fired up my grill so it would have time to get really hot.
The steaks got to about 110 and my grill was hot and ready at about 675 degrees..
Total smoking time was 35 minutes.. technically I could have kept the smoker a little cooler, maybe around 200 and gotten an hour of smoke out of it but based on experience, this is plenty for steaks and they will be wonderfully flavored by now.
Grilling the Steaks
Note on grilling: to get great grill marks, place the steaks on the grate at 10 o'clock first then at 2 o'clock to create something beautiful.
Here is one of the tenderloin steaks at the 10 o'clock position.
Here are some pretty grill marks using the 10 o'clock/2 o'clock method.
I kept a temperature probe from my digital probe meat thermometer in one of the steaks from when it was on the smoker so I would know when it got close to my goal temperature of medium rare or 135-140 degrees. I can get it pretty close using the touch method but my propensity to be perfectionist about it forces me to use a thermometer most of the time.
At the temperature that I was running my grill, I left it at 10 o'clock about 90 seconds, turned it to 2 o'clock for 90 seconds then flipped it over and repeated the positions and times.
The last position can wait as long as it takes to get the steaks to your desired doneness.
Here's a shot of the ribeye
Cutting through that tenderloin was like cutting hot butter.. pure delight!
Serving the Smoked Steaks
These steaks must be served immediately for best flavor. I suggest a smoked potato or even some garlic mashed potatoes.
An alternate way to use this smoked steak that is absolutely out of this world is sliced thinly and placed atop a nice blue cheese salad.
Notes and Final Thoughts
-My wife insisted that it needed more of the rub.. not like her at all so it meant something. She usually prefers steak with nothing on it. Feel free to go a little crazy with the rub as it did not overpower the natural flavor of the steak at all but perfectly complimented it.
-If you want to cook the steaks a little less rare, feel free to leave the steaks on the grill a little longer but you will get the best flavor if you don't go past about 140-145 tops.
-If you've never tried smoked steaks and you are thinking this is a waste of good steak.. don't knock it until you've tried it. It may be unorthodox and out of the box but it's too good for words in my opinion and I think you'll find the same to be true once you try it.
Further Notes on using the Brinkmann Horizontal smoker
To use this smoker for longer than 35 minutes as we did in this recipe, you will need to keep an eye on the smoker temperature and when it drops from 230 degrees to about 210 degrees, it is time to start a fresh batch of charcoal in the charcoal chimney but not a full batch. I usually do a half batch at a time every 1.5 to 2 hours or as needed.
You can also add small splits of wood, like the ones in my picture instead of charcoal. This will work but it does not seem to last as long in this smoker. Charcoal will give you the most stable and long lasting heat.
If you happen to get too much charcoal and the heat starts climbing too high, you can remove some of the charcoal into a metal pan using a pair of tongs.
This smoker is fairly labor intensive and you can't walk away for long. My suggestion is to grab something cold and a good chair and camp out by the smoker throughout the entire cook.
I have cooked everything from turkeys to briskets and pork shoulders in this smoker with great success but my failures have always been when I walked away for too long and things start going awry.