How Long Should You Smoke a Steak? Prepare Like a Pro

Amy Hand
Amy Hand

Amy Hand

Amy worked as the head pastry chef and the head chef at multiple restaurants in South Africa. She now shares her professional insights about cooking and kitchen tools here at The Skillful Cook.

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how long to smoke a steak

Have you ever sunk your teeth into a delectable smoked steak and been hit with all that incredible meaty flavor? After that, it wouldn’t be surprising for you to start looking into smoking meat for yourself to fill that craving. 

So that brings you to an important question, how long should you smoke a steak?

Getting cooking times right can be stressful, but once you’ve nailed that, you will have the world’s most mouthwatering steak every time. 

After reading this, you will know:

  • How long should you smoke a steak
  • How to smoke a steak
  • What equipment do you need for smoking

Smoking is a slow-cooking technique that takes much longer than your average sear. These steaks must be seared after smoking to get that delicious caramelized crust. 

What Steaks Are Best for Smoking? How the Cut of Steak Affects Smoking Time

So now that you have the low down on what smoking is and what you use to do it, we need to investigate which steaks are best for this technique.

Not every cut will work for every cooking technique, so choosing the best steak for the job is important. Technically, you can smoke any steak– but I tend to only smoke cuts that are at least 1 ½ inches thick. A thinner cut will cook much quicker than a thick cut, and there will be no time for the smoke to imbue any flavor into the meat.

My favorite steaks to smoke are ribeyes and baseball steaks. They are very thick– so the long cook time gives the smoke plenty of time to permeate the meat. These cuts taste out of this world when smoked! But I also encourage you to try a variety of thick-cut steaks to find your particular favorite.

There are so many factors to consider when choosing to smoke a steak, so let’s take a look at them in some closer detail:

  1. Thickness – The thicker and heavier your steak, the longer it is going to take to cook. That’s why cooking times can vary so drastically. Steak should be smoked at 30-45 minutes per pound. Always check on your thinner cuts after 30 minutes to avoid overcooking.
  1. Bone in or out – This makes a big difference in cooking time as the bone absorbs heat. For instance, a ribeye is going to cook very differently from a Tomahawk steak with a huge bone. If you are smoking a bone-in steak, it can take between 1 hour and 1 hour 20 minutes to smoke to medium rare.
  1. What cut you’re smoking- All steaks do not have the same tenderness, so different steaks will take longer to cook, so they’re nice and tender. A filet mignon will take less time than a tri-tip will, so adjust your cooking times accordingly.
  1. How full is your smoker- If you are cooking multiple cuts or steaks at once, it will take longer to cook. This is one of those things that will take practice to get used to. Keep the smoker closed for at least 45 minutes before checking each cut with your thermometer.
  1. Temperature of the smoker- The best temperature to smoke is between 225 and 250°F. This will allow the meat to cook slowly until it’s juicy while imparting the perfect level of smoke into the steak.

All of these elements will vary from smoker to smoker. Just like a baker will tell you that every oven is different, a seasoned smoker will tell you the same thing about their smoker.

I can give you temperatures and timings to guide you, but, at the end of the day, nailing these down comes with getting to know your smoker and practicing. Luckily, this hobby has a really tasty end result when you practice!

Best Way to Smoke a Steak

So once you have your cut, equipment, and cook time, it’s time to get smoking.

When it comes to meat prep, there is very little for you to do. All the steak needs is some salt and pepper; the smoke will do the rest!

When smoking steaks, I use the reverse sear method. This way, the majority of the cooking is done in the smoker, but you still get that signature steak crust.

There are two important factors to consider before you start smoking: meat temperature and preheating.

Bringing the meat to room temperature is important because this will make the cooking time more predictable and make the meat cook evenly. I like to take the steak out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before smoking.

Preheating the smoker is crucial because it gets the chamber to the perfect temperature with a decent amount of smoke before you put the meat in. Try to avoid the temptation to open the smoker while it’s preheating to keep the smoke in the chamber.

Cooking times may vary depending on your smoker, how well you tend to it, and how consistent the temperature is inside. Getting to know your smoker and how to control the temperatures will allow you to get your timings perfect so, over time, it becomes second nature. 

This is a basic guide to how to smoke the perfect steak:

  1. Preheat your smoker to 225°F.
  2. Pat down the steak to remove any excess moisture.
  3. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper on both sides.
  4. Place the steaks in the smoker and close the lid.
  5. Cook for 45 minutes to an hour or until the internal temperature reaches 125°F.
  6. Remove the steaks from the smoker.
  7. Place a cast iron skillet on the grill or on your stovetop and heat over high heat with a glug of oil.
  8. Sear the steaks for 2 minutes on each side or until the internal temperature reads 135°F.
  9. Rest for at least ten minutes before serving.

Smoked Steak Temperatures

So, the above step-by-step gives you a clear idea of how to cook your steak medium rare. This is the temperature most chefs will recommend for steaks because they are at their optimum juiciness. But not everyone wants their steaks medium rare. 

This is a basic guide for what temperature your steak should read for each level of doneness:

Cooking LevelTemperatureApproximate Cook Time
Rare120-125°F30 mins.
Medium-rare125-135°F45 mins.
Medium130-135°F1 hr.
Medium-well140-145°F1 hr. 10 mins.
Well done150-155°F1 hr. 20 mins.

What is Meat Smoking?

Smoking is a wonderful cooking technique that definitely tends to be addictive! I don’t know anyone who casually smokes their meat; if someone has invested in a smoker, you know they’re serious!

But what exactly is smoking meat?

Smoking is essentially a slow cooking method that uses smoke instead of liquids, like a braise would, to bring meat to temperature and soften connective tissue, leading to a rich, pull-apart texture. The smoke imparts a unique flavor to the meat that you can adjust by changing the type of wood that you use in your smoker.

What is Meat Smoking

Hot coals are combined with wood chips to create smoke that fills the chamber of the smoker. This raises the internal temperature of the chamber and creates a warm, smoky environment that is ideal for slow-cooking meat.

Smoking Equipment

Smoking is one of those pastimes that can go from a small tabletop setup in your kitchen to a huge outdoor contraption. It all depends on your budget, your home setup, and how far you want to take this hobby.

In my opinion, the easiest way to smoke at home is by using a barbeque smoker, but if you’re here trying to find out how to smoke a steak, then you probably have your own equipment preferences already.

I want to take this opportunity to recommend some of my favorite smoking equipment that you can buy online:

Smoking Pellets

Smoking pellets play two major roles, fuel, and flavor. Heating the chips is what creates the smoke that cooks the steak. They need to be kept at a consistent temperature to produce the ideal amount of smoke. But they can also affect what the meat tastes like. Each type of wood chip is from a specific tree, and they have their own scents and flavor profiles.

Once you’ve tested a few different types of wood, you will start to taste the difference and begin to develop your taste in smoke flavor. Every home chef has a different palate, so every person’s smoking preference is going to differ. You can choose to use all one type of wood, or you can get a little experimental and try some blends. You can make this mix yourself using different types of wood chips, or you can buy one ready-made. 

Oklahoma Joe’s is a brand I enjoy using for smoke pellets because of their product range. They have such a huge range of pellets types and blends that you’ll be playing with them for a while! This brand also makes smokers and other smoking equipment, so they’re a great one-stop shop for smoking essentials.

Meat Thermometer

Some chefs may be able to tell how a steak is cooked purely by touching it –but for most of us, that’s a little too advanced! That’s where meat thermometers come in. If you’ve been smoking your meat for a while, but you can’t quite get the timing right, you need to get yourself one of these!

I prefer using a digital thermometer because it gets the temperature accurate down to the degree so you can get really technical with your steak.

This ImSafrell Digital Meat Thermometer is an affordable digital option without too many bells and whistles. If you want to get fancy later on in your smoking journey you can venture into the app-controlled thermometers – but a regular digital thermometer will do the job. 

Remember that every time you open your smoker to check the temperature of the meat, you’re letting heat out, and you will have to re-adjust your cooking time as the smoker comes back up to temp. For as little as around $20, you can skip this hassle and get a corded leave-in thermometer. With these guys, you won’t have to open the lid of your smoker to monitor the meat’s internal temp. 

BBQ Smoker

So now to the main event, the smoker itself.

As I said, I love my barbeque smoker, and it’s likely you do too. If you’re looking to upgrade your equipment these are the two options I like the most.

The Grand Champ Offset Smoker is a great overall smoker that is really easy to grill and smoke on. Its a little more on the large side so you need to have the right spot in your yard for this. But if you can make this work for your situation them I highly recommend it. You can use it to smoke a few steaks for the family or even larger cuts when you get more experienced. 

If you want something more compact and budget friendly then I suggest going for the Weber Original Kettle. This is a smaller round smoker that will fit on most decks or small backyards. Weber is a brand that is very well-loved in the barbecue and smoking circles, so you know they can be trusted to make a quality product.

Conclusion

Smoking steak is a supremely delicious cooking technique that everyone has to try once in their lives. All you need is the right equipment and 45 minutes to get the perfect juicy, smoky steak.

So the next time you’re in the mood for steak, why not skip the simple searing and get your smoke on?

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Amy Hand
About The Author
After finding the chef life a little too high-paced, Amy decided to take her cooking skills and use them to teach others through food writing. She uses her knowledge as a pastry chef and experience as a head chef to write articles that are engaging and helpful while being as entertaining as possible.

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