Masterfully Smoked Beef Cheeks: A Step-by-Step Guide

Smoking beef cheeks may not immediately come to mind when planning your next backyard barbecue. However, this underutilized cut deserves your attention. When prepared properly, smoked beef cheeks offer an incredible depth of flavor paired with melt-in-your-mouth tenderness.

If you love smoking brisket or short ribs, smoked beef cheeks will quickly become one of your new favorite cuts. Follow this complete guide to learn all about beef cheeks, and master the art of smoking them to perfection.

What are Beef Cheeks?

Beef cheeks come from the head of a cow. Don’t let that turn you off though! They are entirely made up of rich muscular meat rather than being an odd piece of offal. There are only two per steer.

These well-exercised cheek muscles get a lot of movement during chewing. This gives the meat a supple texture while still being laden with fat and collagen.

When cooked low and slow, beef cheeks transform into pull-apart tender shreds of meat bathed in their own rendered fat and gelatinous juices. The end result tastes like the most succulent, robust pot roast you can imagine.

Why Smoke Beef Cheeks?

Smoking brings out beef cheeks’ best qualities. The low, indirect heat gently melts the fat and collagen over several hours. This bastes the meat from the inside out in its own juices.

And the smoke permeates the meat, imbuing it with that irresistible wood-fired flavor. Unlike tougher cuts like brisket though, beef cheeks only need about 5 hours of smoking time.

When sliced, smoked beef cheeks resemble incredibly tender and moist smoked beef brisket. Pull or shred the meat for clouds of smoky, beefy strands perfect for tacos, nachos, sandwiches, and more.

Tips for Smoking Perfect Beef Cheeks

Follow these tips and techniques for smoking impressively tender and flavorful beef cheeks every time.

Choose the Right Cheeks

  • Select fresh, high-quality beef cheeks without any off smells or sliminess.

  • Choose well-marbled cheeks from grain-fed cattle for the richest flavor.

  • Get them from a reputable butcher or online provider who trims them well.

  • Avoid cheeks with lots of sinew, silver skin, or extraneous fat.

Prepare the Cheeks

  • Rinse the cheeks and pat them dry. Trim any excess hard fat or sinew.

  • Season generously with a beef rub at least 2 hours before smoking.

  • For more flavor, marinate overnight in a zesty wet marinade.

Set Up the Smoker

  • Use an offset smoker or pellet grill for best results. They provide consistent low heat.

  • Soak wood chips in water for 30 minutes before use. Fruit wood like apple or cherry works great.

  • Maintain a temperature between 225°F and 275°F inside the smoker.

Smoke the Cheeks

  • Place seasoned cheeks directly on the smoker grates. Don’t wrap or cover.

  • Insert a probe thermometer into the thickest cheek to monitor the internal temperature.

  • Smoke for around 5 hours, until they reach an internal temperature of 203°F – 210°F.

  • Spritz with apple juice or broth every hour for extra moisture.

Rest, Slice and Serve

  • Allow the smoked cheeks to rest wrapped in foil for 30 minutes before handling.

  • Carefully slice across the grain into 1/4” thick slices. Or pull into shreds.

  • Chop up any burnt ends and mix back into the pulled meat for extra flavor.

  • Serve on sandwiches, tacos, nachos, baked potatoes, or enjoy on their own!

With minimal prep, beef cheeks deliver incredible payoff after a short 5 hour smoke. Their luscious texture and deep smoky flavors are sure satisfy any barbecue lover. Try smoking up these beefy beauties this weekend for your next crowd-pleasing cookout!

The BEST Beef Cheek Recipe! | Chuds BBQ


How long does it take to smoke beef cheeks?

Here’s all you need to know to perfectly smoke beef cheeks: Place the well-seasoned cheeks in a smoker at 275f, and cook for approximately 5 hours until you reach an internal temperature of 210f. At this temperature, they can be either pulled or sliced.

Are beef cheeks good for smoking?

Since smoking is such a slow cooking method, it’s ideal for tougher cuts of beef with lots of fat and connective tissue in the form of collagen, like beef cheek meat. The fat keeps the meat from drying out during the long smoking process while the collagen melts into tender gelatin.

Why are beef cheeks tough?

Beef cheeks, unsurprisingly, come from the facial cheek muscles of the animal. As they come from a working muscle they are tough cut that needs proper cooking to get great results.

Should I brine beef cheeks?

For some people, the flavour of beef cheeks can be a bit heady, especially if they’re not cooked long enough. If this true for you, then its a good idea to brine the meat first in a salt solution to help reduce the richness. This also has the advantage of seasoning the meat before cooking.

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