Creating recipes isn't a pastime—it's a passion. And a lot of fun.

The rules are few: Use 99% fresh ingredients (or thereabouts); make the dish simple but flavorful; make the dish flavorful but simple; be creative, not silly.

With this blog, I want to share new recipes, along with tips on ingredients and preparation, and, hopefully, show new cooks (and non-cooks) the pleasure in setting the table with a delicious homemade meal. The Briny Lemon is about fresh, simple, flavorful ingredients and easy cooking methods that help you bring the best to your family table. Your comments are welcome!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Smoked Beef Barbecue with Dried-Chile Sauce

Does it get any better than spending a lazy afternoon slowly smoking meat on the grill in the great outdoors—even if the great outdoors is your small backyard in the city? I don’t think so. Pork ribs or chops, chicken, turkey, trout or salmon, beef—just plain mmmmm. And when it’s beef, we usually think brisket, which is beyond delicious—and a bit pricy. That’s where a chuck roast comes in: relatively inexpensive and perfect for slow cooking.

For this recipe, I had a small (2-1/4-pound) roast about two inches thick, which took three hours to smoke to tender, juicy goodness. That said, this chuck roast becomes tender and sliceable—not fall-apart shred-able like beef braised in the oven with lots of liquid.

I use my charcoal grill for smoking, and it works great, even better than the two actual “smokers” I’ve had in the past. But charcoal can be a bit temperamental when it comes to temperature. You can’t just set it at the number you want. But, as in most cooking, there’s room for flexibility.

If you’re using charcoal, it’s alright if the temperature at the beginning of smoking is a little over 300° F. My roast started smoking at 325° F after I allowed the coals to cool for an extra 30 minutes once they had turned completely gray. Then they simply cooled naturally, and the meat cooked low and slow during the second half of the process. (Plan to smoke a chuck roast about 1-1/2 to 2 hours per pound, depending on thickness.)

But let’s back up. One of the most important parts of smoking the roast happens the day before. That’s when you want to coat it with a rich, spicy, savory rub then let it rest in the fridge overnight so that all that wonderful flavor can penetrate the meat. I like using ground coffee in the rub when I’m smoking or grilling red meat. The coffee adds a deeper richness to the overall rub, and your taste buds will be rewarded at the dinner table.

Rub Ingredients
While the smoked beef is succulent on its own—piled on a big, soft sandwich bun, of course—a shot of bold, spicy, flavor-loaded sauce on top takes the meat to a higher level. Yes, you can add your favorite bottled, but if you’re taking time to give the meat so much love, take a little time to make the sauce too.

Here, I didn’t want a typical thick, tomato-based barbecue sauce. Those are delicious, but to me the smoked beef begged for a thin, slightly vinegary hot sauce (think Tabasco) that brings its own smoky flavor to the dish, simply spooned on top. And the best smoky sauces start with dried chiles. I used chiles de arbol for heat and guajillos for savory richness.

Dried Chiles
Just about any dried chile will provide both smokiness and savor, so if you have a favorite, feel free to substitute. The only other ingredients are vegetable broth, vinegar, and tomato paste—simple yet so tasty. It’s like Carolina meets the southwest. (Keep any extra dried-chile sauce in a sealable jar in the refrigerator for a week or so and drizzle it on…everything.)

Serves 6


  • 1 tbsp finely ground coffee
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp chile powder
  • 1 tsp ground cayenne
  • 1 tsp sea salt, plus more
  • 2-1/4 lb beef chuck roast
  • 8 chiles de arbol, stemmed
  • 3 guajillo chiles, stemmed
  • 1-1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste

  1. Combine the coffee, brown sugar, chile powder, ground cayenne, and salt in a bowl. Massage the coffee mixture all over the roast. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least overnight (24 hours, great).
  2. Let the beef stand at room temperature 1 hour before smoking.
  3. Light a smoker or prepare a grill for smoking. If you’re using charcoal, allow the coals to cool 30 minutes after turning gray. Add the wood chips.
  4. Place the beef on the off-heat side of the grill and smoke for 20 minutes in one position, then turn it over and smoke for another 20 minutes. Smoke for a total of 3 hours, shifting positions every 30 minutes after the first 40 minutes.
Coffee and Spice Rubbed Beef 
Ready to Chill

Beginning to Smoke

Smoked Chuck Roast

  1. Meanwhile, make the sauce: Place all dried chiles in a large, dry skillet and warm over medium heat. Toast, turning once or twice to prevent burning, until very fragrant and slightly browned, 3-4 minutes. 
  2. Transfer to a cutting board or plate. When cool enough to handle, tear the toasted chiles into small pieces
  3. Place the torn chiles in a small saucepan and add the broth, vinegar, and tomato paste. Season with salt and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let stand, covered, 1 hour.
  4. Strain the sauce through a sieve over a bowl or clean saucepan. Discard the solids. Transfer to a sealable jar or serving bowl and cover. Set aside while the beef finishes.
Chiles Beginning to Toast
Toasted Chiles
Torn Chiles

Remaining Ingredients Added 

Strain the Sauce
Dried-Chile Sauce

  1. Transfer the beef to a large plate and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Let stand 15 minutes. Slice the roast very thinly against the grain.
Serve the beef barbecue stacked on sandwich rolls and pass the sauce for spooning on top.

Smoked Beef Barbecue with Dried-Chile Sauce

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