Smoked Beef Cheeks
About the Cook
1. Set up your Smoker
There isn’t a lot of prep work involved with beef cheeks so before you start, you will want to get your smoker fired up. For this cook I used my 47cm Weber Smokey Mountain setup with the Weber Briquettes arranged in the minion method. I added two chunks of cherry wood and a chunk of silver birch to the centre of the minion then added some lit lumpwood charcoal to get it going. I then built the smoker up, filled the water bowl with boiling water and allowed the temperature to settle at around 110-120C.
2. Prepare the Beef cheeks
To get the beef cheeks ready for the smoker, they simply need a tidy up. If your beef cheeks have any fat cap on them – go ahead and remove it so you can apply the rub directly to the meat. You want to remove any stringy bits of sinew, fat and silver skin from the cheeks as they will only become tough and chewy.
Cover all sides of the beef cheeks with the Oakridge Black Ops rub and let them to sit for 10-15 minutes to allow the rub to set to the surface of the meat.
3. Smoke the beef cheeks
Place the beef cheeks on the top shelf of the smoker. I placed the temperature probe of the ThermaQ WiFi into the thickest part of one of the beef cheeks and clipped the ambient temperature probe to the cooking grate to allow me to monitor the grill level temperature more accurately.
Smoke the beef cheeks until they hit an internal temperature of around 70-75C. This took around 2 1/2 hours but your timings may vary slightly. Once they hit that internal temperature, it’s time to lift them off and get them into the braising liquid.
4. Braising the beef cheeks
At this stage, the beef cheeks are safe to eat however we still haven’t broken down all those fats and connective tissues. To do this, we need to braise the beef cheeks in a liquid which will add moisture to them and help tenderise them.
Add the beef stock, coffee, balsamic vinegar, garlic and rosemary to a roasting tin. make sure the stock and coffee are hot – adding the beef cheeks to a cold braising liquid will really slow down your cooking process while the liquid comes up to temperature.
Place the beef cheeks into the liquid and cover the tin with foil. Get it back onto the smoker at the same temperature and allow them to braise.
The beef cheeks will stay in this braising liquid until they are ready. When they hit an internal temperature of around 92-95C, we will start testing them with the Thermapen. At this point we are checking for tenderness. If the probe is hitting some resistance when you try to push it into the cheeks then they aren’t ready – cover them up again and put them back on to the smoker.
In total, these cheeks took around 5 hours to feel tender and they hit an internal temperature of 98C. Your cook may be slightly different so use my timings and temperatures as a guide, but they are not a set in stone rule.
Time to eat!
When you are happy with how the beef cheeks are feeling. lift them off and allow them to rest for 20-30 minutes. This will allow the cooking process to stop and also give them a chance to cool slightly. Hopefully, if all has gone to plan, you will be able to shred them apart with very little resistance. All the fat that is marbled through them will have turned to jelly. You may find that there are some membranes running through the cheeks that doesn’t cook down but this can be removed when you shred them.
Beef cheeks are a great way to get that brisket like flavour in a smaller cut of meat.
If you are smoking these beef cheeks as an evening meal, add an extra one to the smoker, shred it up and once cooled, store it in a container with some of those braising juices. The next morning, reheat it slowly in the oven and serve them in some breakfast tacos!
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