Outdoor Cooking 101: How to Grill, Smoke, and Cook Beef Over Open Fire
When perfect weather finally arrives after a long, cold winter, there’s no finer way to enjoy the outdoors than cooking and eating outside. Natural scenery, fresh air, and good company have a way of adding ambiance to the eating experience that is much needed after spending months inside.
Grilling steaks and burgers, smoking brisket, and cooking beef kabobs over open fire are just a few of the classic ways to prepare beef outside. Whether you are in your backyard, tailgating, or at a campsite, nothing delivers on the anticipation of a meal cooked outdoors like Black Angus beef. In this blog, we’ll highlight three of our favorite methods for preparing beef outside.
Classic: The Basics of Grilling Beef
Charcoal vs. propane – whichever style you prefer for grilling beef outdoors, you’ll want to follow some essential guidelines.
First, take the extra time to clean your grill grate. Cleaning your grill not only keeps it in pristine shape, but it also prevents cross-contamination of flavors between the various dishes prepared on your grill.
Second, preheat your grill. If you’re using propane, start out by setting the grill to medium and letting it warm up for at least 10 minutes. If you opt for charcoal, light your charcoal and let them burn until they ash over (or turns to a white-ish gray).
Third, make sure you have a meat thermometer handy. Digital or analog, you’ll need to get a clear read on whether your meal is on track for your preferred degree of doneness.
Fourth, while this is technically optional, some outdoor chefs insist the secret to great grilling lies in whatever beverage a chef enjoys while the grill preheats.
How to Grill a Steak
- To grill the perfect steak, start by marinating your favorite cut, or simply seasoning with salt and pepper.
- Cook for about 4-5 minutes per side, until the steak’s crust develops to your preference.
- Check the steak’s internal temperature. The FDA recommends steaks be cooked to an internal temperature of 145°F for safe consumption of steak; this can be achieved by pulling the steak from the grill when its internal temperature reaches 135°F and allowing it to rest for ten minutes before enjoying.
- Letting the steaks rest lets the juices recirculate and settle after being condensed to the center during grilling, making for a tender, juicy eating experience.
- Try 1855’s recipes for the perfect grilled ribeye or porterhouse!
The Best Burgers on the Grill
- Generously season both sides of each patty with salt and pepper.
- Pro tip: Make a small, indented “dimple” in the middle of each patty, to help keep it from shrinking.
- Depending on patty thickness, grill 4-5 minutes per side, until an internal temperature of 160°F is reached.
- If adding cheese, top your patties for the last two minutes of grilling and close the grill cover to broil the cheese – you’ll get the perfect cheese melt!
- Try 1855’s maple bacon beer burger recipe!
Patience: How to Smoke Beef
Pitmasters have differing, often passionate opinions on their go-to smoking essentials. Whether you choose charcoal, electric, pellets, or hardwood, there is no wrong answer, only a matter of preference. While there is more than one way to prepare smoked Black Angus beef, when it’s done right, there’s only one result: outstanding, savory beef that’s well worth the wait.
Smoked Beef for Beginners and Seasoned Vets
Chuck roast, beef ribs, brisket, you name it. Whichever cut of beef you’ve selected to smoke, will need some added seasoning/spice to ensure that is as tender, flavorful, and juicy as possible. At the very least, you’ll want to season your beef with salt and pepper but if you’re feeling adventurous, expand your palette with countless dry rubs, wet rubs, and marinades; see 1855’s recipe for hickory-smoked prime rib, for example.
Choosing Which Wood to Burn for Smoking Meat
Determining which wood works best for you for smoking beef partially comes down to personal preference. Hickory, mesquite, and oak produce the most robust smoke flavors, often a preference for larger cuts of beef. Apple, pecan, cherry, or maple, on the other hand, are good woods for those who prefer a bit of sweetness to their smoke. A combination of both adds smoke and sweetness for an ideal balance.
To ensure that you are creating the perfect environment for your next smoking venture, you’ll want to make sure your smoker is preheated when you start to cook and smoke your beef. Electric smokers typically require 45 minutes to preheat. For charcoal or hardwood smokers, account for the extra time to get your smoker up to the recommended temperature for your recipe. Once again, make sure you’ve got an internal thermometer handy.
Smoked Chuck Roast: A Top Choice
- Optional: dry brine the meat with salt to promote moisture retention and refrigerate the salted roast for several hours before cooking.
- Remove from refrigerator and sprinkle on seasoning or rub of choice, massaging it in. Many coat the chuck with yellow mustard first – the mustard acts as a perfect binder for the seasoning to adhere to the beef without adding a mustard flavor.
- Preheat smoker to 225-250°F. Recommended wood chips: hickory or pecan.
- Add the roast to the smoker and close the lid.
- After about 45 minutes, start to spritz the chuck with beef stock every hour or so. This adds flavor, helps keep the meat from drying out, and draws more of the savory smoke to the roast.
- After about two hours, gently flip the meat.
- Depending on the size of the roast, it could take between five and seven hours to smoke. Keep your eye on the internal temperature instead of the clock to guide your cooking time.
- Once the chuck has an internal temperature of about 200°F, remove it from the smoker, closing it in an empty cooler or cold oven for 45 minutes to an hour to let rest before indulging.
- Try 1855’s recipe for smoked pulled beef sliders, made with smoked Black Angus chuck roast.
Smoked Beef Ribs: A BBQ Icon
- Generously sprinkle on seasoning or rub of choice, massaging it in. Again, some coat with yellow mustard first to bind the seasoning to the meat.
- Preheat smoker to about 300°F.
- After about two hours of smoking, spritz ribs with a three-to-one water/vinegar mix, repeating every hour or so.
- Once internal temperatures reach 205-210°F, remove ribs from heat, allowing to rest for an hour. Then dig in!
The Grand Daddy of BBQ: Smoked Beef Brisket
- For an unforgettable outdoor meal experience, check out our Texas-style smoked Black Angus brisket recipe from 1855 guest chef Sarah Faherty.
- View our one minute video on mastering this special cut:
Rugged: Cooking Beef on Open Fire
You’ve got your firepit lit, but now what? Admittedly, it can be a bit intimidating thinking about cooking over open flames, but if you’re up to the challenge—or if it’s your only option—it can be an incredible experience with delectable results.
Whether you enjoy the simple challenge of cooking over a backyard firepit, or you’re out roughing it in the woods, cooking a Black Angus beef meal over open flames will quickly become one of your favorite cooking methods.
When cooking on open fire, oak, hickory, and ash are some of the more ideal firewood options. Whichever wood you’re burning, you’ll want to give it time for the flames to die down and provide you some nice hot coals to cook over.
Pro tip: heat-resistant gloves will come in handy for this method.
As with all the recipes above, you’ll want a meat thermometer to check internal temperatures of beef.
Beef Kabobs on Open Fire: Fundamental and Flavorful
- Cut all your beef and vegetables into skewer-ready pieces and marinate for 10-12 hours.
- Assemble your kabobs using metal or water-soaked bamboo skewers.
- Once your fire is ready, lay the kabobs on a metal grate over the coals.
- Using tongs, flip the kabobs after three to five minutes and allow to cook another three-to-five minutes or until internal temperature reaches 145°F (medium rare) to 160°F (medium) doneness.
- Once done, enjoy immediately!
Cowboy Style: Cooking Beef Stew Over an Open Fire
- Cook delicious Black Angus beef stew, like 1855’s Brisket Cowboy Stew, in a Dutch oven over an open fire for a savory and timeless outdoor meal.
- Cut or cube beef stew meat and cook it in the Dutch oven until brown.
- Add chopped onion and cook for several minutes.
- Add butter and flour, stirring until the mixture thickens up.
- Mix in the rest of your chopped vegetables and cook until everything’s tender—typically about an hour.
- Season with salt and pepper and enjoy!
- Biscuits, rolls, or even sliced bread (convenient for camping) make a great companion.
When Walls Can’t Contain Your Love of Black Angus Beef
There’s no denying it: some meals just taste better outside. When you light up your grill, smoker, or firepit to cook 1855 Black Angus beef, the resulting quality and flavor will be too big for any dining room! Find an 1855 retailer near you, follow us on Facebook or Instagram for beef cooking inspiration, and browse our recipes for ideas to suit any time of year.