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As meat prices soar, we need to return to the wisdom of yesteryear, when cooks didn’t rely on choice cuts of meat but rather choice recipes.
One of the best ways to merge the blessings of modern innovation with the knowledge of the ages is through outdoor cookery.
In pioneer days, a smoker would produce tantalizing morsels from tough game.
Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about her father building a smoker using a simple box design and using wood chips from splitting firewood.
While the result was far superior to salting meat for preservation, precision and predictability weren’t part of the equation.
The modern pellet grill would just about convince Pa Ingalls we’ve progressed beyond those “house on the prairie” days.
Top advantages of Pellet Grills
Pellet grills use various kinds of wood.
Quality pellet brands use natural ingredients, so as long as your pellets don’t include chemical gluing agents, you can be confident your food will be cooked without the dangers like the potential carcinogens of charcoal or the fumes of propane.
The different wood pellets mean that the creative cook can infuse already delicious meats with a wide variety of flavors.
Some favorites include apple, with its mild and sweet enhancement of mild meats; hickory, with rich bacon-like tones widely used in barbecue; cherry, with its sweet and sour ability to provide a hint of intrigue smoke; maple, with its sweetness so delectable when infused into turkey or pork; or oak, which is stronger than apple but milder than hickory.
Many other varieties available mean that even using the same cut of meat every time, a cook could constantly experiment with new flavors and recipes.
Another huge advantage of pellet grills is the ability to gauge your cooking.
The precision provided by electronic probes inserted directly in the cooking meat and clear electronic readings removes the guesswork that would otherwise render delicious meats wasted.
Pellet grills go far beyond all this.
Their flexibility make them the behemoth outdoor equivalent of the Instapot, allowing both slow cooking and searing high temperature cooking for a wide range of applications.
There’s also the side advantage of being able to use your pellet ash in the garden at the base of your broccoli or cabbage plants to prevent cabbage loopers!
How to cook a chuck roast on a pellet grill
As you explore economical meat cuts, you’ll quickly notice the great prices of chuck roasts.
Chuck cuts come from the heavily worked shoulder muscle and usually contain more fat and connective tissue than the leaner round cuts from the back legs.
This makes them less expensive and more suited to a discerning cook who understands the importance of low-and-slow cooking for tough cuts of meat.
Preparing the Pellet Grill for Cooking a Chuck Roast
Determine what flavor of pellets you’d like to use. If you’re going for a rich smoky flavor, consider using oak, cherry or hickory.
If you’d prefer more subtle tones to pair with herbs and vegetables, you might try apple, pecan, maple or a custom flavor.
Preheat your pellet grill according to manufacturer instructions, adding pellets to the hopper to bring the grill to 225 degrees.
It’s important to always make sure your grill is clean and clear of ashes from previous usage.
Ash buildup can prevent pellets from burning correctly, which in turn leads to pellet buildup in the burn chamber.
If these pellets do ignite, the overflow of pellets can result in a dangerous fire.
Also make sure all grease has been removed from previous uses to prevent grease fires.
Preparing the chuck roast for the grill
Regardless what recipe you choose, your first step is to season your meat using a dry rub of spices.
Many cooks find that smearing the meat first with a moist binder like mustard, oil, bacon grease or Worcestershire sauce helps hold the spices to the meat and starts the process of creating layers of flavor.
If you choose to use it, just pour a drizzle of your chosen binder and use a barbecue brush or your hands to smear it on every inch of the meat.
Add the spices on the sauce, grease, oil, or on the bare meat generously so that no meat shows through the thick spice layer.
You can use a commercial spice rub packaged for the purpose, or if you’re brave you can formulate your own spice rub blend.
Flavoring your chuck roast creatively
Generally, salt, pepper, and garlic will form the base of any spice rub.
Black pepper is great for the classic American flavor; cayenne develops other flavors and improves circulation; other peppers have a variety of heat and taste properties you can explore as widely as you like.
Along with salt and pepper, you can create a variety of flavors using spice combinations:
- Cumin, garlic, chili powder and lemon added to salt and cayenne are the base flavors for Mexican flavoring
- Garlic and ginger with a smearing of a sesame oil binder is excellent for basic Asian flair
- Turmeric, cloves, cumin, coriander and mustard seed make a great curry flavor
- Oregano, basil, parsley, sage and thyme with an olive oil binding are delicious for Italian spices
From these basics you can go a multitude of directions by incorporating unique spices, but this can get you started when you don’t want to run to the store for a spice rub package that may contain MSG or other additives you don’t want in your food.
Cooking the chuck roast
Insert meat probes in the roast and add the roast to the grill once it has reached 225 degrees.
At this point, you can choose from several cooking options.
You can set the roast directly on the grilling rack, which will put the meat in direct contact with the smoke flavor but will endanger it from drying out.
You can create an aluminum foil packet for the meat, adding some liquid like beef broth or vegetables, but although this will keep the meat moist, there are health concerns about using aluminum in direct contact with your food for long periods of time since aluminum has been linked to Alzheimer’s.
One good compromise is to create a bed of vegetables on a piece of aluminum foil and set the meat atop the veggies.
Pour ¼ cup of liquid like beef broth over the top.
Bend the foil so it holds the juices inside, but make sure to keep the meat from coming in contact with the foil.
Your meat will still absorb the smoke, and it will be less likely to dry out there on top of the onions, carrots, peppers or whatever vegetables you use.
Your probes will allow you to monitor the progress of the meat.
You’ll know the meat is done when it reaches almost 200 degrees F and when the probes fall out like they’re stuck in butter.
This could take anywhere from four to six hours.
Since it depends on many factors including the toughness of the meat, the temperature of your day, and your particular grill, it’s best to try it several different times to learn how your particular grill works for you.
Uses of your grilled chuck roast
Assuming you’re able to keep from devouring this roast immediately, your grilled chuck roast is incredible whether plated up with steaming mashed potatoes, beans and a roll; stewed into a hearty rich dinner with plenty of stock, veggies and tomato sauce; or on thick hearty sandwiches with your favorite additions.
As you experiment how to cook a chuck roast on a pellet grill, you’ll agree with Pa Ingalls that it is indeed a blessing to live in the days of modern innovation.
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