How to Smoke Cross Rib Roast

How to Smoke Cross Rib Roast

Mar 20, 2024Bearded Butcher Blend Seasoning Co.

We are always on the lookout for affordable cuts of meat that are also delicious. One of our current favorites is the cross rib roast. The cut is heavily marbled and loaded with a rich and beefy flavor. It also cooks quickly in the smoker and makes for some of the most awesome steak sandwiches you'll ever try.

What is a Cross Rib Roast?

The cross rib roast is a cut of meat that comes from the chuck between ribs two and five. You will almost always find a cross rib roast with a series of strings tied around the roast. This is done to help the roast hold its shape when cooking. A thick seam of fat is rolled into the center of the roast that melts and is one of the reasons this cut has such great flavor. Leave the strings in place while cooking to help the roast stay in shape. The strings are also an excellent guide when it is time to slice the cross rib roast.

Is a Cross Rib Roast the Same as a Chuck Roast?

The cross rib roast is part of the chuck, but there are some differences between the two cuts. The cross rib roast is taken from the part of the chuck just before the prime rib, so this part naturally has a higher fat content. The chuck tends to be tougher and leaner, which is why it is so often slow-cooked.

Is Cross Rib Roast Tough?

Cross rib roast is tougher than some cuts, but not as tough as others. The biggest reason that cross rib roasts end up tough is that they are overcooked. Like the chuck, you want to cook cross rib roast slowly to allow the tough muscle fibers to relax and the fat to render. Braising in a roasting pan or cooking in a slow cooker or a crock pot are popular methods of cooking cross rib roast to get tender results, but our favorite slow cooking method is to use our smoker. This method gives us tons of flavor and a tender roast that is easy to slice thin.

What is Cross Rib Roast Used For?

Cross rib roast is most commonly cooked and eaten as a pot roast with vegetables and broth. When we smoke a cross rib roast, we prefer to use it for slicing thin and putting it on a sandwich. The fork-tender roast is perfect for a delicious French dip sandwich or a stacked-up deli-style sandwich on a hoagie roll.

Is Cross Rib Roast a Good Cut of Meat?

Don't let the relatively low cost of this cut fool you into thinking it isn't any good and don't let horror stories about tough, chewy cross rib roasts discourage you from trying it out. The cross rib roast recipe we are going to share with you will give you a prime rib-like taste and nearly as tender of a texture for a cut that typically averages around $8.99 for USDA Choice which is the most common grade you'll find in grocery stores.

What is the Best Way to Cook a Cross Rib Steak?

Without a doubt, the beef cross rib roast is best when cooked slowly. You'll want to keep the roast whole and leave the strings in place when you cook it. Attempting to slice the meat before cooking it will give you unpredictable results and the meat is likely to dry out when you cook it.

We like to use a very basic dry rub primarily made of black and white pepper, granulated garlic powder, kosher salt, a dash of onion powder, and one or several of our Bearded Butcher Blend seasonings. We've had great success using a combination of our Hot and Chipotle blends. One of our newest additions to our line-up – our Bearded Butcher Bold Blend also pairs perfectly with the robust flavor of the beef cross rib roast.

You can also marinate a cross rib roast in red wine or balsamic vinegar, a little olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, and a mixture of fresh or dried herbs and spices. The marinade will add juiciness and will slow down how quickly the meat cooks. This can be beneficial because the marinade allows the meat to slowly cook to the perfect internal temperature.

Smoked Cross Rib Roast Recipe

A cross rib roast generally weighs around four pounds. When you are looking for a good beef cross rib roast, find one that has plenty of marbling throughout the meat. You'll see the fat seam running through the roast. When you touch the roast with your fingers, it should be tender. Avoid roasts with little to no fat marbling, hard parts, or roasts that look like they were cut with a dull cleaver. The ties should be snug and should hold the roast in a roughly round shape. Skip roasts that look like they are falling apart.

Dry Rub Process

Our basic dry rub for making a delicious smoked cross rib roast starts with a healthy portion of white and black peppercorns. We place these in a spice grinder and pulse them until the peppercorns are finely ground. We then add garlic powder, onion powder, and crushed red pepper. You can also add a generous scoop of your favorite Bearded Butcher Blend Seasoning at this point. A few quick pulses will mix everything well. In a large bowl, combine the spice blend and about one tablespoon of coarse kosher salt.

Prepping the Cross Rib Roast for Smoking

Place the cross rib roast on a large cutting board. You'll notice the strings that are tied around the meat run against the grain. Butchers tie this roast in this fashion on purpose. The ties keep the roast together and enhance the flavorful cut, so don't remove them.

Liberally coat all surfaces of the cross rib roast with the spice mixture, gently patting the spices onto the meat to encourage them to stick. The dry rub can be done anytime you are ready, including right before you are ready to start cooking. If you are going to let the rub sit, place the cross rib roast in the refrigerator.

Prepping the Smoker

Preheat your smoker to 225 degrees and maintain a consistent temperature for about 15 minutes. Place the cross rib roast in the smoker and insert a meat thermometer probe before closing the smoker lid.

We have been loving applewood this year, and this is an excellent cut of meat to use with sweet fruitwoods. Oak and pecan wood also make excellent choices. Hickory works fine, but we find the flavor to be a little overwhelming with this cut of beef.

Cooking Time

The cross rib roast will cook for between three and four hours. This is a cut that you don't want to overcook, so plan on pulling it when the beef is still quite rare. We target an internal temperature of 135 degrees which gives us a red center and a crispy crust.

Resting Period

Remove the cross rib roast from the smoker and use an instant-read thermometer in a few places to ensure the roast is at the proper internal temperature throughout. Wrap it in pink butcher paper and place it in an empty cooler to rest. Don't skip the rest period. Resting should be allowed to happen for at least 30 minutes. We often rest a cross rib roast for more than an hour, particularly when we are slicing it for sandwiches.

How to Slice and Serve Cross Rib Roast

Once the cross rib roast has rested, remove it from the paper and place it on a cutting board. Using scissors, cut the ties loose and discard them. Turn the roast so that the lines from the strings are running away from you. Using a sharp knife like our favorite Victorinox boning knife, slice the cross rib roast into 1/8 to 1/4 inches slices.

We like to arrange thin slices of cross rib roast on a platter and let our friends and family make up their favorite sandwiches.

A Quick au jus for the Perfect Dipping Sauce

Here is a quick recipe for making a dipping sauce that is ideally suited to flavorful cuts like the cross rib roast.

In a heavy bottom saucepan, melt butter or beef drippings if you have them. Sprinkle the melted fats with flour and whisk until the mixture becomes thick.

Add in about half a cup of beef broth or beef bouillon mixed with water. Whisk until the liquid is fully incorporated, then add in the remaining broth and Worcestershire sauce. Continue cooking at a low boil until the dipping sauce is slightly thick, about five minutes.

The Two-Step Method

Lots of people like to add a step to the cooking process, including our friends over at Traeger. For the two-step method, you'll remove the cross rib roast from the smoker and place it in a large dutch oven or a roasting pan, and immerse it in a liquid beef broth for several hours until the internal temperature hits 203 degrees.

This method gives you a shreddable, fall-apart tender cross rib roast at the expense of the crispy bark that you develop in the smoker. For our sandwiches, we prefer to skip this option.


  • 1 cross rib roast, tied
  • Black and white peppercorns, approx. two to three tablespoons, finely ground
  • Coarse kosher salt, approx. one tablespoon
  • Crushed red pepper, 1/2 teaspoon or more to taste
  • Garlic powder, approx. one tablespoon
  • Onion powder, approx. two teaspoons
  • Your favorite Bearded Butcher Blend seasoning. You can also add a selection of fresh or dried herbs to the dry rub according to your tastes. We often use fresh rosemary, fresh thyme, and smoked garlic.

For the au jus

  • Unsalted butter or beef drippings, four tablespoons
  • All-purpose flour, two tablespoons
  • Beef broth or bullion, two cups divided
  • Worcestershire sauce, one tablespoon
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Preheat the smoker to 225 degrees
  2. Finely grind black pepper, then combine with garlic, onion, red pepper, and any additional seasoning flavors. Mix spices with the kosher salt.
  3. Liberally apply the spice rub to all sides of the beef cross rib roast.
  4. Insert a thermometer probe into the thickest part of the cross rib roast and place it in the smoker.
  5. Smoke for three to four hours until an internal temp of 135 degrees is reached
  6. Transfer roast to a cutting board, wrap in butcher paper or aluminum foil, and allow to rest for 30 minutes at a minimum.
  7. Remove foil or butcher paper, then cut ties from the roast. Slice the roast in the same direction the ties were running to cut against the grain. This gives you the most tender roast beef cross rib roast.

To make the au jus

  1. In a saucepan, melt the drippings or butter, then add flour, stirring constantly until thickened.
  2. Slowly add red wine, whisking to combine. Then, add 1/2 cup of beef broth and continue to stir.
  3. Add remaining beef broth and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to a gentle boil and cook for about five minutes.

Final Thoughts

Whether you call this cut a cross rib roast, a Boston cut, or an English cut roast, there is no denying the rich flavor and tender texture when cooked properly. We prefer our simple, one-step method that produces a smoky, flavorful dish, however, you may want to experiment with braising the smoked beef.

Adding a tasty gravy or dipping sauce makes this beef roast an awesome meal that is easy to share. We like to pile thin slices high on a soft roll and dip it into our quick au jus. This recipe creates a delicious sandwich that is quick and easy to make.

We typically have more roast than we need, so we don't slice the whole thing at once. Instead, we'll cut what we are going to use, then put the leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Leftovers are great for tacos, a quick beef snack, or you can use a slicer to get thin cuts for a roast beef sandwich.

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