How To Smoke Elk In A Smoker


Elk is arguably the tastiest of all the game meats. It has more protein and minerals than regular meat, and tastes absolutely delicious when cooked low and slow on a smoker. There are dozens of smoked elk recipes, so I compiled a list of all the different ways to smoke this amazing meat.

The best way to smoke elk meat is between 220°F and 250°F. Elk is very lean, so we should only cook it to an internal temperature between 120°F and 160°F. If the temperature goes beyond this range, the meat will become dry. Wrapping elk meat in bacon or pork fat is a common practice and will help prevent the meat from drying out. Partially smoking the elk, then reverse searing on a pan is another popular method.

Have you tried smoking a Wagyu brisket yet? You can get one delivered to your door from Snake River Farms.

Different Ways To Smoke Elk

There are several ways to smoke elk in a smoker, including:

  • Elk Ribs
  • Elk Tenderloin
  • Elk Roast
  • Bacon Wrapped Elk Roast
  • Elk Backstrap
  • Elk Sausage
  • Elk Burgers
  • Elk Jerky

How To Smoke Elk

Unlike most meat such as brisket or pork shoulder, elk only needs to be cooked to an internal meat temperature of about 160⁰F. Elk meat is leaner and less marbled, so the meat has a tendency to dry out. One of the most common strategies for smoking elk is to smoke the meat until 160⁰F, and then reverse sear the meat prior to serving. This especially works well for the tenderloin.

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How To Smoke Elk Roast

Elk roasts can be a challenge if you don’t know a few tips and tricks. You can’t approach an elk roast the same way you would a brisket or a pork butt. The goal for most low and slow roasts is to cook the meat until it’s so tender it falls apart. However, if you were to cook elk to fall apart tender, it would turn out dry.

The problem with most elk roasts is they are lean muscles. As you may already know, meat with a lot of muscle such as brisket needs several hours at low temperatures in order to break down the connective tissues and become tender. A brisket needs to be taken to 200⁰F, otherwise the meat would be chewy. The low cooking temperature also means the meat spends more time in the smoker, meaning more time in the smoke.

Unfortunately, an elk roast would dry out if you were to leave it in your smoker until it reached the 200⁰F range. Elk doesn’t have the fat content or marbling to keep the meat moist for long periods. This means the elk roast will be chewy and will be less smokey.

The way around this problem is to add fat to the outside of the elk roast. The most popular method is to wrap the elk roast with bacon. This is a good way to prevent the elk roast from drying out, while allowing the connective tissue time to break down. Over many hours, smoke will still work its way into the meat and the fatty bacon will fuse to the roast.

Smoked Elk Roast – 7 Steps

  1. The first step is optional, but beneficial. Inject the elk with broth. This will add extra moisture and flavor to the meat.
  2. Wrap your elk roast in bacon, using toothpicks to hold the bacon in place. If you don’t want to use bacon, use pork fat (without the rind).
  3. Apply a barbeque rub or a simple SPOG seasoning (salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder). To make the rub stick, apply a binder using olive oil or yellow mustard.
  4. Set your smoker/ pellet grill to 225⁰F.
  5. Choose any smoking wood as long as it’s dry and seasoned. Throw a few chunks of wood on the fire and wait until there is some nice smoke rolling.
  6. If using a charcoal smoker, fill the water pan to help regulate the temperature and provide extra moisture.
  7. Smoke the roast uncovered. It should take around 1 hour per pound to smoke an elk roast (4 to 5 hours for an average sized elk roast). Cook until the internal meat temperature reaches 130⁰F. For medium, slightly under for medium rare. Don’t take the roast over 150⁰F. Make sure you use a good meat thermometer to track the meat while it’s cooking.

Smoked Elk Backstrap “Tomahawk” Reverse Sear

Smoked elk tomahawk is one of the best ways to cook this awesome creature. I first saw this method from Joe Rogan and Cam Hanes. Joe and Cam use a pellet grill, however, it will work on any smoker.

  1. Take a full elk backstrap and leave the rib bones attached.
  2. Season the meat with a rub.
  3. Set the temperature of your smoker to 225°F.
  4. Place the full Backstrap in the smoker. A full backstrap will not fit in a small smoker, so you might have to cut the backstrap in half or in quarters.
  5. Smoke the whole tomahawk backstrap until the meat reaches an internal meat temperature of 120°F. Make sure you use a quality meat thermometer (see which thermometer I use on my recommended gear page).
  6. After smoking, slice the whole elk backstrap into individual tomahawk steaks.
  7. After slicing the elk tomahawks, the meat will look rare on the inside. Reverse sear the elk tomahawk steaks on the outside.

Smoked Elk Jerky

Smoked elk jerky is a great way to use up some of your elk meat. Elk jerky works best is an electric smoker or a pellet grill, but you can use a charcoal smoker. To smoke jerky, the temperature needs to be kept low in the 150°F to 200°F range. Be careful not to over smoke jerky or you will ruin the meat. Jerky is thin, so it doesn’t need long in the smoker to absorb smoke flavor.

  1. Trim the meat of any fat.
  2. Cut up smoke elk meat into thin strips.
  3. Season with SPOG (salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder) and some brown sugar and soy sauce.
  4. Place the strips into a zip-lock bag and leave in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
  5. Place toothpicks on the elk strips and hang them from your grill grates on your smoker. You can also hang the meat strips on metal skewers if you have some.
  6. You can cook the jerky in a pellet grill at about 180°F to 200°F and it should take about 3 hours.
  7. You can also try smoking at even lower temperatures, where the meat is almost cold smoking.
  8. To cold smoke the jerky, set the temperature of the smoker as low as possible, in the 110°F range and slowly increase the temperature every hour until you reach about 170°F. Don’t go any higher.
  9. It should take 6 to 8 hours depending on the thickness of the slices.

The Difference Between Elk and Deer

People often bunch elk in with venison, but even though elk is part of the deer family, elk is a much larger animal than deer, and the meat tastes very different.

Does Elk Meat Have A Gamey Taste?

Venison has a distinct gamey taste, but elk tastes less gamey, mainly because it consumes different diet to deer. The taste difference is more recognizable in elk meat that has been raised on farms where the meat hardly tastes like wild game at all.

Is Elk Meat Healthy? What Are The Benefits?

Elk meat is also healthier than other meats, containing more protein and more vitamins and minerals than beef, pork or lamb. Compared to beef, elk is much leaner and contains higher levels of omega-3, the “good” type of fatty acids essential for good health and preventing disease.

Elk is Non-GMO

As with all wild game meat, elk meat is non-GMO. According to the FDA, 95% of the meat consumed in the USA comes from animals that eat GMO crops.

Is Elk Good Smoked?

Even though elk has a far less gamey taste than other venison, elk still does still taste like wild game, and smoking meat is a good way to mask any unpleasant flavors.

My Favorite Meat Smoking Tools

Thanks for checking out this article. I hope you learned a few things. Here are some of my favorite tools I use when smoking brisket that may be useful to you. These are affiliate links, so if you decide to purchase any of these products, I’ll earn a commission. But in all honesty, these are the tools I recommend to my family and friends who are just starting out.

Meat Thermometer: There are dozens of fancy thermometers on the market, but I still use my trusty TP20. For around $50, I have a high-quality meat thermometer with two probes, and can track the temperature of my smoker with one probe, and my meat with the other probe. The ThermoPro TP20 is an Amazon Best Seller because it’s the easiest thermometer to operate, is durable, highly accurate, and comes with pre-programmed meat settings.

Instant Read Thermometer: Arguably, the second most important tool you need is a fast and accurate instant-read thermometer. These tools play an important role in the latter stages of the cook when the meat needs regular checking in multiple areas. I use the ThermoPro TP19 because it can do everything a ThermaPen can do, but for a fraction of the cost. You can check out the TP19 on Amazon here.

Wireless Thermometer: The latest thermometers on the market have no wires and can be controlled by wi-fi via your phone. Airprobe 3 is the best of this technology.

Butcher Paper: Wrapping brisket in butcher paper has become a huge trend in barbeque thanks to Aaron Franklin. Wrapping your brisket in paper will give you a nice brisket bark. However, you can’t just use any old paper, it has to be unwaxed, food grade paper. You can find it on Amazon here.

Advanced Thermometer and Automatic Temperature Controller: Once you’re ready to take things seriously, the FireBoard 2 Drive is a six-channel Bluetooth/Wi-Fi thermometer that can monitor up to 6 pieces of meat, control and graph your cook sessions on your smartphone, and attaches to an an automatic blower that will convert your charcoal smoker to a set-and-forget. This is one of the most advanced meat thermometers on the market. You can check it out on the FireBoard website here.

Related:

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Best Wi-Fi Meat Thermometers (We Review the 5 Top Models)

Best Instant-Read Thermometers for Smoking (Top 6 Picks)

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