Beef shoulder clod is one of the best deals you will find and is a classic cut of beef for barbecue. Today we are going to take a deep dive into the clod to learn:
- What Exactly is a Beef Shoulder Clod
- How to Break Down the Clod
- How to Smoke a Whole Beef Clod
Let’s get started!
What is a Beef Shoulder Clod?
According to the Institutional Meat Purchasing Specifications established by the USDA, the Shoulder Clod is defined as follows:
“Item No. 114 – Beef Chuck, Shoulder (Clod) – The shoulder (clod) is the large muscle system which lies dorsal and posterior to the elbow joint, ventral and posterior to the ridge of the scapula (blade bone),and is anterior to the 6th rib. The Mm. cutaneous trunci/cutaneous omobrachialis (shoulder rose) must be removed when the underlying fat exceeds the surface fat thickness specified. The presence of the M. trapezius, M. cutaneous trunci, M. teres major, and the minor muscles over the humerus are optional, however, the M. teres major is generally excluded unless otherwise specified. The tendons on the elbow end must be trimmed to be even with the lean. All bones and cartilages must be removed.”
Let’s translate that IMPS description into something more relatable.
The clod is a massive piece of meat taken from the front part of the steer. The clod, which will weigh between 25 and 30 pounds, contains many different muscles but no bones or large sections of cartilage. One of the best steaks on the entire steer, the Teres Major, comes from the clod but it is often removed and sold separately due to its value.
In even simpler terms, think of the clod as a massive piece of beef that is a cross between a brisket and a chuck roast.
How to Break Down the Clod
You can either cook the entire clod at once or break it down into smaller cuts for more manageable cooking and portion sizes.
The video below, from Nieman Ranch, goes into great detail on how to break the clod down into individual cuts. The meat cutter shows you exactly where the Teres Major is located along with another spectacular steak, the Flat Iron.
Breaking down a whole shoulder clod is a great skill to learn if you want to save yourself some money. The clod typically costs less than ground beef on a per pound basis and there are a lot of wonderful cuts to be had if you are willing to do some knife work.
Smoked Beef Shoulder Clod Challenges
Smoking a whole beef clod is a fun challenge!
What makes this an interesting cook is:
- This is a massive cut of beef that takes a long time to cook.
- The different muscles in the clod get “done” at different times.
What Temperature Should You Smoke a Clod?
Legendary pitmaster Harry Soo smokes beef clod at a temperature of about 250F for around 16 hours. Here is Harry’s full video recipe for a shoulder clod.
Other pitmasters prefer to smoke clods at 225F for over 20 hours. Here is the full video recipe from Ballistic BBQ for a clod smoked at 225F for 22 hours.
There is not a generally accepted “Best Way” to smoke a clod. There are as many variations to smoking a clod as there are for cooking a brisket.
If desired you can add more moisture and flavor to the clod by using an injection. You could also decide to speed up the cook by wrapping the clod in foil after 6-8 hours in the smoke.
The Clod Gives You Pulled and Sliced Beef
The largest muscle in the clod is often referred to as the “Clod Heart” and, because of its size, it is the slowest piece to become tender. While you wait for the Heart to become tender the smaller muscles in the clod will continue to cook past “done” and will become fall apart tinder.
The end result is that you get two very different types of beef when you smoke a clod. The side of the clod composed of the large Heart will be perfect for slicing while the other side of the clod falls apart and gets used for pulled beef.
Smoked Beef Shoulder Clod Recipe
Smoking a clod is generally a three step process that includes:
Trimming the Clod
Trim the meat side of clod of any surface silver skin and any discolored or off looking pieces of meat. Trimming the meat side should only take you about 3-5 minutes.
Flip the beef over and trim the fat cap as desired. Just like a brisket, folks have many opinions about how to treat the fat cap. You can leave the cap alone, remove it completely or trim it down to a quarter inch thickness. I will suggest trimming the fat cap to a 1/4 inch thickness as that is a nice balance between keeping the fat flavor without getting your smoker overwhelmed with dripping grease.
Season the Clod
Once the clod has been trimmed it is time to add some flavors via a dry rub and through the use of an injection.
The injection step is optional but highly recommended. You can use a commercial beef injection or this recipe that I use for my brisket injection:
Beef Clod Injection Recipe
- 2 cups water
- 2 beef bullion cubes
- 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon beef base concentrate (Minor’s Au Jus or Better Than Bullion)
- 1/2 teaspoon Liquid Smoke (optional but recommended for pellet cookers and electric smokers)
Once the clod has been injected pat it dry with paper towels and apply your dry rub. You are going to need a LOT of rub, at least a cup, so make up a big batch. You can use any brisket rub on the clod or even go as simple as salt and pepper.
Beef Clod Dry Rub Recipe
- 1/2 cup salt
- 1/4 cup black pepper
- 2 tbls chili powder
- 2 tbls smoked paprika
- 2 tbls garlic powder
- 1 tbls celery salt
- 2 tsp Accent (MSG)
After the clod has been seasoned with the dry rub you can put it directly on the smoker but it is better if you can let it rest overnight in the refrigerator.
Smoke the Clod
Set your smoker to 250F and use hickory or pecan for smoke.
Put the clod on the smoker, fat side down, and close the lid.
Spritz the clod every 2-3 hours with apple juice to keep the surface from drying out.
Smoke the clod for about 16 hours until all of the different muscles are probe tender.
Smoked Beef Shoulder Clod
A beef shoulder clod is trimmed, seasoned and smoked at 250F for 16 hours.
- Beef Shoulder Clod about 20 pounds
- 2 cups Beef Injection
- 1 cup Beef Dry Rub
- 1 cup Apple Juice
- Trim both sides of the beef clod removing as much of the fat cap as desired.
- Prepare the beef injection and inject as much as the clod will hold. Make sure to inject all of the different muscles.
- Pat the clod dry with paper towels and season well with the dry rub on all sides.
- If possible, let the dry rub work into the meat by resting the clod in the refrigerator overnight.
- Set the temperature of your smoker to 250F using hickory or pecan for smoke.
- Place the seasoned clod on the smoker, fat side down.
- Spritz the clod with the apple juice every 2-3 hours to prevent the meat from drying out.
- Cook the clod for 16 hours or until all of the muscle groups in the clod are probe tender.
Serve the clod as pulled beef from one side and sliced beef from the other.