Learn how to smoke ribeye steaks the RIGHT WAY on ANY grill or smoker!
Smoke them full of flavor low and slow and then finish with a blazing hot reverse sear to create the BEST ribeye steaks you’ve ever had!
Let’s get started!
We are going to cover:
- What to look for when buying ribeye steaks to smoke
- How to prep your ribeye steaks for the smoker
- How to set up different grills and smokers for smoked ribeye steaks
- What temperature to cook your ribeye steaks
- The best wood choices for ribeye steak
- How to know when your ribeye steaks are done
- An optional, but HIGHLY recommended method to reverse sear the steaks and finish them to perfection after removing them from the smoker.
- Our FAVORITE recipe for Reverse Seared and Smoked Ribeye Steaks
Wow, that’s a lot…so let’s get started!
What to Look for When Buying Ribeye Steaks to Smoke
When buying steaks to smoke before searing (don’t worry, we’ll get to that), your best bet is to get the thickest ribeye steaks as you can find.
Look for well marbled, prime grade ribeye steaks that are AT LEAST 1.5 inches thick if possible.
You want a thick piece of fatty meat that will not dry out during the smoking process and still stand up to a blazing hot sear at the end without overcooking.
Thinner, less marbled choice and select grade steaks will likely not hold up to all of this abuse and you are better off just cooking them in a more straightforward manner over a hot grill.
You may need to venture away from the picked over meat case at your local chain grocery store and hit up a quality butcher or meat market in town.
No, these steaks will not be cheap, but if you buy some thin, cheap steaks that dry out during the smoking phase, what’s the point?
Preparing your Ribeye Steaks for Smoking
Use a High Smoke Point Oil
First coat the steaks in a good quality, high smoke point cooking oil like grapeseed or avocado oil.
This will allow the seasoning to stick to the meat and keep the steaks from sticking to the grill or smoker racks during the smoking and searing.
Because we are going to reverse sear these after we smoke them, you want to stick with a high smoke point oil.
Lower smoke point oils like extra virgin olive oil will not hold up to the searing temperatures and could cause an acrid taste when they burn.
To learn more about different oils and their smoke points, check out this article about the best oils for grilling.
When you are preparing your ribeye steaks its best to season them at least 2 hours before cooking, preferably even overnight, before putting them on the smoker or grill.
This allows the salt time to penetrate the meat, ensuring you have flavorful steak all the way to the center and not just salty on the exterior, and bland in the middle.
Also, if the meat is fully salted throughout, it is chemically more able to hold onto is juices and retain more moisture during the cooking process.
Hence why the boiling point of saltwater is higher than that of pure water.
Seasoning Ribeye Steaks for Smoking
Since we are preferably smoking some high quality ribeye here, we recommend keeping it simple.
Salt and pepper work just fine on their own. Mixed with the woodsmoke, along with the juices, rendered fats, and oils form the steak, you will be in heaven, trust us.
However, there is nothing wrong with using your favorite steak rub as well.
Pro Tip: Stay away from anything that contains sugar or little bits of dried garlic (garlic powder is fine) because these will both burn when you sear the steak at the end.
Before we dive in too much further, here’s a great overview from Armadillo Pepper BBQ demonstrating how he smokes his ribeye steak in an electric smoker before reverse searing it in a cast iron skillet with butter.
Check it out!
Best Smoking Wood Choices for Ribeye Steaks
Like we’ve done previously with smoked lamb chops, since you are only smoking these ribeye steaks for a shorter period of time relative to something like a ham or leg of lamb, you can get away with using some stronger flavored smoking woods.
We prefer the mid range smokey flavor of hickory wood on our smoked ribeyes, but if you want an even bolder flavor you can try using mesquite.
If you DO want to try mesquite, we would only recommend applying smoke for the first 30 minutes and no longer.
Otherwise, your ribeyes can get TOO smokey and the mesquite will overpwer them.
If you are looking for a milder wood to smoke them with, you can try oak, apple, or cherry instead.
Best Times and Temperatures for Smoked Ribeye Steaks
Although we want to choose thick and well marbled steaks for smoking, relative to something like pork spareribs, ribeye steaks are still fairly lean and delicate, with almost no connective tissue.
You will need to watch both your cooking temperature and internal temperatures carefully when smoking your ribeyes.
You don’t have much room for error if you overcook them.
So keep your initial smoker temperature at about 225°F and no higher if you can help it.
How Long does it Take to Smoke a Ribeye Steak?
On a 225°F smoker, it will take about 45-60 minutes to bring your raw steak up to an internal temperature of 110°F.
This is the point where you want to take it off the smoker to finish it by reverse searing it which we will discuss below.
Now, this time will vary depending on how thick the steaks are, how humid it is outside, and how cold the steaks were to begin with i.e. whether they came straight out of the refrigerator, or sat on the counter for a while.
The point is you can’t go by time alone when cooking steaks.
You HAVE to use a good instant read meat thermometer to know where your temperature is.
We are particular fans of this one from Powlaken because of its durability and affordable price.
Reverse Sear Method
“Reverse Searing” is just a fancy term for searing your meat at the very end, once it is pretty much all the way cooked through, in order to get a nice crispy exterior crust that you just can’t get from low and slow smoking alone.
This works great for thick cuts of meat like ribeye steaks that need time to slow cook and absorb smokey flavor but then benefit from a nice outside sear.
With larger cuts of meat like hams and pork butts, they will develop a nice exterior crust naturally just due to the long length of time they spend in the smoker.
Much like our smoked pellet grill steak, we like to smoke and then reverse sear our ribeye steaks, similar to how he does in the video above.
This brings about the best flavors AND textures in your steak.
If you are cooking steaks on a pellet grill and struggling to get a high level of direct heat, try using a set of Grill Grates to help create a searing station on one side of your cooking area.
Grill Grates are specialty…well…grates that sit right over the existing grates on your pellet grill that help capture and direct all that ambient heat and give you a nice searing station in the corner of your pellet grill.
They claim to get temperatures up to 200°F HIGHER than the temperature you set your pellet grill, meaning even if your nice Traeger only goes up to 400°F on the control panel, you can still sear some steaks, pork chops, or chicken at 600°F at the beginning or end of the cook to give them a nice sear.
You can also reverse sear in a hot pan with butter, a flat top grill with oil, or over a hot propane burner or searing hot batch of charcoal on any grill.
In order to reverse sear your steaks without overcooking them, only bring your ribeye steaks up to about 100-110°F on an internal meat thermometer. Then immediately sear them hot and fast for about 60-90 seconds on each side.
This, along with resting them after searing, will naturally bring them up to about 130-135°F internally which is a perfect medium rare.
Finish the reverse sear when they are about 5°F shy of where you prefer your final doneness temperature to be as they will continue to rise in temperature about this much while they are resting.
Pro Tip: Be conservative with how long you leave them on the smoker.
When in doubt, take them off early. Especially if you’ve never smoked ribeye steaks before and dont know how much they will rise when you sear them.
The thinner your steaks, the further the internal temperature will rise when you sear them so adjust accordingly.
You can always sear them for longer than you initially planned to bring the internal temperature up to where you want it, but once you go too high, there’s no putting that toothpaste back in the bottle.
No Reverse Sear
Sometimes, like with the smoked rack of lamb, we can go either way on whether to bother with a the reverse sear. Sometimes just smoking the meat up to the right temperature works well enough by itself.
Not so much with steaks.
You really need to reverse sear them.
It doesn’t matter which method you choose, but just smoking the steaks low and slow until they are finished is not an ideal way to cook them.
You won’t ever get that sizzling exterior crust or beautiful brown coloring form the maillard reaction that takes place at high heat.
Your thicker exterior fat will never render and the meat will remain an unappetizing gray color.
So take the extra 5 minutes, whether it’s over a hot grill burner, over some charcoal, or just in a blazing hot skillet, and sear those ribeyes to finish them off.
You’ll be glad you did.
Setting up your Smoker for Ribeye Steaks
Vertical or Offset Charcoal Smoker
Fill your firebox or lower charcoal basin with a few handfuls of unlit charcoal and create a small hollowed out depression in the center where you can add your lit briquets.
If your smoker comes with a water pan, like the Weber Smokey Mountain, fill the water pan as well to help stabilize the temperature and add moisture to the cooking chamber.
Light a charcoal chimney about 1/4 way with charcoal and wait about 15 minutes for it to fully ignite.
Fill your water pan first, then add the lit briquets to the center depression you created.
Keep the dampers about 1/2 way to 3/4 open until the temperature is to about 180 deg F. Then slowly close them down until they are just barely open and you are maintaining a temperature of 225 deg F.
Place 1 chunk of smoking wood on top of your lit charcoal once the smoker is up to temperature and put your ribeye steaks on.
Meanwhile prepare a skillet or separate grill to reverse sear the steaks when they are ready to be taken off.
Propane or Electric Smoker
For Propane: Open your gas valve and light the bottom burner. Adjust it to keep the temperature constant at 225°F
For Electric: Plug your electric smoker in and turn the temperature to 225 deg F.
While it comes up to temperature, add smoking wood chips, not pellets, to the smoking wood tray.
Fill the water tray if there is one.
Place your ribeye steaks on the rack and close the door.
Meanwhile prepare a skillet or separate grill to reverse sear the steaks when they are ready to be taken off.
Fill the pellet hopper with your choice of smoking wood pellets.
Plug in the pellet grill and turn the temperature to 225 deg F.
When the pellet grill has come up to temperature, place your ribeye steaks on the grill grates.
The great thing about a pellet grill is you can likely just leave the ribeye steaks in place when they hit 115°F internally and then crank the heat as high is it will go, or move them over to a hot set of Grill Grates as described above for the final sear.
Check out our full in depth summary of how to cook steaks on a pellet grill here.
Never used a pellet grill before? Read our ultimate guide to pellet grills to learn why they are so easy and how to set one up for success every time.
Gas or Charcoal Grill
On a gas or charcoal grill you will likely need to use a smoker box filled with wood chips, or a pellet tube smoker filled with wood pellets.
Think you need a fancy smoker to smoke food at home? Think again. Great smoked food can be made right on your current gas or charcoal grill!
If you are unfamiliar with these gas grill smoking devices mentioned above, no worries, we have you covered!
In the case of ribeye steaks, we would opt for just using the smoker box filled with wood chips since you won’t need all the burn time that comes with lighting a tube full of pellets.
Set up your gas or charcoal grill for indirect cooking with the burners or a small amount of lit briquets on one side and plan for your meat to be on the other side.
Once the temperature of your grill is between 225 deg F, place your smoker box or pellet tube smoker over the lit burners and once smoke begins coming out, place your steaks on the opposite side of the heat.
If you are doing the reverse sear method, once the steaks hit no higher than 110°F internally, either crank the gas burners under the steaks or move them over to above the hot charcoal for 60-90 seconds each side as described above in the Reverse Sear section.
Monitoring your Smoker Temperature
Almost every grill and smoker will have some sort of temperature gauge on them.
Now, if you are using a pellet grill or electric smoker, you should be able to pretty accurately dial in your desired temperature of 225°F with the turn of a dial.
This is what makes them so convenient.
If, however, you are using a charcoal or propane grill/smoker though, you can’t rely on the cheap lid mounted temperature gauge.
We have found these can sometimes be up to 30˝F off from what the true actual temperature of your smoker at the grill grate level is.
This is unacceptable.
This is why you will always see competition cooks, and backyard chefs who know their stuff, using wireless digital probe thermometers to keep track of both their meat AND their cooking chamber.
And even if you have a fancy pellet grill or electric smoker, it can’t hurt to double check how accurate your temperature settings are to the true temperatures you are getting.
We are big fans of the ThermoPro Wireless Digital Meat Thermometer series.
Best Ways to Serve Smoked Ribeye Steaks
For many purists, the best way to serve a nice steak is on a plate. Seasoned with only salt and pepper.
And if this is your first time smoking a ribeye steak you may want to do just that, in order to fully appreciate the fatty complex flavors of the smoked and seared ribeye meat.
If you want to do something different though, there are many ways to amp up the presentation, either by topping with an herbed butter, a homemade steak sauce, a creamy bearnaise, or even some shrimp or crab meat to do a surf and turf.
For drinks we recommend a full bodied red wine like a Cabernet or Burgundy.
If beer is more your thing, stick with a crisp and hoppy pale ale to help cut through the fattiness of the ribeye.
What Other Food Can I Smoke?
Looking for some more smoky inspiration?
So glad you asked.
Check out some of our other great recipes of smoked and grilled food to try out at your next outdoor BBQ!
- Smoked Fresh Ham with Dark Rum Citrus Glaze
- Smoked Leg of Lamb with Guinness Marinade
- Smoked Lamb Chops with a Balsamic Butter Sauce
- Smoked Rack of Lamb with Garlic and Rosemary or Smoker
- Smoked and Pulled Lamb Shoulder with a Turkish Spice Rub
- Smoked Lamb Shanks
- Smoked Oysters in a Garlic White Wine Sauce
- Smoked Bratwurst with Beer Braised Onions
- Grilled Bratwurst
- Smoked Gouda Cheese
- Perfect Grilled Hamburgers
- Pellet Grilled Steak
- Pellet Grill Turkey
- Pellet Grill Turkey
- Smoked Asparagus
Trash Can Turkey – OK, technically not made on a grill but one of the most fun ways there is to cook a Turkey…at over 700 degrees in only 2 hours! You’ve got to check it out!
Smoked Ribeye Steaks - Reverse Seared
- Propane, Charcoal, or Pellet Smoker -OR-
- a Gas or charcoal grill with a smoker box or pellet tube smoker.
- Hickory or Mesquite Wood chips, chunks, or pellets
- Large Cast Iron Skillet
- Instant Read Thermometer
- 4 thick cut ribeye steaks preferably prime grade and well marbled
- 2 Tbsp cooking oil preferably avocado or grapeseed
- kosher salt
- fresh black pepper
- 8 Tbsp Butter
- 4 Tbsp cooking oil for reverse searing preferably avocado or grapeseed
Prepare the Ribeye Steaks
- Coat your steaks in oil and a generous amount of kosher salt and pepper on all sides.
- Wrap the steaks in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.
Setup your smoker or grill
- Set up your smoker (or grill with indirect heating) to 225°F
- Remove your steaks from the refrigerator and unwrap them.
- When the smoker or grill is up to 225°F, add your wood chunks to the coals, or wood chips the tray or smoker box. Alternatively, you can add wood pellets to a pellet tube smoker. Place the smoker box or pellet tube smoker over the hot coals or burners.
- When smoke begins to come out, place your steaks on the grates, away from the direct heat if using a grill.
Prepare Cast Iron Skillet for Reverse Sear
- While the steaks are smoking heat a cast iron skillet on medium heat and warm up 1 Tbsp cooking oil and 2 Tbsp of butter in the skillet. Leave the rest of the oil and butter ready to go for when you pull steaks from smoker.
Smoking the Steaks
- Monitor your steak internal temperature. After about 45-60 minutes your steak should reach an internal temperature of 100-110°F.
Reverse Searing the Steaks
- Once the steaks reach 100-110°F internally, remove the smoked ribeye steaks from the smoker onto a platter and bring them over to the preheated cast iron skillet.
- Turn the heat on the skillet up to HIGH and when the oil begins to smoke put one of the steaks in the skillet.
- Let the steak sear for about 60-90 seconds on one side and then flip to the other side.
- Check the internal temperature of the steak, continue to flip in the skillet to cook evenly and when it is about 5°F shy of your desired doneness (see notes below), remove it from the skillet.
- Add another 2 Tbsp of butter and 1 Tbsp oil to the hot skillet and repeat with the remaining steaks.
- Let all the steaks rest 5-10 minutes before serving. Do not cover them in foil or stack them as they will overcook.
Medium Rare: 130 – 135℉ (red center)
Medium – 140 – 145℉ (pink center)
Medium Well Done – 150℉ (slight pink center)
Well Done – 160℉ (no pink, cooked throughout)