Smoked corned beef takes beloved beef brisket flat to a new level. Prepared with pickling spice and cooked over coals before served with cabbage in a sandwich, this is one of the best ways to enjoy corned beef. Find out how to make this iconic sandwich meat perfectly with our barbecue smoker recipe.
Corned beef is a popular dish that most Americans eat on St. Patrick’s Day, but many people don’t know how to barbecue smoke corned beef. It can be intimidating to try and make this dish at home, but we’re here to help you get started!
This blog post will give you all the information you need to successfully prepare smoked corned beef including tips for beginners and an easy-to-follow recipe that includes preparation instructions of the brisket flat and smoking directions. There are plenty of other recipes included below that show off different ways to enjoy smoked corned beef. So what are your waiting for? Let’s get started!
What is Corned Beef?
Corned beef, a favorite of the Irish on St. Patrick’s day, is a salt-cured slab of beef. They cure the beef with coarse-grained salt called “corns.” Most recipes also call for you to add a few spices and sugar to the recipe.
It became popular during the industrial revolution in England for its long shelf life and easy packaging. However, these classic cans of beef didn’t distinguish which part of the cow to use and were usually lower quality.
The salt curing process is what separates it from regular beef brisket. Typical brisket is cooked on low heat for a long time to make it tender. Corned beef becomes tender primarily through the curing process. It has a salty and rich flavor.
Corned Beef vs. Pastrami
The main difference between corned beef and pastrami has to do with the part of the cow. Corned beef almost exclusively comes from the brisket (the lower chest), while you can make pastrami from the deckle (wide shoulder cut) or the navel (soft area under the ribs).
They also differ in origin, with pastrami coming from Romania or Turkey and corned beef from Ireland. Chefs use different spices for each recipe, and you typically smoke pastrami while you usually boil corned beef. Corned beef can be smoked, though, as you’ll see in the recipe below.
They are both cured the same way, using brine. They are either rubbed with salt or soaked in a mixture of salt, spices, and water.
All of the ingredients for corned beef are in its brine or rub. Whether you decide to soak the spices in a small amount of water or rub them on dry is up to you. Here is a list of the most common herbs used in a corned beef recipe.
- Mustard seed
- Bay leaves
- Red pepper flakes
For all of these ingredients, it helps to toast them on low heat in a cast iron pan for two to three minutes. You don’t want to cook the spices, just make them fragrant and awaken their flavors. You can add the bay leaves and red pepper flakes in the last thirty seconds.
Then you just put all the spices in a spice grinder and take them for a spin. Once you grind them together, you should store them in an airtight container to preserve their flavor and freshness.
There are some optional spices you can add to a corned beef seasoning. Cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, and allspice can add some extra flavor to the recipe. Just add a small amount of them into your seasoning mixture.
Time & Temperatures
The ideal temperature for smoking corned beef is 250℉. Once you have preheated your smoker, you can smoke the meat for about three or four hours. To be sure it’s done, measure the internal temperature of the brisket. When finished, it will read 200℉. This can take up to 8 hours.
For larger cuts of meat, it can take longer to smoke. Some smokers use the 3-2-1 method. This is where you smoke the meat open for the first three hours, then wrap it in aluminum foil for two hours to better cook the meat’s interior. For the last hour, you remove the aluminum and let the meat cook in the open again.
It isn’t necessary to trim the fat on a brisket. It will melt during the cooking process and add to the flavor. If you want a leaner corned beef, then try using the brisket flat instead of the point.
Most people make corn beef using wet brine. To prepare the brine, simply add your spice mixture to some water and bring it to a boil so that the flavors combine well. Then you will place your brisket in a pan with brine. It does not have to be completely submerged. The water level should come up 1 or 2 inches on the cut of meat.
To properly brine the meat, you will need to leave it like this for at least five days and a maximum of ten days. Before you cook the corned beef, you can add another dry seasoning rub for extra flavor during the cooking process.
What Wood is Best for Smoking Corned Beef?
Cherry, mesquite, and hickory are great wood options for smoking beef. They bring out the rich flavors and tenderness well. However, you can use just about any wood as long as it’s high quality. Low-quality wood chips will ruin the taste.
What to Serve With
The most obvious answer is cabbage. The two have been paired together on St. Patrick’s day for centuries. You can boil the cabbage with some spices in the traditional Irish way.
Another great way to enjoy this smoked meat is as part of a breakfast corned beef hash. Add it to a skillet with fried potatoes, onions, and eggs before heating in the grill for just 15 minutes. It’s as easy as it is delicious.
Potatoes are also a great option as a side dish. They are easy to make and great off the grill. Try a potato gratin for a more complex potato recipe.
Glazed carrots and blanched green beans are healthy sides to enjoy with smoked corned beef. The sweetness of the carrots blends well with the beef, and the green beans have a complementary texture.
How to Smoke Corned Beef
After you have your beef seasoned and brined, you’re ready to begin the smoking process.
Place your corned beef brisket in the smoker naked. There should be nothing covering it or underneath other than the grill plate at this stage. The internal temperature of the smoke should read 250℉. Once the brisket is inside you, begin adding wood chips to create smoke.
After the meat has cooked for three or four hours, measure the internal temperature. If it reads 165℉, then you are ready to move to the next step. If not, let it smoke for a bit longer.
Once the meat reaches 165℉, you can remove it from the smoker and place it in a large aluminum foil pan. Using water and beef stock, fill the pan around the brisket. This will keep the meat moist. Then cover the pan and place it back in the smoker.
Continue smoking the meat for another 3 or 4 hours until it reaches an internal temperature of 200℉. Then remove it from the smoker and let it rest in the pan for about 30 to 45 before serving.