How to Make Smoked Corned Beef

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Want to take dinner to the next level? Inject a ton of sweet and smoky flavor into a brisket with this smoked corned beef recipe.

It’s hard to go wrong with corned beef. When cooked on the stovetop or in the slow cooker, it’s a staple for St. Patrick’s Day. Of course, we love non-traditional versions of corned beef, too, like glazed corned beef, spicy corned beef or (our favorite) smoked corned beef brisket.

Can I smoke a corned beef brisket?

Traditionally, this meat is simmered on the stovetop low-and-slow alongside celery, carrots and pickling spice. Since a low-temperature smoker maintains a similar cooking environment to simmering water, it’s a perfect swap.

We have to warn you that it does take longer to smoke corned beef compared to the traditional boiled corned beef, but it’s totally worth it. Smoking a corned beef makes the meal something really special, injecting a ton of extra flavor into the meat by rubbing it with a savory spice rub and infusing it with a light sweetness from the smoker.

You can easily make this smoked corned beef recipe from a store-bought, pre-brined brisket. However, if you’re feeling adventurous, you should pick up a flat cut brisket at the store, looking for one with a consistent and uniform shape so it cooks evenly. Then, you can make corned beef from scratch. Homemade corned beef is the best way to ensure your brisket is made with high-quality ingredients, and it lets you control the sodium level and flavor, too.

If purchasing a store-bought corned beef, double-check the packaging to ensure you’re not purchasing a ready-to-eat corned beef. In addition to being brined, that type of brisket is already cooked, and sometimes comes pre-sliced. It would dry out if you smoked it.

How to Cook Corned Beef in a Smoker

This recipe takes a bit of time to cook, but the amazing results make it 100 percent worth the effort. If you don’t have a smoker, never fear: Learn how to turn your grill into a smoker.

Ingredients

  • 1 corned beef brisket (3-5 pounds)
  • 4-6 tablespoons steak spice rub (like Stubb’s)
  • Optional: Potatoes, onions and carrots, chopped into 2-in. chunks

Directions

Step 1: Spice it up

Start by removing the corned beef from its package and running it under cold water to remove any excess brine. Pat it dry with a paper towel before sprinkling on the steak spice rub. Use enough to coat the entire exterior of the brisket.

Step 2: Fire up the smoker

Choose your wood chips and get ready to smoke! Then, set the temperature on your smoker to 275°F.

Test Kitchen Tip: We like a mild wood for smoked corned beef, as strong woods can overpower the nuanced flavors of the meat. In other words, look for maple, apple or pecan rather than hickory or mesquite.

Step 3: Smoke the beef

Place the beef in the smoker and let it cook for about 3 hours. Once the meat reaches an internal temperature of 160°, remove it from the smoker and place it in a deep foil pan. Add enough water to reach one-third of the way up the cut of corned beef. Cover the pan tightly with foil and place it back in the smoker. Continue cooking for another hour.

Step 4: Add your veggies

Adding vegetables to your corned beef is optional, but it creates the easiest side dish. After that hour under the foil, add the potatoes, carrots and onions and return the covered pan to the smoker.

Step 5: Continue cooking

Regardless of whether you added veggies or not, you’ll want to cook the beef for an additional 1 to 2 hours, until it reaches an internal temperature of 195°. By this point, the vegetables (if you added them) should be tender when pierced with a fork.

Step 6: Rest

It’s always essential to rest meat before slicing it, but it’s especially critical with large roasts like corned beef. Remove the beef from the smoker and let it rest in the foil-covered pan for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Slice the meat against the grain for the most tender eating experience.

Use the smoked meat in any of our corned beef and cabbage recipes.

How to Store Smoked Corned Beef

corned beef sandwichThe Washington Post/Getty Images

After the corned beef has finished cooking, you’ll want to serve it immediately or store it in the refrigerator. If you’re serving the smoked corned beef later, we recommend waiting to slice it. Sliced corned beef can dry out in the refrigerator (that said, it’s okay to store leftover slices if you have them).

Place the corned beef in an airtight container with a lid, or wrap it tightly with plastic wrap. It should last three to five days in the refrigerator or in the freezer in a freezer-safe bag for up to two months.

Tips for Making Smoked Corned Beef

How can you avoid making tough smoked corned beef?

Brisket (the cut of meat used to make corned beef) can become tough and chewy if it’s not cooked properly. It’s important to cook it low and slow at 275° for the entire process. Trying to speed it up will only cause the meat to seize up and become tough. Finishing it for the last few hours in a covered foil pan with liquid will help ensure the beef turns out tender, too.

What should I serve with smoked corned beef?

Our favorite way to serve smoked corned beef is with carrots and potatoes. Simmer the potatoes and carrots with the corned beef for the last few hours of cooking time for a hands-off side dish, or whip up savory potato skins, colcannon potatoes or glazed carrots. Smoked corned beef is also delicious with other vegetable side dishes, from cabbage to sautéed Brussels sprouts and everything in between.

If you have leftovers, slice the corned beef and serve it on your favorite bun to create smoked corned beef sandwiches. Or toss it with thousand island dressing and coleslaw and wrap it in a tortilla to make corned beef tacos.

Are smoked corned beef and pastrami the same thing?

Essentially, yes: Corned beef and pastrami are both cured forms of beef brisket. The major difference between the two is the cooking method. Corned beef is boiled while pastrami is rubbed with ground coriander, black pepper, sugar, mustard and other spices before being smoked. If you smoke your corned beef instead of boiling it, it basically becomes pastrami.

When smoking corned beef, don’t feel like you have to stay boxed into the traditional pastrami spice rub. Choose your favorite dry rub and have some fun with it!

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Lindsay D. Mattison
After years of working in professional kitchens, Lindsay traded her knives in for the pen. While she spends most of her time writing these days, she still exercises her culinary muscles on the regular, taking any opportunity to turn local, seasonal ingredients into beautiful meals for her family.