How to Make Smoked Corned Beef

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.

Sure, it’s a staple for St. Patrick’s Day, but we love corned beef in our Reubens and breakfast hash, too. The only thing better than a corned beef brisket is one you toss on the smoker! Smoking your corned beef injects a ton of extra flavor into the meat, both from the sweet smokiness and the savory spice rub. You can easily make this smoked corned beef recipe from a store-bought, pre-brined brisket or you can try your hand at curing it yourself.

Can I smoke a corned beef brisket?

We can’t think of any good reasons not to cook corned beef on the smoker! 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 recommend steaming the meat once it reaches 160°, anyway. This extra step keeps the corned beef moist and pulls out some of the excess salt from the brining process.

If you’re planning to smoke corned beef, make sure to look for a flat cut brisket with a consistent and uniform shape so it cooks evenly. (Here are more cuts of beef you should know.)

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.

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!

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)
  • Potatoes, onions and carrots, chopped into large, 2-inch chunks, optional

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°.

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

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

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 should be tender when pierced with a fork.

Step 5: 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 against the grain for the most tender eating experience.

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

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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.